I am a big fan of YouTube and probably spend far too much time watching videos but it is all good research. Or that is what I tell myself anyway. I am big fan of cooking and love watching ‘how to’ videos for inspiration and ideas. Earlier on this year I stumbled across Cooking With Chef Dai who cooks up a storm with some amazing Japanese food. At the time the channel was quite small so I got in touch and offered my animation services free of charge as I wanted to give something back. I wanted to help promote his channel and give myself a fun animation project to work on. I think it came out looking pretty great and Chef Dai’s channel continues to grow. Be sure to check him out, I recommend the Cold Ramen dish for the summer weather.
So SQLBits took to the docks of Liverpool for this years event and Big Blue Whale were there again to provide the opportunity for people to step in front of the camera as one of their favourite sci-fi characters, space monsters or simply to have a photo or video with new friends.
It has been one of our biggest jobs of the year so far and involved setting up a green screen video and photo booth for the conference attendees. We had the full team on this one with Jim and Pete working the video booth and Scott and Chris on the photo booth. We also had a helping hand from Jody who was shooting event stills throughout the night. This year’s party was space themed and there were plenty of great costumes. As you can imagine the Star Wars fans were out in force!
The lead up to the event was a busy time with Chris and Jim working hard to bring all the elements needed for the two booths together. Preparation was key to bringing the two green screen booths to life. It was also very important that the booths looked good on location and that they were enticing and encouraged people to come over and check it out. To this end we rented a star cloth that fit in nicely with the space theme and also acted as the housing for the booths. Chris put a day aside to make sure that he was happy with all the technical aspects of the job so on the night he could quickly and confidently get the photo edits done and then print them using the specialist printer ready for the attendees.
Jim was in charge of all prep for the video booth and after a brainstorming session the two video scenarios were decided upon, a space battle with blasters and a spaceship that was under attack. Jim then started work creating the assets needed for the scenarios which included creating from scratch a spaceship bridge as well as a space station. This took time as we wanted it to look as good as we could get it and was only the first step in the process. Jim then had to animate all the elements to bring the scenarios to life. Once fully animated Chris and Jim setup a green screen to test that the scenarios worked. Thankfully they came out looking great and only a couple of minor tweaks were needed to get them ready for the night.
The team set off Friday morning to get to the Liverpool Exhibition Centre in good time. Once there we got to work setting up the two green screens, making sure the lights were perfectly positioned and setting up two behind the scenes work stations so we could edit and print the photos on the night as well as edit the videos as they were being filmed. Chris was on one work station doing all the photography and Jim was on the other editing the videos. Front of house were Scott on photos and Pete on the video booth working hard getting the attendees involved and making it feel like they were on a movie set. With Jim editing and rendering the videos on the night attendees could log online and watch their videos within hours of filming their masterpieces.
Scott’s job was to greet the guests at the photo booth, explain how everything worked in terms of producing the printed images and then taking the actual photos themselves. Chris had prepared a variety of space themed backgrounds for the images so once the images were shot in front of the green screen they were passed for processing where people were placed on the moon or floating in a nebula. The prints were then laid out and people could collect them within 20 mins or so. We were busy all evening and proved very popular I think in part because we offered a memorable souvenir for what had been a very enjoyable and informative week for the attendees and speakers alike.
It was a long 20 hour day from load in to load out but there was plenty of fun along the way. Chris’ unrelenting commitment to obtaining a sub standard and highly overpriced sausage roll was second to non and at about 3am he finally took a banger in the mouth!
The Queen Marilyn music video for Japanese Fighting Fish might be the most ambitious project I have ever undertaken as a director. The journey from initial concept through to finished video was a tough one and I learnt a lot along the way. With this blog post I aim to outline the major highs and lows of the creative process.
The band initially wanted a video for another track from the album, Egyptian Sunrise. Chris and I started the process by developing a story driven music video that would tie in with the Egyptian Sunrise’s lyrics. After some serious late night brainstorming sessions we were patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. We were happy, the band were happy so I started work on the next step, a detailed breakdown for each shot of the video. Two weeks in and we were looking good and getting ready to travel down to London to start filming. However, things were about to change. The band got in touch and dropped bomb shell, they wanted a video for a different song, Queen Marilyn. The reasons being it was getting a lot more plays and positive feedback from the press so made a lot more sense to promote it further with a video. Frustrating but understandable.
As our planning and prep up to this point had been aimed specifically at creating a visual story for Egyptian Sunrise a lot of our work had to scrapped. With a little under two weeks until we were due to start filming Chris and I got to work brainstorming a whole new story for Queen Marilyn. To save time we took the core story elements from Egyptian Sunrise and worked them into the new track. Not ideal but we were now pushed for time. We also decided to scrap filming in London and concentrate on filming within Leeds. With an updated story now in place for Queen Marilyn we moved onto solving the technical issues of the video.
One of the major elements of the video was the use a SnorriCam. This is a device that is rigged to the body of the actor, facing the actor directly, so when they walk, they do not appear to move, but everything around them does. A SnorriCam presents a dynamic point of view from the actor’s perspective, providing an unusual sense of vertigo for the viewer. Through online research and various tutorial videos we figured out all the different parts we needed, ordered them and got building. It came out looking super professional and our tests shots looked great. We were really happy and it was definitely a high point of the project getting our hands dirty and building something from scratch.
Initially we were going to use a GoPro on the SnorriCam as it is a lightweight camera but Scott convinced us we should use the Sony A7 as it performs really well in low light and the picture quality is amazing. I am really glad he did as it was definitely the right decision. Other elements we needed for the shoot were a van to film some of the story elements as well as the band performance. In the end this was provided by the band which saved us a bit of time. Dean from Raptor Sound sorted us out with an amazing deal on lighting and a smoke machine. A massive shout out to him for being such a generous guy. The final major hurdle to overcome was finding an actor to play the lead singer’s girlfriend. Ant suggest we get in touch with Olesja, an aspiring actress who was really keen to get involved. A last minute rush to sort props including a bucket and spade, fireworks, sand for the grave and additional locations kept us busy right up until the day of the shoot.
Finally after much stress and a lot of hard work the day of the shoot had arrived. To add to the stress we had to get everything filmed for the video in one day, yikes. We were up nice and early to start filming all the outside elements at the first location but the weather was not behaving. With rain throwing a massive spanner in the works we put everything on hold and drove back to Scott’s to film the house scenes. Luckily, once we were done the rain had cleared so we headed back out to our first outdoor location. Seriously behind schedule things only got worse as it took way longer than planned to get the outside shots filmed but we got there in the end. We then raced back to Scott’s to film the SnorriCam shots in and around Woodhouse. A big thank you to Jakta from Tiger Wines for letting us film in his shop.
Next up, we jumped in the van and filmed the story elements driving down to The Fenton pub, our next major location. Filming at the pub went pretty smoothly and we made up some time but people were beginning to feel the burn so we headed back to Scott’s for a food break and quick power nap. Once everybody had eaten it was getting late and it was time to start prepping for the band performance in the van. We parked up in a back alley outside Scott’s, set the lighting up and we were ready to film the final sequence for the video. As it was about 11pm on Sunday night by this time we did not want to make loads of noise so the band had to play their instruments as quietly as possible so we did not wake up the neighbours. Not an easy task. We were finally finished around 1am just as the rain started falling again, it felt really good to call it a wrap and a real relief to have got everything done. It had been a long day, around 15 hours of filming. Everybody was wiped out but we had unbelievably done it and got everything filmed. It might have been rushed and panicked at times but everybody was really happy with what we had achieved.
The next couple of weeks were committed to post production which luckily went pretty smoothly. I showed various work in progress versions of the video to people for feedback and discovered that the story was not clear. A bit of a mini nightmare as the story was a key element to the video. The story was so straight forward in mind as I had been working on it for about a month but to first time viewers it was clear what was going on. This was probably the biggest lesson I learnt from the project, if you are telling a story you cannot be too obvious. Really hammer home each plot point so anyone can follow along. A mistake I will never make again. We organised a couple additional shots to be filmed with Gareth from the band as well as a few more shots with Olesja with the hopes of making a couple of the plot points a little more obvious. These additional shots really helped and ended up making the video way better. With the story now making sense I got to work on final polish, colour grading and then the final render of the video.
The band were super happy with the final outcome as was I but the project has left me with mixed emotions. I was happy with the final video but there were elements, the story in particular that I was not happy with. In hindsight we probably attempted too much considering the limited amount of time we had for planning but if you do not aim big you might as well go home. As I am writing this blog we are half way through filming the third and final music video for Japanese Fighting Fish from their album Swimming with Piranhas. Needless to say it does not have a story and is much more of a visual treat for the eyes. Check us out on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates.
Having never visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park I was very excited about our trip to check out Kaws and his larger than life toy sculptures that are on show at the park until June.
Upon arrival I was blown away by the scenic views looking over the valley, Yorkshire at its finest. We were also pretty lucky with the weather as there were blue skies and fast moving clouds, perfect for hyperlapses. It was however very cold and after a couple of hours of taking photos both Chris and I were ready to warm up in the car with the heating on full blast.
Our visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park was short and sweet as we focusing on shooting hyperlapses of Kaws sculptures but I am very keen to return and explore everything the park has to offer very soon. Just waiting for another sunny day so I can experience the park at its best.
Back at the studio Chris and I got to work converting the RAW sequences into colour corrected JPG sequences so that we could start work on the edit. As it was a personal project I wanted to keep things moving quickly so kept the length of the video short which ensured the level of quality people are used to with Big Blue Whale videos whilst keeping the edit time down to only 1 day. For a quick personal project I am very happy with outcome. I learnt some important lessons whilst shooting and have some additional post production elements I want to add for even smoother hyperlapses to the next project.
If you have not visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park or seen Kaws truly amazing sculptures then I highly recommend that you do so sooner rather than later. You will not regret it!
Check out our brand new 2016 showreel. Make sure you read some of the teams personal highlights from the year below the video.
2015 was a great year for us as a creative team. We got the chance to work on some truly exciting projects and further established ourselves as a powerhouse of creativity, fresh thinking and great video content. Some 2015 highlights for us as a team were getting the chance to experience the madness of Boomtown Fair whilst filming our most ambitious hyperlapse video to date. Other highlights included the TV premiere of our music video for Japanese Fighting Fish and getting the chance to work in partnership with The Graffiti Life Company down in London filming them create amazing pieces of art for some awesome clients.
Chris’ Highlight of the Year
2015 was definitely about stepping up my game and saw me making a change in code from Canon to Sony. I’ve had the chance to work with some very interesting people in some great locations. Year highlight had to include shooting our hyperlapse video at Boomtown. At was always going to be an interesting place to work and it lived up to expectations. No matter which area of the festival i ended up in there was something there to of interest to shoot. Collaboration with performers and bands we have worked with in the past in a festival environment had to take 1st place in the job count last year for me.
Jim’s Highlight of the Year
The highlight of the year for me was getting the opportunity to direct and then edit Japanese Fighting Fish’s second music video with us. The journey from start to finish was certainly rocky with some awesome highs and some serious lows. At times I was so stressed that I just wanted to run away but by tackling these issues head on I have learnt more from this project this year than any other. Developing the concept into a fully realised music video pushed my visual story telling skills to the limit and I have learnt a lot of invaluable lessons about telling stories with film. I am really happy with the final video as our the band. Cannot wait to share it with the world!