Pick up shots

22 days later is about shooting films quickly and no matter what the end result, releasing them.

So I really have no excuse for holding back The Great Spielron.  However there were a couple of shots that needed a large number of people filling a hall.  I managed to fake this in post for some of the shots where you see the audience from behind using just five people and duplicating them, see earlier posts on how this was done. Unfortunately this trick wouldn’t work from the front shots, unless the shot was meant to show  a Quadruplet convention.

Which is why I decided to hold the film back so we could find a date to shoot enough people together on a green screen set. This date is tomorrow. Once I have this footage I will finally be able to put the finishing touches to the film and get it out there.

I’d like to point out that it’s not just this that’s held back the film and also making more films.  At the moment I’m still  searching for work and so as much as I love doing 22days later I’ve had to prioritise getting money.  Also without money I can’t get the films done so it’s a catch 22 situation (what a great pun!) Each film cost roughly about £100.

I’ve also wanted to post up loads on the progress of the Great Spielron but it would contain too many spoilers so I’ve had to hold off. The good news is there’s lots to talk about once the film is released, which all going well will be in around 2 weeks.

Again sorry for the hold ups,  if someone is willing to pay me to do this that would be great :)




Even big budget movies seem amature without post production


I watched these B-roll clips of The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug and it struck me on how without sound, music and VFX it actually made it almost seem comical.

Seeing elves, orcs and wizards running around, trying to talk seriously without all the music and effects, really made me realise how much these other elements add to the overall film.

Now of course having made a couple of short films I’ve seen first hand how these elements can really take a scene that, when on set I was worried wouldn’t come across in the finished version as I’d imagined. Only to see it come alive in post and actually be better than I’d hoped.

But it’s nice to see that even the big budget movies have that same problem. Even with great actors they really do lack so much.

Of course music and VFX are a huge part of this but I think this really demonstrates how even the little foley sound effects that you wouldn’t normally think would make much of a difference really can help to tell the story.

For example at around 2:46 of this video one of the dwarfs shuts someone in what looks like a prison (I haven’t seen the movie yet). My first thought was, he hasn’t locked that the guy could just get out. But of course by simply adding a sound of a latch going in post the audience has a key story element that wasn’t ever told on set.

Or another example is the fight scenes. Ignoring the fact that a lot of the times they’re hitting each other with green batons. These scenes still appear and sound funny because there’s no sounds to back up the power of the weapons they’re meant to be using. Just adding metal clashing sounds and thuds would add so much more dramas to this piece.

The other great thing about watching these videos is it really goes to show how much has to be added in post in terms of VFX.

The Hobbit and LOTR were known for shooting a lot on real sets and trying to keep as much stuff in camera as possible. I really believe this is the best approach. One only has to watch things like The Phantom Menace to realise the difference in an actors performance.

But no matter how much is shot on set, there’s still so much to do in post. There’s the obvious stuff like adding vast vistas to the background. Or adding a dragon to the pile of gold. These all take a hell of a lot of work and a hell of a lot of very talented artists.
But these are actually just a small part of the visual effects. There’s so many bits that people don’t realise need to be added or replaced. So many things that are invisible in the final film (as they should be) but are a vital part of creating the illusion.
For example when Legolas is being pulled along by wires to make him look like he’s sliding. Some one has to paint those wires out.
Or the real swords reflecting the green screen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just ended up replacing those swords with CG versions.
Even removing an extra because the director felt that one was distracting from the main action. It’s these bits that make up 70% of the VFX.

Without these artists these films wouldn’t be half as grand as they are and it’s a real shame that so many great artists are out of work at the moment due to studios closing their doors through bankruptcy.

Till next time.

Final few shots

Just a quick update to let everyone know that I’m just in the process of finishing off the final few VFX shots for the film.  If you remember around a month ago I demonstrated how we filled a hall with just five people using green screen techniques.

Well I’ve got to do the same but with some front facing crowd. The problem with this is that you can’t get away with duplicating the same people a number of times because you can see their faces. So unless you want a crowd that is full of quadruplets you have to shoot more people.

So right now we’re working on setting up a date to shoot a few more audience shots.

This film really does seem to be going on FOREVER!!.

I was going to show you lots of juicy computer graphic techniques but the problem is is that they all involve spoilers.

So instead I’m going to show you a monster I’ve been working on in the style of the great Ray Harryhausen. It has nothing to do with the film but I guess it’s still film related and makes up for the lack of pictures in this post.  There will be a small man about to get stomped in the image, I just haven’t got around to making him yet.

Maybe I’ll do a tutorial on creating CG monsters, if anyone is interested?


Using colour and light to tell your stories.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 00.23.27


Ok that title may be a little misleading as it suggests that I may actually be able to teach you the best practices of colour and light.

So first off I want to say that I am in no way an expert on colour theory or a professional in colour grading and lighting.  So what I’m about to say is based simply on what I’m learning as I delve into the art of lighting and colour correction.

Colour theory is an art in itself.  Many books have been written on it and as with most things in life there are trends in what looks good and what doesn’t.

I’ve recently just finished a music video, which is one of the reasons why I haven’t been blogging these last few days and also STILL haven’t finished The Great Spieron. Don’t even mention episode 3!!

The great thing  about music videos is they allow you to experiment. I feel you get a lot more freedom to play with colours and try new things out. So seeing as the art of colour correction is pretty new to me I thought I’d try out some ideas I had.

So here are some tips on colour correction and a bit on lighting. Like I said these aren’t written by a pro they’re simply things I’ve either read up on or played about with.

Tip 1:   When shooting your footage always use a waveform monitor. If you haven’t got one of those then use Zebras. If you haven’t got one of those then just eyeball the bright areas of your footage and make sure they don’t look like they’re clipping. It’s so important to get your footage right from the off.  You want to get maximum dynamic range in your pictures so that you’ve got more information to play with later in post. If you don’t do this then it doesn’t matter how good your post production software is, it’s not going to be able to magically add back details that you never captured in the first place. It’s like building a house without laying down foundation.  It’s just going to fall down straight away…ok that was a bit of a crap analogy but you get my point.

By the way if you don’t know about dynamic range then have read about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_range

You might be after a dark and moody shot and think that it’s best to just whack the aperture down so it looks right on the monitor.  If you do this and then realise it’s too dark in post, you can’t add detail back in. But if you capture all the detail, even if it doesn’t look right in the monitor, as in it’s too bright for the mood you want. You can then knock the levels down in post to get the look you want.

Tip 2:  Set you black and white points first of all in post.  To do this open a waveform monitor in your post production software and make sure that you’re still using the maximum range.  You want the brightest spots to hit the 1 mark on the waveform monitor and the darkest to hit zero.

Tip 3:  Create a colour board/mood board.  Think about your story and what you’re trying to tell. Is it a light hearted comedy or a dark thriller.  What do you want to say in each scene.  If you take any film  and snapshot each scene you’ll notice different colours that change throughout the duration of the whole film.  Take a look at Pixar’s UP.


Now if you haven’t seen Up then I’ll warn you now there’s a mini spoiler ahead.

Look at the area I’ve crudely highlighted in red.  This is the part where Carl’s wife dies.  If you look carefully you can see the first few slides are nice and colourful. There’s then an orange sun set  which is his last days with her. We associate orange with sunset and warmth so this is why they chose such a scene.  The following scenes are a lot greyer with hints of blue. We usually associate grey and blue with sad times or open spaces.    Here’s a another tip, if you want to make your room look bigger paint it blue.

So as you can see, a lot of time and thought has gone into this film before they even shot a single frame. All this to make sure the audience got the mood they were after just through the use of colour.

Now the above example was made before the film was created and ideally that’s what you want to do too. Not only will this help in Post production but also help with set design and the art department.  But there’s no reason why you can’t do one for post and grade your film to fit.

Here’s some screen shots from my music video.


The video is all about a guy suffering from insomnia.  Now I don’t suffer from this but I’m guessing it must be very frustrating and you probably constantly have things playing on your mind.   So in this shot although his eyes are closed I wanted the audience to feel a little uneasy.  It’s set at night so the most obvious thing to do would of been to tint a slight blueish tone.  But I wanted it to feel a little off, a bit like he must feel. So I added a slight green, something that threads its way through the whole song.  Green is always good to use to make people feel a little uneasy or sick.  Some great examples in films are Seven and the Matrix.


This is one of his dreams.  Most of his dream sequence I’ve given a more harsh look too but because this was meant to be a past relationship I wanted to give it a warm nostalgic look. It was already warmly lit simply because of the sunlight. So I just exaggerated this into the shadows and added a flare and slight bloom across her face. This makes her feel a little more distant as if she’s a memory. Of course this could just be my interpretation of what I think memories feel like. I guess it’s a psychological effect from seeing old photos that naturally had flares from the cheap lenses.


In this above shot I wanted him to feel isolated in a place he didn’t know.   We’d shot in some woodland which although isolated didn’t have the same feel, as say being isolated in a massive quarry.  So I wanted to just push it as far as I could,  I desaturated the woodland to give it a slightly unnatural feel  and over exposed the sky to make it more bleak.  By keeping him saturated it meant that he really stands out and shows more vulnerability.

To be honest I feel a little like those art critics that spout a lot of crap to try and justify why a white canvas with some splashed paint on it is a work of art.  But I do feel that if you have a purpose of some kind to what you’re trying to achieve then this will read with your audience even if it is in the subconscious.

This sort of leads me onto the next tip.

Tip 4: Don’t get too bogged down in the technical.  This is similar to people that get so wrapped up in what camera to use that they end up never making any films.  You can read so many books on this and then worry if you’re doing it right. Just DO IT. If it looks right and feels right then it’s right!!  It’s good to know the rules so you can break them but at the same time it’s good to just play with stuff, you’ll learn so much quicker. And then when you do read books from the masters you’ll have things to reference from. You’ll find yourself going “Oh yeah, that’s why that shot I did just didn’t work no matter what I tried” Things will sink in so much quicker then if you read the book from start to finish with no reference to what they’re talking about.

Tip 5. Now after saying that here’s a little rule…well guide.  The colour wheel is really useful.


If there’s one word to remember in all forms of art it’s CONTRAST.  Seriously if you want you images/music/animation/stories to stand out, you need CONTRAST.  You need things to conflict, If you don’t have CONTRAST you have something that more than likely is flat and BORING.

Hey check out the above paragraph.  Looks a little more interesting the the usual ones, you know why? Because it’s got contrast! Capital wording peppered between non capped.

It’s the same with colour.  Ever wondered why sometimes turning an average  colour photo into black and white suddenly makes it look better.  Guess what, it’s because of the CONTRAST!!! You’re removing any confusing colour and saying to the viewer, just look at the simple blacks and whites.  Suddenly the viewer can focus on certain parts because they’ve got nice contrast.

So back to the colour wheel.  On a colour wheel you have your primary and secondary colours. But here’s the important bit.  The colours that sit opposite each other are complimentary colours.  This means that they make each other stand out.

I decided to try this out on a shot in the music video.

Here is the ungraded shot


It’s not bad but it’s also a bit grey and boring.  The idea was she was almost an angelic figure, this really wasn’t getting that across.

Here’s the graded version


That’s better…well I think so.  Now why does she stand out so much more. Well for starters, I increased the exposure on her to give her a slight glow. But what really separates her from the water is the colour difference.  Now the water is a lovely blue colour and what colour is she? Well skin colour of course but what colour is that close too?  Roughly yellow red and pink. If we look back at the colour wheel, what do we find?  Well I’ll be damned look at that, the reds, oranges and yellows are opposite the blues. COMPLIMENTARY COLOURS which is basically contrast for colour.

Tip 6:  Now this one is more to do with lighting but I thought I’d put it in here as it’s still part of the whole cycle of getting images that stand out.

Place your lights so they make things looks interesting.  It’s very easy to start getting too technical and thinking “well I can’t put a light there because that just wouldn’t happen in real life”  This is sometimes worth following, especially if it’s a gritty drama but even then I’d argue that cinematic story driven lighting is more important then what’s technically correct.

Here is an example from the music video .


Technically this makes no sense what so ever. I placed a light at the bottom of the stairs pointing up to cast those lovely bannister shadows.  In real life the moon would of had to of been coming through his floor. Now unless he lived in a tree house in a very tall tree this just wouldn’t happen.  But who cares? It looks cool… well I think so. And no one has questioned the lights placement so far.

Once you start doing things like this you start seeing it in professional film productions all the time.

So I guess to sum up that tip, just make it look cool!

Tip 7:  Ok this is another lighting tip but I’m going to add it as I’ve realised this over the past few months and it could save people a lot of time and even money.

You don’t need to have super expensive lights for every shot. I’d go as far to say that you don’t need them at all for close up shots.  Big expensive lights are great when you need to light a large room  or some where outside. I can honestly that some of the best shots I’ve captured have been through using a torch.

Take this example below.


This shot was achieved with one simple torch.   The room was completely dark apart from that one light source. We placed it on a shelf behind his right should to get the rim light off his cheek. He’s looking in a mirror and so the light bounced back to reveal his face, also acting as a key.  It captured everything we needed.  I also had a similar experience when shooting the Lollipop lady Killer. There’s a shot where the killer is getting ready.  I needed to capture the look of a TV set flickering in his eyes. I used a torch and just moved it about a bit.

So again don’t get wrapped up in big expensive things, be inventive, you’re be surprised at what you can achieve.

And that’s all for now.  Now like I said at the beginning, I’m no expert but I hope some of these tips have been of some use.  Let me know in the comment box and if you have anything to add I’d love to hear from you.

In till next time, keep shooting!


Crazy busy

Hi everyone,


So I wanted to give an update as everything has been a bit quite on the blog front. 

Also our third 22 days later film should have been finished today but it isn’t! 

The reason for this is that I’ve been working hard on contract work and for the last week we’ve had to put it on the back burner. I apologies for not keeping you all in the loop on this. 

I’ve been having real problems trying to find enough funds to keep afloat at the moment so this had to take priority. Hopefully I’ll be back on track soon. 

In other news I’m still working on the effects for The Great Spielron but it’s been really hard to find the time so only been able to complete one shot a night.

I’ll let you all know as soon as it’s finished!

Till next time.



Need a crowd for your film but don’t have enough extras? Fake it!

Hello everyone.

I thought today I’d do a little tutorial on how to use VFX to add crowds or in this case audiences to your scenes.

For The Great Spielron we had certain shots whereby The Great Spielron is performing on stage.  Although a lot of the shots we kept tight to avoid having to show an audience. We did feel that for some shots, especially the establishing shot needed some sort of audience.

Now because of the nature of these shorts there is really no time to plan out shots beforehand. All I knew was that I was going to have to somehow make the hall we were using look full to the brim with an audience.

There are three ways I could think of off the top of my head that could achieve this.

The first was to get around 40 extras to fill the front rows of the hall.  This wasn’t going to be possible due to the fact we’d had three days to find all the actors and with such a short deadline there was no way we could get everyone together in time. Plus it’s set in the 1920′s so to find enough costumes would of been a nightmare.

Another option would be to use a computer generated crowd. There’s a few pieces of software that can do this very well but they cost a lot of money and also take some time to learn.  Plus you still have to animate your crowd and render them which also takes up valuable time.

So the third option and one that I was a little skeptical about was to shoot the few people we did have against green screen.

This was the option we went with.

So lets have a look at the original plate without any of the crowd.


And here is the finished shot


Now we only had about five people to act as crowd, this actually included our main actor as well, we just put some different clothes on him.  Because the atmosphere is so dim I knew we could get away with a lot.

I took a number of different shots, each time with two actors sitting next to each other like this.


We would get them to perform certain actions like laughing, clapping or talking to each other. Then we would get the next group to sit there.

We also shot some from the front as I knew I needed some close ups of the audience laughing or talking to each other.


I then took the different shots I had into a program called After Effects. This program allows me to take out the green background, very similar to rotoscoping which I talked about here http://22dayslater.com/2014/01/11/behind-the-scenes-of-episode-2-part-3/

So once I’d cut them out they looked like this


It was then simply a case of shrinking them down and positioning them somewhere on the screen where it looked like they were sitting in front of the stage.


But as you can see they still look a little like cardboard cutouts.  So now I had to add some colour correction which involved darkening them down to fit more with their surroundings.


The next step was to add the other crowd members. In total I only had 5 people.  We were also very short on time as we were doing this on the last day and still had to shoot two scenes. All this in one evening!!!

So I quickly got them to swap about and change hats, things that would just break up the silhouettes bit.

Once I’d duplicated all of the characters I had something that looked a little like this. Although this is pre-colour treatment.


So the final element was to add it all together.  I also added some atmospheric effects like subtle smoke to blend the two elements together.


It’s surprising what you can get away with when using this technique. It’s used a lot in films to fill the background with people.  Even in the latest blockbusters like Star Trek Into The Darkness and the latest Avenger film.

It gets slightly more complicated if it’s a moving shot but if the crowd are far enough away you can get away with shooting the crowd using a static camera and overlay them onto the moving camera. For example an army running in the distance over hills. If you have excess to motion control cameras then you can replicate the camera movement exactly but that’s out of reach for most of us.

So next time you need a few extras give this technique a go.

Till next time!


Choosing between your dreams and harsh realities of life.

Hi all,

I thought I’d use this blog to tell a little story.

This story is about the conflict between dreams and responsibilities. Or more accurately, where we really want to be in life and the sacrifices and gambles we take to get there.

On Monday I was offered a job, with a very good salary too. After a lot of thought and hesitation I turned it down.  Why?  There was a number of reasons but the main reason the one that was screaming at me not to do it was that this job wasn’t anything to do with working in film.  In fact it wasn’t anything to do with films at all.  The job was for an online virtual game. I’d be in charge of a department, I’d be making computer generated models and animating them.

Now don’t get me wrong, working in the games industry isn’t boring, and if you do it well you can make a lot of money.  But my heart has never been in the games industry, despite doing it for 12 years of my life. You may ask, why did I work in games for so long when I wanted a career in films.

Good question.

Now I could go into the whole life story of how I begun making films from the age of seven. At 18 I was on the right track working as runner in an  editing studio, I got sacked  (I wasn’t very good at cleaning the toilet)

I then fell into the games industry when I saw a job post in the back of game magazine.  I thought it would be a quick  way of learning computer graphics as I really wanted to be able to add CG to my films and so this felt like a good way of learning CG while also earning money and having fun. I could go into detail on all this but actually that pretty much covers how and why I got into games.

The plan was to stick it for a year or two while making my films in my spare time and then get back into film. Problem was, real life got in the way, meaning paying bills, mortgages and all the other crap that life throws at you. And so the small stint in the games industry became a career.

I was made redundant in 2011 and so I decided it was the time to get back to following my dream. I felt the  first thing was to test the water by creating an animated short film. After all I’d spent 11 years of my life learning computer graphics so I might as well use it. After 6 months I finished my first animated short Baggage, which if you like, you can view below. It’s only 3 minutes long.

To keep money coming in I’ve been using my skills as a freelancer with the aim to do enough jobs to keep me afloat while still having the time to make films.  These past couple of month have been pretty tight to say the least so when this job offer came up it was very very tempting.  But I knew if I went back into the games industry I most probably would have to kiss my chance of directing good bye.

So I’ve decided to step off the games career ladder completely. I’m taking a step back so I can find the right step, the one I was on right at the beginning (I shouldn’t of complained about cleaning toilets).  I know I’m going to have to take a massive pay cut and start at the bottom somewhere.  But when I think about it, it still feels so much better than taking a massive pay increase for a job that I wouldn’t like.

Although what makes this decision even more scary is the fact that I’ve got a baby boy and I know that what ever happens he comes first.  But I also know that if I’d taken that job I really wouldn’t of been happy and that my son would end up suffering because of the fact his Dad was such a grumpy git.

Here he is


So have I made the right decision? Is it complete madness to of turned down such a good job?Am I bad person for following my dream and not thinking abut the extra cash I could be giving my son. I really don’t know the answer to that, what I do know is making decisions like this when you have such great responsibilities is really difficult.

Having these dreams when you’re young is so much easier as you don’t have so many people counting on you.  You can go for it all gung-ho and if you fall on your arse, you can get up a little red faced but still unscathed. Now it feels like last chance saloon. I’m putting my money where my mouth is and I can’t screw up. I’m walking that tight rope with out safety netting.  If I get this wrong then I’m not just falling on my arse I’m falling off a cliff. Ok so that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But I want to succeed so much and don’t want to let people down. I believe I can do it and 22 days later is really helping me exercise my belief.

It’s a long road but I know it’s where I’m meant to be.

What do you think,  would love to hear your thoughts and if you’ve been through anything similar?

Thanks for listening


Tips on recording dialogue

While we’re in-between films and I’m STILL!!! completing the VFX for The Great Spielron, I thought I’d take this opportunity to quickly give a couple of tips on recording audio.  Basically some bits I’ve learned while shooting the last two films.


One thing that I’ve realised when recording in a large open area, like the hall we recorded in on the last film. Is that no matter how close you get to the talent you’re always going to get echo.  The problem you get is that the echo lasts quite a while after they’ve spoken and with overlapping dialogue this can become a problem .

So my tip here is to go through the script beforehand and note any areas that have overlap written into the script.  Then when shooting these particular parts make sure you do separate recordings of each character, getting each actor to speak their part with out the other interrupting. Then repeat for the other actor and overlap the two in post.


My other tip is don’t be afraid to grab audio from another take and see if you can get it to match the visual.  It’s surprising what you can get away with.  Obviously if the dialogue you’re borrowing doesn’t have the right emphasis to what you’re trying to portray then you might have to re-record or make do with the original audio. But I’ve used this trick a number of times and have always been pleasantly surprised how much I can get away with.

Hope these help?

Till next time!