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I made a film, and here's how I did it - A Most Illuminating Tale — LiveJournal
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Robert Wells or Mr Waters
Date: 6.42 pm, Wednesday 19th January, 2011
Subject: I made a film, and here's how I did it
Security: Public
I made a film. If you missed it, it's here and it's a music video for Zoey Van Goey. I see they are playing Glasgow on the 5th February and London on the 20th. You should go and see them. They're good and what's more they're lovely. Anyway, below, mostly for my reference is how I did it. It's at least chronologically simplified.

Saturday morning: built the props. A Vintage tin box was chosen partly because of the picture of the Queen, but also because it's quite thin, which should help with any depth of field problems. The pressed flowers in the dance instructions are real and have been pressing between the pages for Jaws in the Taschen 100 greatest films book. The image at the end of the video is from a screenprint of mine inspired by an old sheet music cover.

Saturday afternoon: shot the live action. Borrowed a rostrum camera stand from my housemate Owen who is an illustrator and animator and set it up in the attic. Used my new Nikon D3100 (replacement for my terminally bewildered D40x) with a 35mm lens at the highest elevation possible. The lighting is designed for photographing flat stills, but a little jiggery pokery produced something that worked. The fabric coving the base is a piece of purple velvet. The shot with the hands is filmed live with playback from an ipod. During the instrumental break, stuck the final image to the top of the tin. After take 4, decide that we're done and switch the camera to taking stills to animate The End. Do this quickly before packing up. Do not make a plan. Stupidly forget to lock things like white balance.

Saturday evening: Shot the stop motion. Borrowed a very sexy tripod from housemate Dan. Set up the rostrum stand in my room with a sheet of black mount board to act as a set for the pictures. Printed larger scale pictures. Wired the backs by putting them face down on a lightbox, bending a rough skeleton in a fairly light wire (for anyone following these things, it's the same wire in these) and taping it to the back with masking tape. Set the pictures in roughly the same attitude as they left the frame. On my sound editing software of choice (soundforge) opened up the song, marked the edit point into the stop motion and set the timeline to show seconds and frames (at 24fps to match the film footage). Each movement or shot is then set up by working out the time from that mark and knowing that, for example, by frame 162 her shoulder needs to be up. Pictures taken using a fixed focus/white balance/aperture/exposure this time and using a remote shutter release. The entire sequence taken sequentially in one take. Some 720 frames in total.

Saturday night: Post production. Had a brief lesson in Final Cut Pro from my housemate Oscar who imported the live footage, sync'd it with the original music and dropped a cue point where the stop motion would start.Notice an intermittent flickering on the footage. Oscar suspects some kind of rolling shutter problem. He checked up how to import stop motion footage (if you ever need it, you set the default still time to one frame and then import the photos and drag them to the timeline) and then had to go to dinner. First problem was the stop motion would not render, so learned how to automate photoshop to batch process all the stills to be 1080 sized jpegs. Reimport and render. Success. The middle sequence matches the music, no editing required. Attempt to export the film. Fail. It gets to the stop motion sequences and then lacucurachas for the rest of the song. Export using different settings to those of the footage to force a rerender and film exports perfectly. Reimport and add sepia filter. At this point Oscar returns home, animates a mask and a colour correction filter to bring out the red at the end (this takes several hours) and we then add an old film filter (it's actually a set of film style filters including scratches, dust, vignetting, grain, etc). Wait over an hour for the render to complete. The filter does a good job of covering the flickering on the footage, the differences in levels at the end and the corners of the 'set' that are clearly in shot. Struggle to get an export that works and doesn't look like shit. Eventually end up with a 720p .mp4 file that is still more than 1GB and upload.

I'm pretty damn proud of what came out at the end. At some point I'm going to redo some of the post production bits, mostly because Oscar did such an amazing job and I learned so much from watching him that I'd like to have a crack at that myself.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 10.10 pm, Wednesday 19th January, 2011 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Fascinating stuff! And I love the video, it's gorgeous :-) Did you really do all this in one day?!?!

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Robert Wells or Mr Waters
User: weaselspoon
Date: 6.17 pm, Thursday 20th January, 2011 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
All shot and edited in a day, with a weeks worth of thought behind it.
I found out this morning that I've won, So I'll be coming up to Glasgow to see the gig with my hand actor. I do hope I'll get to see you.

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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 7.16 pm, Thursday 20th January, 2011 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Congratulations dude! That's wonderful!!!

We have tix to the gig so see you there, if not before. Give us a shout if you need somewhere to stay, or to have afternoon tea. Look forward to seeing you :-)

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