Thursday, November 29, 2012

FUTURA GOLD is 'awesomeness'

One of the first web reviews of THE FUTURA GOLD has come in, and it's a good one...
 from Mike Rankin of

Friday, November 23, 2012

3 New Simon's Cat Films Today

It's been a grand day for Simon Tofield and the Simon's Cat team, with THREE new short film released to YouTube this evening. The many fans of Simon's Cat eagerly await the release of each new animated episode and  Nut Again will surely not disappoint.

The animated cartoons are the main event of course, but I'm very happy to have helped out Simon's Cat Ltd. by making the two supporting 'Behind The Scenes' videos also released today. Simon Paints 'Catnip' and Simon Draws 'Squirrels'.

For Simon Paints 'Catnip' we screen-recorded Simon Tofield as he digitally paints one of the pages of his new book Simon's Cat vs The World.  Simon is seen colouring one of his book illustrations in Photoshop CS3 using a Wacom tablet and pen. I shot some cutaways and book-ended the piece (ahem) with shots of Simon's sketch books and the final image as a page of the resulting full-colour book (Available now!)
Of course the action is somewhat sped up; I edited the piece to compress a day of Simon's work down  into three minutes. Music is by Russell Pay of Shrooty.

Simon Draws 'Squirrels' is the ninth video in the series of drawing tutorials released online so far. In this episode, the talented Mr. Tofield shows us how he draws his squirrel characters. We've got a slightly slicker method of recording these now. The first few were recorded with a separate audio recorder 'double system' style, but recording the screen drawing and voice together in Quicktime X on the iMac in real time saves a lot of subsequent editing time. Music and sound mix is again by Russell Pay of Shrooty.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

THE FUTURA GOLD: episode 02 preview

 Here's a little preview/trailer for episode 02 of THE FUTURA GOLD series...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

THE FUTURA GOLD : 1000+ Hits!

Nice to see that my new animation short THE FUTURA GOLD : episode 01 has now clocked up over 1000 views since its YouTube debut on October 26th. Viewers are subscribing to the channel too, which bodes well. I'm also pleased to see that the FaceBook page I set up for the project is shaping-up nicely.

It's always great to get some online coverage for the launch of my project too. Thanks especially the fine typography website

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Enfield on Super 8 film : Reel 04

I just got the fourth roll of super 8 footage back from 18 Frames in Germany this week as HD .avi files from their Muller scanner. Keen followers of this blog will remember that over the last year or two I have been out and about in my home town shooting lots of super8; old-style home movies on analogue film with my 1970s era Nizo camera.

Some of this footage will ultimately become part of my Enfield: My Kinda Town project, but in the meantime, here are some new stills.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

FUTURA GOLD is TANDEM 'Short of the Month'

TANDEM films (the studio that represents me for commercials Directing work) has just selected THE FUTURA GOLD: episode 01 to be the 'selected short' for the month of November.

This means my film will feature on the front page of the TANDEM website for the next 30 days.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

THE FUTURA GOLD : episode 01

Okay, here it is, my first new animated film in a while. This is the first episode of what may become a new epic series. The Futura Gold develops the ideas and techniques of my short film TXT ISLAND a little further, but this one has an open-ended storyline which I hope to add to if there is sufficient interest in this.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Animated Film (Coming Soon)

For anyone still waiting for a follow-up to my 2009 short film TXT ISLAND something animated is coming soon just for you... The new release wont be a new short film; rather a pilot episode for a new series of shorts!*

The tantalizing two minute first episode of The Futura Gold is pretty much ready apart from a few sound tweaks, so should be coming soon to an online video platform near you...

Oh alright then, here are a few stills from the new work...

* Potentially.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

3D Printing The Future...

3D printing seems to big news at the moment. 'One day...' they say, 'we'll all be downloading our shoes from the internet.' The idea of little domestic robots manufacturing stuff for us is certainly intriguing, so yesterday I made a trip to the London 3D Print Show to find out more...

Makerbot were promoting the UK launch of the Makerbot Replicator 2, and had four of the machines in action. This device (like most of the entry level 3D printers) uses extruded molten plastic to 'draw' the image layer by layer. The Makerbot 2 uses PLA plastic which has a lower melting temperature than other plastics, PLA is sourced from corn and is claimed to be biodegradable too.

The UK price of the Makerbot 2 will be £1800. Makerbot seem to be the most-established of the pro-sumer level 3D printer firms, and this could be the release which begins to capture wider public awareness of 3D printing. 

Around the halls, there were many other 3D printers on show of course, and there are many smaller operators in this field hawking their contaptions too. It'll be interesting to see if the larger printer manufacturers (HP, Epson, Canon etc.) ever decide to bring this technology to the mass market, or if it remains something of a niche technology served by smaller specialist suppliers.

Many exhibitors had 3D printed samples on display and in some cases it was great to be able to pick up and handle the objects.

 Most of the exhibitors were showing plastic objects, but certain machines offer the possibility of working with resin materials with ceramic or metallic finishes too. 3D printed models can also be used as moulds, so even bronze sculptures can ultimately be cast from your 3D data.

For those looking to get something printed but not ready to buy into the hardware, there are many online service facilities available, and these were represented at the show too. Companies such as  Sculpteo will take your 3D .stl files, print them on their machines and send you back your model through the post. You can even create your 3D model using simplified online software like Tinkercad and Sketchup.

As well as 3D printing, some vendors were showing 3D scanning technology; the ability to scan people or objects and instantly create detailed CGI models from the captured data. Europac 3D had a scanning tent which included four DSLR cameras for capturing human subjects from every angle simultaneously.

Another impressive scanning system comprised of a laser scanner mounted on a jointed robotic arm which could capture 3D data and instantaneously add this to a CG model in real time; great for scanning hands and car tyres :)

Combining the 3D scanner and 3D printing technologies obviously leads us to the 3D copier; a device for replicating things...

3D printing is already proven as an invaluable prototyping tool for product developers, architects and model-makers, but will this ever become a consumer-level technology?

I got the impression that this is an industry on the cusp; offering interesting creative possibilities to design professionals, whilst not quite ready for mainstream use just yet.

Like personal jet-packs and moon holidays we could be waiting a while longer for the promise of 'home manufacturing' to fully materialize... But I can't help thinking there is potentially something in this for some of my projects.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Modelling The Old Cinema

Here's the old cinema building again; but this time a CGI model of the façade I've built in Maya.

For reference I used the architectural plans I found in the CTA archive and some photos I took on-site. This is early work really, and the model certainly isn't as accurate or detailed as it could be.

I've not got into any materials or texturing yet either, but next I'd like to try projecting some photographs of the real building onto this model.

Monday, October 15, 2012

DVD 'Extras' for Simon's Cat Ltd.

As of today, YouTube phenomenon Simon's Cat is now available for the first time for purchase as a DVD release. The DVD Das Beste von Simon's Cat has received its first distribution in Germany and is available from as well as other good retailers of course.

Simon's Cat is the creation of Simon Tofield, the UK-based animator whom I've had the pleasure of working with for several years now. The DVD includes all 23 of the Simon's Cat animated short films and inevitably quite a bit of 'DVD Extra' content.

I am proud to say that I've Directed/Edited the extra video content on this DVD release, that's 12 episodes (12x3:00) of Simon's drawing tutorials Simon Draws, the 5 minute documentary Simon Talks and a charming 2 minute photo montage Simon's Real Cats. Much of this video content is exclusive to the DVD release and not available on the web, so order your copy now!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My First Muller Scans: Super 8 Looking Great!

It's always an exciting day getting super8 footage back through the post, and today is one such day... I've had another reel of cine film processed and then telecined for my ongoing Enfield: My Kinda Town project.


I sent this roll to a different transfer facility this time, I wanted to try out the Muller HM73  film-scanner, so sent this film (and a 16GB USB stick) over to 18frames in Bielefeld, Germany.

The service was very fast, they turned this around within a day, it's just the UK/Germany postage that takes time (around 4-5 days each way). They put a 15GB avi file onto my memory stick, a lovely 1440x1080 sized image with the correct 1.333 pixel aspect ratio for my anamorphic footage. So I effectively get back my super 8 reel and a 1920x1080 16x9 file to work with. Kudos to Frank for getting these settings right, because anamorphic super8 footage is a fairly unusual format to be dealing with.

I have to say I am hugely impressed by the quality of the work, especially as this is a reasonably priced service. I'll definitely be sending a few more films this way in the future; maybe even getting a few re-scans of earlier films by way of comparison.

I've been sending my last few films off to Sweden to Uppsala Bildteknik for scanning on the FlashScan HD machine, from that system I was getting a 1024x720 4x3 scan, pillarboxed within a 1280x720 image size.

The new scans from the Muller machine are obviously clearer and higher resolution; the files seem  to be hardly compressed too. When ordering the telecine from 18Frames, I opted for their '2k look'; quite a heavily post-processed image which is highly-stabilized and sharpened to look more like larger film formats. For this project, I'm not looking for a wobbly grainy 'home movie' image, I'm trying to make my images look like a glossy cinema travel documentary or a commercial from the 1970s, and these would typically have been shot on 35mm film.

The thing is... the first couple of reels I had scanned for this project now have a very different quality to this new one, leading to the costly possibility of getting a couple of those earlier reels scanned again.

I'm not showing any moving footage from this project just yet, but here are a few stills (from the new Muller-scanned footage) just to give an idea of the new look.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Cinema Theatre Archive

Last week I made a special visit to the Cinema Theatre Association archive in Walthamstow. The CTA is dedicated to preserving and documenting Britain's Cinema architecture.

I've specifically been researching the old 1930 Carlton Cinema building in Islington; a huge 2400 seater with a very impressive Egyptian style façade. The archive certainly didn't disappoint, with folder upon folder of photographs, clippings, documents and posters etc. relating to this grand old picture house.

The archive holds an impressive (if slightly chaotic) photographic record of the cinema from its opening in the early 30's through to the Bingo Hall era of the 70s and 80's,

Amazingly, there's a plan chest containing the original architects plans of the building from the architecture office of George Coles. There were about 8 sheets, each around A0 in size showing plans, elevations and cross-sections of the building.

As part of my ongoing project, I'm considering making a 3D model of the cinema's façade: I can see these scale drawings being a pretty useful thing to have access to.

As for the archive itself, it's a truly unique and fascinating resource,  the CTA is run on donations and entirely staffed by volunteers. The collection is housed on an industrial estate in unspectacular surroundings, and visits are by arrangement only.

  This place is fair-crammed to the rafters with bulging box files and cinema ephemera.

I'd especially like to thank CTA members Richard Gray and Rachael Marks who have both helped me a lot with my enquiries so far.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Lana Del Rey and my home movies (again)

Lana Del Rey has licenced some of my Super 8 film footage again.

Back in 2008 I shot this short film whilst on a family trip to California...

Then last year, some fragments of my footage appeared in the official promotional video for Lana Del Rey's breakthrough track Video Games. As it turned out, this song became a huge hit with millions of viewers worldwide.

I am pleased to say that the makers of the video did make contact with me and we came to an amicable agreement for this usage. I can add that Lana and the folks at Polydor have just re-licenced the footage for use in a live concert recently held (Sept 26th 2012) at the London roundhouse as part of the iTunes festival.

Who'd have known that the first test footage I shot with my Nizo S800 cine camera 4 years ago would make the big time?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lo-Fi Photography

A couple of weeks ago I was out for a family day out to the seaside at West Mersea, and decided to try out the Lomo Diana F+ camera I've had since Christmas.

So in went the 120 roll film (200ASA slide film), and joy of joys NO BATTERIES! I shot my 12 pictures at the large size and was then ready to hunt on-line for processing services.

I chose to process my film. It turns out that slide film is more pricey than negative film would have been: for processing and scanning I ended up paying £12.95 + 1st class postage £2.70. I got back my 120 slide film as strips and a CD with the scanned images as 5MB .jpg files. The results are technically horrible in many ways, yet I quite like them too. Here are a few of the better ones...

The harbour at West Mersea.
Crab botherers on the quayside.

Local lads diving in the harbour.
Whoops, accidental double exposure!
Reflection in the sail-makers workshop.

So it's an expensive way to get some dark and grubby images, but I think I'll be having another go at this soon. Whatever the results, the process is lots of fun; very few controls on the camera, random results, delayed gratification and (did I say this already?) ... NO BATTERIES.

I've got some more rolls of the slide film to get through, then I might buy some negative film and shoot the smaller images (16 per roll) to get slightly better value. (Negative film at the lab I used is quicker and cheaper than slide film, 1-day processing is quoted at £7.95+postage for the process & scan) I'm also toying with the idea of dusting off my 35mm SLR too just for more analogue kicks...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

TXT ISLAND Plays Bristol on Tuesday

Just a note to say that my 2009 short film TXT ISLAND is getting another screening this Tuesday (25th September), this time in Bristol where it will be screened as part of the CineMe Award Winning Shorts event. Although I can't make it, I wish everyone attending a fine evening and would like to thank Matthew Freeth and the event's co-ordinators for choosing to show my film.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Old Cinema

I'm also dabbling in 'analogue' stills photography now. Here's a still from the first roll of 120 film I've got back from the lab (Lomography Diana camera). It's the old cinema building on Essex Road Islington, just round the corner from the TANDEM studio.

Although it's seen better days, this is a huge 1930 cinema designed by George Coles with a very impressive Egyptian-themed tiled façade. The building was a cinema up until the 70s, then became a Mecca Bingo Hall up until 2007. Though the building has been derelict since, it is owned by an evangelical church group who are trying to get planning approval and finances together to do something with it.

Here's a hastily put-together panoramic ' showing the whole of the façade and a bit more of its setting in Essex Road (digital photos from my Canon 600d camera)...

I've become particularly intrigued by the story of this building, and am in the process of finding out all I can about it.