Twenty Fourteen…

Hi there. Happy new year. I hope you all had a good one! Things have been rather quiet on here of late (this is by no means a reflection on the rest of my life – more on that shortly). I have a confession: I was thinking of not writing this, due to time constraints among other things, but I was called out by my literally ones of fans so that sealed it. No dodging this bullet for me, no matter how embarrassing it may be. So here goes…

Oh, just before that however, I should probably add a small caveat: After the wedding, (double) house move and-lots-of-other-stuff filled 2012, I had high hopes for a quieter 2013 with more time to dedicate to all the things I had planned for the year. Then in January my wife told me she was pregnant. So, like the Fresh Prince of North London that I am, my life got flip turned upside down and some things which I had planned to do were not attended to in the timely manner I was hoping for. We are now proud parents to a little boy who is astromonically cute and entertaining and everything is great! So please, just bear that in mind when you read how badly I’ve failed.

Seriously though, look how cute!

Noah playing with his Mum

On with the blog post!

 

  • Watch more films

2013 started off well on this front. Snoo and I were having regular film nights with friends and getting to the cinema pretty regularly too. I even kept a list of what I saw across the year. Things did start to tail off a bit come the summer though and especially as the iminent birth approached. Still not a bad list, but by no means staggering. This is the problem with these open ended goals though; they are very tricky to gauge.

However, before we write this one off, let me bring this to the table: One of the main points of this goal was to expose myself to more beautiful cinematography and to study how and why DoP’s and directors do certain things. I may not have watched as many films as may have liked, but one thing I did watch a lot of was TV. Breaking Bad, The Wire and House of Cards (the new, Kevin Spacey version) all got watched in their entirity in 2013. If you add that up, that’s a lot of time watching and studying. And study I did.

BREAKING BAD TANGENT ALERT: YOU DON’T HAVE TO READ THIS. I’LL TELL YOU WHEN IT’S OVER.

All three of these series were excellent, but Breaking Bad by far grabbed me the most. Everything about it was/is superb. The direction, the cinematography, the script, the acting, the music (both the original score and the additional music choices) – all top notch. It’s not without it’s faults, but they are small and nit-picky and in no way detract from this magnificent series. I have an obsessive personality at the best of times, and Breaking Bad was what I focused it on for the best part of 2013. We were up to date (the end of the first half of season 5) a couple of months before the final episodes aired so despite being pretty later to the BrBa party I still got swept up in the anticipation, speculation and excitement of how it was going to end (not least the incredible Ozymandias teaser which I watched so many times I can now recite the poem from memory). Aside from the 60 odd hours of actually watching the series (actually, it would be more than that now as I have since re-re-watched it), I spent a lot of time reading about various aspects of the show, interviews and different people’s takes (my favourite of which had to be Seriable’s Breaking Bad Observations which went into huge detail about the visual semiotics, similarities, call backs, theories and other minutia of the show. There was a lot of stuff in those articles which I didn’t pick up on at the time, but which heightened the enjoyment even further for me. If you’ve watched the show, I would thoroughly recommend reading your way through that archive link – it is, naturally, very spoilery though so be careful how you click if you haven’t seen it all yet). I also listened to a lot of podcasts, both official – which fed my interest to find out more about the technical aspects of how the show was actually made, and unofficial which just fed my need for crazy speculation and obsessive breakdown of scenes.

Aside from being a throughly entertaining story, the cinematography was really great. My friend Steve convinced me to watch it on this basis alone, enthusing about all the unusual and interesting shots and use of timelapse photography (you created this monster, Steve! I hope you’re happy! You have no one to blame but yourself. And possibly Vince Gilligan). The series really made me rethink how to shoot and light things, and made me push myself to think how to get more interesting images. I have found myself on several occasions unable to get to sleep while thinking of ways of how to attach a camera to various objects etc to get a cool shot. This, while slightly frustrating at the time when it’s 2am and you’re still very much awake, can only be a good thing! 

The argument over which is the better show of recent years, The Wire or Breaking Bad still rages on, but I would say having watched both, I personally think Breaking Bad edged it for me, mainly because of the very cinematic and unusual look it has that The Wire doesn’t have (although to be fair, having a BB aesthetic wouldn’t have been true to the much “realer” story that The Wire tells, in my opinion).  The simple solution is to just watch both of them.

TANGENT ALERT OVER

 

  • Improve my After Effects skills:

I think I did pretty well with this one. I’m a lot more familiar and comfortable with After Effects now which is great! I even created a few pieces created entirely (more or less) in AE like this Breaking Bad related (see above for obvious reasons why) piece of Kinetic Typography:

Like most things done in AE, this was a huge learning curve and that’s part of what I enjoy about it so much. It’s been nice to being able to take on different challenges with it and from there plan more and elaborate projects. I can definitely see a notable improvement from a year ago and I know where I want to take my skills with it and I can hopefully create a really interesting style to my work.

 

  • Do more cooking and improve my diet:

I am the pizza master now! Ok, maybe that’s a bit much, but I’m bloody good at them. Snoo and I eat a lot of pizza (Friday night is pizza night!) and we now routinely whip up ours from scratch now (the dough and the tomato sauce). Sadly we don’t have space for a proper wood burning pizza oven, but we bought some pizza stones which are great! There have been a few other additions to the repertoire as well include Eggs Benedict which I make fairly regularly (I poach a mean egg!). I think our diet has improved a lot, if not from just cutting out a lot of the bad things but from making a lot of our favourite dishes from scratch. It’s nice to know exactly what’s going in to these meals.

Having Noah has helped to focus this goal for the future. I’m really hoping that he isn’t a fussy eater (I never was as a child, and I’m still not now) and I want to be able to make a lot of really nice meals for him when he’s older, but without him feeling like he’s missing out on fun stuff. I was always given what my parents were having and I think that’s a good approach. I think tackling curries is the next step!

 

  • Train for Hueco trip/Tick ‘Dragonfly':

Well, this one certainly didn’t go as anticipated. I was in pretty good, strong shape when we left for Hueco and despite getting to my high point on my first attempt, Dragonfly remains unclimbed by me! On our only trip to that side of East Mountain I got a bit carried away trying Hobbit in a Blender (which, annoyingly I didn’t manage to do either despite getting very close) so by the time we got to Dragonfly I was totally shattered. It was also warmer and drier than we hoped/anticipated so my skin was getting shredded pretty quickly! I sincerely hope it’s not the last time we make it out there; there’s still so much I want to do out there.

 

  • Get a bike:

Nope. Still not gotten around to that. Storage is the big bottle neck at the moment with that, but I’m still really keen to get it sorted out. Let’s see if 2014 is the year for that.

 

  • Finish outstanding video projects/Cut together a 2012 showreel:

At the time of writing this, I am up to date on my editing (although, having said that, the showreel is still outstanding — those things are surprisingly hard to cut!). This will all change in the next couple of weeks when I will be neck deep in footage (loads of stuff happening at the Castle which I’m covering over the coming weeks for  starters!). My editing workflow is getting quicker but I feel it could still be a lot slicker. I’m sure a huge quantity of footage sitting, mocking me on my hard drive will be a good motivator.

 

  • Catch up with friends/family more:

Snoo and I did pretty well at this across the year. We made a fair few family gatherings and weddings which was nice and managed to catch up with a lot of people. Many of our/my friends all seem to be having children around the same time which is has good reason to get together and with Noah coming along it has meant that Grandparents and Aunties/Uncles have been making more frequent visits!

—–

So, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag of success and failure, and to be honest, I think most – if not all – of these goals from last year will roll over into this year. There’s been a real up turn in business over the last year which is great! I’ve had a real mix of work (a lot of it coming from Liquid Crimson who have been amazing to work with! Never a dull day there!) but I’ve also made a lot of new contacts as well. It’s reminded me how fortunate I am to be able to make a living doing something I love! My big goals for 2014 are to build this client base even more, and to try and work on as many inspiring projects as possible.

I also want to be as good a Dad to Noah as I can be. Snoo has really taking to being a Mum incredibly and if I can be even half as good a Father as she is a Mother then I’ll be happy!

Hope you all have a great year! I have a good feeling about this one.

 

 

The Windy City

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At the end of March, Snoo and I headed out to America for a holiday. We’d planned a trip down to Hueco Tanks for a week, but due to the way the dates fell around Easter, we decided to squeeze in a few days in Chicago as well. I’ve always wanted to visit Chicago as I’ve been a Chicago Bulls fan since I was a kid (we even managed to get some tickets for a game which was on while we were there which was a big tick off the lifelong ‘to do’ list!).

I decided when we booked the trip that I wanted to document our time in the city. I’d also recently acquired some new gear to try out Lens Whacking, and so the cogs mashed and the idea was born: a lens whacking film of Chicago. And so it was that we spent three unseasonably sunny days exploring the city and shooting it’s best bits. It was a nice change of pace to just be able to chill out and do some tourist-y stuff (we almost never have holidays like that) and film some cool sights.

The lens whacking technique is an unusual one, but I really enjoyed the limitations of having just the one lens (a Nikon E-Series 50mm f/1.8) and the happy accidents that the style of shooting produces. The down time on subsequent flights was then spent cutting together what would become ‘The Windy City’. Enjoy!

For a quick shoot/edit I was really pleased with how it came out. The whole thing was done relatively simply. One camera; one lens; and all edited and colour graded in Premiere Pro (no After Effects on this one). Looking forward to doing more whacking in the future!

I also shot a few stills as well (some lens whacked, some not)…

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Viva España

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It’s been a little while, but it’s time for a few updates on stuff I’ve been working on. First up, the video from our trip to Albarracin last year is finished and has been proving pretty popular on Vimeo. It took a while for it all to come together, but Ben and I are both really pleased with how it came together. If you haven’t watched it yet, please have a look below. It’s hopefully enjoyable for climbers and non-climbers alike…

I really feel like this video has been a big step in the two or three years since shot ‘One Week In Hueco’. The purchase of a Cine Slider definitely added a huge amount of production value and I was really pleased with the quality if the footage we shot with it. Amazing how much better a shot can be with some creative composition and a little extra camera movement.

I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it!

Here we go again…

Hello all. Happy new year! I hope you’re all enjoying 2013 thus far. I can’t quite believe it, but it’s that time again. Time to to have a look back over the just year gone and see what I’ve achieved, before planning ahead for what’s to come. 2012 was a pretty incredible year. I got married, did a load of traveling, moved house (more on that later) and there was all kinds of craziness in London what with the Jubilee and the Olympics and Paralympics. Good times for sure. 2013, as it stands currently, looks to be a pretty quiet year, but I’m sure that will change. I’m looking forward to it! As fun and exciting as 2012 was, I’m looking forward to having more time to focus on work and pushing myself forward.

So, with that in mind: let’s see how I got on with my goals from last year…
 

  • Promote my Photography more:

This is, and always will be, an on going thing of course, but I am starting to get new clients and more photography work generally so I guess I must be doing something right in that respect. Actually, over the last year or so, video work has been taking up probably as much time as stills photography (which is great in my book – it’s not as if the two are mutually exclusive) and I’d certainly like to carry this on into 2013 and beyond. I already have a few video projects and jobs lined up for this year, and I’m more than happy about that.
 

  • Instagram 365 Project:

Well, I can give myself a nice big tick for this one. I managed it, and to be honest, it was (at certain points) much harder than I expected. Some days were easy and I ended up with a difficult choice of which image I was going to post for that day, but on the flip side there were plenty of other days where it was a real struggle to get a decent shot. Some images I was more happy with than others, but ultimately I feel like I kept the quality up to a standard I was happy with, which was the main aim. I certainly picked a good year to do it as well, as 2012 was a pretty incredible year (a wedding, two house moves, plenty of trips abroad etc etc), and it’s really nice to have a visual diary of what took place. I briefly thought about continuing the project into 2013 but decided against it. The challenge was really good, and forced me to look for photos when I didn’t necessarily want to, but I think continuing it much longer would just lead to it losing it’s charm and becoming an annoying burden.

Having said that, I will still continue to take photos and use Instagram (even after all the fiasco over their T&C’s), it’ll just be more on my own terms, and hopefully mean the quality will be even higher. Below are a few of my favourite images from the project. Please check out the blog for the full year’s worth (or, if that’s not enough for you, check out my Instagram profile for all my images).

Instagram-365
 

  • Move house:

Ha! Yep; did that. Twice, in fact. Maybe I should award myself extra points? Anyway, shortly after getting back from Honeymoon, we exchanged and completed the sale of our place in Kennington. It was a pretty emotional time, what with the come down after the wedding/honeymoon and then having to leave the home that I’d lived in for a good five or six years, and Snoo for even longer! We moved into a friends’ flat which he very kindly rented to us on a month-by-month rolling basis, but after about three months we’d found somewhere to buy and it was time to pack up again. Renting was really useful as we got a chance to check out the area and see if it was where we wanted to stay. It turns out we did, and finally bought somewhere in Crouch End. It’s taken a little while to get everything sorted out and get settled in, but it’s really starting to feel like home. I’ve even done the unthinkable, and started to enjoy DIY. We don’t have any grand plans to remodel our entire flat like some of friends have done, but Snoo and I are getting pretty good at putting up shelves and we plumbed our Washing Machine in too! I’m sure this is something that many people would just shrug off and take for granted, but it feels like a big step for me!

I plan on not moving house again during 2013.
 

  • Finish my time-lapse film:

YES! It took some doing, as the perfectionist in me wanted to get it just right, but it is done, and I’m really pleased with it. It seems to be going down pretty well on Vimeo (and elsewhere) which is nice. If you haven’t yet seen it, please have a look:

This project taught me a lot about timelapse, video editing and After Effects, so even though it took longer than I wanted it to, it was a valuable learning experience.
 

  • Draw/create more artwork:

Hmmm, well, this one didn’t go too well. I have been drawing a bit more (creating storyboards and the like), but I don’t feel like I’ve done as much as I wanted to. I’m not sure if maybe I set my expectations a bit high. I have had the idea of creating some more mixed media (drawing, typography and photography – and possibly even video/animation) pieces, so this would be a good reason to start drawing again. Slap on the wrist for this point. Hopefully 2013 will prove more productive on this front.
 

  • Climb somewhere new (at 7a if possible!):

Aside from three or four weekends in Font and a day at Castle Hill in New Zealand, we didn’t really take too many climbing trips in 2012. The only new area we did visit however was Albarracín in Spain. We spent a really great week there exploring the area and trying out some amazing problems. The style (and certain parts of the landscape) really reminded me of Hueco Tanks which always a good thing in my book!

Anyway, I really enjoyed Albarracín, and even managed to get a 7a on the very first day! Below is a photo of Ceri on the aforementioned problem: ‘Empotration’ (7a) in the Parking sector.

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There was one more 7a which I managed to get late on in the week, the really amazing “Techo Don Pepo” at Cabrerizo. Those were the only two 7’s that I managed to do, but the rest of the week was filled with a high quantity of really excellent 6’s, and when we left (skin shredded and muscles aching) I felt like we’d got a really good, overall feel for the place. I definitely want to get back out there at some point as there was so many problems which I didn’t get to try. We also shot a load of video while we were there, so keep an eye out for that soon…
 

  • Read more:

Well, I didn’t keep the list that like I planned to, but I did get through a lot of books in 2012 (including the Steve Jobs book which I mentioned in my post from last year. Considering it’s size, I got through it really quickly whilst on Honeymoon).

A few of the books I read during 2012...

This isn’t all of them, but many of my favourites have either been lent out to or borrowed from other people. Obviously, I enjoyed some more than others. ‘American Psycho’ was challenge to read. I’m not particularly squeamish or anything, but some of the scenes in that book took some getting through. Weirdly, it did make me want to see the film again.

The highlights from the books I did read were:
 

Really great! Lent to me by my friend Steve after I mentioned I was reading ‘American Psycho’, it has a similar theme, but is set in the London music scene in circa 1997. There are some gruesome parts but nothing on a par with ‘American Psycho’ and there are some really funny moments, and excellent characters. I need to read some more of Niven’s work.
 

A really fascinating, true story about the world of hackers and carders dealing in stolen financial details. It’s definitely worth a read, although it is worryingly eye opening.
 

This took me a couple of “chapters” to get into, but once I did, I was totally hooked by it. I’d never read any of Ronson’s books before this one (you may have noticed in the photo above that I subsequently read ‘The Psychopath Test’ – Oh, and I had seen the film adaption of ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’) but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I found Ronson to be a very level headed, impartial and honest journalist. A very easy book to read and very easy to dip in and out of due to the nature of the (relatively) short, self contained “Mysteries”.
 

I always really enjoy the Discworld books, and I think Pratchett hit a real sweet spot around the time of ‘Moving Pictures’. I’m trying to read through them in order and ‘Guards! Guards! which comes before and ‘Reaper Man’ which comes after ‘Moving Pictures’ were both really excellent as well.
 

As I mentioned above, I rattled through this biography while in New Zealand. I never thought I’d get through it, due to the pretty daunting size of the thing, but it is a very engaging and well written. Jobs’ story is a fascinating one (and he certainly doesn’t seem to be as clean cut as you’d expect).

I could go on, but I think I’d be in danger of turning this into a literary blog! I didn’t get through a huge amount of books, but I think on average I came in at just over one a month which, for someone who reads quite slowly, was a pretty good achievement. I shall definitely continue this trend into 2013.
 

  • Visit a new country:

I’m giving this one an honorary roll over (possibly ad infinitum, as it’s something I’m keen to keep doing). I didn’t just visit a new country; I visited four! Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Cyprus. Pretty pleased with that – that’s some good quality country visiting, if I do say so myself. Possible destinations for 2013 include: Italy and Czech Republic (Prague, specifically). There’s definitely a lot more of Europe I need to see as well.

Here endeth part 1…

 


 

So, that brings me to the burning question: What are my plans for 2013 (other than the few from above which I will continue)? Well, these…
 

  • Watch more films:

From frequent conversations with Steve about films, it has become quite apparent that there’s a lot of films that I really need to see. Also, from a cinematography stand point, I feel like I could learn a lot from exposing myself to more movies. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve started a spreadsheet to keep a track of the films I watch (as well as the ones I want to watch) along with some notes about the films etc. I put a call out on Facebook asking for suggestions and I got a huge response, from many different genres and styles so I have plenty to get my teeth into. Hopefully it’ll be a good learning experience and will stop Steve’s constant heavy sighs and looks of distain during car journeys when I say (yet again) that I haven’t seen something.
 

  • Improve my After Effects skills:

I really enjoy using After Effects, and I’m constantly discovering new and interesting things to do with it. I want to make a concerted effort this year to continue this and use AE to add a more slick finish to my videos. I don’t have any plans to become a full blown VFX artist, but I’d like to be able to produce nicer looking titles and motion graphics into my work. I have a few projects planned for this. Stay tuned…
 

  • Do more cooking and improve my diet:

Since we’ve moved, and subsequently gained a larger kitchen, we’ve been cooking a lot more and making things from scratch. Snoo and I are both getting very good at pizzas now, and it feels really nice to have more control over what we eat. The more elaborate things I try, the more I want to try! I also find cooking really therapeutic and a really good way to make myself take a break from the computer. I’m also trying to lose a bit of weight (I’m 15st 9lb at the time of writing) and by having more control over my food, I will hopefully be able to achieve this. That also brings me neatly on to…
 

  • Train for Hueco trip/Tick ‘Dragonfly':

We’re heading back to Hueco Tanks soon (hooray!) and although there’s always a huge list of problems I want to try, the one that is really sticking out in my mind at the moment is ‘Dragonfly’. I’ve tried it a few times now and I came pretty close on our last trip, so it definitely feels within reach. I’ve been training a lot recently too (we have a finger board up at home now which is proving very useful) and as I know the moves and beta on it fairly well now, I know what I need to train to hopefully get it done. Only time will tell, and hopefully I won’t totally psyche myself out before I even get there!

Other than the Hueco trip, we don’t really have any other trips sorted yet. I’m hoping for a decent (read: dry) spring and summer which would hopefully mean we could explore the UK climbing a lot more. I’m sure we’ll end up in Font at least once as well. I really hope we do, anyway. Also, with our friends Ben & Ceri moving out to Spain in March, I can imagine a trip out there will be on the cards too. I need to be stronger and fitter for all of these; but they are the best motivator for training!
 

  • Get a bike:

I can’t really elaborate too much more on this one. I want to do more cardio exercise, and as my knees seem to be slowly seizing up running is pretty much out of the question (on concrete, at least). Plus, I find it incredibly boring. Now we’ve settled in somewhere I’d really like to start cycling again. We need to try and sort out the storage situation first, but hopefully I’ll be able to have a new bike by the summer.
 

  • Finish outstanding video projects/Cut together a 2012 showreel:

Before I get super bogged down in new projects this year, I have a couple of things which need finishing. Namely another BTS video I’ve shot with Steve which could be really good with the right treatment. I must make some time for this, as I hate having things unfinished. I’m also keen to cut together a showreel from everything I worked on in 2012.
 

  • Catch up with friends/family more:

I’ve kinda stolen this on from Snoo, but it’s a good thing to do so that makes it alright. We’re very fortunate to have a really amazing group of friends in London which I spend a lot of time with (Castle people particularly) but I’m equally fortunate to still have strong relationships with a lot of people I went to school with (as well as from other parts of my life). However, I don’t see that second group(s) quite as much. I’d like to rectify this. Our wedding was so amazing partly because of having all (or at least a lot of) these people in one place. I felt like I needed another couple of days to really get round to speaking to everyone properly, so that’s what I’m hoping to do in 2013. I feel bad for making a lot of promises to meet up and stay in touch more (in the days of Facebook there really is no excuse) but proper face-to-face time is the best way. We’re now in a position to have people over for dinner, and we’ll soon have a fully functional spare room for people to stay over, and I certainly hope people will want to! So, anyone reading this who wants to meet up, please give me a shout!

Right, I think that’s probably enough to be getting on with for one year. There aren’t as many many work based ones for 2013 mainly because a) a lot of them have been covered and rolled over from previous years of doing this and b) after reading this excellent blog by Philip Bloom about the elusive life/work balance, it got me thinking that there are parts of my life which are being neglected that shouldn’t be.

I’m sure 2013 will throw a lot of opportunities my way, in both my work and personal life, and I’m excited about the blank canvas of a year ahead!

Have good one, and thanks for reading!
 
PS: I will be keeping this blog up to date. Shut up; I will! That six month hiatus was inexcusable!

Video update…

I really have no idea how it is possible for me to have not made a blog post here since July(!!), but apparently that is the case. Wow. Pretty poor show on my part. 2012 was a pretty live changing year for me (more on that soon) and I can only really offer that up as a, frankly rubbish, excuse for the lack of posts.

Anyway, enough of dwelling on why I haven’t been doing things and more actual doing of things! New year; new start! I was busy last year (very busy in fact) and here is a run down of some of the things that kept me away from my blog since the summer. Shooting and editing video took up a great chunk of my time, so here are some of my favourites:

BlocFest 2012-2013 Promo

First up is a promo video I made for a new climbing competition series which started in October. It’s called BlocFest and it is run by a group of routesetters I know from climbing at The Castle. This was a really fun project to do, and it was nice to actual shoot a more stylised (having full control over lighting etc) climbing short. I’m really pleased with this one, and I hope to do more work in a similar vain in 2013:

Steve Brown – Behind The Scenes

I’ve continued to work with Steve throughout 2012 on a variety of things. He even managed to find some time in his busy schedule to do some personal work, two of which I documented.

The first was with London based American Football team London Blitz:

Steve Brown & London Blitz Shoot – Behind The Scenes

…And the second, in conjunction with Bowens Lights, was with a couple of Roller Derby teams, Southern Discomfort and London Rollergirls.

Behind The Scenes – Steve Brown Roller Derby Shoot

Timelapse London

Probably the biggest tick off the to-do list however was finishing up my timelapse film from around London. It has taken a lot of work, and lot of standing around in the cold, but I think the final product was definitely worth all those hours. I’m really pleased with it, and I’m glad that I took the extra time and effort to get it right. If you’ve not seen it yet, please have a watch (in HD, full screen and with sound if you can!)

Blissfields

Last, but by no means least, is the video from Blissfields. My last post was a selection of stills from the weekend but the real meat of the job for me was the video side of things. I was the sole cameraman for this, and I worked really hard for two (long) days to capture as much of the atmosphere as I possibly could. Jason at Liquid Crimson did an amazing job with the edit (I was amazed how he managed to turn t around so quickly considering the amount of rushes he had to watch through…)

So, those are a few of my favourite projects I’ve worked on in the last few months. There are a few more which still need finishing off, but hopefully I can get those wrapped up soon as well. I love shooting and editing video, but it is a very time consuming process! I thought I’d ease myself back into blogging with a short and sweet post, and let the videos speak for themselves. There’ll be more to come soon though!

Happy new year everyone! I hope you have a great 2013.


Half The World Away…

This year has been an incredibly busy one for me. I like this fact, but it is amazing and slightly worrying how fast the year is disappearing. It’s July now! Yikes. Despite this huge time rift, I am, by-and-large, getting a lot done which is great. I’ve managed to tick off a few things that I was working on or wanted to do, but it seems that every time I put one project to bed, two more are already waiting for my attention. I’m not sure if this is a good way to handle things (am I spreading myself too thin?) – who knows, but for now, I’m going to keep pushing myself hard to produce better and better work like I always have done.

Anyway, this naval gazing preamble is a long winded way of saying that I’ve finished another video. It is my first full (more or less) timelapse based short film. Aside from just getting away from everything and having a thoroughly relaxing time on honeymoon, I really wanted to try and capture some really nice timelapses of the stunning landscapes of New Zealand and Australia. This mini-project, unsurprisingly, dictated a lot of how we went about travelling round. Fortunately for me, my wonderful wife had already factored this into the itinerary so we had plenty of time to make the more picturesque journeys. Also, fortunately for me, my wonderful wife was (or at least did a good impression of) happy to sit in the car by the side of of several roads (and in a couple of cases, in the pitch dark) and read her book while my camera(s) clicked away. To be honest, I personally think it made the trip more pleasurable; made us slow down and when we did stop, we stopped for a good chunk of time with some incredible scenery to enjoy. I felt like we actually *saw* a lot of the country(s) properly instead of just grabbing a quick snap while with the engine still running. At a timelapse seminar by Philip Bloom I went to last year, he equated shooting timelapses as “the modern day fishing”, which is totally spot on. So, sticking with that analogy, here’s the fish that I caught. Or something. I hope you like it.

I’m very pleased with how it came out. It’s not perfect (but it’s mine – to quote Tim Minchin) but I think it’s rather nice few minutes of footage. It wasn’t without it’s pressures and frustrations, however. Weather was a (slightly) limiting factor, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. In the South island of New Zealand especially we were treated to some unseasonal (apparently) warmth and sunshine! These crystal clear, blue skies were great – but didn’t really make some the most interesting sequences. Obviously, I had no control over this, but I ended up with plenty of footage for what I needed.

The bulk of this was shot with my Canon EOS 5D-MkII and my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM lens. I also experimented with shooting some sequences with my iPhone 4S (with the ‘Timelapse’ app) which actually produced some pretty impressive results, and meant that I could double my output from each location. It’s pretty amazing that it’s now possible to shoot really nice video sequences with a phone. The camera on the iPhone 4S really is great!

Post production wise, all of the sequences (along with colour correction and grading) were assembled in Adobe After Effects CS5.5 (many of them on the fly while we travelled round) and the final film was then cut together in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5. I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable and confident with both of these packages now, and they really are a joy to use. I think that the Warp Stabiliser tool in After Effects (and also directly in Premiere Pro CS6 now, I believe) has to be one of my favourite things ever! It’s come in incredibly handy for taking out those little bits of annoying movement from the timelapses, and smoothing out some of the handheld video footage that I used in the film too.

This project was a really good learning experience for me, and I’m really pleased with the result – The astrolapse sequences especially. Although it was frustrating at times that I couldn’t necessarily get all the shots I wanted or that the weather wouldn’t quite play ball, having to work within a very strict time frame kept me motivated and actually made me shoot more. I think part of the reason that my London film has taken so long is that it’s too easy for me to wait for the conditions to be “perfect” and procrastinate instead of just getting out there and getting on with it. I will rectify this! Any comments or feedback would be very welcome!

Penguins!

So, this is my first blog post for a while! It’s not that I’ve not got anything to write about, it’s more that I’ve not had the time to write about it. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do!

One of the biggest things that’s happened to me recently has been a trip to South Africa (an AMAZING trip, I might add). In the words of The Tragically Hip, it’s been a long time coming (we booked it in January), but it’s well worth the wait! The main focus of the trip was to climb (which we did a lot of) but we also did a fair amount of sight seeing too. Unsurprisingly, I was shooting photos and video like they were going out of fashion, and there’s already another B² Productions film well underway (which covers some of the sight seeing, but a hell of a lot of the climbing) which I’m excited about finishing. Eventually.

Anyway, before all the climbing started, we had a few days spent in and around Cape Town. That part of South Africa was really amazing for a variety of reasons, and not really what I was expecting (although, to be honest, I really didn’t have a clue what to expect). On our first full day in Cape Town, we headed out to try and see some wildlife. We drove to a town called Hermanus and managed to see some Whales, and on the way back to Cape Town, we happened to stumble on a sign for a Penguin colony. We had no idea what it would be like, but we thought as we were passing we’d give it a try. It turned out to be a good choice! There were hundreds of Penguins, and you could get right up close to them which was great. I shot a load of footage that day (and again when we visited another colony a few days later on Boulders Beach).

I decided at the time that I wanted to use some of my new footage in the full film that I was planning on making, but I ended up with so many clips which were so good (and cute) that it seemed a shame to waste it. The answer seemed obvious: they needed a short film all of their own. And here it is. If you like Penguins, I’m guessing you’ll probably enjoy it…

Ben very kindly lent me his Canon EOS 7D for the trip, and I got a hell of a lot of use out of it. This video, all my stills and the huge bulk of the Rocklands film that is in the making was all shot with the 7D and a Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens. I was really pleased with the quality of the results. Definitely an excellent camera if you’re interested in shooting video. There’s plenty more to say and show you about the trip, and will do so pretty soon!…

A day in the life…

A couple of months ago I was invited up to The Castle to spend the day shooting the route setters (for those that don’t know, they the people that put up all the problems and routes in The Castle, which is a full time job, believe me!) as they reset the Mezz area. The Mezz reset is always a bit of a big deal at The Castle. It’s the biggest of all the bouldering areas, and often has the highest concentration of problems in the centre. Because of this, it also takes the longest to set. All the holds from the previous set have to be stripped, cleaned and dried before the new set can begin. When I got to there (around 11am) the walls were bare and ready to go.

The initial plan was to shoot mainly stills, but when I got there, I thought video might be the way to go. I had the seed of an idea in the back of my mind that it would be interesting to make a short film about the whole process. This would also give me a great opportunity to get some interesting time lapse shots (as the route setting process lends itself pretty well to time lapse footage). So, that’s what I did. I had my Canon EOS 40D pretty much on constantly shooting time lapses from various positions, and I used my 5D-MkII (with a selection of lenses) to shoot some interesting pick ups and details of the guys at work. The final video looked like this:

After a very long day of shooting (and then an evening of trying out the new set!) it took me quite a while to edit the video. It was an enjoyable and frustrating process in equal measure! I set up the project, and roughly cut the intro sequence together pretty quickly, but then totally hit a wall. The main issue was finding the right music track to hang the whole thing off. The music choice changes the feel, pace and style of the video, not to mention the way you actually cut the footage. I’d spend hours clicking around Spotify trying to find the right thing. I had quite a clear idea in my head about the kind of track I wanted; this can be a blessing or a curse. On one hand it’s really good to know how you want the video to look like, but at the same time nothing is ever “quite right”. Over the course of the next month or so, I’d open up the project, push some footage around, try a couple of different music tracks and then ultimately decide it didn’t work and ditch the whole thing. Then, finally, I found what I’d been looking for! Ben suggested to me that I try some Pretty Lights, and after a few minutes of working my way through the back catalogue, I finally found the track I’d been looking for! Having found this, the whole project shifted into high gear! I went from having hardly anything done to, a mere six hours later, having a rough cut of film pretty much done! It was quite a fiddly process, as much of the clips used are only a second or two long, but I think it’s got a pretty good pace to it, and gives a pretty decent overview of about fourteen hours worth of work squeezed down into four minutes.

The film seems to have been received well too, which is nice. The route setters seem to like it, and I’ve been getting lots of nice comments, randomly, from people at The Castle. At the time of writing, it’s had a little over 1,200 views on Vimeo (thanks in part to Brian from ClimbingNarc) and has been featured on the Castle’s website too.

I was really glad to get it finished. The footage was sat on my hard drive for ages, taunting me, but I knew that I couldn’t just delete it! I’m very proud of what I’ve produced, and I’m really inspired to get involved with more video projects with Ben again. Hopefully our imminent trip to South Africa will provide just what we need to make something cool! Not long now…

Intraview

No, that title isn’t a typo. Hopefully all will make sense shortly. Things have been a bit off-and-on for me, photography wise recently. I have a lot of other stuff going on which is requiring my attention, and I hadn’t really used my camera in anger for a while. That all changed a couple of weekends ago though! There’s a website which I occasionally write music reviews for called Call Upon The Author; I’ve mentioned it on here before. It’s run by my friend Matt, and recently he’s wanted to give the site a bit of an overhaul. There’re lots of live reviews and things on there, but he was very keen to get some interviews with bands and artists on the go. This sparked off some creative ideas in my brain, so I ran the prospect of perhaps doing some video interviews past him. He was very keen, so I set up an interview with Tunbridge Wells based band, and friends of mine Intraverse. As usual, I wanted to make it the best quality production I possibly could, so I roped in Ben (with whom I’ve made some very successful short films with before) to come along. Having a second camera/cameraman made such a huge difference and added an extra level of interest to the interview and (especially) the live show which we also filmed. We cut the whole thing together (interview footage interspliced with some live performances), added in some cool After Effects stuff, and had it rendered in just under a week, which I thought was pretty good for over 15 minutes worth of final footage. Check it out below and see what you think:

We also had a load of footage left over (mainly live stuff) which seemed like a shame to waste, so I cut together an extra track as well. We’ve probably got enough to do a couple more as well, and if/when I get time then I will do:

Other than a couple of wobbles and issues we had to deal with on the fly, the shooting of the footage was actually the easy part. Mikey and Tim did an excellent job in the interview making it both informative and funny. They were very patient with us too, but I thought considering this was the first one of these we’d done, we did a decent job.

The cutting and editing was (as always) a lot more work than expected. We’d learned a lot from our Hueco video; mainly in regards to being organised with footage and things. I spent some time getting everything organised within the project and setting up sequences etc. I also gave myself a crash course in synching the video footage with the external audio source which I recorded during the show. I don’t think I did it the most efficient way (i.e. by eye) but for the footage which we had it seemed to work. I basically shot two or three long clips on my 5D-MkII from the back of the venue while Ben was down the front with his Canon EOS 7D shooting close ups. He shot lots of shorter clips, so this ended up meaning that we had to synch up each individual clip separately. Below is a screen grab from one of our Premiere Pro sequences, which also shows my incredibly anal file structure (which I’m rather proud of):

As is expected, we still made a few mistakes and a few details were overlooked (mainly concerning frame rates; you don’t have to worry about that sort of thing with stills!), but I’m chalking them up to experience. I’m really getting to grips with Premiere Pro and After Effects now, and they feel a lot more natural and familiar than when I first opened them (especially After Effects) thinking “I know Photohshop; how different can it be?…” – That was quite a shock. I’m looking forward to doing more video projects. Hopefully we can get some decent climbing footage from South Africa and pull together another climbing short. Stay tuned!

Fforest Ffotos…

Another month has gone since I posted anything on here! Where the hell is 2011 disappearing to?! Things have been pretty busy though, which is good. I’ve had quite a few wedding shoots in relatively short succession. I don’t think I’m going to do separate posts for all of them, but just pick and choose my favourites. First up, some shots from another fantastic weekend I spent at Fforest in Wales.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve made the six hour (or whatever it is) trip to the Pembrokeshire camp site. I was there in 2010 shooting (and generally attending) the wedding of my very good friends Phil & Stacey. Considering it was in the same place, with more-or-less the same itinerary for the day, it was amazing how different Griff & Vicky’s wedding felt as an event. I think the addition of a lot of kids made quite a difference. The whole thing felt incredibly informal (especially by wedding standards), but it suited me pretty well. Aside from the one, full group shot, there were pretty much no staged shots, so I spent the whole day shooting candids which was great. Thankfully too, my sun dance paid off and we were blessed with two beautifully hot (almost too hot at times) and sunny days which made the whole thing a lot more pleasant. I’m really not sure what I’d do if I was there and it was chucking it down with rain. I’ve probably jinxed myself now. Anyway, here are some photos…

While I was there, and roughly knowing the lie of the land, I thought that I’d use the outdoor opportunity to try out a time lapse as well. I was quite fortunate that in the year since I’d been there, the guys at Fforest have built a solid structure back with a metal roof to the rear of the large tent where the ceremonies take place. This, luckily, faces due west with a really nice, clear view out across the valley. So, at about 5 o’clock I set up my back up Canon EOS 40D camera on the roof and left it merrily clicking away as the sun went down. It came out pretty well, so I thought I’d try and use it somewhere. The obvious solution seemed to be  to do another slide show that could be uploaded to Vimeo. So that’s exactly what I did:

Overall the weekend was a great success (from my perspective anyway. Everyone else seemed to be having a good time too, though). I’m really pleased with the shoots I got and the video. I think one of the most satisfying parts of the process for me however was sorting out the travel logistics. I managed to get the whole thing down to a much cheaper, and more pleasurable mix of train-to-Cardiff-then-drive-to-Cardigan instead of the huge-roadtrip-from-London affair that Snoo and I did before. Especially as I was travelling alone, this was much nicer, far less tiring and, I think, much quicker solution. I also stayed in a lovely little B&B in Cardigan which meant I got a decent nights sleep, instead of just shivering under canvas. Obviously, the more variables you add into the mix, the more there is to go wrong, but it’s certainly made me feel more positive about doing more weddings there in the future. We shall see.