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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Podcast Episode 36: Being proactive and introducing Nelson Nutmeg

This episode is about being proactive. What can you do to make sure you chase down every avenue? Are you an amateur or a professional. PLUS we launch our new feature film for children - Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg?

Obviously there will be more to come from Nelson Nutmeg over the next few months, our adventures in bringing this film to life. In the meantime, sign up on the website for news. Or follow on twitter.

Easiest way, sign up below…

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Patron of the Children's Media Foundation

I recently became a Patron of the Children's Media Foundation. Why? A couple of reasons. 

Firstly, I have been getting more into the children's scene, having been working on the editing pieces for Lego and also productions focused on early years education. And of course, my own BAFTA nominated short, Eight, was about a kid is used within schools to open up discussion about grief sometimes.

Secondly, I think it is important to support what you believe in. Too many creatives look for the industry to support them, rather than the other way around.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Swirling light leak - free HD download

A swirling, ghostly light leak. Light flickering through ice. Created with low level sun near the Arctic Circle, which is great for making these. Ideal as a background / backdrop / composite over titles or footage OR maybe use as transition. Speed up for a crazy wipe!

You can download it in 1080p HD Quicktime format from here: (both clips in 1 download)

If you like this and want more then you can go to the whole archive of lens flares and light leaks here.

They are offered under creative commons. Read more here. If you are super kind and get something out of using these then please donate a small amount and I can do some more. If you use them for commercial projects then you should pay also...

What is an industry standard?

Recently I was introduced to the funkily named bit of scheduling software called "WattWenn!", crazy spelling, no wonder I couldn't find it on Google.

Seems like a nice development and more suited to a low budget film maker than a lot of the old guard scheduling software such as MovieMagic. I was pleased to find something more adaptable and that you can fiddle with, next to the script. My knowledge of scheduling was locked to about 10 years ago so this was all new. Even WattWenn has been around a while, there are probably even newer, faster, better tools out there.

One question that always gets kicked back when new ideas are raised is; is it industry standard? This is a fair question in many ways. Who wants to invest in software that isn't being used elsewhere? I get that. However, recently a lot of these industry stalwarts are being eroded. Final Cut is not taken so seriously, Final Draft is being overtaken rapidly and of course cameras come and go at a crazy rate.

All of this makes this an ideal time to reiterate a phrase that I was taught years ago, but which needs dusting down yet ago.

"The software shouldn't be industry standard, but your work must be."

Final Draft shouldn't be an industry standard, but knowing how script layout works most definitely is. It doesn't matter what you edit on but you must really understand your technology (data rate, codecs etc) so you can deliver what is required. Heck, you have to know your editing techniques before any of that.

Software and technology always get replaced. Use what you like, but be you must be ready to change. Your long term success instead comes from really understanding WHY things work as they do.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Latest Ad - in POV style

A few months ago we did a podcast episode recorded at sea. What were we doing? See for yourself above. It was a series of commercials for P&O Cruises. At the end of each ad is the choice to view a couple of others, so click around.

The commercials build upon my recent POV experiments. These though weren't filmed with the special rig, but instead were captured with a standard GoPro set up. 4 cameras were used in all, which created about 500GB of footage.

They were edited in Premiere with a grade completed within MagicBullet Looks. GoPros do now feature a 'raw' setting but I passed on this, in favour of the standard built-in profile. I felt the raw setting was just so flat that it would severely impact on the post workflow too much if it was used.

No sync sound, which really helped too of course.

A few tips for anyone looking to shoot POV with a GoPro for this kind of purpose.

1 - indoor shots are always hard work as the GoPro loves a lot of light
2 - move slowly to allow the auto settings to adjust smoothly, you can speed stuff up later
3 - stabilisation in post is your friend, but it can only help you so much
4 - time remapping helps to compensate for not really having cutaways
5 - shoot cutaways anyway
6 - every shot should be a 'doing' shot to maximise POV effect. Looking at something isn't enough

My learn now, that I will use next time…

Change head heights for variety. Crawl, jump, roll, slide, climb - anything to stop everything being shot at 5ft to 6ft high.

Here's the crew…

Monday, February 03, 2014

What makes a BAFTA nominated short? (2014 edition)

Yes, it is that time of year again when I outline the BAFTA nominated short films and once again moan about the cliche of the British short film - all grim and dour.

But not this year! This is the best collection of short films in many many years. I'll sum them up thusly; these are proper, entertaining shorts that span many genres. A pleasure to watch, not a chore. Fun, not worthy.

The reason I outline the shorts here on the blog is because many up and coming film makers don't always get a chance to see them and hence don't know what the level of competition is. Here are the films in details - in alphabetical order. Check them out yourself if you can - NO SPOILERS BELOW.

Island Queen
Directed by Ban Mallaby - Written by Nat Luurtsema (who also stars)
A girl who lives on a small island and has never left decides she wants a baby and visits the 'sperm bank'. But who is the father?
A wise cracking, zippy script that is about the characters even though the plot keeps your hooked. To me this felt like a real showcase for comedy-drama talent.

Keeping up with the Joneses
Directed by Michael Pearce - Written by Selina Lim
Two gangsters are out of revenge but instead end up lumbered with the wife of the crooked MP they seek. Finally she reveals that her husband is probably with the mistress - and she is forced to accompany them on their trip of vengeance.
I liked the duality of this film. Violent, almost slapstick, one minute - very delicate on the characters the next.

Orbit Ever After
Directed and Written by Jamie Magnus Stone
A sci-fi romance! Young Nigel picks up the space junk surrounding his families rag tag space capsule that they call home. Everyday he sees a girl in her capsule going the other way. But how can they ever meet?
You have to admire the sheer balls to make this, big sets, periods of zero gravity, carefully matching the lighting to the spinning earth below, amazing. And just like the perfect short film, a story that really should be no longer nor shorter.

Room 8
Directed and Written by James W Griffiths
A prisoner finds a model of his cell. But it is more than just a model, it is in fact his cell.
This is what Inception would be if it was a short film. It plays with a 'TARDIS' style visual effect in a very punchy way. Very pure, one idea, one location and great effects.

Sea View
Directed and Written by Jane Linfoot
A teenage girl meets up with an older man for an overnight stay in a hotel room. But what is their relationship as they both see it?
Perhaps the most 'standard' of the shorts in that it sticks closely to the British short film tradition - but good acting none the less. And in fact, due to the good range of genres above, this drama short has room to breathe.

Conclusions and trends:
Post production is very glossy and expensive this year, but a good story is still way more important. Acting in all the shorts was excellent. What is interesting is that some of these shorts felt like they were looking to be made into features really, whilst others were the opposite, almost a sketch. Again, I feel that is healthy to have that range. Certainly I am lifted by the quality of these short films and hope that shorts are back as viable entertainment pieces.

Normally I don't look forward to a BFI funded short film is I am honest. This year, I have been forced to change my mind.