• ‘Be Here Steryear’ the video and how it was made…

    The sequences for Be Here Steryear were made in a variety of ways. There are some straightforward live action sequences, the use of found footage, under the camera stop motion animation, pixillation and time-lapse. Filming for the video started in July 2014 with the live action and some time lapsed shots (the opening shot is a time lapse from day to night looking out over the rooftops of the medieval city of Brasov). These were taken in a number of locations across Romania on a 1000 mile road trip. To me there is a sense of melancholy to the track and the locations in Romania helped to reinforce this visually. From the fields with their peculiar hayracks to the darkly gothic architecture of towns like Brasov and Sibiu there emerged a vague structure of how I wanted the video to look.

    Some of the live action sequences have remained largely as they were shot, although heavily graded to give them either a psychedelic touch or to give them an old Super 8 cine feel. Other sequences were overlaid to create something more dreamlike.

    In the video I wanted there to be a separation between the real world and the dreamlike one. To do this I added some found footage which I again reworked in After Effects.

    The post-production of the main body of the film lasted from August 2014 to March 2015. The final elements added were the pixillated shots of the band which were filmed in London. Each member was filmed twice – the first sequence created was the spinning head. These were shot against blue screen and simply lit. For each rotation of the head there are roughly 7 individual photos that when run together make a crude spin. To help make this more fluid I then shot the back of each person’s head and then in Photoshop stitched that onto a forward facing body and put that shot at the end of each ‘rotation’. When played at speed this gives the impression of a head rotating all the way round on the spot.

    A similar approach was used when I filmed each member of the band with their instruments. For instance when filming Andrea there were around 75 shots taken of her at various stages of playing the glockenspiel. Although 75 frames only gives three seconds of screen time what it gave me was the ability to rearrange the frames so that each point where you hear the chime of the bar being struck I could synch up a photo of her making contact with the bar. All I needed to do was find frames before and after each contact point and edit those into the sequence so that it looks like she is playing it, albeit intentionally jerkily. The same process was used for Bill, James, Richard, Nicola and John. But back to the spinning heads...

    Once the images were in a sequence the next stage was to render them out from After Effects as a .mov. This was then re-imported into After Effects and using Keylight 1.2 the blue was removed so that the shot of the band member could sit against a much cleaner green screen (the blue had been harder to light on the day of the shoot and so wasn’t an even colour). The green was simply a new layer added in After Effetcs. Following on from that the image was re-coloured using CC Toner so that it gave it a blue tint. Finally glow was added using the Glow effect . This was then rendered out and exported as a .mov. This had to be done for each spinning head sequence for every band member before it could be added to the timeline in Premiere.

    I wanted the spinning heads to drift across the screen at certain points in the video and for them to give the impression that they were singing in a bit of a garbled way, like a gulping fish! So once each individual spinning sequence was imported and added to the timeline in Premier the shots were given a simple translation so that they moved from right to left. Once I was happy with the speed of this translation so that every band member drifted across the screen in keeping with the track all the sequences were nested into one shot for simplicities sake! The green from the sequence was simply removed in Premier using the Colour Key. This enabled the tracks below to become visible at last!

    This nested sequence then sat on top of the live action found footage. To give it the ‘negative’ glowing look which you can see at about 1' 30" the sequence was blended using the Divide mode in Premier, darkened slightly and the saturation (just for this one) reduced by 90%.

    The found footage background was made up of three video tracks in Premier. Each of the shots on these tracks had originally been made up from anything up to a further four layers. These shots were all created within After Effects and a range of effects including Glow, Gradient Ramp, CC Wide Time and Minimax were applied. Additionally the blending modes of these layers were altered as were their speeds, scale and opacity. Each reworked found footage sequence was then exported from After Effects in to Premier where again the blending modes varied in order to create the appropriate look.

    The animation of the broken crockery was all shot under the camera using a multi-plane. This is essentially several layers of glass held in a box frame with a gap of a few inches between each layer of glass. This is to give a sense of depth to animation created under the camera. In these sequences I worked with about four layers of the bits of china, rotating them frame by frame working on singles – one movement for every frame of film – at 25fps. These sequences were then post-produced in After Effects, colourized and textured.

    The found footage came from a large number of sources but primarily from British and American public service films from the 1940s and 50s. I chose these as I felt they added to a melancholic sense of nostalgia – with post-war playground games, schoolboy cricket, domestic life and cups of tea to the streamline style of the big American cars. And if you look closely there is hidden away a gothic timepiece slowly marking the beat, and filmed in deepest Transylvania at the legendary home of one Count Dracula!

    In After Effects there were numerous projects, each with a multitude of layers. Projects for the time-lapse, live action, animation, found footage and for the pixilation. Ultimately there are 16 video tracks running through the Premier project with averagely four or five of those tracks having visible video footage at any given point. But at the end of the day there was only one audio track!

    Below are some shots showing the process from original photo of Bill, the post-production on that sequence and the development and processing of the live action found footage.



  • New work is a-coming

    After a slightly quieter period after Christmas there is some more work to come. However this film has been nearly a year in the making with the first shots in July last year and the last ones in London with the band just after Easter. In between lots of fiddling and messing.

    The release date for this new music video (cant say who yet) is set for 15th June fingers crossed! It's a mixture of live action (shot on location on a 1000 mile Romanian road-trip - including Bucharest, Brasov, Sibiu, Alba Julia and Cluj Napoca) as well as timelapse, under the camera animation and pixillation and some heavily messed about with found footage from the 1940's & 50's. I'll put up some more posts after the release where I will explain how some of the sequences were created in After Effects and Premiere.



  • It's in the final!

    My film 'salvage' is barely a month old and not only has it been aired on telly in the US but it's made it to the finals of the St Andrew's Green Film Festival in Scotland! The results will be out on Weds 18th so I'm keeping everything crossed in the hope that is scoops something nice. https://vimeo.com/115101991



  • A good summer so far...

    It's been a good summer so far, with a few more articles sent to Skwigly and available online now. But its also been a busy time for 'four and five'. It was selected earlier this year for screening at the 10th Festival Miden in Greece which took place at the start of July. The programme that the film was in has now been taken up by the Fabrica Utopia Festival also in Greece as part of a selection of videoart to be screened late July/early August. This is the sixth time my work has been selected for screening/competition in Greece - shame I never get over there to see them! 'four and five' has also been selected for the main competition, Best Experimental Short at the 10th Open Cinema International Short and Animation Film Festival in St Petersburg, Russia at the start of July. This is the third time in a row that I have been shortlisted at the festival and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for third time lucky!

    In the meantime I've been pretty busy working on a new project for William D Drake. It was filmed in Romania but also includes some under the camera animation and After Effects post-produced found footage. Getting the tone and flow between the location shots and the found footage so that there is a coherency has been and continues to be an interesting (some times frustrating) challenge. More details later...



  • All Quite on the Blogging Front

    It certainly has been a bit quiet on the blog front of late, but then it's been a little bit busy elsewhere with me off writing a series of articles or tutorials for the fabulous on-line animation magazine Skwigly. It's meant that since the middle of December when I havent been doing all the things that I get paid to do I have been sat bleary-eyed in front of a computer hammering away at a keyboard pouring forth any dregs of wisdom that I can muster on the subject of character animation. And it's been fun!

    The first article looks at acting for animation and character performance. I followed this with a short diversion through observation and timing, and have just completed a third missive on character development, with hints and suggestions on how to get to know your character a little better. All of these I've written with fledgling animators in mind in the hope that some of it is of use and can help them to figure out the whys and wherefores of the whole process.

    So March and early April will see me calloused fingers still pounding the keys on my fourth effort, and then another two after that (or at least that's what I have promised the fine folk of Skwigly). If you fancy taking a little look at them then there's a link below, or go to the 'News' page of my website where you will find links to all three so far...

    Skwigly Tutorials

    Happy reading and animating!



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