Eibon Films Horror, Fantasy and SciFi writer / filmmaker and friend of the weird

20Nov/180

Shoot Diary – MR CLEAN

I hope that you are well Dear Reader, if in fact anyone is reading this - in that case, I really appreciate you stopping by to find out more about how our short horror film MR CLEAN is coming along.

mr clean temporary

To bring you up to speed, we did in fact end pre-production officially on the 9th November (although some last minute rushing around to buy props and preparation was still being carried out during the down time of the shoot!) and we shot all of our scripted scenes between the 12th and 15th November. Yep, everything was shot within a 4 day period. And we are now swiftly moving into Post Production, although we may yet need minor reshoots.

The shoot was gruelling, with some dauntingly giddy highs and potentially crushing lows. I was emotionally and physically broken at the end. But, thanks to everyone who took part or helped us during the entire production, I was able to finally capture MR CLEAN on camera. Some scenes exceeded my original ideas and storyboard sketches, thanks to the creativity and improvisation of the team and some failed to quite achieve my lofty [and probably unrealistic writerly] vision. But I think that these failures were mostly down to me being behind the camera and us being up against such a tight schedule, that we had no time to double-check every shot and really push that little bit further to achieve the best that we could possibly do. Oh... And the complete lack of sleep... - with me there is always the inability to switch my brain off and sleep like normal humans. Sadly, this is truly debilitating and means that I really was burning the candle at both ends, and definitely not as focussed as I could have been. However, I am still proud of what we were able to achieve with what was available to us. And I really am impressed by how my team performed, what they pulled -off, and truly grateful for every contribution - no matter how small....

Here's edited extracts from my journal, from those shoot days, to hopefully get across the state of my agitated brain during the shoot and hopefully accurately portray what a no-budget production is like (it was written in the evening hours after each shoot day and my head was all over the place, so apologies for any omissions):

Monday of MR CLEAN Day 1 Shoot stress (12th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got some sleep thanks to the weighted duvet I had purchased to help deal with any anxiety and quiet my twisted brain.
  2. That I was able to get through a tough first shoot day for MR CLEAN.
  3. That I was able to stretch and foam roll my sore back afterwards.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get through the first day of shooting without a major fuckup.
  2. Get shots that we can be proud of.
  3. The special effects arrived.

Thanks to

Darwin and Ranniz for their hard work and dedication, and Suss for doing most of the laundry and for putting up with the shoot. And Mike for the special effect props.


I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and felt wrong. The blanket had worked and I had been able to have a sweaty night of feverish sleep. But I had slept, which is always a bonus and I think that I had been able to shut most of my fevered, stressed brain down by using the blanket. It was as if the crushing weight of it takes such thoughts away…

But I was stressed, and I woke up funny, as I said. I needed to have a good stretch, before showering and then dressed and cooked and ate my breakfast.

I raced around immediately after all of that and set up lights and tripods and other essential gear around the first location and organised my shoot papers in the study etc, as I prepared for the cast and crew arriving. I took a pre-shoot instagram moment and asked people in internetland to treat us kindly. Were there any filmic Gods to call upon?

Darwin and Ranniz arrived. So then we were soon in the midst of it and with Darwin all amped up and firing questions - and then also interrupting the answers - meant that I wasn’t the best at dealing with some of it. I wasn't the most diplomatic. I am a grump in the mornings sadly. I apologise, but can't change that aspect. Needless to say, they were both professional, put up with me and were a huge help and helped me to get through the shoot intact. However, my back was soon ruined by the weight of the camera, Sigma 18–35mm lens and the monitor. Especially for those hand held shots. Also riding in the back of the van for some shots, and adopting weird cramped positions without any seatbelts, caused me to smack my head on the van roof and it hurt for the entire four day shoot.

It was a shame that it was so damn dark outside, and it was rainy and I was so not with it mentally. I just felt that I wasn’t getting good material at all. I felt that I was back to my old habits on my shoots and settling for less etc. I hated everything and yet I didn’t know whether it was as bad as I was thinking. But there was no time. Onwards!

We did almost get in trouble. We took advantage of the empty car park to shoot the exterior scenes with the van, and found out that they were empty for an official monthly cleaning. And any vehicle there could get a fine or get towed away. We pushed our luck and got told off by them when the people in charge of the cleaning visited to check the place out. But we assured them that we'd be gone by the time they were done and we soon were.

The special effects arrived, announced by a loud banging on the door as they were delivered at 2pmm ruining a take. I really wanted to open the boxes immediately, but waited until the shoot was done and we were packing up. It was a huge weight off my mind that they had finally arrived, and they were really quite impressive. The only disappointment was that the arm was much heavier than I had anticipated and absolutely solid, so I wouldn’t be dropping it onto any tiles some time soon. It was f@cking heavy too. But also, we would have almost no time to practice. We'd needed it all the week before.

Later, after the shoot, at 6pm, when Darwin and Ranniz left, and Suss arrived we went to do our laundry, and then go into town to buy food and more painkillers for my Shingles [and head] pain and then pick up a parcel (the poster for 'K-WAC' for dressing our radio studio location), but stupidly forget my wallet and ID. Luckily Suss had her wallet. Where was my head?!? It wasn't on whatever we were doing, clearly.

Then, back at home, I was reformatting a drive to wipe it and put the dailies / shoot files onto it for Darwin to have and then that wasn’t working. That was stressful. Then I found that the footage of the largest files was unwatchable, due to the size of the VLOG files, so I needed to learn how to encode proxies and then get that working. Sadly I stupidly set off the encoding of loads of other files I didn’t need first, so everything took so long that there was no time to really watch it. I did make sure to back up all of the footage in two other places, for safety and shared a few instagram grabs of choice shots too.

I watched an episode of MAYANS to try and relax.

We had to finish the laundry and make the bed, and I finally managed to wipe that damn drive and encode all of the proxies by the time we were heading to bed.

It was sadly still raining so I could not open the window and cool the room down. I foam rolled the kinks out of my back and neck and meditated in bed with headphones on, under the new weighted blanket. And tried to wipe my mind of stress. (fat chance...)

Tuesday of MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot (13th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got some sleep, if only a few hours.
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot.
  3. That the blood FX worked a treat.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in my shots.
  2. Find the last props for MR CLEAN.
  3. Backup my footage in multiple places.

Thanks to

Suss for finding me a syringe for blood FX, Terese for taking part in the film and my patient cast and crew for a great shoot day on MR CLEAN.


I managed to sleep a few hours again. This was good. I woke up feeling like ass [and remained half asleep the whole day], and had to force myself up out of bed at 7am to stretch my aching body and put it all back in the right place, as Suss got ready to leave. I dove into the shower for a quick wash and then dressed and wolfed down my breakfast, before preparing the papers and gear for the shoot.

Darwin and Ranniz were here early. So we had a quick update, with a donut and coffee for breakfast, for the guys as a treat. Then we took a look at the footage from the day before. However, although we were slow to go and start work on the shoot, it was the right thing to do, to regroup.

I even showed them the old first cut of BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR (an earlier film of mine). And they liked it.

The shoot overall seemed to go well, despite me being a little sore, tired and snappy in places. But my mood improved as the day improved, as more shots were done and they were ones that I was more proud of generally. We shot scenes 8 and 12 I think - the shot in the car park with bloody overalls, Ranniz becoming a black bin and bucket, body bag combo, decorated with some fake blood, and the Estate Agent shoot with Terese in Stureby. Both were quick and efficient.

However, I think I did trip and kick the HDMI cable from the Smart HD, poking out of the GH5 and bent it. Luckily, bending it back seemed to fix it and I was able to get through the shoot with a functioning monitor.

Darwin and I did fit in a walk into town to take Ranniz to the bus station, so he could get to Stureby before us and I could pick up the K-WAC poster.

Afterwards, Darwin and I drove back to the house, Ranniz went back with Terese, and we copied the files onto the hard drive for Darwin, and backed them up twice for me and discussed the plan for tomorrow.

Darwin then set off to go and pick up the Smoke machine and take the van back. Then I went into town. I called Suss and asked her to see if she could get me a syringe for shooting blood. She said yes. And then I went and bought a red curtain, a sign you pin letters on and lighter fluid for the Zippo. Some hurried inspirational props for the Studio segment.

Felix was his usual nosy self and really enjoyed the excitement of the shoot and constantly fussed around us and tried to get in on the action. Damn cat.

Darwin liked the quick and dirty graded shots I sent him from Day 2. We then had a catch-up planning session, before I then went to make a sign for the studio shot, and then went to watch TV for 30 mins to try and relax.

I just couldn’t relax. There were lots of messages flying around. And yet I could hardly keep my eyes open.

I foam rolled my neck to finish, and rehydrated, but my stomach wasn’t happy and I felt dehydrated, despite downing much water. That burger was dirtier than I thought...

Wednesday of Day 3 MR CLEAN shoot - armless (14th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got through it all despite no sleep and a splitting headache.
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot.
  3. That I was able to get a few more shots that I’m proud of.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in my shots.
  2. Sort the black sand and use my intestines for MR CLEAN.
  3. Backup my footage in multiple places.

Thanks to

Suss for the excellent blood FX syringe and pressure spray, and not freaking out at the blood covered bathroom. And to Jaba for taking part in the film and being such a great victim and my patient cast and crew for MR CLEAN.


I didn’t sleep last night, not really if at all. The magic blanket aka the weighted duvet couldn’t deal with my dodgy stomach and my restless stressing brain.

I got up, after meditating [to try and get my shit together] and started stretching my body back into position, after the weight of that duvet had reset it, and then showered, dressed, breakfasted and I prepped / moved some gear back into position for the day’s shooting when Darwin, Jaba and Ranniz arrived.

We were trying to shoot the victim scenes, this meant Jaba was being abducted from outside the house and we were then eating his intestines and then chopping his arm off in the bath and sacrificing him to the Old Ones. A normal day right? No. Sadly a good one and productive, but not all the way through as I had hoped. Felix didn't help when crashing the scenes, so much so that Ranniz had to carry him (as pictured above). And we didn’t get to do the tentacle stuff that day. And we got to use a lot of blood….

Darwin had brought black paint for the sand, but it was quickly found after one quick test to not be working. The brown sand looked grey and it was very matt. Then he had to go and pick up the stuff I’d wanted in the first place.... Sadly, this was part of the shoot, where better communication between us during pre-production would have saved time on the shoot... Luckily, Jaba had fish and knew exactly what I needed. He and Ranniz convinced Darwin, although he was very reluctant - and then they went off to bring it back. It cost us an hour and cost us valuable daylight. But it was totally worth it!

Also, the fact that Darwin did not take part in the rehearsal, that took place before the shoot, meant that we lost valuable time blocking out the scene and explaining what we were going to do, for any scenes that did not feature in the test shoot we did previously. He did a great job when we were doing those scenes that were new to him, but then he inevitably picked the worst moments to then ask what he was doing - usually during a take, while the camera was running, so that it became impossible to keep track of the shots and so going through all the takes would not be as easy. Once we do it it will all work out. But at the time I was often just saying 'f@ck it!' and ignoring the need to use the clapperboard at all.

So that was an issue, but the fact that the arm was not soft and light and slightly rubbery, as I'd envisaged, and that it arrived during the previous day, meant that we had to improvise the shot as we had no time to rehearse - so no time to make it feel more natural - and that also cost us another hour.

Despite all that, I am really grateful for everything they’ve all done and Jaba was awesome. He was a real star. But it was frustrating not getting all of the shots this day. Instead we elected to keep the smoke machine an extra day and get the tentacle shots the following day. We also didn’t get much foley for the afternoon stuff. We’d need to do that another day.

There was a funny incident earlier, when choking Jaba out - when a sweet old lady walking her dog came up to us and asked if we were committing a crime. In our bad Swedish we explained it was a sort of 'Veckans Brott' (The week in crime) a local popular TV show that old people like, and she seemed happy with that, so we carried on choking Jaba.

MR CLEAN - 1 of 1.jpg

They did help me clean up some of the mess, but then they left and I spent hours scrubbing as much as I could to clean the blood off the bathroom. But some of the spots of calk between the tiles were still pink. Pity. But I will work at it. Suss came home at 6pm and was very forgiving, but I felt bad nonetheless.

I backed up all of the footage, twice, created proxies and then carried on cleaning, before we ate pizza for tea and then I cleaned some more, before charing all the things and taking a few nice quick and dirty graded shots to share on social media: these were also kindly received.

I sat and watched FURY to try and relax at the end of the day. I was feeling beat up, and Darwin felt the same after an intense day. However, it didn’t work, soon I was too overtired and had to foam roll my neck and meditate in bed with the headphones to finish, to try and wipe my thoughts. (spoiler - it didn't work)

Thursday of Day 4 MR CLEAN shoot - it’s a wrap! (15th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got through it all despite little sleep and aches and paints
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 4 Shoot.
  3. That I was able to see it all through, thanks to my cast and crew.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in all of my shots.
  2. To get the tentacle and Studio and street shots that I had dreamed of.
  3. Backup my footage up in multiple places.

Thanks to

My entire cast and crew for helping bring MR CLEAN to life.


I was exhausted by the time that I needed to get up for the last day of shooting on MR CLEAN. Weirdly I had been awake most of the night, restless [and my brain full of me composing shots in the film], full of stress. And I only actually got any real sleep from 6am; a nice 1.5hrs of rest. Soon I was waking up with just half hour to get frantically showered and dressed and ready before they would arrive. Luckily Darwin and Ranniz were delayed in traffic so I could have breakfast too.

We started with doing the internal shoot for MR CLEAN, as he is leaving and taking Jaba’s watch and rings with him. We made it look like night time by taping up the windows and over the double doorway in the hall. Felix of course wanted to get in on the action.

After that we did the tentacle shot. And it was a bit of a farce, but eventually went as desired. The sensitive or movement specific stuff really required subtleties of that movement. But as we had little control or practice of it some of the movements were jerky and off. Sometimes when I was directing the shot, Darwin would sometimes be giving his own direction. So I had to stop him and I felt mean doing it. But once he listened, he understood - as we had discussed this before the shoot [only one director on set] and we soon got much better shots - and then we were no longer confusing poor Ranniz.

After that part of the shoot, poor Ranniz had to race off to drop off the smoke machine and then meet us at St Eriksplan, while I hurriedly packed up all of the gear and Darwin loaded the car. I then cooked and ate, while chatting briefly with Darwin, while trying to get my food down me.

Then we were off and driving, and I found that I couldn’t shut up. I was invigorated by the shoot, crazy with a second wind. And soon also dizzy with tiredness and knew that I needed to keep moving to stay awake.

We had to dump the car and switch the gear to the van and drive to the studio. There we met Ranniz and Sofie, who were both waiting outside the church. And Darwin and I had to find how to get into this one way street outside the studio. Luckily, I convinced Darwin to ignore his instincts to not follow the electronic map and trust me and we got there. It wasn't easy to find. Then I had to unpack my gear from the side of a van and assemble my rig, while dodging cars coming up alongside me and then I could finally say hi to my actors and get ready for the scene, as it started raining.

First we did the scene in the street. We had no choice. The engineer, Gabriel, was not at the studio yet and we couldn’t get access to the building / get the door code. So we improvised. I set up across the road and held an umbrella and tried to set up my master shot, while Ranniz filled-in as her co-worker and Sofie walked off up the road and Darwin followed in the van.

Then we did the reversals up the street from both sides and lastly the interior of the van. This was problematic. Darwin was stressing and trying to get me to hurry things up and it was as if he was almost unintentionally trying to sabotage the shots - as crazy as that sounds. And so when I was finally almost wound down by his intensity, and I caved, he finally tried to urge me to keep going and spur me on to finally nail the shot. And just when I was recovering from the twists and turns of the emotions, and was suddenly grateful in a way, we were then going into the studio. I still don't understand what happened. It's like we were a functioning bipolar production team. Crazy. But it mostly worked!

Now bear in mind that we were booked from 5–7, but wanted to get in early to get started early, so when Gabriel came out and let us in early we were setting up for 3.30pm. So I hadn’t used up much time at all, and yet Darwin was really driving me mad by pressing me to crack on. Again it was confusing to my analytical brain. So when he was trying to contradict me in the shots that I had wanted to get, I had to put a hand on his shoulder to get his attention and remind him about what we had agreed and discussed, that there was only one director on set. However, once we’d dressed the set and got things set up - the only thing that was lacking was the lighting. Everything else was going well - including the curtain, poster and other props and wardrobe etc. It was mostly looking great, but a bit dark.

It was funny and touching how Gabriel was celebrating his birthday that day and then two women came in to sing him happy birthday. And we were there. I bet he felt like a celebrity.

Gabriel was up for being in the shoot, but at first he couldn’t switch off from doing the sound. So it may have looked like his quest for perfection was driving Sofie to the point of frustration and it was at risk of getting in the way of me getting my desired performance. But we got it. At least I think we got it. We certainly got nice shots. I’m not sure in hindsight about the lighting. And I didn’t like that I was being rushed. And yet, just when I thought I was about to give up, spent, Darwin spurred me on to get the money shot, the closeup of Sofie’s mouth and the microphone. Again I was confused by this. - obviously as creatives we attune ourselves to the unique qualities of the other, with more time and practice. But it was perplexing all the same.

Then, when we were in the moment of a wrap, and congratulating and thanking each other, and yet we also then had to suddenly pack up, remove all of the set dressing and props and lights and pack up the gear etc and get the hell out of there. And then we were on the street with a packed van, saying goodbye and hugging. Sofie and Ranniz walked off to the tbana, Darwin and I went to drop the van off. Gabriel went to finish his broadcast - after giving us the audio.

I had hoped to have a mini wrap party right after the shoot in a local bar, but sadly it wasn't to be.

Back at the car park, we pulled the MR CLEAN ident from the van, and transferred the gear to the car, before we then drove back to mine - via the pizzeria, to buy burgers for both of us [a less dirty one for me]. Then we got home to have a beer, transfer the footage to the different backup drives and look at a few shots, eat and chat.

Darwin left around 8pm. I then set about cleaning up, moving the gear back into my studio or the spare room, and finding random spots of KY Jelly and blood, and trying to clean them up.

I tried to relax, showered and put red heat on my shoulders, and back and then sat and tried to watch a bit of a film to relax.

I foam rolled my neck and went straight to bed and meditated myself to sleep. But then after being disturbed, I was lying awake…

If you want to see more shots, check out my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lee.bailes.writer?


Some observations / lessons learned:

Had we done some of these things I truly thing the film would be better and have gone smoother, and I think that they will be my focus for the production of MR CLEAN 2 and 3:

  • More people. We needed a larger crew. Having people around means less space and more mouths to feed and more people to direct. However, the lack of a script continuity person and a dedicated cinematographer, and a knowledgeable lighting person, meant that we were all having to perform multiple roles to fill in on the day. Believe it or not, but most of the shoot we were literally only three people.
  • More lighting gear. You can never have too many lights. We really put every light that we had to use, but we needed more. Some shots were too flat as a result.
  • Less locations. We were ambitious and creative and maximised our locations. However, the distance between them and the time to strip everything down, pack it away and then reassemble it, only to strip it back down again and move on, was a huge factor against efficiency. It's why most horror low budgets are one-room / location efforts.
  • Our special FX props arriving far too late - this meant that there was no time to practice beforehand. Not really. So we may need to reshoot the tentacle scene.
  • Rehearsals and blocking are key - The fact that I was not able to block out scenes and rehearse with my main actor before the shoot, meant that essential time was lost communicating what I wanted and that ate into the shoot time. I will not shoot a single scene of the next films without ample rehearsal time.

Anyway, I'm sure there is always more to share. But this is already of an epic length. If you read it all, I hope it was illuminating. If you didn't and skimmed it, I don't blame you. Thanks again for stopping by! Just think of me, being ill, after having worn myself down through lack of sleep and stress. And I hope that if you come back in the future, you'll think that it was all worthwhile!...

MR CLEAN - 4 of 4

And please do think highly of my cast and crew! They're awesome!

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28Dec/170

new iMac Pro – it arrived!

thumbnail for youtube video

New iMac Pro box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I got the new iMac Pro - it arrived a week earlier than expected and I had to unbox it immediately.

Here's the rushed video of the unboxing: https://youtu.be/psENjn3CbT8

I'll do a review of it soon if anyone's interested. But for now, I'm very happy with it.

 

New iMac Pro

New iMac Pro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes it is expensive! Yes it is a huge financial investment. But I have been waiting for this machine for a good two years, and carefully saving my pennies and biding my time. I last bought my MacBook Pro in 2012 and so after 5 years, it's finally meeting its match when trying to be my main writing machine and video editing machine. It was time to invest in newer kit for the video editing side of things. Especially now that I'm playing around with 4K footage. And the MacBook Pro will mainly become my backup on the move machine for writing and only occasionally editing - until that too can be replaced (as it's not really good for more than 30 mins long HD projects). But this new iMac will be my main workstation from now on.

It looks kind of small in the picture, but that's only because there's a new 32" 4K monitor next to it.

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25Oct/170

Camera swap – time for 4K

Gear porn is a hard addiction to fight. Our desire to stay ahead of current trends in video production, to produce something that can hold its head up high in an ever changing media landscape is tough to keep apace. And I know, in that regard, that I'm an addict. And it's hard to deny the urges that stem from creative desires...

It's little more than a year that I've been playing with and trying to master working with HD video - namely 1080p. Trying to shoot for web delivery and produce videos that can hold their heads up next to the kind of visuals that we can see on the small screen. Although I am obviously not a professional cinematographer, in the traditional sense - as in someone that almost exclusively studies their craft and is hired to capture a marketable vision for others - I do hope that until I can get the chance to work with a professional, that my own visuals will hold up along side that of my peers. And until then master the pesky world of DLSR videography, at least to a point that i can be proud of the results. Currently, I'm not near where I want to be. I'm still a beginner.

But when I wanted to shoot a new film - and was deciding, during pre-production, what I was going to do with the film, I found that there was a little voice that kept talking about not doing the film in 1080p and trying 4K...

The use of 1080p is clearly waning. Now is the time for 4K... and then what? 5 or 6K? lol. No I won't chase every passing bandwagon. But I do think that 4K should be with us for a good while yet. So now is the time for me to invest in it and learn how to use it. My problem is that I don't currently have a computer powerful enough to handle 4K yet. So I'm waiting for Apple to sort their lives out and hurriedly release the new Mac Pros. It's been a long time coming and if they disappoint, I will have to jump to another PC manufacturer, after years as a loyal Mac fan, as they've already wasted enough time and ignored their pro customers long enough. So until then, I'm focussing on the camera - to worry about the edit later.

So why 4K?

4K (3840 pixels wide × 2160 pixels high) is a much bigger frame than 1080p (1920 pixels widw and 1080 pixels high). Even if you plan to release a 1080p movie, that bigger frame gives you plenty of options to crop creatively, to compose artful frames, that were better than that shot on the day. It also gives you more power to stablise unintentionally jerky shots in the edit. But it also future proofs your footage, assuming that 4K TVs become the new mainstream home viewing format.

So what camera have I chosen?

Z-PANASONIC-GH5-BEAUTY

It was a tough decision. I loved the ease of use, using my Canon 70D. And for vlogging, my point-and-shoot G7X MKII. However, Canon seem unwilling to solve the 4K riddle for their lower end semi-prosumer clientelle. I waited and they failed to deliver a good affordable 4K camera. Yes they've delivered what they call 'affordable' models in the C200 MKII and the C300 etc, but they're hardly affordable for people on lower budgets for anything other than as a rental. And I don't see much to like in their other DSLR range. So even though I love the way they do things and their glass, it was time for a change.

Now I loved what I saw in the Canon C200 MKII, the Panasonic EVA1 and the Black Magic Ursa Mini Pro. But if you buy those, then you still have to buy more gear to go with each. And you'd have automatically doubled your costs before you've even invested in storage to capture your footage on. I just couldn't justify the investment right now. Also those cameras are big. for my needs, right now, smaller is better. But in the future?...

It was a tossup between Sony or Panasonic, for me. Sony seem to have mastered the low light capability - something the guerilla filmmaker needs to deal with every day. But after using the RX100 MKIV and trying to Vlog with it and seeing how they p*ss battery power up the wall in minutes, I was not keen to invest in a more expensive camera that might have had similar issues. Also, their cameras tend to have a softer look that didn't quite do it for me. Instead, I went for the Panasonic Lumix GH5 - mainly because I heard much of the previous GH4 model - as a go-to for many wedding videographers and low budget filmmakers. They tend to bea bit more vocal about this camera than I tend to see in the Sony world. Having an active community to support you and advise you is key to me, as a learner. And I will just have to be creative when it comes to getting enough light.

The GH5 isn't cheap. Nor is it a simple proposition to switch format and then invest in new gear. Everything comes with a little risk. But so far I am happy. And before I committed to my chosen path I wrestled with the decision for a couple of months and did so much research that I felt incredibly depressed by the thought of doing any more.

For me, I was lucky in that I chose to switch at a time when my Canon gear, although it had depreciated in value, was desirable enough to give me a decent sum in a part exchange. So I had a good starting sum to play with. Then I waited for the new firmware update for the GH5 to come out - as there had been many criticisms of the camera on it's initial release earlier this year. And then I pounced. 🙂 At least it felt that way.

I purchased the body and then of course, unless you want to also invest in a speedbooster adapter, so that you can use your existing Canon glass with the different format camera - the GH5 is a Micro 4/3rds format - you then need new lenses. Lenses are not cheap - not if you want to invest in Pansonic lenses with inbuilt image stabilisation, so you fake a gimbal-like smooth moving shot. Although there are many cheaper 3rd party lenses that don't have that stabilisation - as well as 2nd hand lenses that do, but have dropped in value. Also, if you want to shoot in V-Log (a professional video codec that enables you to shoot in a professional format and then colour grade the footage later), you then need to buy the license key to unlock that pro format in the camera. The SD cards needed for that V-Log format at 4K are also very expensive, and have recquired SD card manufacturers to develop a new way of marking their cards, to guarantee that they can handle the footage. You need lots of them too, as 4K will eat up lots of storage in the shoot, nevermind the hard drive space you'll need when you take it into the edit. In short, I could go on with what I am learning, but it is truly dizzying to see how much other gear costs need to be factored in when building a kit - e.g. lights, sound gear etc. So I won't bore you any more. But suffice it to say that this camera, with a few more lenses will complete my basic kit and give me plenty to learn and keep me plenty occupied for a while now.

So far I've only had the briefest of time to play with the photo capability, to try out the new lenses and installed the new firmware update - I've purchased but I am waiting for the V-LOG key and have yet to put try editing any footage. But soon! First I need to go through the manual and play play play!

For now, my gear porn addiction is sated. Now comes the post purchase guilt and the need to shoot this damn movie. And then will inevitably come the post-production issues that I need to research and rehearse before the shoot. It never stops. Right?

Links:

Some video links that might be helpful:

GH5 Cinema Set-up & Tests: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0btY-irwawk

Panasonic GH5 - Everything I found out that you should know:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6O0XrHzGgk

Pansonic GH5 6 months later: https://youtu.be/N6BcaykMp88

4 Best Video Cameras for Indie Filmmakers in 2017: https://www.lightsfilmschool.com/blog/4-best-video-cameras-for-indie-filmmakers-in-2017-aec

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11Jul/162

Of Vlogging and gadgets

So I've been busy. And it's been a fun kind of busy - which is good, because life really isn't fun right now. But I have been productive and tried to find excuses to stay busy and create something. So what if a little retail therapy is involved, right? So what if it is draining my bank balance? (Seriously, this sh*t can get really expensive!)

But - I have been busy, playing with iPhone videography, learning more about DSLR video and playing with my Go Pro. I've been doing it under the Vlogging banner - yes I now Vlog. It sounds like Blogging, but it feels more like flogging - as in a punishment; creating footage and waiting for someone to view it and like it or hate it. But it's great because you get to experiment and be creative, all without narrative restrictions. I've set a few restrictions of my own, merely to see what I can do with whatever footage I've collected. I'm terrible at it btw - at the Vlogging part. I just can't seem to get comfortable talking to and being on camera. Will I ever? But hey, it's something, right? And it helps me reach out my family and friends in distant climes and tell them what I'm up to. The other main restriction is not worrying about the perfect shot or the perfect anything - I am currently editing them all within iMovie, just to keep it simple and limit my choices. It's more about speed of the workflow right now, before I start worrying about colour grading and tighter edits. Until then I'm not worrying about dusting off Final Cut Pro or Premiere and After Effects again. And it's very much about the gear I'm shooting it with. Right now I am mainly evaluating what gear performs the best in the right situations and the ease of getting it into a finished video.

So for iPhone videography, I am using:

  • Filmic Pro - app to control exposure and white balance while shooting
  • Beastgrip Pro iPhone camera mount, both with DOF Adapter (for the cinematic look) and with the Wide-Angle lens
  • Rode Video Micro microphone / Smart Lav + lavalier Mic - for better sound
  • But I've also ordered the Moondog Labs Anamorphic Lens Adapter
  • Joby Phone Mount
  • Joby Grip tight gorillaPod stand

For DSLR video, I am using:

  • the Canon EOS 70D - for amateur to semi-pro level filmmaking
  • Rode Video Micro Pro / Smart Lav + lavalier Mic
  • Canon 50mm f1.8 prime lens - for Bokeh
  • Canon 10:18mm lens - for arm-length selfie mode filming
  • Sigma 50 mm f1.4 prime lens - for proper filmmaking, it's too heavy for anything else
  • Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom tripod

And lastly, for Go Pro / action cam footage (predominantly timelapses), I am using:

The keen-eyed knowledgeable types will notice that there's no fancy tripod or fluid head, for smooth panning and tilting, or other pro audio gear, lights etc. These are all other issues to resolve for more dramatic shooting. Right now, it's about speed and it's about getting the shot - as life is happening. That other gear will come. Of that I'm sure.

With all this type of gear, don't underestimate the shots you can get with an ipad, or an iPhone / smart phone or just with a GoPro / action cam. You don't need half of that other gear. It's just so easy to film with a Go Pro or a phone and get it right into your editing system. Trust your eye and whatever device you have with you just use it! There's no point to any devices or gadgets if you don't use them. The other gear comes in as soon as you start thinking about achieving different / better aesthetic / quality levels - but you don't need to buy it all now. Play and experiment and choose wisely. And always have one of your devices with you. The iPhone obviously wins out for always being with me, but the GoPro is also very portable and fits into a pocket (although is chunkier).

As soon as you add in DOF adapters and lenses you add a f*ckload of weight to your bag / carry around weight and the potential for grasping with and failing to focus, as soon as you deviate from automatic settings. In fact the DSLR automatic mode is great for Vlogging, and brilliant at keeping you in focus, but scary when you step outside of it, until you learn what you're doing. Again the iPhone wins out as long as you just use fixed lenses / the lens it already came with. As soon as you add the Beastgrip Pro to the iPhone you need a microphone, as the mount gets in the way of the phone's microphone, also - for any decent sound quality just don't rely on the built-in mic, and you need to preset the focus to ensure that you are in focus when talking to the lens. Add one mic on. If you do one thing, add a mic. You seriously can't rely on built-in mics for sound.

The GoPro is awesome. And you can get rid of the annoying fish eye effect in the free GoPro Studio app. Its timelapses and other modes are great - as is the ability to conect via Wifi to your iPhone, so you can see what you're capturing in real time, like a monitor. Also it's small, so you can leave it in public spaces and get unobtrusive shots. Covert guerilla filming is definitely more achievable.

Anyway, I could talk about this for ages. I'm still playing though and still learning. And I have a few more bits of gear to use first before I share more findings.

This is all going to help when getting back into filming dramatic material. Vlogging is about playing - for me anyway. It's about taking risks in a low risk environment and having fun with it. It's about forcing me to create footage and to edit it, quickly. It's about retraining my eye. And it's about relaxing. Soon this will pay off when shooting the next short film. More about that later. But join me, have fun, try it - and let me know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

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3Jan/160

2016 – My creative resolutions and goals

Last year, I did one of these posts, explaining what creative activities I was planning on focusing on in 2015 (original article HERE). So how did I do with those resolutions and goals and what will 2016 bring?

The short version:

  • Not so well. 5 out of 8 aint bad.
  • Will tackle the other 3 this year.
  • Still fighting the good fight.
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29Dec/150

2016 will bring editing

Today I printed the rough draft of MUTAGENE - my nanowrimo zombie novel from 2014.
Mutagene_Rough_Draft.JPG
2016 will definitely produce a 2nd draft of it. I've printed it to go through it and painstakingly highlight it and mark it up, ready for editing, in the new year. I've ignored it and my other nanowrimo novel for too long. There's always a reason to work on something else. But I will bring one of them forward at least!
 
It's quite astounding that my tiny mind conjured up a 379 page novel. But also that I've still got another novel left to edit.... the question now is, are they any good????
I'm also going to devote some time to reflecting on how I've done in 2015 - with regard to following my goals. And looking at setting some new creative goals for 2016.
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11Dec/150

Editing hell

onlinestopwatch

I've realised that I really don't like editing fiction. I don't mind it so much in screenwriting - because whittling and honing those sentences is much more straightforward and once the structural issues are resolved, it's almost fun. But for fiction, there seems to be inumerable and more significant impacts from every edit that I make. But more importantly the choice of words is under a much greater scrutiny.

I think the edits that I performed on PIG SWEAT BLUES have ruined me for my current fiction editing - despite the power that was refined and the gem that was uncovered. It's the first time I've actually dreaded doing any writing and found any excuse to do anything but. It's almost as if I am dreading delivering this next edit to my beta readers / proof readers and in turn subjecting my baby to another [critical] kicking. But I simply need to man-up and to stop making excuses and get the hell on with it!

Yes I've been tired. The trip I took to rest and recuperate and concentrate on my writing proved to be anything but. I was severely sleep-deprived on my return. But now I've managed to recuperate some and I can no longer use it as an excuse. I have to overcome this reticence to connect with my creative intention. Otherwise I need to give up. Because I can't simply write for fun and leave it all unfinished and unread.

As a reaction to this editing. I've been looking into the Pomodoro technique. I stubled across it from a random route, during a course on learning techniques. And I decided to apply it on my day job, during a period of low energy. I found it a very simple and straightforward way to carve up a day's work and then to ensure that I completed the priority tasks. And it did help to inject some direct energy into that day. There's even loads of handy free and paid apps to help you do it - if you can't find a simple food timer to use, or don't want to use your smart phone clock.

Now the real task ahead is to carve this beast of an edit up into Pomodoro's and then trek through it, 25 minute slot by 25 minute slot.... I'm 1,400 words in. 8,000 lef to go.

This is grind. This is not glamour. This is a war on purple prose and it will be won by every yard of territory gained. And I am well aware that it will need repeat grind to elevate it. But if I ever want to go back to my Nanonovels, I need to do this.

 

 

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12Dec/140

Life After Nanowrimo – what now?

So I finished Nanowrimo, and then like the survivors of great battles and those that complete marathon races, I had a very bad case of fatigue and I was overcome with a serious case of 'What the f$%k do I do now?'

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 12.09.03

 

I made sure of course that I backed up all of my files; multiple times (in Drop box, One Drive, USB, External backup) and - as I was using Scrivener, made sure I took a snapshot of the work, before I ever go back and then sat there, twiddling my thumbs. There as lots of twiddling. Lots of doubt. Lot’s of house cleaning and social engagements to fill up my time predominantly, but when in front of a computer - and starting at a blank screen - still faced with the same question: What to do?

I very much wanted to rest MUTAGENE - my Nano novel - and wait a while before revisiting it for editing / rewriting purposes. There are some plotting / planning activities and exercises I can still do on it, if I get desperate. But I wanted a break from it. After all, things had grown stagnant and we both needed to see other people. Or at least I needed some fun.

So I trawled back through my folders, trying to work out which of my other legacy projects was in need of love - as I didn't have any burning new ideas to work on at that moment. That's when I realised that I not only had one candidate, a short story I'd forgotten about (called ADRIFT), I also stumbled across a feature script I'd completely forgotten that I'd written (for a Script Frenzy competition a few years back)! Such a shambles. Such disorganised folders and files! And entrusting my faulty memory to guiding me clearly wasn't working all that well. I decided that I needed to come up with a more appropriate plan to manage my writing projects.

After some soul searching, and some web searching, I realised that I needed a tool, like a database to track / catalogue every single idea, and I then needed to track which ideas then get worked on and when they become ready for circulation or publication.

I had three options:

  • an online writing database tool, such as writersdb and QueryTracker.
  • using Ulysses or Scrivener to track all of my projects; or
  • building my own tool to track all of my ideas and projects.

It wouldn't be fun building such a tool, or populating it. But afterwards I would be in a much better position to track each idea through to completed project, and track my career more professionally - e.g. evaluate how much money I'd paid for editing surfaces, or been paid for successful story submissions, or for contest submission fees for scripts etc. I'd then have enough data to take stock of how things were progressing and make a judgement as to whether, like any business, it was still worth pursuing; or if torn between taking different roads, I'd have more than a gut feel to direct my decisions.

I didn't really feel a need to track my writing each day, as that data would sit within Scrivener, or could easily be tracked in each project if I wanted to. And I was wary of my data being online, and being restricted to someone else's design. And although I saw how someone else was using Scrivener to do their project management, it didn't resonate with me. Seemed overly bloated and cumbersome. I wanted something small and portable. So I turned to what I know - I know spreadsheets. I know Excel.

So here's what I built:

An excel sheet that has a project tracker tab: that tracks the name, type of project, genre (for film and prose), what stage it is in and what draft no and what is the latest file version.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.52.43

 

It also has a second tab for tracking submissions - once you’ve ushered a project through to completion on the first tab, you go to the tab called ‘Manuscript Script Submissions’ - for screenplays you submit to competitions or production companies, or manuscripts you submit to publishing companies or literary markets - and the feedback or decisions you get on that work, that may help you shape how you later go back to the rewrite / edit stage.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.53.17

 

The drop downs are populated on a third tab - so you can edit the field to your heart’s content and customise it to fit.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.53.32

 

DOWNLOAD THE FILE HERE: 

PROJECT TRACKER V1.0 Alpha 

Please do download it. Give it a whirl. It’s nothing fancy. But it works for me. 

Feel free to try it out, if you think that it might be useful for you also. If you change it, I'd love to know why and how, in case it may be useful to put it into a new version to share with others. And also, if you think it's flawed - please let me know and I'd gladly consider any amends. I’m especially curious to know if there’s anyone else out there in the same boat, with more ideas than organisation.

For now, I've got some data to populate into this thing. I've got one short story to write. And then I need to plan how I intend to start my Nano novel editing / rewrite process; come January I want a proper plan in place.

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12Sep/100

Transcoding DSLR footage and Radial Dolly

Great article video on using FCP Studio's Compressor app to Transcode footage for your editing workflow. Obviously the same principles apply to working with iPhone 4 footage etc.

The article: http://filmmakeriq.com/2010/01/the-dslr-filmmakers-workflow/ - and check out all the other articles on the site. There's some really useful material on there.

The video:

Here's a great example of what can be shot on the 550D - if you know how - and combined with CG to create a stunning final product:

The 3rd Letter (aka "36 stairs") trailer from grzegorz jonkajtys on Vimeo.

Nice.

Here's another great video to show the kind of audio setup you can use to record separate audio and when to use software like Plural Eyes to sync it up later on your timeline for post:

How-to: Shooting ENG style with Dual System Audio on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II from Createasphere on Vimeo.

Yes, my brief encounter with a Canon 550D DSLR has inspired me. I am geeking out on the kind of footage that can be acquired. Especially when you factor in this cunning design for a tabletop Radial / Micro Dolly!

here's the video to show you how they made it, with example footage:

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5Sep/100

Of iPhone 4 film shoots and more

Zombie Mints - Litter

Yes, I've been a busy film geek of late. Not only have we attempted to shoot a short film entirely on the iPhone 4, but I've been getting to grips with FCP Studio and learning how to edit the footage; as I am sick of trying to do it in the totally unintuitive and limited iMovie 09 or iMovie app.

It has not been the easiest of times. But as with each of my shoots I have learnt from it.

The main objective was to shoot a spoof commercial / short horror comedy film in 1 day, with mainly found objects / objects I already had, amateur actors, natural light and do it all on the iPhone 4 - and for £50 including food. It did not go to plan.

The End result - was shot in 4 hours, on the iPhone 4, is not edited on it though as that was doing my frickin' head in, features the usage of one red head light as the weather was not with us on the day, I had to buy makeup and marigolds as props. Total budget - including feeding the crew was about £60.

Firstly, always check your makeup prior to prepping your shoot. I found that the latex and powdered makeup I intended to use for my zombie makeup had gone off, since I bought it after a special FX course that I took. Cue hurried calls and a mad dash by one of the crew to go and pick up some replacement makeup; only to find that it was vastly substandard, but by then we had to crack on and make a go of it. Not ideal. Periodically check your makeup, just like you would any piece of equipment.

Secondly, I must say that if you're going to attempt to shoot anything meaningful featuring actors, that requires intricate zooms or moving the camera, don't bother using the iPhone 4 unless you really want to keep retaking your shots to get them right. It's difficult enough to shoot anything with actors and enabling them to hit their marks without having to ensure that you capture the shot. All it takes is the focus to suddenly become unresponsive or a slight knock to the camera itself or the tripod you're using and the shot is ruined. This happened often. It's fine if the shoot is simple or just shooting live action as it happens - after all that it what it was designed for.

I have noticed also that the compressed format of the iPhone 4 AVCHD footage doesn't hold up well in blocks of colour, especially on blacks of shadows. It often looks blocky or patchy, even when the scene has plenty of light. My main actor brought a Canon 550D and I have heard amazing things about the video capability of this camera. If he had known how to use it and I could have quickly learned, I would have been sorely tempted to ditch the iPhone and do it right. However, the object was to have a fun shoot, using the iPhone 4 and not falling back to any of my other cameras - not even the fully charged Semi Pro DV cam I had upstairs; no matter how tempting it was!

Zombie Karl

The real point of contention for me has been the edit. iMovie just doesn't cut it as an editing app, not when you're shooting multiple viewpoints / angles and intercutting them. A 30 second sequence took me 4 times longer to edit in iMovie and it was far from polished at the rough cut stage compared to the same edit in FCP. That is the point though isn't it. Although you may want to shoot a fun movie - fun is relative and if you approach it with a Semi Pro sensibility then you must use Semi Pro tools.

But the iPhone 4 footage is still relatively new. Few programmes automatically come with the codecs / settings as standard, so I found that FCP did not have suitable setting for me to use, which would retain the audio on the timeline. That is, until I stumbled across the article "Topic : Iphone4 video to Final Cut pro - giving away a droplet to help you out." - which came with a link to download a droplet. This droplet converted over 62 clips in an hour - into better quality ProRes 422 LT footage that FCP could understand and could play back the audio. Nice! Thanks Jeff Greenberg!

Anyway, it will be while yet before the finished movie is ready for derision and mockery. But I am in the middle of editing it right now, and must stop procastinating. Let's hope it's worth the wait.

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