Sunday, April 21, 2013

I've been too busy working on something at TANDEM the last few weeks, so there's just not been any time for  DIY film-making activity at home recently.
However, when I get a little spare time I'm going to try some of this in my Super8 camera.

It's 50 feet of black and white negative film. I'm hoping to try out some DIY film processing and figured that this BW negative would be the easiest type of film to start with. Processing is similar to BW neg. stills film, with affordable chemistry at room temperature. I'm also very intrigued with the idea of 'Caffenol C' processing... Yep, that's film developer made from coffee!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Some Maths For Animators

Here's a little real word maths problem that's just come my way...

A stop motion animator is moving something on set by 25mm for each frame taken to create movement at a steady speed. Over the next 20 frames he wishes the movement to decelerate smoothly until a rate of 10mm per increment is achieved.
Calculate the distance the object is to be moved for each of the 20 inbetween increment positions to achieve a smooth deceleration.

Well, it's taken me a few hours over this Bank Holiday weekend, but I think I've worked out the solution for this in time for tomorrow's shoot. I've drawn on some school maths and a few Excel spreadsheet tutorials, but I've knocked up a calculator that can figure this out. i.e. Calculate the in-beteweens and print out charts (to scale) for the animator to use as fairing rulers on set. The sine wave based equation I've developed, spits out these figures for the increments.

Maybe this graph looks pretty, but it wont help the animator too much...

I've then added another column to the spreadsheet to aggregate these figures and give the actual (cumulative) measurements in mm.

I eventually found that Excel's 'Scatter Graph' could be formatted to give something like a useful chart, which when printed to the correct scale can be used on-set as a useful ruler.

So this is very basic stuff for anyone involved in the science of Motion Control, but I offer it here in the hope this might come in handy for anyone (like me) needing to work this out for themselves.

Oh, and the answer to the question is...
25, 24.9, 24.6, 24.2, 23.6, 22.8,21.9, 20.9, 19.8, 18.7, 17.5, 16.3, 15.2, 14.1, 13.1, 12.2, 11.4, 10.8, 10.4, 10.1, 10.0 (mm)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Digitizing Dad's Slides

Click on this to see the whole 4824x2714 image. Photos circa 1977 ©Michael Gavin

I've borrowed some of my dad's Ektachrome slides (circa 1977) and been re-photographing them with using a Canon DSLR camera. I'm using an A3 sized lightbox and a borrowed Kaiser rostrum stand to do this.

To get clear photos of each slide, I've been using an old 50mm f1.8 Pentacon M42 fit lens and one short macro extension tube. (I'm guessing this very same lens was used to take some of these pictures too.) With this arrangement, each 35mm slide image can mostly fill the frame of the Canon 600D (1.6x crop-sensor) DSLR. I've been copying each slide as a Raw file, allowing a little bit of colour and exposure tweaking; I've also been Photoshopping out a few dust spots and hairs from the slides along the way.

This seems like quite a quick solution for capturing the images from slides, but I'd still like to try some tests with my scanner's film adaptor for comparison.

Photo of me circa 1977 ©Michael Gavin

Thursday, March 07, 2013


My 2009 short film TXT ISLAND has just been selected by Vimeo as a STAFF PICK.

+++ UPDATE 08/03/13 +++

After a day or so, I can say that having this film selected by Vimeo has come as a very nice surprise. Although the film has been online for three years with only a trickle of views, it suddenly spiked to around 12000 views in the 24 hours following the selection. The film has received a good few hundred Vimeo 'likes' and 'followings' too. Many thanks to all those who've supported the film and helped 'spread the word' by adding it to their blogs and sites etc.

Oh, you've seen the film ... now buy the T-shirts!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Déjà Vu All Over Again...

I was browsing in the Enfield branch of Waterstones yesterday and saw this new novel 'This Book is Full Of Spiders (Seriously Dude Don't Touch It). Something about that cover artwork gave me a distinct frisson of 'hold on a moment, I think I've seen something a bit like that before...'

Yep, those spiders made out of book pages, don't they look a bit like the ones I made and animated for the 'Little Hands Clapping' promo film I created for Canongate Books back in 2011?

You can watch my 2011 Little Hands Clapping film for Canongate here if you like.

I like to think I made my little paper spiders with some ingenuity. Here's how I went about creating them and getting them to move...

1: I first drew a short cycle of Flash animation to create a guide animation to figure out the legs moving correctly. I worked out that a walk cycle could be made using nine different poses of the spider.

2: I imported the guide animation into After Effects and used the Path Text to get the writing to run along along the legs (I used passages from Dan Rhodes novel of course).

3: I printed out my sequence of spiders onto thin card.

4: I cut out the printed spiders and folded them a bit to get a more 3D design.

5: I shot the stop-motion animation of my paper spiders using a replacement animation technique to get the scuttling action. I figured that it would be easier to replace the whole spider model each frame rather than trying to bend and shape eight fiddly little paper spider legs! I shot all of the animation using StopMotionPro software and found the previewing features invaluable for positioning the replacements accurately.

It's entirely possible that the artists, photographer and publishing staff working on 'This Book is Full Of Spiders...' never saw my Little Hands Clapping film. Even if they did, I think that people who design and make things for a living are to some extent often drawing on things they may have seen before. My 'Little Hands Clapping' film certainly has a rather Tim Burton-esque vibe to it; this wasn't a concious lift on my part; it just seemed to result from the black humour of the subject matter and the stop-frame aesthetic. Maybe we all tend to see things and add bits of what we've seen into our own ideas and work.

I made another book trailer film for Canongate in 2011. 'Our Tragic Universe' was a very different kind of novel. I really enjoyed making these book trailer films and would certainly welcome the chance to make more in the future.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Kodak Super 8, The positive and the negative.

Anyone who uses super 8 film these days, might still be reeling from Kodak's double-edged announcement in December 2012. On the same day Kodak announced a NEW super 8 stock would become available (Vision 3 50T negative film); but also that their existing Ektachrome 100D would be withdrawn.

This is a really big deal for people using the format. 100D was the last colour reversal film from Kodak, so now only colour negative films are on offer. This is the end (at least from Kodak) of positive film that can be watched on a projector once processed. It probably doesn't bode well for Straight 8 and similar 'single cartridge' and 8mm festivals either. Undoubtedly colour reversal in super 8 format is the gateway stock (i.e. the cheapest and easiest to process and use) for anybody wanting to try and shoot some real film. It should also be mentioned that all existing cine cameras are rated to work with 100D speed film; very few are rated to work with the film speeds in the Kodak negative range.

Like it or not, anyone who wishes to buy Kodak film from now on will be buying negative film stock. For me, this is new territory, I'll need to find out how my camera might work with this stock. Also, processing and telecine options are greatly reduced too. In short, thanks to Kodak, super 8 just got a whole lot more difficult and inevitably more expensive to use.

There are apparently some advantages to negative film, we should expect better latitude, smaller grain and maybe even sharper pictures; the Vision 3 stock is the very same film used on professional motion picture production in the larger formats. For those willing to persevere (and spend more) there could be image quality benefits to be had.

I've just bought some Kodak 200T negative stock, and I'll try it out, maybe I'll try the new 50T too (when it becomes available here in the UK) but I can't help thinking that this change will on the whole reduce the user-base for super 8 film.

I'm thinking long and hard about the price implications of buying, processing and scanning film. I think this announcement will further hasten the demise of the format, so maybe it's time to enjoy using it while we still can.

What to do? I looked around online for some inspiration, then I found this...

I think this looks pretty sweet... Seems like we have fewer choices now, but just maybe there could be an upside to this negative...

Further Adventures in 3D Printing

I've revised the 3D design of my 6 tooth super 8 film sprocket wheel slightly, and had a pair of these new ones printed at
I reduced the size of the sprocket teeth this time and ordered 'fine detail white plastic'. Here's the result, and this time, the teeth do seem to mesh with a piece of film. Encouraged by this, I've just sent away my design for a 20 tooth sprocket...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Enfield, My Kinda Town

Over the last couple of years I've been shooting super 8 film around my home town; the North London suburb of Enfield. I was greatly inspired by the 1960s-1980s travelogue films of Harold Baim and it seemed fitting to use real cine film to get this sun-tinted, picture postcard look.

Tech Notes: This film was shot on Kodak 100D reversal super 8 film. I shot five rolls between 2011 and 2013. This was shot on my Nizo 156XL camera using a Panasonic LA7200 anamorphic lens adaptor to achieve the 16x9 footage. The film was sent to Andec Filmtechnik in Berlin for processing then to for cine to data HD transfer.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pocket Sprockets

Well I've had bumper Friday of exciting things coming in the post today, first up here are my very first 3D printed objects. I present 2xDIY 8mm film sprockets. I only sent these to on Monday night, and here they are in Friday's post! Much quicker than the 10 days Shapeways quote for turnaround time. I think it's pretty impressive that one can design a custom item and have it manufactured and returned within the same week. Here are the little fellas...

Now these are tiny, the hole in the centre of these is only 2mm in diameter, so you get some idea of just how tiny these are. I wanted to test the process with something small. Well I'm pretty impressed these came back, with all the features intact; maybe without the sharpness in definition I had hoped for. There 's no sign of the layering effect one sometimes sees in 3D prints, but there is a 'grainy' or slightly 'powdery' feel to these; they aren't smooth to the touch.

It remains to be seen whether my design and the manufacturing are fit for the intended purpose...

LATEST NEWS 16/02/13+++

Ok, these just don't seem to engage the film sprocket holes at all. It seems the 3D printed sprockets are just too big and fat to fit in the holes... However, I've just noticed that Shapeways offer a 'fine detail' plastic material that's 'slightly shiny'; that sound more like what I'm after. I think I'll redesign a bit on 123D Design and send off another print job soon.

The Futura Gold hits 3k

On October 26th last year I posted the first of the Futura Gold films to YouTube. The first episode (seen here) has just hit 3000 views. The subsequent two films, nothing like so many.

Releasing some work in a series was something of an experiment really, just to see if this idea might gain some momentum. The curve isn't really heading the way I'd hoped, so I'm taking a little time off this project. I'll work on a few other things and take stock for a while.

This isn't to say there won't be any more; just don't be expecting another one soon...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My First 3D Print Job

Well, there it is! This evening I designed this small sprocket wheel in Autodesk 123D Design, a free and very basic solid modelling application, available here.

Why did I choose to make this for my first foray into the future of manufacturing? Well, it's small, simple and if it works could become a little cog (quite literally) in my ongoing DIY film scanning endeavour. That's if it comes back and engages the film properly. I've referenced the SMPTE super 8 dimensions, so I've got to hope it will. I'm keen to see if this method of design/manufacture will enable me to make the small pieces for this project with anything like the required precision.

I've sent this off to who knows what I'll get back in 10 days time, stay posted...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I Like Electric Motors

I spent some time this weekend tearing apart an old floppy and CD-ROM drive on the hunt for some components. The floppy drive is fast becoming a retro relic these days; the one I've just destroyed is probably dates from the early 2000s. I'm amazed at the precision engineering and precious materials that have gone into every one of these 'obsolete' devices ; and we so readily toss them away.

I've found in these drives some tiny stepper motors that might be useful for one of my ongoing projects; also some ready-made linear slider mechanisms that look pretty useful too. Unfortunately I've not been able to drive these motors yet with my Stepper Bee (USB motor controller card). It seems like these little 5 volt motors are bipolar rather than unipolar motors, so I'll probably have to buy another card to control these from the PC. I'll maybe blog a bit more about this stuff if it looks like it's going anywhere. Quite apart from their functionality though, some of these pieces actually look quite pretty...

Over the past few years I've been using a single stepper motor (from an old scanner) as a very basic motion control system for rotating objects under the camera. With a stepper motor controlled by the computer, it's possible to get really precise turnarounds of small objects and models, and I've used this technique quite a lot in my film-making work. For example, the rotation of the Simon's Cat Earrings was shot this way, as were many elements for the Canongate Book trailer films I made in 2011.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Making Simon's Cat: earrings

I've just completed work on another video for Simon's Cat Ltd. Making Simon's Cat: Earrings went on line today on the Simon's Cat Extra channel. This is a short 'behind the scenes' style film showing the production of some rather special silver Simon's cat earrings.

The film follows the story of the manufacturing process from initial design, through sculpting and casting and on to the final checking and presentation of the final product. It's notable that these earrings are hand-made and cast from silver, all in the UK. The earrings along with other Simon's Cat products can be purchased online at the official webshop.

For this film the manufacturing footage was all shot by the jewellery designer Christopher Milton Stevens. The film features Simon Tofield and Laura Nailor and music is from Sam Clunie at

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

THE FUTURA GOLD : episode 03

Here's the latest episode of The Futura Gold. This is my new typographic animation series in which all the characters and backgrounds are made from the letters, numbers and symbols of the Futura typeface. If you like this stuff, you might like to head over to the TheFuturaGold facebook and twitter pages too.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Student animation from Alghero

A couple of posts ago I mentioned my December trip to Alghero Sardinia to host some animation workshops for the Masters Students there. I've just seen that the short films made by the students have been posted on to YouTube, so you can see them here. With only three days, the 20 students split up into 4 groups, spending about a day on each project; they turned in some really interesting and experimental work.

To the students from this workshop and the staff of the University too for making my stay both enjoyable and inspirational... Grazie mille!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


HAPPY NEW YEAR! to all readers of this blog both new and old...

I've had a site of some kind on this here internet since around 1997. Back then I was learning all I could about HTML and doing it all by hand (Does anyone remember The Tall Story Hotel?).
I first registered the domain back  in 1999, and have been using this URL for the various iterations of this site since then. is therefore a surviving relic of the first dotcom boom.

This site is mainly a place for me to promote my various commercial and personal film and animation projects and occasionally opine about related topics; mostly in the realms of animation, film-making,  photography, and image-making in general. If you're looking for information about TXT ISLAND or THE FUTURA GOLD, then you've definitely come to the right place. If you've never heard of these things, I hope you'll still find something here of some interest or value to you.

I plan to keep on blogging here, I enjoy having my own space to do this, and I do welcome comments on these posts. Although it may not be obvious, you can click on the little 0 comments button under any post here should you wish to do contribute your thoughts too.

I look forward to continuing to post here throughout the upcoming year and wish all readers a happy and healthy 2013.

Monday, December 17, 2012

RIP Kodak 100D Reversal Cine Film

Very strange behaviour from Kodak. They announce a NEW type of Super 8 film (50D negative) then the same day they announce the scrapping of 100D reversal (the most-used and affordable cine film; their only remaining colour reversal film) Nooooooooooooooooo!  :(

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Return To Alghero III

This weekend, I've just got back from Alghero Sardinia where I've been teaching a three day animation workshop to students on the Masters course.

Thanks to Prof. Ceccarelli for inviting me back (for the 3rd time!) and to all of the students and other staff too for making me feel very welcome.

I'd devised three new projects for this workshop, using stop-motion techniques to bring typography and some 'found objects' to life. Thanks to the dedication of the twenty students we saw some strong short films/exercises; the groups spending a (long) day on each project.

Once again I was really inspired by the inventiveness of the work and how effectively the students worked together to make these films.

Monday, December 10, 2012

THE FUTURA GOLD : episode 02

Here's the second webisode of my new web series THE FUTURA GOLD. If you like this, then head over to The Futura Gold's very own FaceBook page join up for behind the scenes info. and news of future releases etc.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

FUTURA GOLD in Creative Bits & TypeSpec

Another nice write-up, this time (completely with lots of lovely links) from

Oh and another one from