Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Myth of Public Domain Films

Well, I'm currently researching a documentary film project about an old cinema (more of this to follow no doubt) and interested in finding some clips from feature films made between 1930 and 1970. Of course, I'm making this film off my own meagre dollar and looking for clips that I can use legally in my production for very few £££s.

My internet research dallied for a while in the realm of 'Public Domain' footage. Here's a Wikipedia page all about it including a list of films claimed to be in the Public Domain and supposedly not covered by copyright. One can even download most of these films and many others besides at the Internet Archive site.

It seems that the films on these 'Public Domain' lists are mostly ones in which the copyright wasn't renewed by the producers 28 years after the release dates of the films. For a while under US law, it seems that the non-renewal of copyright meant the films would fall into Public Domain use. Even under UK law, as recently as the 1988 Copyright Act, it seems that copyright on films had a 50 year expiry after the release date of the film.

For my project, this seemed ideal; Hollywood films from bygone days that I could cut up and integrate into my project... until I dug a little deeper....

Here's the catch... seems that UK law is quite different from US law on this subject and has changed very much for the worse. Nowadays, UK-based film-makers wont be able to source any film material this way at all, thanks to the 1996 Harmonisation of Copyright amendment to the 1988 Copyright Act. It seems that copyright of old films doesn't just fall away after fifty years of the film's release any more, oh no...

If you want to use old films, you now need to wait 70 years (until the end of the year) the director, producer AND writer of the film have all died! Effectively this legislation prohibits use of any extant old film footage in modern productions for way into the future. Not only that, but our film-making descendants will have a hell of a job working out the copyright status of any given film without finding the death dates of all the writers, directors, producers involved... Frequently, this will require extensive research into a huge list of hard-to track down characters. In short, the time period is too long to be of any creative use, and the multiple death-date system sets up a whole heap of trouble for the future. If a law was ever an ass, here it is.

By 1996 when this amendment to UK law came in, many old films had already out-lived the 50 year copyright period. Any film released prior to 1946 would have been available, plus all of those exceptional cases on the US lists too. The 1996 amendment has retrospectively over-ridden all of this; snatching back what was already out and kicking the rest into the very long grass.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More Fun in 8mm

The last couple of weekends I've been taking out the Nizo Super 8 camera again. I hope to finally get my little Enfield project together soon (more about that later no doubt, but scroll down the 8mm page for a few stills).

This photo of my Nizo 156XL camera shows the fruits of some of my DIY metalwork... I've fashioned a baseplate of sorts that now lets me mount the Panasonic LA7200 anamorphic lens adaptor to the front of the cine camera; holding it level when I turn the focus ring. This is a huge improvement and makes use of the anamorphic lens much less cumbersome. It used to be a a real pain having the anamorphic adaptor spinning around when focussing: any kind of focus pulling was a total no-goer too.

I've also put a Manfrotto QR (Quick Release) plate on this, so it's easy to snap the rig (camera and anamorphic lens) on and off a tripod or monopod (as seen here). The monopod seems to be a portable and less intrusive option, so I used this rig to get a few shots at last week's Enfield Autumn show, this weekend's Mayor's Fun Run and the Bandstand Marathon event over at HillyFields.

Not exactly Woodstock maybe, but I'm trying to make the best of what's around...

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Simon Draws: Toads & Frogs

Here's the eighth webisode in the Simon Draws series I record and edit for Simon's Cat Ltd. These 3 minute films get published from time to time over on the Simon's Cat Extra YouTube channel.

In this show, the totally-talented Simon Tofield draws some toads and frogs for us. I changed the recording setup a bit for this one; still using the Rode VideoMic Pro, but both the screen and audio recording is done straight into an iMac instead of using my separate Tascam audio recorder.

Who knew that Quicktime X would actually be useful for something?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Making GREY AREA 'Animation Tests'

Here's the fourth webisode of the Making Grey Area series of short documentaries I've been shooting/editing/directing for TANDEM Films. In this clip we see animator Steve Edge shooting some of the first stop-motion animation tests for Daniel Greaves' new film.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Piano: 'Csikós Post'

This last couple of months in my piano lessons I've mostly been playing Csikós Post by Hermann Necke. This really is the best recording I can get for now...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Making GREY AREA 'Mime Artist Shoot'

Here's the third webisode in the Making Grey Area series I'm making for TANDEM films. In this episode mime artist Stuart Luis came into the TANDEM studio; the footage recorded in this session will provide valuable reference material for director Dan Greaves and his animation team.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Making GREY AREA 'Model Making'

Here's the second webisode in the Making Grey Area series I'm making for TANDEM films. In this episode we see animator Steve Edge creating a puppet to be used for stop-frame animation.

I shot this on my Canon 600D camera and edited it on an iMac using Adobe CS6 (Premiere and After Effects). The last shot of the model features a rather pleasing circular camera track; this was shot using a DIY tabletop camera dolly I made last weekend.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Making GREY AREA 'First Sketches'

In my day job at TANDEM films, I've been asked to make some BTS (Behind The Scenes) videos following the production of Grey Area; the next animated short film from Oscar-winning Director Daniel Greaves. We've decided to create some short online episodes giving our web followers some bite-sized glimpses into the production stages as they happen.

I've worked on Dan's films before, but it's been nice to be asked this time to help document and publicise this one as it happens. The Making GREY AREA films will be published to the TANDEM Vimeo site and be shared via the Grey Area Facebook page.

The first of the Making GREY AREA films is called 'First Sketches' and has just been published. It's a little 1 minute film showing Dan Greaves at work sketching some of his early character designs.

I shot this on my Canon 600D camera and edited it on an iMac using Adobe CS6 (Premiere and After Effects). The music is a haunting piece of tango called Gretchen's Tango by Ergo Phizmiz. It goes really well with the mood and subject matter of Dan's film and I can recommend a visit to Ergo's website to discover more of his work.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Another Day Another Gimbal

Here's another gimbal I've just made. This one is better and much more compact. The outer square of this one is just 25mm in size.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gimbals Old and New

Keen readers of this blog will remember that back in 2007 I was trying to make my own camera stabiliser device. The centrepiece of most of these Steadicam-like mechanisms is known as a gimbal;  a special type of joint enabling very free rotational movement in 3 axes.

My 2007 efforts usually involved some skate bearings and plastic tubing of various types. Here are a couple of pictures from back in the day.

Well, much time passed and none of these attempts came to much and I eventually had to abandon the project. I would add my video camera to the top of these gimbals and have an outrageously spinning and certainly unstable result. Reading around the subject a lot, I realised that I just didn't have the patience and skills needed to accurately construct an adjustable top stage to centre the camera: an un-centred camera would twist and turn in a very alarming manner.

Well, Over the last couple of months, I have (probably foolishly) ventured back into the world of DIY camera stabilisation! Yes, I'm back at making gimbals. This time I'm mostly using square section aluminium tubing and some much smaller bearings. The results seem a lot more convincing this time...

Using smaller bearings leads to an entirely more compact design, because smaller axles and nuts can be used than previously. One huge advantage is that tiny bearings can sit tightly within the small holes (8mm) I can drill at home, so I can finally make 'bushes' to hold the bearings in position.

Using square section tubing rather than round  pieces makes it easier to drill more accurate holes, and these tend to be at 90 degrees to each other as they should be. Anyone who has ever tried drilling holes into the sides of circular tubes might appreciate this!

This overall construction is pretty small compared to my previous efforts; the outer square of this gimbal is only 50mm x 50mm in size.

Of course, this is a long way off from being a usable camera stabiliser, and work on some kind of top stage needs to come next...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

DIY Circular Camera Slider First Test

Here are some first test shots using a DIY Circular camera slider made from a 14 inch 'Lazy Susan' bearing. DSLR camera Canon 600D.

Conclusions... A much larger diameter bearing would be more useful, but this one could be quite handy for macro shots.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Jubilee Pageant

Here's a hastily assembled panoramic photo I took at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee river Pageant on Sunday. I turned up at London Bridge hoping to get some nice photos, but who would have thought that the authorities would block every possible access to the riverbank? I walked way down past Tower Bridge and this was the only bit of river frontage I could get to. Seems like this was an event for ticket holders, riverside property owners and corporate shindigs, not so much for regular punters hoping to turn up and take a look. All those miles of riverbank and none of it actually accessible to the tax-paying public... Ho hum...

Cat Fans Do: 'Simon's Cat' #05

Here's the fifth episode of the 'Cat Fans Do' series I've been editing for Simon's Cat Ltd. Artwork by the fans of Simon's Cat, narration by Simon Tofield, music by Russell Pay of

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cat Fans Do: 'Simon's Cat' #04

Here's the fourth episode of the 'Cat Fans Do' series I've been editing for Simon's Cat Ltd. Artwork by the fans of Simon's Cat, narration by Simon Tofield, music by Russell Pay of

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

TXT ISLAND Rides Again

My 2009 animated shortfilm TXT ISLAND is now participating in an on-line competition here...

The competition is put-together by the Milan Film Festival; selected festival films with an 'eco' theme have been chosen for this on-line competition sponsored by Air Dolomati and Aeroporto Di Monaco. Fans of the film will have to register to vote...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cat Fans Do: 'Simon's Cat' #03

Here's the third of the CatFansDo fan art video series I've been editing for Simon's Cat Ltd. Narration by Simon Tofield, music by Russell Pay of

Monday, April 23, 2012

Piano: 'Georgia On My Mind'

A while back in my piano lessons I was trying to play 'Georgia On My Mind' from the sheet music. I've since then learnt to play the tune just by remembering the chords, so it's something I keep coming back to to have another go at.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

TANDEM Vimeo Channel Launch

TANDEM Films (the studio I mostly work for) has just joined Vimeo. The first couple of films up are some behind the scenes 'making of' time-lapses I shot/edited back in the day...

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Typographic Artwork Quotation Thing

I was recently asked if I'd make a typographic artwork thing as a gift for a friend illustrating one of her favourite quotations. After lots of false starts, I went for a three dimensional assemblage that fits inside a 5"x7" box frame (so this artwork is pretty small). The box shapes are formed from thick watercolour paper and the text is coloured vinyl cut with my CraftRobo cutter/plotter. The font used is inspired by cinema signage, it's called 'Now Playing'.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Cat Fans Do: 'Simon's Cat' #02

Here's the second of the CatFansDo fan art video series I've been editing for Simon's Cat Ltd. Narration by Simon Tofield, music by Russell Pay of