Robot Wrangling
Mist on Flickr.
Halong Bay, Vietnam

Mist on Flickr.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Street Photography 101 on Flickr.Via Flickr:
Take photo of people in cafe through glass.
IMG_2405

Street Photography 101 on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Take photo of people in cafe through glass.

IMG_2405

Sparks on Flickr.Via Flickr:
Using light and rain to create what looks like sparks.
Taken in Launceston, Tasmania
IMG_2376

Sparks on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Using light and rain to create what looks like sparks.

Taken in Launceston, Tasmania

IMG_2376

IMG_2357 on Flickr.Harlem
Photo take in Launceston, Tasmania

IMG_2357 on Flickr.

Harlem

Photo take in Launceston, Tasmania

IMG_2559 on Flickr.Oncoming. 
Photo taken in Launceston, Tasmania

IMG_2559 on Flickr.

Oncoming.

Photo taken in Launceston, Tasmania

It's Never To Late... To Learn To Read

In April we sponsored the Tasmanian Writers Festival by recording, editing podcasts of their seminars. It something we do for Supanova (www.supanova.com.au) and have done for other festivals and conferences around the country. This time we where asked to professionally record 21 short stories (3000 words or less) for the National Year of Reading 2012. 

I proposed that we use local actors to give each story a different voice and feel. Initially there was talk about getting some big name Australian actors in, but due to time and budget we where given free reign to cast within the budget I submitted for the job. Personally this was great as this project showcases both published and unpublished authors, so doing the same with actors was something that we really wanted to do.

Casting 21 actors was a challenge, add to the fact that most the stories where from a female perspective, the challenge increased. The age range of the actors ranges from 17 to somewhere mid 60’s (we think without asking). We asked a lot of some of the actors, especially the ones that have never done this sort of recording before. 

The one story that made us stop and really think about how to do it was When English Made My Future Better by Faten Chendeb. This story is first person perspective with basic English which in the context of the story makes total sense but read incorrectly could come off a little insulting. Adding to that was the initial requirement that it should eb read in a Lebanese accent by a middle aged woman, this was almost an impossible task to cast in Tasmania. Almost three weeks went by trying to find the right person to read the story and we even thought about flying to Melbourne to get either the author or another person of Lebanese heritage to read it. In the end we asked if we could do the read straight, no accent, no acting and put a forward on the front of it explaining why the story is read the way it is. This is what we did in the end. It offseted may issues that foresaw and wanted to make sure that the story was included in the recordings.

Three and a half weeks of getting actors into our studio in between doing other jobs. The biggest issue in the end was the traffic noise. While our studio has a moderate amount of sound proofing, any car/bus/bike that was particularly loud would come through the recordings. So starts and stops happened and it is amazing to realise how many people have stupidly noisy vehicles. Buses we can understand, but all the bikes and cars is totally uncalled for.

The microphone we used for the recording was a Rode NTA-2. Amazing depth this mic gave to the preferences, but it also picked up some of the actors sibilances and other sounds. As most actors having been in the sort of recording situation before some got very self conscience of their breathing and other sounds their body made. In the future we will give a basic handout on preparing for recording to avoid some of these issues in the future. There is nothing like removing stomach rumbles and lip smacks from a recording to ruin your workflow.

In the end we think the project came out really well. It was on time and on budget. It gives more local actors a national presence and another piece for their resumes. It gave us an opportunity to give our new equipment a whirl and produce something that will be used in teach aids and enjoyment for years to come.

Stories - Actor List

  • The Beauline - Patsy Marshell
  • Camels in Morocco - Stephanie Briarwood
  • For Lucy - Carrie Maclean
  • Grandad’s Garden - Elise Manian
  • Happy New Year - Daniel Speed
  • I is for You - Rebecca Nilsson
  • Letters - Cheyne Mitchell
  • Letters & Lufstories - Nicola Pett
  • The Miracle Canendar - Sophie Hart
  • My Neighbour’s Screen Door - Ray Sangston
  • A Reason for Reading - Kieran Phillips
  • Refuting the White Rabbit - Michael Edgar
  • Road House - David Quinn
  • The Sleeping Beauty - Jane Johnson
  • Strangers in Fiction - Bec Reedman
  • Taking Leaves - Amanda Phillips
  • A Time For Many Words - Jennifer Lyons
  • Tin of Secrets - Stuart Loone
  • The War Gift - Chris Jackson
  • When English Made My Future Better - Jane Johnson
  • A Written History - Rachael Williams

All these stories are available to listen online or download as a free PDF at www.love2read.org.au/never-too-late.cfm

Basic Maintenance .htaccess Redirect

Just a quick tutorial for something that I didn’t find easily on the www. There are most likely easier ways of doing this, but this worked for me.

Basically I wanted to be able to put a file in my web server root directory that if detected turned off all my redirects in cakephp and served only that file. This means that when I am updating core cakephp files (you could probably use this for other frameworks too) then I have a nice maintenance page.

  1. Create your nice html maintenance page (in this case called maintenance.html) and place it in your root directory of your website
  2. Edit your .htaccess files to the following (based on cakephp).
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
    RewriteEngine on

	RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !/maintenance.html
	RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}/maintenance.html -f
	RewriteRule (.*) /maintenance.html [L,R=302] 

	RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} /maintenance.html
	RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}/maintenance.html !-f
	RewriteRule (.*) / [L,R=302] 

	RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}/maintenance.html !-f
    RewriteRule    ^$    webroot/    [L]
	RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}/maintenance.html !-f
    RewriteRule    (.*) webroot/$1    [L]

 </IfModule>

To break it down.

First rewriteconds look to see if we are not requesting the  maintenance.html file directly. Then it checks to see if the file exists. Then it rewrites the url to maintenance.html. (end of story)

Second, it check to see if maintenance.html was asked for directly and if the file doesn’t exist. If so, then redirects back to root of the web server. This is use when you remove maintenance.html after updating, so people don’t get a 404 error.

Third, we check for maintenance.html doesn’t exist and set our normal rewrites for cakephp.

Now when maintenance.html exists, it gets served and I can update cakephp in the background on a live server.

If you know a better way of doing this, please comment below.

Dark Empire

This video was inspired by a classic viral video called Dove Evolution that really was at the advent of online viral advertising. At some point when talking silly ideas for little star wars films this popped into my head.

Pre-Production

I needed to gather a few things to make this video work. A Makeup Artist, A Photoshop Aritst and the subject to get made up.

The subject wasn’t hard as Nick from 501st is always up for something fun. I put a call out on facebook for a makeup artist and Kel offered to help out. I have never actually worked with a makeup artist before, so that was fun and different. Lastly I needed someone who was awesome at photoshop. I called my friend Marco who was an award winning matte painter and has worked on many films, tv shows and commercials and ask if he would do me the honor of doctoring the photo. He agreed and then I needed to do the shoot.

Production

So we all gathered at Photobat Natural Light Studio (aka my brothers studio) and set up some basic lights and a white background. Kel went to work and I set my camera to do a time-lapse. Once the makeup was finished I turned on the flash and took a heap of RAW photos which one would become our master for Marco to photoshop. 

I did a visualisation of the final video with the time-lapse and some plate stills to show marco sorta what I meant by the final product.

So I packed up the stills and sent a hard drive to Marco in Sydney (I am based in Tasmania). The next issue was shooting the stormtroopers plate (well they are actually scout-troopers in the video). The challenge was to find a background that could easily have a digital billboard placed on it. Since this was my first time of compositing in this style I wanted it to be simple as possible. I scouted around Launceston CBD and found the one I liked. I then arranged for our troopers to come and film for 30 minutes on a Sunday. 

This where I came undone a little. I chose a petrol station billboard thinking that the business was closed on a Sunday. I was wrong, but luckily only one block up from there was something which turned out to be better. So a quick move, shoot and some silliness and we had our skipping trooper plate.

At this point I got an email from Marco saying he couldn’t record his photoshop as it slowed his computer down to much to work. This was a sticking point as I really needed the photoshop work to be a progression of video from Nick to Emperor. So not to be a pain as Marco was doing me a huge favor, I ask him to save out progression images. I would worry about how to make it look a time-lapse later.

Post- Production

So with all the assets in hand I opened up After Effects to start compositing. First thing to do was learn how to rotoscope. I took me two goes and learning how to use the matte tool effectively in conjuction with the roto tool to get it right. I knew that I was going to need to roto when I shot the plate, so I made sure that my shutter was very fast so no motion blur was present in the plate video. 

After I got that sorted I jumped into Photoshop and with a clean still from the plate above (no troopers), I took Marco’s awesome final work and made a billboard. I then cropped it and dropped the final image into After Effects. I then did a tidy up of the rotoscoping and exported a ProRes version of the composition to Adobe Premiere.

Next was what to do about the Photoshop files. I had no time-lapse of the work being created but Marco did supply me 30 images of the final file being made up (plus the actually full layered Photoshop artwork). I hit on the idea of “fluffing” the time-lapse. I loaded each still into one Photoshop document and made a mask for each so apart from the bottom layer, nothing could be seen. I then recorded myself using the brush tool drawing on the masks to revel the layer underneath. If you watch the final video and know photoshop, just look at the bottom right hand corner at my layers. This seemed to work really well.

Now that I have my last two pieces of the vision. I dropped them into Premiere and edited it together. I then went looking for some creative commons music that fitted on SoundCloud, purchased a camera snap sound effect and finished off the audio.

The last thing to do was colour grade the video. I didn’t want to change the first two sections of the video as I wanted it to look raw. The billboard reveal bit I did want to grade to make the billboard fit better and also so the scene felt a bit more sci-fi. So off to Red Giant’s Colorista II, Mojo & Misfire Vignette.

Then Render, and post.

What I Learnt

  • If you like rotoscoping, you are mad.
  • I need to have a clear idea of what I want before I ask for something. Marco questioned me a fair bit about the final idea and I needed to have answers.
  • More general film making techniques.
theawkwardgamer:

Console Wars // Artist: Gabs
Did this because of all the arguments on YouTube I see. If you belong in the purple section, you’re awesome. 

theawkwardgamer:

Console Wars // Artist: Gabs

Did this because of all the arguments on YouTube I see. If you belong in the purple section, you’re awesome.