Thursday, 16 December 2010

Digital Film Production: Evaluation

In this project I was given the task of creating a music video a song featured on the free music archive, I could choose any track as long as it was between 30 seconds - 5 minutes at the maximum with free reign over the project to be as experimental as I would like. The project would be completed in teams in which we help each other with our own concepts, this would be sorted by electing roles for each of use to complete, in my group I chose to be the art director, nominating Ben Marles to be the Video's Director and Will Farrell to be the SFX Leader.

I decided on this rooster as I have seen their work on previous project and I feel that these roles work well with their strengths. Whilst I had worked as a director on previous projects I always felt my involment in that stage of the production lead to a lower quality product in the end, but my planning and editing skills are generally stronger. As Art Director my role was to determine the style of the video and design the overall production, I felt my choices along the way in searching for locations, props and money management have all been generally well thought out, even though I encountered some problems along the way I didn't give up, I either found a new solution or compromised with what I had to make the best of a situation. This was definetly proved when it came to location scouting as that was one of the larger problems of the project but after fiding a place and the proper set design it looked better than previous video projects I had completed.

During filming I left most of the choices to Ben, periodically making sure he was following key scenes on the storyboard and suggesting new shots to try keep in style of the themes I wanted, essentially acting like a producer of sorts. The footage turned out great due to our choice of using the 35mm lense and it's an artistic choice that I'm glad I agreed on as there are some very stylisic shots that I don't think I would have been able to get without it. This two person style directing seemed to pay off unfortunately due to our un familiarity with the Camera we were using some scenes ended up being botched in some places. Luckily this was salvagable in the editing stage as due to some clever effects with footage and After effects it looks as though these mistakes were done on purpose as part of an artistic choice, which considering is pretty good for myself as an editor with little experience.

During the graphic design stage of creating the DVD cover and menus, I paid close attention to the detail of the muscian's art direction and tried to emulate it to create something similar. Overall my patience of taking time to analyse the art work before creating my own paid off as I feel my final product is something of a higher quality than that of my previous out puts, once again it has been the attention to smaller details that helps it stand out against previous efforts. Oddly my favourite part of this whole process was the graphic design as previously I found it to be a labourious and boring task, this change might have been caused due to my reign over all artistic elements of my own project.

On Ben's project I acted as an editor, but really more as a consultant as Ben was using stock footage that I wasn't familar with, every day or so he would call me up to inspect his work and I'd pointers on which scenes should flow into what with added suggests on how I may do things. I tried hard to be supportive and offer creative criticism but Ben was clearly very compitant in his vision, I just help smoothing out transitions from scene to scene.

On Will's project I was given charge of the camera, my general reluctance for this made me hesitant at first but I decided to follow the same two man apporach I had used on my project. Every time it came to a new shot I would discuss exactly what Will wanted in his shot, this back and forth between use resulted in some really nice footage. Showing that communication is key when creating any piece of group work.

I feel I'm getting better at time and group management as I completed filming within a day, everyone seemed happy to work with me and left in high spirits. The amount of effort I put into my own project is nothing to laugh at though, I feel like I've worked on this for quite sometime and yet I still feel like there are somethings missing but I'm pleased and proud with the way that things have turned out if not a little releaved that it's finally done. I've come to terms that filming is not my strong point now but the planning stages are, if I were to go in film it would most definetly be as an art director.

Digital Film Production: Designing Ben's Cover

Once I had made my own, Ben Marles, the director of my video called me and asked if I would be able to create a cover for his DVD case. After giving editing tips to Ben and looking over his work I asked for a close enough final copy of his Music video so that I may get an idea of what to create for his DVD cover. After watching His video it beecame apparent that his Video consists of many shots of the sky with heavy pixelation.

After creating my own cover I decided to use a similar method of designing a cover, by overlaying images of sky and sea, with other textures such as paper. I found that the design was still lacking so I found an image of a pair of lips and adjusted it on the cover, distorting it to a barely recognisable shape. In the images I used the mosaic filter in photoshop to achieve that pixelated effect. The font was created by overlaying different fonts of different colours, I then added the DVD logo and it was done.

I feel this design is a nice contrast to my own and hopefully should fit Ben's vision for his own packaging.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Digital Film Production: DVD Cover and Menu

When it came to designing the DVD case I looked over my orignal design that I had sketched out and proceeded to search out metal textures. When creating the design in photoshop I worked from the background up, taking several Metal textures and overlaying them with layer effects such as "multiply" and adjusting their properties in the image menu. I then added a slight gradient effect around the sides to add atmosphere to the texture, I then created the "echoplex" logo and proceeded to add this pixelation effect by selecting areas of the design with the selection tool, cutting them out and movingthem ever so slightly to create this "digital bleed" effect.

When it came the choice of font I wanted to use the same one as used on the original album, with a quick google search I acquired the font, under the title of "Lights in the sky". I then applied this to the design on the cover and the spine, with the credits on the back. I then applied the "digital bleed" effect to the title on the front and the spine. I then added a metal texture to the logo and title to help meld the design with the background but I felt that this was still lacking, so I added a red after image behind the logo with a low opacity.

Finally I added the DVD Video logo on the spine and the NIN logo on the front. Overall I'm very pleased with the way this design turned out, to further this I added the 'plex design to the DVDs on the inside, red for the work that I completed over the project and black for the dvd of the video.

I then reused this design to create a DVD menus in DVD studio Pro, modifying it slightly and adding a Red affter image to the title font and adding a play button. I then programed the DVD menu to have a transition to the video, this transition is styled in a pixelated effect that I feel suits the style of the cover, menu and video it's self. Over I'm happy with the way this cover and menu has turned out and it definetly seems a lot more professional just because of it's presentation. Now all thats left is to write up an evaluation.

Digital Film Production: Final Cut

Featured below is my final cut for my music video for the the Song "Echoplex" by Nine Inch Nails. The video is best viewed in 720p, there are minor changes such as added borders and different scenes to fix problems with the narrative.

I'm proud with how this video has turned out and feels that it's one of my better pieces, it still has it's problems but considering I was using new tech such as the XDcam I feel that it has turned out well in terms of a learning exercise.

Digital Film Production: First Cut

With the shooting and rough editing done, below is the first cut that I've created, it's best played in 720p. The most notable thing with thi cut is that due to using the 35mm lense the camera man at times had knocked the zoom feature which resulted in the boarder of the lense showing up at several points. Luckily the video has been edited in such a way that it almost looks asthough this has been done on purpose.

For the final edit I just have to adjust some features and sort out a few effects such as adding extra boarders to just try and cover up the tracks of the boarder of the lense. There were also issues with other effects such as adding in a cctv cam and transposing footage onto the moniter which unfortunately couldn't be seen to fruition. The ending is in sight, after the final cut, the only things left to do are to create the DVD cover and DVD menu. This has been a long but rewarding road.

Digital Film Production: Editing, Final Cut & SFX

After exporting the footage into Final Cut Pro I started to cut my video together using my storyboard as a rough guide. During filming we also shot many extra footage of panning shots and shots we felt could be added, in the end I doubled up shots to help move the narrative along but using tricks such as reversing the speed or adjusting colour and other such tricks such as this.

When it came to putting the footage together it was revealed that there were instances of the 35mm lense being zoomed out too far showing the borders of the lense. Luckily I edited the footage in such away that these errors look as though they've be done on purpose as part of art design, to be fair this is all a part of the learning process of use the XDcam.

Unfortunately several problems came up during the SFX stages of the production, the first being sovling the problem of pulling of the slow motion shot. Due to a lower aperture once placing the desired footage into after effects to slow down a weird warping effected happened, this wasn't too bad as it looks sort of stylistic. The other problem was my idea of placing a camera in a piece of footage in that the angles didn't match up, in the end the process turned into more of a logistical nightmare to figure out so this idea was scrapped and replaced with other footage. Overall I feel concept is still translated without the cctv cam placed in.

When it came to the other SFX it was more used as a method to cover up my mistakes by adding in slight borders in places. Luckily this seemed like childs play for SFX consultant Will Farrell and the process was completely completed with minor problems.

Through the process of editing I exported a first cut to compare the before and after stages of the cuts. Both cuts are similar as I spent time trying to make sure I would get as close to my intended vision.

All thats left is to create my dvd case and I'll be done.

Digital Film Production: Shooting

On the day of shooting the first thing I did was visit the Swiss Cottage to pick up my props. I had set aside £50 for my prop budget and I planned to go right up to the mark, after some discussion with the owner I managed to get a saving of £16 on my props with a skull thrown in for free (image left). I also bought ducttape (£4) to help tape down wires. Since I would be filming in a class room as opposed to a studio I acquired some sheets to cover up windows so that we would have complete control of the lighting to help create the atmosphere we desired. We set up the props as shown in the photo and we even managed to find a black curtain to place in the background.

The camera we used was the XDcamera with a 35mm lense which allows us to have much more control over the depth of field, this gives it a much more cinematic feel. Due to the use of the 35mm lense it renders the zoom function on the camera usless as if you zoom out you'll see the edges of the lense. The visuals that we get from this lense were simply like none we had ever seen before as previously we had used the HDcameras which allows no control over stylistic focus or depth. For lighting we just used two regular redheads on the flood mode, this created a very regular looking lit room but through the camera with our custom settings to create a bluish tint it looked quite impressive.

The overall filming process for the Observer scenes was simple, Liyana was very co-operative and keen to help achive the shots we desired. We also had a shot of a video camera against a green screen to transpose into the video in the FX stages.

The trickier scenes to shoot were the prisoner ones such as getting lighting right and framing as there was much less space to move inside. The big scene in which the prisoner rebels was a difficult one in which we had to purchase Smash: Mashed Potato and kitchen twoels (around £4), as I had no experience of doing a slo-mo shot I just upped the frame rate hoping it would appear slower when player back at 25fps. Halfway through the day of shooting I purchased food for my crew (£6) and we finished shooting, all thats left is to edit the footage and add the effects.

Overall my budget so far has cost me £64, which isn't too bad for a student project in which I didn't have to pay for rental of any of the equipment.

I feel this will turn out to be one of my better pieces of work.

Digital Film Production: Storyboard

Creating the storyboard was an interesting process in contrast to other projects as I still only had a vague idea of what I wanted to create as the final outcome. So for this I just created what would essentially be classed as key frames. I wanted to start off with a shot that established the situation of the prisoner and then build upon it from there by showing the the observer pulling on controls. I want to also use many close up shots to help establish style and an over all cinematic feel.

In the storyboard the observer tracks the movements through the use of a video camera that watches over the movement in the room. Slowly the prisoner's confusment begins to lead to submission that then retaliates into anger, resulting in rebellion against the observers desire. Through out the video I want to show the character reactions to the situations that they're experiencing such as the observer clearly enjoying the power she has over the prisoner.

As the video progresses I want to try show the break down of the prisoner character. There is also a section of the song in which I want the characters to sing along to help re-enforce the hypnotic effect of the lyrics and try pass off a standard idea as something a bit more stylistic. I feel that with the right camera work the overall result can look impressive, again I want to re enforce the intamicy of the video with close up shots such as the observers lips near the microphone.

The video will end of a slow motion shot of the prisoner breaking the food tray with the food on top whilst inter splicing it with previous shots of machinary, the characters and other aspects to help building into the grand finale of the song.

Again I want to use this storyboard as more of a rough guide line for my director, talking him through the concept and the end result I want whilst discussing scenes and how to get the best out of them. I feel this is the best way to go about doing this film project as this is one of the first times where I do not have 100% creative control. Whilst ultimately I will be editing the piece I really want to see how someone else will handle my concepts. All thats left is to start shooting and solve problems such as lighting and other camera angles, the light at the end of the tunnel is still far away but it is there.

Digital Film Production: Actor Scout

When it came to looking for an actress to portray the seductive watcher I originally had one person in mind, with several back-ups if it turned out they couldn't do the shoot. Luckily my friend, Liyana (pictured) whom was my first choice was not only availible but also very interested to be a part of the project once I described her role, humourously Liyana was very keen to work with the large 50s style. I described the type of aesthetic I was trying to build and we discussed possible wardrobe styles and in the end we agreed the most suitable costume would be that of a black business suit. Unfortuantely I had already set a budget aside and this sudden possibility would prove to raise it beyond a point I was unsure I was able to reach for personal reason. After further discussion Liyana assured me she had formal clothes that would hopefully fit my vision.

For the part of the prisoner I decided to nominate myself as the actor as I had been in one film projects before but as a smaller role. This time I wanted to leave directing to someone else as after seeing my efforts from behind the camera I feel that it is not one of my strengths. Also I had spent so much time as more of an art director trying to get the exact look I wanted someone to come along and direct instead as I felt I was getting to close to the project to not see things from an outside point. For the costume of the Prisoner I decided to go with plain black clothing that would contrast against the stark white backgrounds of the bathroom set.

For the director I decided to choose Ben Marles (featured here on set) as I've worked with him in the past and he knows the ins and outs of the camera. Ben also knows my general taste in artistic aesthetic, previously he has also suggetsed different methods on shots and artistic direction.

For the special FX I've nominated Will Farrell as his skills with the programs maya and after effects are generally the best I've seen.

With my team together it's time draw the storyboard then it's time for shooting. So far everything is going well, I'm beginning to really anticpate shooting.

Digital Film Production: Development & Concept Art

With pretty much everything in place I went and booked a camera for use for the shooting day. My plan is to just blitz all the scenes in one day to maximise my use of time to clear up any problems that might come in the editing and SFX stages of the project. At the moment I'm tying up loose ends of the design stages.

I decided that I would use the echoplex design as a tattoo on the prisoner as a nod to the work of Rob Sheridan but, to also build upon the feel of imprisionment. I took the basic shape of the design and incorperated it into a basic black design, I thought to build upon the prisioner by adding a number below the design. I purposely chose the number 27 as it refers to the Halo number (a system of figuring out releases of the albums in order) of the album from which the song I chose is featured in, as a nother nod to Nine Inch Nails.

When it comes to applying this design as a tattoo I did some research into how to create realistic looking tattoos for film. The most common method seems to be spraying the area you want to apply the design to with deodrant then get a stencil and draw out the design against the skin and fill in any areas with a pen of the right colour. I tried this method out and it seemed to work perfectly the real trick seems to be keeping the skin dry.

I also have to design a DVD cover to present my work in at the end of the year, this again features the echoplex motif. I looked at other Nine Inch Nails albums to try create something that would emulate the style they're presented in which is often a minimalistic graphic featuring various textures and plain yet unique fonts. I mainly looked at the graphics from 2003 onwards to try keep in style with the Band's current art direction, the artwork from the 2008 album, "The Slip" will prove to be a large influence. When it comes to creating the cover I will collect a range of textures to work with.

With my tattoo method sorted out I just have to make the template. All thats left to do is draw out my story board and confirm my players for the video.

Digital Film Production: Location Scouting

When it came to finding locations I needed a maximum of two rooms. One for the scenes with the "Observer" and one for the "Prisoner". For the observer scenes the room I would need would preferable need to be dark, of course this isn't the most important aspect as it can all be sorted afterwards with effects or set decoration. For the scenes with the prisoner I needed something more akin to a small stock room or either white or grey colour.

To find these places my first initial idea was to try scouting out the Leeds College of art: Vernon street building, as I had spent two years there and some of the basement floors had wonderful nooks and crannies, also there are many store rooms. Unfortunately after checking up and down no room was either available or fitting in either terms of space of practicality.

After returning the Blenhiem I informed my fruitless search to my tutor, to which they suggested a room that was often not used very often and is disliked by tutors to teach in as it is often cold or just to far away from other resources. After inspecting the room I promptly asked to have it booked for a full day the following week.

With the Observer scene location sorted all that was left was to find a location for the Prisoner scenes. Again after inquiring I was given the opportunity to use the large disabled bathroom as it's often not used, all I had to do was fill out a risk assessment form and to use the room at a less busy time. The bathroom is a perfect place for the prisoner scenes as it's a very cold and sterile environment that will fit the mood I want to build.

Now with my locations and props sorted all that is left is to just build upon my concept and thinks some things out more logically to help filming go much more smoothly. Overall I'm getting pretty excited about this project as it is slowly blossoming!

Digital Film Production: Prop Research

When it comes to the props, I went searching for several places that I could either purchase or hire my desired aesthetic electronics. I went around several antique shops in Leeds and unfortunately my search came up empty.

For the film I want electronics similar to the ones around the 1950s period to give a very "nineteen eighty-four" feel to the video as I feel the rustic yet mechanical look will really give it an interesting visual impact.

Luckily whilst in an antique medal shop I inquired about any similar shops around Leeds and the staff there gave me a contact to an antique/prop rental shop out by Burnley road by the name of "The Swiss Cottage". I went out to the shop to see what kind of wares they would have, depending on their stock this would either make or brake my idea and would force me to choose another to develop.

Upon arriving I asked the gentleman at the desk if they did movie props for rental and luckily the answer was yes. I explained my concept to him and he directed me to the correct area of the shop that was full of exactly the type of machines that I wanted. This really help with my project, I decided I would use the swiss cottage for my prop resources. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of what I saw but you'll see the equipment once I rent it out when it comes to shooting.

This is just another step for for me and I'm feeling very optimistic for my project.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Digital Film Production: Idea Development

For my music video for "Echoplex", I've been thinking about the feasibility of my idea. After looking every where I could think of to either aquire or comission someone to make a balsa wood chair I decided it would probably be more hassle than it's worth. In response to this I decided to change this feature to something, perhaps a tray of food or something similar.

I've also researched into the type of electronics that I want to show in the scenes I've dubbed as "The Observer Scenes". It's generally stuff from the 1950's onwards to try get that metal feel, I've always loved the way these machines look with their multiple dials, screens, switches and their large metal cases. I'm going to be looking for places that deals in either antiques or movie props that I can rent.

For the part of the Observer I wanted a fairly attractive female to be dressed in very business attaire, I have a few friends who I feel might fit the bill so I shall have to contact them.

When it comes to adding more style to the overall video I wanted to add the Echoplex design some where in the production, I decided to elabourate upon the prisoner concept and use the design in the form of branding as a tattoo on the captive. For this I'll have to look into how to create semi realistic tattoos for use in film.

I feel with this development I'm getting closer to my ideal concept for my video. I just need to find a location to shoot in and choose and actress to appear in the video, after that I just have to draw up a storyboard and I'm ready to start filimg.

Character Design: Turnaround and Final Character Description

With the turnaround done I can pretty much start modeling soon! The only thing I'm missing is a colour scheme for the character. I had created one but after looking back on previous research I realised this needed to be amended as there was just a little too much going on in the image. I've also worked on my character's background and reason for being a villian, check out the whole profile below:

Name: Viradenzia
Age: 25
Race: Human
About: A strong woman with blonde hair. She recieved a battle scar on her face which resulted in her left eye being infected with magic. Often seen wearing the coat of her predecessor as a trophy and constant reminder of her power, her steel grieves protect her legs but have often seen many a men’s heads trapt between them and the floor. She also weilds a steel gauntlet, is she hiding something? Perhaps A weakness or a hidden strength?

History: Previously part of a band of mercinaries with her lover, when he was struck down by their leader she lashed out defeating the previous leader, claiming her new place of power.

Personality:Often very serious about position and controlling her Mercs. Has a slight twitch in her left arm and eye. Takes advantage of her looks to manipulate men.

Objectives: Viradenzia’s goal is to over throw the monarchy and goverment and rule inplace with her own ideals of how the Empire should work. She plans to do this by Forming a force of unimaginable amounts made up of mercinaries and people who want change from their currently govermental system.

All thats left to do is colour my character and create it in Maya, the benefit of this is that I can model the character whilst also colour and by the time the model is complete the colours shall be too which means I can then create the skin for the model fairly easily. stay posted for more developments!