REFLECTIONS ON MAKING 'VULNERABLE ADULTS' TRAINING FILM by Paul Reilly
Our 'Help' video, to help train professionals working with vulnerable adults, was one of the most complex I'd put together.
The production would consist of 5 mini films, with elaborate titles, credits, and a gag reel at the end to run alongside the credits. The script, and some of the actors, were provided by the client's organisation.
There would be five shoots, each with two (sometimes three) cameras; sound would always go into Camera A, so at least audio sync wasn't going to be a problem.
Shot over several weeks, there were two studio shoots and three location shoots, one of them outdoors. The cast numbered between three and eight per shoot. With all this to manage, I was glad of the assistance of club members with camera work, and we finished up with 6 different cameras, including HD camcorder, regular format camcorder, Digital SLR, and Mark's fancy HD camera, used with a Steadicam harness.
That's where it all started to get interesting. I failed to check that all the cameras were set to manual exposure and colour balance. That meant that the footage tended to vary in colour & brightness, not just from camera to camera, but even during the length of a shot, if the camera panned. This gets very noticeable when you cut between cameras, or want to combine multiple takes to get the best possible performance. All fixable, fortunately, in post, but time-consuming. Lesson one there!
The next lesson was, embarrassingly, to do with my very own camera. After one of the shoots, I imported my footage from my Panasonic into Final Cut Express on the Mac. This is always a hit or miss business; import of AVCHD (and particularly the 'Lite' variety) is not well supported and I never fully trust the workflow, even having followed it a few times. As soon as I started editing, it was obvious something was not right. There was severe blurring on any fast motion, although static shots were lovely and crisp. What on earth had gone wrong? It looked like the frame rate was ridiculously low, but surely that's impossible - on my camera, a Panasonic FZ38, frame rate is not even adjustable. I checked the raw footage, the editor settings, the transfer process. It took some forensics, discussions with my colleagues at the club and an experiment to confirm what had happened. In a classic example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing, and having learned the painful consequences of using auto, my camera was on manual, and I set the exposure accordingly. It turns out that it's possible to set the shutter time to SLOWER than the frame rate. This makes the exposure meter quite happy, but of course the impact on the movie footage is devastating. Oops, time to re-shoot.
The next lesson after that was a location classic - the sun moves. Yes, I am aware of this, and even gave it some thought as I chose the bench outside Barking Town Hall, happy that the sun would be in front of the actors for the duration of the shoot. Oh-oh, what I neglected to consider was that over 3 hours, the sun would move behind the neighbouring office block and cast our bench into shadow. On one of the shots (the best take, naturally), we even have one actor in sun and the other in shadow. Fixable in post, thankfully, by using a moving matte to give a brightness boost and splitting the screen down a lucky lamp post that separated the actors, but all that wouldn't have been needed, if I'd considered the possibility that the shoot might take more than 3 hours.
Finally all the shooting was complete, and I started to assemble the film. At edit time, I brought the footage from all the cameras into FCE. Something made me glance at the FCE browser screen after importing all my clips from all the fleet of club cameras (is fleet the right word?). Across the 300 or so clips, I had every conceivable combination of frame rates, resolutions and interlaced/progressive scans. Final Cut does a sterling and uncomplaining job of importing just about anything, it seems, but there are predictable losses in sharpness each time you convert, zoom or clip to fix aspect ratio. Luckily most of the material was HD to begin with, and the end target was DVD, so the output was acceptable. Even 30 frames per second content imported successfully into the 25fps production, as long as nothing's moving about too fast.
Finally, edit complete and time to try building a production onto DVD. I thought I had hit complete disaster on my first trial output to Quicktime. A weird artefact appeared on rolling text, meaning that all the titles were doubled (and the doppelgänger rolled at a SLIGHTLY different rate to the original). This was a complete mystery, as the footage looked just fine in the raw and inside FCE, but went to pieces in Quicktime. It looked like the differing video standards from all those cameras was confusing the hell out of predictive motion in the H.264 compression algorithm. Or something. This was beyond any mere mortal to diagnose, but with the help of club colleagues Martin and Kevin, we established a work-around and re-built the footage on a new clean template in FCE. After a lot of faffing around and not inconsiderable panic, we had success and a clean output.
We wanted the sleeve design to look really good - it provides most users with their first view of the product, and we were determined that it should look totally professional. The end result really is fantastic, thanks to Tracey, a professional graphics designer in her day job, her eye for good graphics layout and colour, and her skill at touching up frame grabs. Of course if we'd taken a better set of still photographs during the shoot, we would have saved her a lot of work! And that's the final lesson for today.
It seems to be a rule of the industry to wish one could do each project again, as it would be a much easier job second time round. This would be no exception. However, the final result is very pleasing, and hopefully will be a useful and powerful training tool to assist protection of vulnerable people for years to come.
A WACC movie maker
IN MY VIEW by Ted Playle
Incidentally the word 'My' in the title is not necessarily emphasized. WHO WAS FIRST? In 'Home Movie 100' we were told that the Lumiere Brothers were the first to put on a public presentation of moving images in 1895, which fact is well documented and no one disputes this. In fact they had earlier shown moving pictures, before the Societe d'Encouragement pour l' Industrie Nationale in March of that year at a lecture. The film they showed was 'Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory'. (It was shot in the summer of 1894 - the men wore straw hats and the women summer dresses).
These early films were merely strips, the length being governed by the capacity of the spool boxes (17 metres). Incidentally the Lumieres developed their films to a negative and obtained a positive by running the negative and raw film through the camera, pointing at a sunny white wall.
Edison as well as others were dabbling and experimenting at this time, but no projection of film onto a screen had been achieved. In Britain, William Friese-Greene recorded animated pictures with his invention which he called a Chronophotographic camera. This was in 1889. Edisons assistant, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, another Englishman, can be credited with the 35mm choice of gauge.
In 1889 Eastman Kodak were producing a flexible and transparent material made of cellulose nitrate and Dickson had ordered some strips in 35mm widths - so it became the standard film gauge. The mystery remains why an Englishman in America chose a European measurement for his film. Dickson also invented the worlds first film studio - the famous Black Maria - which could be turned around to make the best use of sunlight.
Edward Muybridge, also British, took his famous pictures of animals in motion, as early as 1892. This he did in California to where he had emigrated. But even earlier that any of these events, in 1888, Augustin Le Prince who lived and worked in the north of England, had invented and constructed a camera with sixteen lenses behind which two strips of film advanced intermittently. In the next year or two he experimented with a camera equipped with a single lens - a projector with a Maltese Cross movement (possible the first) and a filmstrip made of perforated celluloid. On the 16t September 1890 he joined the Paris Express at Dijon and was never seen again. A television programme about Le Prince revealed that he had taken his invention to America to try and get financial backing (Edison included) but to no avail. However, the Darras camera, patented after Le Princes' disappearance in 1896, which used 45mm film, had a mechanism identical to the one built by Le Prince in 1888. If the inventor had not mysteriously vanished the cinema might have been born in 1890.
THE VIEW AHEAD Many are becoming excited by the approach of the Third Millennium - which is something not shared by me. Indeed, I shall be very sad to see the end of the 20th Century. (At least I hope to witness it). I consider that I was very fortunate to be born when I was born, missing the tough times after the first World War (the General Strike etc.) and yet too young to be called up to serve in the second World War. The scientific achievements and inventions made during this century have been astounding, not forgetting those affecting our wonderful hobby. The development of the film camera and latter the video camera was truly amazing, with variable shutters, automatic exposure control, self focusing, all these things we now take for granted. The demonstration which some of us witnessed at the Wanstead and Woodford Club of the DVC digital editing system was very impressive and I am sure will be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone able to afford one. I enjoy editing both film and video - in fact as far as I am concerned - this is the creative part of movie making. However, I was very surprised when the gentleman from DVC explained that there were so many effects in the demonstration tape he had shown us, that it had taken some hours to transfer it from the computer onto video. In fact he had left it transferring overnight and went to bed. Is this the way ahead - editing from your bedside?
THE MAGIC OF HOME MOVIES by Ted Playle
Back to Feature Menu, Go to previous feature A Change of Location In the early nineteen-fifties, the club moved into their very own premises at Dane Court. When I say their very own, I do not mean we owned the premises but had sole use of them. 'CLAIR DE LUNE' a production by, John Murray, had been started at Orford Road with some rather ambitious sets and these had to be re-planned to fit onto the hayloft, which was our new club room/studio at Dane Court. The settings included marble pillars and balustrades made from cardboard and wallpaper, the now famous candelabra made from a coat hanger and film cans and a garden scene with a fountain playing among the shrubs. It looks impressive on the screen. John processed the black and white film himself which kept the cost down.
As the film used for CLAIR DE LUNE' was 16 mm which was also used for the next production, we reluctantly changed our name to the Walthamstow Amateur Cine Club. This next film was 'PAPER PETALS' our first colour record. The subject of making paper flowers obviously demanded colour, and lighting this one was again an education. The idea for 'PETALS' came from founder member Reg Cranshaw who coaxed his young daughter to act in the clubs first documentary.
Albert Bale and John Murray were joint directors on 'BRIEF SPELL' which was originally named, An Actors Life For Me'. This created a great deal of interest because it was not only shot in the club premises but also made use of the stage and backstage areas of the Lloyd Park Pavilion. Colin Pearch plays the lead character - a stagehand with ambitions to become a magician. His performance was applauded both on and off screen and at our 40th Anniversary show, Vi Coslin said that Colin's acting had a Chaplinesque quality.
Our expertise at putting on public shows was becoming well known because of our fine presentations. (Immaculate projection and non-sync. music). We were the first club to present the Ten Best Films after the initial west-end premiers and this happened for several years. The Ross Wyld Hall or Lloyd Park Pavilion was usually filled to capacity for the two performances each year. With this talent under our caps it was a great honour when in 1955, the Amateur Cine World' - the magazine who organised the Ten Best competitions - approached us to stage the west-end premier. We naturally accepted the challenge, booking the Royal Empire Society's cinema in Northumberland Avenue near Trafalgar Square for two days Friday and Saturday.
The hall had a plain stage with no proscenium and a grand piano took pride of place right where we wanted to stand our screen. No - we could not move it ourselves. An expert team of piano-movers had to be hired to reposition it. But what about curtains and footlights? Through a friend, the Tenderfoot Scouts Film Unit loaned us a mobile proscenium, complete with curtains and lights with a remote control panel. This looked very professional when erected on the platform. At the first performance the Oscars were presented by Gordon Malthouse, the editor of AGW and for the first time the Oscar presentation was recorded on film by WACC. The film was rushed to the processors and the results quickly edited and were shown the following day at the start of the Saturday performance. The two shows were a sellout, so a matinee was hastily arranged for the Saturday afternoon. Congratulatory articles and letters appeared in ACW for several months after the event: Never a hitch, everything under control, assured showmanship...Walthamstow ACC may well feel gratified by the success.
For projection a GB630, for sound accompaniment five record players, two amplifiers, an Excel tape recorder and five speakers. Records selected from the 2,000 owned by members, sixty record changes noted in the cue sheet. When the programme was released nationally to other clubs, our newsreel of the Oscar presentations appeared at the start. A memorable occasion appeared and one to be proud of.
TELE-TALES 34 by Roy Garner
As you know Trio completed the Ensign video last year, it was fascinating using my computer to edit the production giving us so much more flexibility than with film, for example we wanted to include a brochure which had the wrong date on the cover, so we simply wiped-out the incorrect date. We were also able to correct several mistakes made at the shooting stage such as shooting off the top of the set, I won't go into too much detail as Trio will be giving an evening later in the year showing the many "cheats" used to create the final effect.
If you think that only amateurs make mistakes, think again. When I was at British Gas I was asked to cover a rush job to shoot an interview with a very important Government official, my admin man at the office kindly agreed to help me since I was on another shoot and had arranged for him to load the equipment into his car and meet me on site.
The location was an old air-raid shelter which had been heated by portable gas heaters in advance of the shoot since there was no mains available, this meant that only battery power could be used for the camera and lighting. We had battery sun-guns but although I had given my admin man an equipment list unfortunately he had accidentally missed out the box containing all the camera batteries.
I didn't discover this until just 30 minutes before the interview was to take place and as there was no mains I had to think fast, I raked-out a long lead with the correct camera plug on it,I then cut of the plug on the other end and connected it on the battery of my admin mans car, the camera worked fine but unfortunately the car battery was so corroded that it was impossible to remove and there was no way that we could get the car near the air raid shelter so I tactfully convinced the Government Official that the interview would be much more effective outside the building, he seemed reluctant since it was about 3 degrees below zero at the time, however he agreed and the shoot was successfully completed, I then thanked our important subject convincing him that it was well worth him suffering the cold as we got a much better shot. It amazing what can be achieved with a little bit of bull....
Some of you will remember the broadcaster Brian Redhead, he was one of the "Kings" of the corporate video world having presented scores of videos and films over the years for most of the big Blue-chip companies.
When I was at British Gas we used him for a shoot about energy saving giving advice about insulation in lofts, care in the use of setting the central heating etc. The scriptwriter for the proposed video came up with the idea of standing Brian on a mountain in Wales, the camera was to be zoomed in on some houses showing the snow covered roofs then the camera was to pull out to find Brian Redhead who started his piece to camera. One of the other sequences took place in a Safeway supermarket as I was busy running the office I decided to shoot this sequence leaving the remainder of the crew to cover the Welsh job. (well that was my excuse - it's damn cold in Wales) the photograph in this article shows me coping with the "icy conditions" of a Croydon supermarket.
The schedule was very tight so it was arranged to load the equipment into a hired light aircraft immediately after the Supermarket shoot was completed and be whisked off to Wales. In order to cut down the weight the camera was wrapped in a blanket and placed in a cardboard box, other equipment was transported without its heavy boxes and flown to the sight in near a snow-covered mountain ready for the shoot.
What no one had realised is that one of the newer members of the crew was not told about the camera being in a blanket so he loaded the "empty" camera case, so you can imagine the reaction from the team when they unloaded in the remote snowy conditions of Wales, now someone had the unpleasant task of informing the frozen Brian Redhead who was not known for his even temper, apparently when he was told he threw his clipboard complete with script over the edge of the mountain.
Eventually one of the team rang me in base, I gave them a contact I had known for years at Harlech TV in Cardiff where they were able to hire a replacement camera eventually completing the job some five hours later than planned.
BLUNDERS OF WIDESCREEN By Roy Garner
Many of you will be familiar with my wide screen films, one of which is entitled "The Wonders of Widescreen" however this article refers to "The Blunders of Widescreen" and believe me there can be many of those. Back in the early nineteen fifties, film studios were beginning to face stiff competition from television, at that time telly screens were small and in black and white with mono sound, so the major film studios turned their attention to shooting techniques exclusive to film such as 3D followed by wide screen and stereophonic sound. I well remember Colin Pearch telling us at the club of his first experience when he saw "The Robe" in Cinemascope, he was so impressed when the curtains opened and kept on widening to reveal what he described as "a massive screen". By modern standards the screen size was relatively small but impressive enough to attract large audiences to see this epic as well as many to follow.
20th Century Fox had commissioned the highly respected optical company of Bausch & Lomb to produce a camera lens that could be placed in front of the normal 35 mm film camera lenses to squeeze the image horizontally taking in twice the normal width (I am lucky enough to own one of these lenses). Cinemas fitted a similar device, both called anamorphic lenses, in front of the projection lens, with the addition of a screen that was twice the normal width, Cinemascope was born.
Other systems were quickly introduced by the competitive film companies until today's stunning Imax system. I have always been fascinated by both 3D and wide screen, I built a crude wide-screen unit using two 90 degree prisms way back in the 1950's when I was using 9.5 mm film and then in 1968 bought a Proskar anamorphic projection lens which I have used on my 16 mm cameras ever since. I have used the Bausch & Lomb Cinemascope lens I referred to earlier fitted to my 16 mm camera, or more correctly I fitted the camera to the lens because it is huge and very heavy making it impractical for normal use. I resorted to the Proskar lens which gives very good results, there are, however, many difficulties, after all the lens was designed for projectors and has a very limited acceptance angle restricting the taking lens to a maximum of 25 mm. 1 inch). Even this creates problems, when the aperture is closed down smaller than f5.6 masking occurs which one can see on the four corners of the picture. I have tried various techniques over the years by adding neutral density filters plus having the lens hoods cut away so that the Proskar almost touches the front element, but in the end I decided to buy an adaptor to enable still camera lenses to be fitted onto the "C" mount so that I could use a 28 mm taking lens with no cut-off.
When it comes to shooting well it is a bit of a drama, first the exposure has to be read. Then the exact focusing distance for the camera is determined, after which the Proskar lens can be swung in front and focused to the same distance as the camera lens. If a closer shot is required the Proskar has to be swung out of the way and then just to make things even more difficult the camera taking lens has to be removed and a long lens fitted, finally the Proskar is swung back into position.
All of this long-winded procedure is necessary simply because the huge stills lens doesn't allow the turret to operate in the normal way, and of course by now after all this fiddling the subject you are filming has moved or the sun has gone in, yes you're right video is much easier and lighter to carry but not half as much of a challenge. Also hand-held shots are not usually very practical since every movement shows up on the 11-foot screen that Ted and I built many years ago. Despite all these difficulties the result is still very impressive, its quite amazing how that tiny 16 mm frame remains sharp edge to edge over such a large area and does give an effect of realism, isn't Kodachrome wonderful?
The screen was another major challenge, many years ago I purchased a large roll of special highly reflective plastic screen material, and then Ted and I built a wooden collapsible frame to support it. The material was 4 feet wide and some 13 feet in length, the plan was to adhere a strip of material along each edge and then punch eyelet holes to take the nylon rope that finally tightens the screen. I worked out that after allowing for the eyelets the depth would be approximately 3 feet 9 inches, accordingly the width was calculated by multiplying that distance by the standard 4 x 3 format doubled, I then cut the screen to the 11 ft width we now use. What is really annoying is that 16 mm is actually slightly wider than the standard 4 x 3 format of all other film gauges so in fact I could have made the screen over 18 inches wider which would have been even more impressive. The screen is showing signs of wear and tear and needs a thorough overhaul (any volunteers to help?)
Recently I've purchased a stills camera zoom lens, which makes shooting a lot easier with no removal of the lens for closer shots and the quality seems to still be maintained. I'm in the process of making a film about Epping Forest which is progressing much slower than I planned, when it is finally finished I'll inflict it on the club giving a wide screen evening and then you can judge for yourselves. Who knows some of you may be encouraged to make some wide-screen blunders of your own.