It's hard

A short film about a kid trying to get his own back - funny and not too long, promise! Please watch and share, would mean a lot 

First attempt at digital painting, Mads Mikkelson

First attempt at digital painting, Mads Mikkelson

Brienne of Tarth, Digital Painting. 

Brienne of Tarth, Digital Painting. 

Location Shoot Evaluation

For my location shoot, I had proposed to use timelapses as a device to show the passage of time in my short film ‘Mugshot’, by integrating them with live-action footage using compositing techniques. Although I managed to shoot a multitude of timelapses, as you can see before, and get quite comfortable with producing HDR photographs to enhance them, I have found their placement in the film to be jarring - even as cutaways. 

The Quicktime video that I’ve handed in for this unit details  a rough cut of the film. I had hoped to integrate the timelapses during the ‘training’ montage, which are indicated by the empty areas of the video after these shots;




The idea was to further indicate that time was passing. I had also hoped to (if I had time) superimpose a cloud timelapse into the windows behind the subject. I feel now, however, that these timelapses being HDR produces a look that jars too much with the original footage.

This, I think, is down to a number of things. Firstly, the colours aren’t synonymous enough with the final grade. I could, of course, apply a grade on top of the timelapses - but having tried this, I found them to look a lot flatter and plainer that I had originally hoped for. Secondly, I feel that the ‘perfect’ exposure of both the sky and the land, though interesting, contradicts the exposure in the rest of the film - a lot of the shots are indoors, facing the windows you see in the shots above, where the inside is exposed well, but the exterior remains blown out. It looks strange to suddenly see video that’s almost too perfect when viewed in conjunction with these. Another issue is the location the timelapses are shot in. Although they’re (for the most part) shot in close proximity to the main location (a motorway underpass), they aren’t linked obviously enough for them to blend in with the rest of the video. 


I think the timelapses, as standalone pieces, are nice enough to look at though. The HDR has made the frames blend fairly seamlessly, as there’s little variation in light to speak of, and its added a richness to the colours - particularly in the sunrise and sunset shots. However, as I hadn’t planned on these being standalone pieces, I feel that their short length really detracts from what could have been a fairly interesting compilation of shots. If I were to do these timelapses again, I would consider making them a standalone product, and create a video montage containing a greater number of shots, all with a longer runtime. 

From a technical standpoint, I feel I set the camera up well for the last two shots. They’re still and stable, with very little shake or motion blur, and they feel a lot more believable than the earlier timelapses by the canal. I think I was right to aim and shoot at an ISO of 100 every time, as it allowed for a less grainy result when the HDR process was applied.

For a more challenging shoot, I’d like to try hyperlapsing in the future. This adds a 3 dimensionality to a timelapse by adding a pan or track. This is done by moving the camera at measured increments that marry the incremental pushing of the shutter. 

I think if I were to make timelapses for this video again, I would either shoot in a more appropriate location, in order for them to marry better with the film, or shoot a timelapse of the sky. I might also try avoiding HDR, in order to create a more natural look to them. 

Despite the timelapses not working for their original purpose, I do think that I’ve done well to recreate the photographs I analysed by Girolamo and Alan Fullmer. I feel that with practice, I’d be able to create an effective standalone timelapse-montage with the skills I’ve learnt thus far, and that it might be something to continue attempting. 

HDR Photographers

High Dynamic Range is an imaging process I’ve been interested for a while. As cutaways for my next film, I’d like to integrate some HDR timelapses into my timeline, and use them as a method of displaying the passage of time. 

Landscapes are often a good subject for interesting looking timelapses, so i’ve taken it upon myself to find a couple of HDR photographers using landscapes as still subjects. 


Girolamo (http://www.omalorig.com/) is a photographer specialising in HDR landscapes. 

The first photograph has been taken using a wide lens. The bracketed exposures have been set to capture the foreground, midground, and background, as well as the sky, perfectly. They have been blended together in such a way that it keeps the detail and colour in the sky and clouds, whilst maintaining the contrast and saturation in the foreground elements. The colours, though slightly warped and surreal, are quite beautiful, and it presents a visual feast for the eyes. There’s a lot more to look at here than there would be with a single exposure, and it makes for a more engaging piece of photography. 

The second photograph contains very little in the foreground - however, the blended exposures allow for both the sun and the clouds to be perfectly exposed, which would otherwise be impossible. This makes me think that HDR photography might be a good option for capturing time-lapses where the sun remains in frame for a long time. The processing has also left an incredibly rich and interesting colour set amongst the clouds and sky. It has also left the clouds slightly blurred, which adds a motion to the piece that might not be there otherwise. 

Alan Fullmer

Alan Fullmer uses HDR to a similar effect as Girolamo, but adds a certain manmade, urban element to his landscapes - with interesting and colourful results. 

In the first of these two photographs, Fullmer has used a wide-angle lens to capture the entirety of this abandoned train, as well as its surroundings. If this photograph had been taken with an exposure set only to the train, the sky would have been blown out. However, having blended his exposures, not only is the detail in the sky maintained, but the colours in the graffiti on the train are exaggerated. This enhances the contrast between the natural colours of the scrub, the blues of the sky, and the manmade hues of paint and iron, with beautiful results. 

The image below this shows how HDR can be used to good effect in a black and white photograph. All of the other examples show how blended exposures can be used to create quite surreal and punchy looks - this one, however, feels a lot more natural to the eye. In this photograph, HDR had been used only as a tool to add detail to the background. It doesn’t detract from the natural colouring of the subject, which results in a much subtler effect. There is in this photograph, however, some ‘haloing’ which gives the piece away as being HDR. This is a visual imperfection often seen in HDR photography, where areas of background around any given subject appear brighter than they would usually be. 


This research has led me to conclude that HDR photography might be a good way to shoot for timelapses, as it not only allows for the exposure of both sky and land in the same shot, but also boosts the saturation in a subject to create some very interesting results. Urbanised and man-made structures as a foreground piece might also be a good idea to add some interest to my timelapses, as well as moving clouds or sunset shots. 


I will be explaining the various techniques I’ve used to create the shots displayed below, and how best to utilise them when shooting on location. 

The following shots are from the short film I’m currently working on, ‘Mugshot’. (See submitted Quicktime) 

Focal Length

Focal length not only determines the wideness of any given shot: It also determines the intensity of perspective and the Depth of Field.

Wide Angle Shots

Wide angle lenses are incredibly useful, in a number of different situations. They make landscapes appear vast, allow you to shoot in tight spaces, and increase perspective to make things appear punchier, and at times, surreal. 


Pylon Shot

This shot was taken using a wide-angle lens. It has allowed me to not only capture the surrounding landscape, but also add foreground interest in the form of this character. This adds depth to the shot, which you wouldn’t be able to get from a longer focal length. Also, due to the nature of a wide focal length, the depth of field isn’t as shallow as it would be on a longer lens. This means that both the foreground and the background are in focus, so that neither one detracts attention from the other. I shot this using a 24mm lens, at infinity focus on a full-frame camera. 


Underpass - Lying on floor

This is another example of how a wide angle can be used to good effect. I shot it from a low angle in a relatively tight space - a motorway underpass. The wide angle has forced the perspective on the road, as well as the figures, which adds a certain interest to the scene. Again, the depth of field is deeper than it would be with a longer lens, allowing attention to be drawn onto both the figure in the foreground, as well as the back. This was shot at ISO 100, with a 24mm lens and a high F-stop. 

Close-Ups with Longer Focal Lengths

A longer lens makes for a tighter shot. This is useful when you wish to draw attention to a particular subject in close proximity. However, it is also useful for creating shots with a shallow depth of field. This means allows for one subjet to remain in focus, while its surroundings are blurred. 

However, in order to use this technique effectively, its important to understand how aperture affects depth of field. Its relatively simple really: The wider the aperture, the shallower the DOF. So, a shot taken with a 100mm lens at f2.0 will have a shallower depth of field than one taken with the same lens at f22. Sometimes getting a shallower depth of field on location can be hard, because you run the risk of overexposing the image with such a wide aperture. To combat this, Neutral Density filters can be used to stop down the light entering the lens. 



These two shots both use a relatively long lens (70mm) to give attention to the faces of two subjects. However, because the aperture has been applied differently to both shots, the shallow depth of field is a little more pronounced on the top image. For that image, I was able to open the aperture a little wider, as the subject was in shadow. The subject below, however, was in direct contact with the sun, so I had to use a narrower aperture in order to maintain detail in the background. This meant that the depth of field, here, isn’t quite as shallow as it could have been. 

How shutter speed affects action shots

Shutter speed refers to the length of time a camera shutter lies open when taking a photograph. This is an element to taking a photograph that can be manipulated to create different effects when shooting stills or video. 

Fast shutter speeds allow for clear shots unaffected by motion blur. They are useful for capturing moving subjects, like animals or people. However. this technique means that less light hits the sensor, resulting in dimmer shots. Wider apertures and high ISO are needed to combat this as a result, which can make it hard to produce a shot that it both clean and well lit.  Fast shutter speeds also allow for shooting without a tripod, as camera shake is reduced when taking a photograph, allowing a photographer to be more mobile when shooting. 

Slow shutter speeds leave the shutter open for longer, exposing the sensor to more light. This allows for brighter shots, but also increases motion blur. This technique is most useful when shooting landscapes or still life in dark conditions, but can used to stylistic effect when shooting motion or scenes after dark. 

In order to shoot effectively with a slow shutter, its vital to use a tripod, as the camera shaking will cause distortion on your photograph. To minimise the risk of this even further, use a cable release, or a timer, to allow you to take the photograph without pushing the shutter manually. This is often a cause of camera shake, even when shooting on a tripod. 



The two shots above are an example of how a long(ish) shutter speed allows for high-impact motion blur. I shot these both at a 50th of a second, which allowed for the subject (man) to remain fairly focused, and the smashing fruit blurred. 


The shot above was taken in pitch black - its an example of how long exposure can be used to good effect in night-time photography. This was taken by shooting a 30-second long exposure, at a relatively high aperture and low ISO to maintain quality, and a deeper DOF. I used a sturdy tripod in order to ensure it fell victim to as little camera shake as possible, and used an intervalometer as a cable release, so no camera shake was caused by me pressing the shutter. 

DVD Menu Analysis, Planning, and Production

As some research for my DVD menu, I’ve chosen to look at a Spike Jonze compilation Disk in order to get a better grasp of what elements I need to make an effective DVD menu. 


As the menu first opens up, the sound of a small animated character walking is heard, combined with the sound of scrawling as various note-like pieces of text fill the screen. A small, noodling guitar sound fades in to audibility, and as each button on the DVD appears, a small ‘clunk’ can be heard. These all work to help introduce the menu itself, as well as make the buttons more obviously available to the viewer. An exaggerated ‘click’ can also be heard as you press the various buttons on the menu, which add to its interactivity. The music is fairly dark and dissonant, hinting at the tone of Spike Jonze’s films and acting a way of audibly introducing an audience to his work. 



The graphics in the piece comprise of two elements: The foreground titles, and the background decoration. 

The foreground titles are clear, clean and very modern. Serif free typography makes the buttons more accessible and obvious to the viewer, and the use of colour contrasts with the desaturated background to help make the menu options jump out when they first appear. Another thing to note is that these foreground titles also follow a relatively strict colour scheme, that appears to represent the sky: Orange, Blue, and grey. 

The background, however, comprises of a wash of animated and scrawling text, along with an animated drawing of a letterbox. This adds interest to what would otherwise be a fairly plain background, and also aids in making the titles stand out. 


The animation in the menu is fairly minimalistic. It opens with the drawing of a small rubbish-bin, that soon sprouts legs and begins to walk about the screen. Before long, however, the animation ceases, and the character fades slightly nto the background. The Titles then drop down, sequentially, from the top of the screen, followed by scrawling notes that fill the background.

The choice to do this is more-than likely an attempt to reflect the slightly ‘sketchy’, on-edge feel to some of his cinema. (Being John Malkovic springs to mind) The desaturation, too, seems to be hinting at the darker themes that his films explore. It brings about a feeling of feverishness, not unlike what you might feel when watching Where The Wild Things Are. 

There is als a small animation that follows the mouse - a black bar pops up on which button the mouse is hovering over, to add clarity to your menu selection. There is, however, no further animation as you click any given button. The sub-menus all contain the same black bar to indicate your selection, and remain otherwise motionless. 


The DVD contains one main menu, that lets you navigate to either one of two sub-menus (Rarities and Documentaries), or straight to a video comprised of Credit and thanks. The sub-menus then go on to present you with a series of buttons, all linked to various films made by Spike Jonze. Its simplistic, 


The transitions between menus are a straight cut, which is efficient, if a little plain. This may have been a reflection to his indie stylings, which tend to be fairly budget restricted and fril-less. 


For my own DVD, I plan to construct a menu consisting of graphics and titles that reflect those in my showreel. The menu will have three options given to the viewer: 

1. Play Showreel: This will take the viewer directly to my showreel. 

2. Shorts: This will display a sub menu, giving the viewer access to a number of buttons that will take them to various shorts of mine. 

3. Contact Details: This will display a simple graphic, giving the viewer my contact details. 


This is a very simple diagram of how my DVD will work. Menu 1 is the home screen/title page. The three buttons lead to one of three different locations.

Button 1 leads to the showreel

Button 2 Leads to menu 2 (The ‘Short Films’ submenu) which will then lead to three different shorts in turn. 

Button 3 Leads Menu 3, the contact page. 

Where To Find Freelance Work

Working Freelance means working on short-term contracts that end when any given project has been completed. Although this means some financial insecurity, it does have its benefits; people employed in this way can be flexible with when and how they work, and can pick and choose the jobs they wish to do. 

Finding freelance work can be difficult, particularly in the creative and media sectors, but there are a few tools (particularly online) that can help in finding you work. LinkedIn is a website that allows you to build a working ‘profile’ that can then be viewed by potential employers. It allows you to showcase an online CV, and join groups specific to your area of employment, that advertise and notify you of any work opportunities that might be available. LinkedIn also provides you with a platform to maintain relationships with employers and colleagues, that might help to further your career later down the line. 

There are also websites geared towards particular sectors of freelance employment. ShootingPeople is an example of a film-specific website that helps find jobs and opportunities for freelance filmmakers. It lets you showcase your work in moving image, connect with other filmmakers, and notifies you when various film-related events and opportunities come to light. Doddle is another website that hopes to soon operate in a similar fashion, with an upcoming section to their website; ‘Doddle Jobs’.

More local alternatives can be found at http://www.bristolmedia.co.uk/ and http://www.creativebath.org/, both of which offer a more localised version of these national web services. 

Another way to find freelance work could be through 'Withoutabox', which is acts as an online showcase for your short films to be entered into festivals. Although its not as direct a route as Doddle, ShootingPeople or LinkedIn, festival success can present a lot of opportunities to the filmmakers involved, and help make some valuable working relationships. 

Lastly, and most important, is networking. Knowing people is something that can really help push a freelance career forward - if you do a job for someone, keep in contact. You never know if or when they might offer you more. If you do a good job, and they remember you well, they may  be inclined to recommend you to others. Unpaid internships and volunteer work, too, help make valuable contacts whilst letting them know that you’re both keen and reliable.