Author Archives: Christopher

Making It Look Good.

Recently I shot a wedding for a friend and as part of it I found myself doing something that has become fairly rare for me, actually printing the photographs. I love prints, despite most images that I create now only ever seen only electronically there is still something far nicer than a print or set of prints. Try sharing and passing a stack of photos around a room with family or friends with only one computer screen or iPad. It’s not a social experience unlike a set for physically printed photographs. In the past I have got prints produced by dedicated photo printers in London but on this occasion I decided to try myself as I was only needing prints no bigger than A4. Continue reading »

Shooting in an Instant: Vosene #Vosing

A few years ago millions of cameras screamed and then when silent. Polaroid had stopped film production . Millions of camera’s were consigned to cupboards, landfills and memories. As the very last factory was closing something amazing happened two people talked about restarting all those cameras hearts and the Impossible Project was formed. More about which can be found here

So why shoot using instant film today when we have instant sharing through the use of mobile phone cameras and the internet? Well for me it brings a little bit of the magic back to taking pictures, watching the image develop before your eyes. It’s also subject to a little pixie dust as you’re not one hundred percent sure how the image will come out as its subject to so many more factors than electronics and computer logarithms. Continue reading »

Chasing Dreams: Making a Short Film

Chasing Dreams is the title of my forthcoming short film. It was shot late last year with two actors and a skeleton crew over several days. The film is now close to being finished and was largely the result of twitter. I say that because both the actors Tristam Summers and Elisa Armstrong both came via twitter as did Hannah Mizon our make up artist. Also a couple of relationships started on twitter contributed to the film, Robin Schmidt who leant me a radio mic and Sol and Matthew at RewindFX who have done the visual effects on the film. Continue reading »

Pedigree IR Triggering Camera System

Recently I was asked to put together a system to automatically take photos of dogs as they jumped over a small hedge and then could be be easily uploaded to Pedigree’s We’re For Dogs Facebook page.

Safety was my main concern for both the dogs and us humans involved in the affair. Traditionally race line finishes which take photographs use lasers. This is normally fine as the chances of a laser hitting an eye, human or animal is very small due to the positioning height of such devices in relation to the things passing them being relatively constant. Dogs, just like humans come in all shapes and sizes, which leads to uncertainty when positioning possibly eye damaging lasers. To get around this I opted for and Infra Red trigging system. After trawling the internet for a ready made system I came across on made by Cognisys in the US. The Range IR is a clever devise as it is a self contained unit firing out a harmless beam of IR which can be varied in length as desired. When the beam is broken the sensor sends a signal out to the camera and a photograph is taken. Quite frankly I believe its the work of magical Pixies and that’s fine with me. Continue reading »

Facebook Photos & Gala Bingo Metrocentre

A couple of weeks ago I headed up to Gateshead to photograph the relaunch of Gala Bingo Metrocentre for the guys at 1000 Heads to be used on the Gala Bingo Facebook page. Facebook allows individual bingo players an online community and place to engage with one another and Gala Bingo itself. Like all online media content is key and photographs are a great way of  to both engage an audience and allow interaction especially through Facebook which people can comment on photos and tag themselves in them. Gala Bingo Metrocentre like a lot of the Gala Bingo sites has it’s own dedicated Facebook page from which you can find the whole gallery of photos from the shoot and info on Gala Bingo all of which were edited in camera and handed over on the day for overnight uploading to Facebook. Continue reading »

Nokia Gift Machine at Cafe 1001, Shoreditch

A couple of weeks I edited the above video for Angelic Films about Nokia’s Gift Machine which they installed in Cafe 1001, Shoreditch, London. The Gift machine as more stamps in its passport than I do, being that it’s been to Spain the U.A.E and many other places. Created by 1001 Heads, the Nokia Gift Machine links up with Foursquare allowing people to win free stuff when they check into the gift machine where ever it is in the world and you don’t have to me a Nokia user to do it. The film was shot using a Canon 5d mk2 and edited on FCP7.

Witch Skin Care

A few months ago I was asked to document a private make up tutorial for a Witch Skin Care competition winner and her friend in a London Hotel. Having spent a good portion of my working life as an Assistant Director in the film and television industry hanging around makeup artists as they work is nothing out of the ordinary. The Location was to be the Sanctum Hotel, a boutique hotel which has the reputation as the rockstar hotel in London’s Soho. It lives up to is glamourous image. The Make Up Artist was Witch Skin Care Ambassador Lisa Valencia. Lisa is a highly in demand Make Up Artist working at the very top of the industry. The images were used on Witch Skin Care’s Facebook page.

 

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Nokia Lumia and the Steadicam Smoothee

Last year I worked on a project with Angelic Films for Nokia converting some Steadicam Smoothee’s for the Nokia N8. See here for details. Time has progressed in the mobile word and Nokia have now released the Lumia 800 into the world and again come back to us to see if we could again adapt the Steadicam Smoothie for their new phone. The phone’s camera is head and shouldered above Nokias previous N8 it terms of quality, ease of use and control. If I wasn’t so wedded into the Apple ecosystem this is the phone I would choose right now.

The Lumia 800 has a slightly larger form factor that the N8 but after testing it we found that it still fitsthe Quick Release Stedicam Smoothee Mount for iPhone 3GS, which was also the mount we previously modified for the Nokia N8. There was however on additional modification we had to make, milling down the top clip so it didn’t rest on one of the buttons.

We did this using a Dremel with a barrel sanding attachment. Without this modification the clip presses the button stopping the camera working and potentially turns the phone off as well. The sander actually heats up the plastic whilst it spins sometimes leaving a melted area on the edge which can easily removed by snapping it on once cold. When milling out the recess for the button it is important to have the Smoothie mounting plate does not move. I found the simplest way was to use my tripod as the Smoothie mounting plate actually has a 1/4 inch threaded hole in it’s base precisely to do this.

Next we created the aperture for the camera to look though. The Lunia unlike the N8 is flat which is a great thing for your pocket but also means that the camera lens sits a few mm’s back from front plate of that of the Smoothee mount. This means the hole needs to be slightly bigger that that of the previous N8 Modification. Drilling though the actual mount requires care because it is a sandwich of plastic and metal, the metal being in the middle. We found the best way was to first of all drill a small pilot hole using a 4mm HSS drill bit then using a 13mm HSS drill bit in a drill press. It is important the drill bits are sharp or the friction created with actually cause so much heat it will melt the plastic.  This won’t actuallybe big enough but it is the most efficient way of  doing it cheaply. To keep the metal heating up too much I spayed it with water whilst drilling.

The Steadicam mount is quite tricky to hold securely because of it’s shape and because it, being made mostly of plastic it flexes under presure. To get around these issues I used an old cork sanding block and cut a section out so the mount would grip around it. This solved the shape problem. to solve the flexing problem I added a small bit of MDF on top of the sanding block

This meant The mount could be clamped down securely onto the drill press.

Once the 13mm hole had been been drilled out it was time to move onto enlarging the hole. Initially we used the Dremel with metal cutting bit this is very quick and efficient but doesn’t always leave the prettiest of finishes. So to finish of the camera aperture I used a Rucko HSS step drill bit. As the hole needed to be approximately 18mm in diameter the step drill is ideal. The only minor problem using the step drill I used was that the actual steps were not deep enough as the Steadicam mount is about 5mm thick and the steps on the drill 4mm. Not insurmountable but worth being taking into consideration as it means tuning the mount over briefly to drill out the extra 1mm from the mount. All that was need next was a small bit of filing, a quick wash under the tap to get rid of any metal dust, and a permanent black marker pen to colour in the exposed metal. The reason for this is not just because it makes it look pretty but it also stops the metal reflecting light into the lens, preventing ugly flares which would spoil all the hard work. Job done!

 

 

Testing Times

 

Testing kit is essential, whether it is a new purchase or just something you’ve hired in or borrowed. User manuals are great as are the hundreds of user videos on Vimeo and YouTube but actually testing and playing with a bit of kit gives you the opportunity to try things others have not thought of or in situations unique to you.

Next week we’ve got a time lapse running from Monday to Wednesday for a client using a GoPro HD Hero2. The reason we have opted for this camera is a result of several factors but mainly due to power, the GoPro can be powered from the mains using a mini USB adapter. This means the camera can be set up and left to run for the whole time using a large SD card. This brings the cost down for the client and hassle for us.

On this occasion the client is supplying their own camera but relying on us to capture the sequence. To that end I have bought my own GoPro HD Hero2 and started the testing. It is something I have wanted an excuse to buy any way and am sure it will get used in the future anyway. So today the testing started with a time lapse test on a drive from home to Pinewood Studios. I set the camera to shoot at half second intervals and I turned off the spot meter.

One thing I find out that I hadn’t read about was the fact that the GoPro seems to have a folder max size of 999 images and when it hits that limit it creates and starts a new folder. This of course means that multiple image sequences had to be created in QuickTime Pro. These were then edited together in FCP 7. Music came from audionetwork costing a whole £1 for a non commercial licence . Rather that then ripping something off itunes and not paying for it even if the project is non profit. Musicians are artists too. There are many instances where the internet becomes enraged when a filmmaker or photographer has their work is used without permission and shared with the world so it’s a shame so many don’t seem to have the same respect for other artist’s work.

 

A Very British Cult on Indiegogo

 

This week sees the launch of the Indiegogo campaign for  November Films “A Very British Cult.”   A Very British Cult is going to be a feature length documentary about the 1970’s and early 1980’s self help group Exegesis. A group that was  not short of controversy every resulting in questions in Parliament and a BBC program about it.

Louis Price our director grow up in the program with both his parents members of the organisation and is exploring what really went on and examining how it has effected his and the other members lives.

Most of the documentary will be shot digitally just like the above pitch video which we filmed main on my Canon 5D. However there is the intention is to shoot part of the documentary using dramatic re-enactment the on 16mm film, which will be more in keeping with media production of the time . This will probably be the last time I get to shoot on actual film which is both an exciting and yet sad prospect.

November films have a good track record in the documentary field having already produced Beyond Biba, and distributed several documentaries in the UK.

To learn more about the campaign or the film click here to take you to the Indiegogo campaign page

 

Ratan Tata – Asian Business Leaders Award – Asia House

A couple of months ago whilst working for York Smith Productions I was part of the team that filmed filmed the Asian Business Leaders Award for Asia House and the historic Banqueting House in Whitehall, London. We shot eh even using 2 Sony EX3’s in fixed positions and  Canon 5D which I operated, roaming around the venue and event. The small form factor of the Canon 5D is make sit an ideal for event work specially when space is at a premium.

Nokia Maps 3D – The Mapstronaut

Another thing I had a little part in the filming of this video for Nokia demonstrating the power of their 3D Maps. I filmed most of the London footage again working for Angelic Films. Shot on my Canon 5D using and Canon EF 24-70mm L F2.8 and 70-200mm L4 lenses. More about Nokia Maps can be found here

 

Nokia Products That Changed the World: Stephen White

A couple of months whilst working for Angelic Films I shot and edited a short interview with Stephen White from Nokia about a recent exhibition: Nokia Products That Changed the World at the London Design Museum. The interview was included on the Nokia Connect website and accompanied a extensive article about the exhibition. the Video was shot using a Canon 5D and 24-70mm L F2.8 lens

 

Cooking test shoot

As the year is coming to an end and the nights are drawing in I am already planning projects for next year. One of which is to be a cooking series injunction with with brother-in-law Iain who as well as being a trained chef is now an organic farmer, with a farm on the Suffolk/Essex border. Currently they visit two farmers markets a week one in Stoke Newington on a Saturday and Queens Park Farmers Market on a Sunday. Here Iain not only sells the produce of the farm but often gives out cooking advice. Next year we intent to take this a little further and create a cooking video blog around the farm and the produce it sells integrated with recipe methods and ingredient lists.  Right now we are in the designing and testing stages before going into production sometime after Christmas, trying to establish a look and style along with the practicalities, which are numerous.

The video above was shot in that vain, to see how the lenses I currently own as well as how the Canon 5d mk2 would fair close up. So as christmas was coming I thought I’d try  shooting the making of a Christmas cake. Admittedly the cake in question was a Delia Smith kit from Waitrose. Lighting wise I did start out with practical available light and my 150w pepper until the bulb exploded and from there on it was just the kitchen and under counter lights. As the location we have in mind doesn’t currently have a mains electricity supply we will be looking low powered and battery powered lighting for the actual shoots. This is only one test we will need to undertake along with a set test and testing what are the best cooking equipment to use both in terms of best for filming, cooking and overall design look.

Weekend Warriors: Canis Belli.

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Many months ago I met up with filmmaker and blogger Robin Schimdt or as he is knows on Twitter  aka_elskid, at the London screening of  Zacutos Camera Shootout 2011. In the pub after the event he talked about an ambitious short film he had written set in the trenches of the first world war, Canis Belli. I told him if he needed a hand to give me a shout. Now when you usually hear about plans for short films of this scale you very rarely hear of them again. The ambition and scale usually halts any prospect of actually shooting them.

Fast forward almost five months and I get a message on Twitter from aka_skid to see if I was available as he was about to shoot the film along with co-director Gez Medinger, aka JerzyBondov. The film was to be shot over two and a half days on a permanent standing set just north of  Ipswich on Trench Farm. The set was been used from many major productions including Downton Abbey Continue reading »

Not Sexy But Essential: CF Card Readers


This is not a sexy subject by any means but memory card readers are essential if you have multiple cards for your camera. Today I received my sixth or seventh in the last fifteen months, I loose count because at least four have broken, and that is why I always like to have at least two, one as a back up. If you like my are reliant on Compact Flash Cards the choice is far more limited that other flavours of card. SD cards are the king of memory cards right now.  Most card readers are so poorly built and designed that when you see them you think when will it break rather will it break. Having said all that the second one I bought the Lexar FW800 still works like the day I bought it. It is well designed, when built has Firewire connections and is now discontinued. Now it is almost impossible to get a CF card reader with FW800 connections unless you want to shell out $250 for one from RED which is just an insane amount. I’m a Mac person so of course I have Firewire and prefer it to USB, mainly because I can daisy chain drives together. Essential if you have like me four hard drives connected to a laptop with only two USB sockets. Continue reading »

An Education

I will start with I know nothing more or less than anyone else I just know different things from my experiences and education.

The other day I walked past my old university on my way to meet a couple of actors for a upcoming project. It wasn’t a campus I ever spent much time in if any but it was my old university all the same. Nothing much had changed, the same people stood outside, rain or shine smoking. The voices and faces may have changed but these were the same people I remembered.

There has been lots of talk about the merits of an education, a university education specifically, much of it has centred around the cost involved. It’s a tough decision for those weighing up their options and the lines of opinion seem pretty much divided these days between those who have been, being for and those who haven’t against. I went and oddly enough my friends are pretty much divided between those who went and those who didn’t. Each on are successful in there in their own area, most of the non degree friends wrk in the film industry although I have notices more and more people getting degrees and coming into the industry a little later than ten years ago.

Does anyone actually need a degree in the film industry, probably not. Most of the time the most qualified person on any film set will be the one person that is left of the film credits’ the Unit Nurse. The film industry has always trained it’s own and and had trainees in every department, people paid and learning on the job. The trainee position is essential, its the runners, camera trainees, people who are a vital job and get to learn how to do the nest job up the food change, such as clapper loader or third assistant director. These aren’t purely trainee positions they are important jobs in their own right. Continue reading »

Nothing To See Here

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Everyday people, companies and organisations all try to get our attention and garner our interest. This is what advertising is essentially about. For years communicating advertising messages to large sways of the population was restricted by money, the more money you had the more people you could reach. But heres the thing advertisers and advertising agencies have always known it’s not the quantity of people you reach its the right kind of people you reach. It is advertisings 101.

Today it is cheaper to connect with a mass audience using the web, advertising revenues are huge for the web at large and porthole sites such as google. Web advertising predominantly relies on click throughs from one site to another whether it be sales or information and this is the fundamental difference between traditional advertising, print, TV, radio and the web. Traditional advertising wants to take you somewhere else from where you hear or see an ad, that or in gauge a emotional connection or notion about a product or brand which outlasts your connection to the advert. If traditional advertising didn’t still work we wouldn’t have free to air TV still. Continue reading »

Workflow: Backing it up

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This week a good friend of mine had his car broken into and had his laptop, ipad, and back up hard drive stolen loosing everything. This is a a fears for most of us in the digital age with our whole lives centred in one place, diary, photo album, music collection, love notes, emails, and work. Hearing this first hand is the equivalent of a digital mortality check.

Backing up is important but so is separation of back ups especially when traveling. On the off chance your bag gets stolen you wont loose everything. But it’s not just the fear of theft we should be worried about it’s failure of equipment, computers and hard drives do have a tendency of stopping work, no matter what their age. I had a LaCie rugged hard drive I was using as my portable hard drive, it lasted less then a month. Clients have phoned slightly panicked to ask if I have a copy of the footage I shot for them as their drive had failed, strangely enough another LaCie Rugged drive, and yes I did have a copy. Continue reading »

Getting a Background White Using Aperture

Getting a background white is often a necessity for when images are to be inserted onto a white printed or webpage. The best way to do this is to shoot your subject against a white background and light both the background and your subject separately. But we don’t live in the ideal world and often time space or equipment is not available to us. If you can shoot a clean image of your subject against an white background and as long as the subject is properly exposed it is possible to make the greyness around turn white using Apple’s Aperture program.

The first of the three images below is the raw image I shot  of my Canon 24-70mm using an overhead Elinchrome Dlite 4 with a soft box about 60cm above facing directly down. The camera settings were ISO 200 f11 at 1/125 of a second.

The second image shows an adjusted colour balance using the eyedropper tool in the white balance panel of Apertures Adjustment settings. I use the eyedropper to sample an area of the that I know should be white. If you don’t like what you see first time just keep sampling until you get something you like the look of.

The third image is the result of using the Devignette adjustment in aperture. The Devignette adjustment can be found in the drop down list in the Adjustment tab in Aperture. There are two settings for this adjustment Intensity and Radius. By playing around with both the sliders depending on the image should turn any murky edges to your “white” background to pure white.

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The beauty of using this method if you are using Aperture as your default library is that of speed. You can do all the adjustments within the program without the need to export it or open up Photoshop and as ever you can be assured that the original RAW file is untouched should you need to go back to it.