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So much to do, I’ve borrowed another computer,  one renders whilst I work on the other for the bit of rotoscoping I forgot!

76 hours and counting…


I’m at a point now where I am just about ready to import my animated frames and their alpha counterparts into after effects, it’s been somewhat of a slog and I’m still not there yet, but, I thought I would quickly just stop and look at what I had done.

so far,

1148 full combination vector artwork plus live video… done

380 alpha vector images…done

still to do 768 alpha

if I use my rough calculation of about 2 minutes per image, totalling 2296 separate images when all are exported, that totals to 4592 minutes…

= 76.5 hours…

wow, that’s an impressive time total… but as the title states, and counting…!

and that’s not including the 4 nights of filming… editing… and still trying to write some sort of a script…

first full rotoscope sequence

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After the short test I was so pleased with how it looked I wanted to get a full 30 second scene totally animated, concerns over whether it would work for a longer section were on my mind, considering the amount of time I would need to put into a full test, but I decided to put the time in as I have ideas of overlaying the digital ‘cell’ animation over separate and different sections of the film, so it should be worth it.

To start with I edited down the section I wanted in premiere pro, this ended up being a 36 second piece from the subway footage. Then I imported that edited section into Photoshop getting it to render every third frame as a separate layer resulting in 300 layers and to each and every layer I undertook the process below.

Stage 1 – layer control

first of all I added a new layer above the layer I wanted to illustrate, so that I can use my digital cell with and without it’s original background, working in a  non-destructive process.


Stage 2 – vector path



Then on this empty layer using the vector pen tool I trace around the area I want to fill with colour, obviously starting with the full outline shape, which will be a lighter colour.



then the inner shadow areas, which are to be filled with a  darker colour. I work with a wacom tablet and pen for this quite precise result and like the clean edges it gives you, you have to make definite decisions about where the light and dark will fall on your digital graphic. I have used this style of vector drawing for years, usually in Illustrator to great effect.

Stage 3 – shade and light fill



Then you select all elements in the path that you want to appear as shadows, make it active in the path tool toolbox and fill it in using your darker colour and the paint bucket tool.



then select the lighter area, make it active, which will switch the areas and fill the outline shape with your lighter colour, occasionally small dart areas didn’t fill and would need to be done with a little more accuracy, but it’s easy to spot.



Stage 4 – save out



Set photoshop up to save as into the same folder, to minimise clicks, and save the ‘cell’ layer with it’s film layer as a single jpeg, bearing in mind the finished number would need to be 3 or 4 digits so start at 001, or 0001, as this will help keep them in the right order when you bring the images into your video editing program to put back together as moving images.

Stage 5 – repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat



I found on average it was taking me 20 minutes to complete this whole process for 10 frames and over the week I managed to fit in the 10 hours it required to digitally ‘cell’ animate my 36 seconds of footage.

I did split the photoshop file into 2 sets of 150 (original layers) at one point as with over 400 layers and 2.3Gb is was making my computer slow a little…

But, once they were all transformed into jpegs, I opened up After Effects and imported the 300 files, selected them all and right clicked to create new comp from selection ( this is where the numbering comes into its own) and after a bit of trial and error with how I selected them all (it did at first run backwards 😦 ) they came in perfectly all on seperate layers and for the right duration and this is how it came out…

During the long hours spent over my wacom I came across a piece of music by Bonobo called a beginning, an ending and it had the right mood, so I placed it over the video to give more of a feel to the piece.


Rotoscoping – a first test in Photoshop, After Effects

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After the crit yesterday I wanted to dedicate a morning to see how far I could get with an illustrative styled rotoscoping technique.


This is the still I started with and after setting up all of my shortcuts to minimise clicks, it took me 2 minutes a frame, from start to finish, and here is the result.

I am really pleased with how this looks, love the style and have realised that I have been visualising figurative work with this technique – flat colours/hard outlines – since I was last at college and found great success with painting and drawing, life drawing in particluar.


Progress – ASU1

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Three differing styles that I wanted to try for my short film piece, shown to the other guys in the group and we all agree that the ‘wipe’ isn’t working well at all, very poor, but the second two, the triptych could work and the overlay does work…

Then what I wanted to do was quickly put together a rotoscope style and favouring illustrator I mocked this up to show how I would like it all to look, rotoscoping isn’t easy, but it feels like a really nice direction for me to take as this project is all about the way it looks for me, so here’s the first still… only another 900 to go!!


ASU shooting recce #1

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So decided to stop going round and round with the words and just to go and physically shoot some of the locations I really want to use, to see what happens, expected and unexpected!

First obstacle was to set up my steadicam rig, I bought a second hand merlin steadicam last year and found it tricky to set up with my camera and lens, just due to the sheer weight of the thing, my nikon + pro lens weighed in at 4.5lbs, which you obviously have to offset with the weights on the steadicam itself, I got some lovely footage after nearly 3 hours of fiddling, but my arm/elbow was absolutely buggered! all for maybe a minute of test footage. In the end I had used my 50mm prime lens to make the whole rig lighter, but of course this meant I was unable to record very wide shots… With this in mind I decided to get hold of a friends Nikon D3100 and just go with it’s kit lens, making the camera rig just under 2lbs – a good start – and again 2 hours of set up time to get it close, it was still way too wobbly, but I had to get out there and shoot, so although not as stable as it could have been, I decided to go with it and refine the steadicam later.

Steadicam settings used – mid=1 finish weight, end= 1 start, 1 mid and 1 finish weight, stage hole ‘N’ -3 mark for plate, 5 turns on the handle, fully opened levers.

Second obstacle, I needed a body! fortunately one of my friends was happy to help, although slightly surprised when he asked who we were filming and I said you!

Third obstacle, the weather, fingers crossed it wasn’t raining and we got lucky with that although it was absolutely freezing!

I was very happy to set off with just a good friend and my small photographic rig, this meant on the whole we could be very discrete with our filming and easily moved or relocated if we had too many problems. I only wanted to use the available lighting…

As we walked into the city, my friend suggested a couple of places he liked, so we went and had a look, unfortunately it was way too dark and this was when I had my first unforeseen problem, on this little Nikon, I couldn’t manually control the video settings, so although I could take a fair photo in the streetlit footpath, I couldn’t get the same results when filming… very frustrating that the camera had limited night video settings… I would have to hope that the other locations were brighter…

Also as the steadicam wasn’t perfectly balanced I would have to be super careful not to make anyone viewing the footage sea-sick! it’s a real art to make it smooth, one that I had almost got to grips with by the end of the recce shoot.

The next locations, the alley off of St Stephens was way too dark , but  the church in chapelfield and the market were good and bright, so the shots there are better, the market shots I am particularly pleased with, even though a couple of inquisitive teens on bikes, did make retakes necessary.

The subway underpass was also amply lit and steadicam wasn’t as steady as it could be, but the footage is on the whole good.

The final shot of the little lane off or Newmarket Street was where disaster struck though, the freezing cold had absolutely zapped the battery and I managed to get a shot ready to take, when it completely died and I couldn’t film a thing in my favourite looking location… Undeterred though I decided to use my phone’s video camera, just to test out shots etc, because I didn’t want to waste any more time and we were both there and the lighting was almost perfect, the cobbles were shiny from earlier rain and the lights looked as good as on my photo recce.

So here are the best shots quickly cut together with 3 of the smaller parts slowed down.

I hadn’t thought about sound at all, but I’m really intrigued with the slowed down sound that accompanies the shadow shots, I really like the way that has turned out, the effect it gives is perfect for the feeling of the film…

It is really frustrating that the dslr battery died on the last shots as my mobile phone couldn’t keep a still focus, but the way it looks up to then is how I imagined it in my head.

Looking at the footage now I know I need to refilm with a camera where I can control the video settings more, try and get a spare battery for it, balance the steadicam better, use more close up shots and I think this can be achieved by using my pro dslr with the 50mm lens on it, it will give tighter shots overall, like in the market scene, which is my favourite of all captured footage so far.

I also realise watching it back that I can’t just have someone walking in front of the camera to tell the story so an accidental bit of footage I recorded whilst walking through the underpass shows me that perhaps switching viewpoints to the character’s point of view could be useful in telling the story of the search…

Next steps, thinking about sound, introducing those extra pov’s,  finalising the script for the story and a full reshoot… not much at all then :0

ASU script #2


Still struggling with the story itself, next revision


Interior of a bedroom, it’s dark and we can see the moon/streetlights coming in through the thin curtains, a mobile phone starts to ring in the foreground, lighting up the bedside table and we see a shape in the bed.

Roused by the noise, a hand reaches out from the covers ( towards us) and grabs the phone, the figure in the bed puts it to his ear but then turns his back to us and has it on his left ear.

We cannot hear what is being said, but it’s a male voice, urgent, slightly angry and the figure in the bed sits up, away from us and we ….. where? (close up on his mouth, lit from the light of the screen, his face is stubbly)

The phone call ends abruptly with our character punching the red end call button (close up on the button on the phone and the screen turning off).

He looks out of the curtains and we see him from behind, his hair is straggly and he rubs his hand through it, and over his face in a pulling down motion, and then flicks up his hood.

We hear him say… I can’t do this again…. Shaking his head

As he sits there, he reaches down and – you assume – he pulls on his boots. Then he stands and exits.

We see boots on the stairs in near darkness and  they quickly go downstairs, as they exit shot we hold and hear the door slam and then footsteps going away as we are left with the sound of a clock ticking, and starting to chime.

Cut to outside and we see our hooded figure going down a lit alley/street away from us.


A new visual storyboard for the story here…Ideas


so this has changed direction slightly, it still keeps the darkness but is now trying to be more literal in the search. Is the last place they go to find themselves, where a tragic accident happens, in the end do we see a carer talking aside from a pulled back shot, saying ” he does this every night” and we realise he is compulsive about his search but to complete his therapy they let him follow the last steps in the hope it aids his mental recovery….

maybe the phone ringing isn’t what it appears, perhaps it’s an alarm that he sets every night and the reveal could be where we see the phone is not taking a call but he is turning off the alarm, which could be simply called Danny.

Liam didn’t like the phone idea, suggesting it could be a ghostly call from beyond the grave and we hear a disembodied voice talking to our character, is this his conscience getting him up and out every night, on a cycle of spiraling madness…

An internalised conversation, ending up with him by the river, head in hands in tears, then we see a newspaper cutting of a headline ‘ tragic accident by the river ‘ hinting at a fatal accident for our characters friend… maybe he’s a ghost…

It still comes down to why is he looking, all the different alternatives for a search, based on a slight mental problem, an unhingement… perhaps you could see fragments pointing to a hidden story, or that explain more than we hear. The sound could play a major role in hinting at more to the story than just a search, more background.

as they say on the TV… to be continued…

ASU – draft storyboard/script #1

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After taking the photos for my storyboard I needed to get down to writing a script, something I’ve never attempted before, I work in a very visual way and words don’t come easy.

Using my line… just one more place to look Danny… I started to write, going through many iterations I arrived at my first attempt at a script using the line from our soundwalk as my driver for inspiration.


Fade up from black,

You can hear someone saying  “come on, come on, come on…”

Almost as if they are talking to themselves, muttering, under their breath,

We see them from over the shoulder, they are wearing a hoodie (which they tug at) and we cannot see all of their face…

We pull out to a slightly different angle and we find ourselves in the middle of the norwich market, it’s night-time and the floor and surfaces are slightly shiny from recent rain. Is our character with someone else, or is that a shadow just a few paces in front of them.

We can see them from behind, a mid shot from the waist up.

They have an urgency to their walk, with purpose, they are cutting straight through the middle row, then they turn at the last minute and we cut to a wider shot of them leaving the market to go up to the forum steps.

They get to just outside the forum and have a moment when you think they are going in, but they hesitate… we can almost see two figures in the darkened reflection of the large glass windows/door…our main character turns round – apparently by themselves again – and head down to sit on the steps… we hear “what are we doing, what are we doing…” muttering under his breath again.

As they sit with their head in their hands, shaking it from side to side, they get out their rollies and light the end of an already smoked roll up, we see their eyes lit up from the lighter…

Cut to a side shot, we see a plume of exhaled smoke, before they get up decisively and walk away from us, they go slowly out of focus but we see their reflection/shadow moving on the ground…

We are now in close up of him on the phone, the light from the screen illuminates the stubble on his chin he’s talking rapidly, “so whose side are you on then…?” we see he is angry, we can’t hear the response but we see the call gets ended abruptly as he punches the call end button.

“Can’t get anybody to help you, can you…” it looks like he is talking to someone else, but as we pull back it’s his reflection he’s talking to in one of the windows with mannequins in on St Stephens street­. His mannerisms are skittish, slightly off centre for the norm… He’s agitated, he’s annoyed and he turns away from his own reflected self in disgust…

Underpass at the top of St Stephens, someone else is with our main character, they look very similar in build and height… one says to the other, “but do you wanna change, do you wanna?”  They are walking away from us around the bend and out of shot.

Walking down the lit alleyway (off of Newmarket Rd)

You know I don’t want to

We’ve got to find

Final shot is outside of a house and again there are two of them, from behind we see them looking up at a large dark house their breaths pluming in the cold air… there’s just one more place to look Danny… as they move forward the two figures judder and become one

It’s about returning home, finding oneself… duality of personality…

I applied this to my images in a very rough and ready manner, so that when our group met we had something – or the start of something – tangible to discuss….

film ideas pages film ideas pages2(link to pdf of the film ideas )

Feedback from the session was mixed, most liked the images, really evocative but the script is still very much unfinished.

Liam advised me to have a go at writing the script like a story, marking motivation for the dialogue rather than pinpoint script writing.

Other advice from the group, would need tighter shots on the reflections, make the images more abstract to add confusion of where you are, write the direction of the camera… tight shots to begin with increasing to wider shots at the end, look at a cyclical idea to represent a mental cycle in madness. Had I thought about a poem over the top of the visuals to move it along if I’m really struggling with the script itself… this I thought was rather ironic as it’s what I wanted to have a real stab it in this module…

It still comes back to why is he looking…

The other guys also recommended a programme called Celtix – script writing software to format the text into a nice script layout, which I will be looking at.

ASU Photographic recce

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This module asks us to create an original 1-3 minute piece of moving image.
after my initial storyboard (see last post) I went out on a photographic recce to check out different locations that I had seen and wanted to photograph at night.

The image to the left is the only found image, and it depicts how I see the main character in my story… Hooded, faceless, could be anyone.





DSC_0116The location that I wanted to look at the most was the market, I could see how the camera would  follow the character through the space, quite a tight shot, over the shoulder as he moves quickly through the rows.

When I got to the market I was surprised at how bright it is… It looks lovely… but well lit up, the rows seemed vast when empty of the people which is how I normally saw it.




On the way to my next location – the subway – I walked through the churchyard at chapelfield and as I walked past the floodlight my shadow was cast up onto the church wall, it looked great and I added it to my shot list.

The next place was the subway at  the top of st stephens, again more lit up than I remember but I like the curved descent into the subway itself with the shiny tiles and the shadows that you get as you walk through the space.





DSC_0133As I travelled down Newmarket Rd, I saw this row of houses with a bright light shining from one and my interest was piqued, as I approached carefully, I didn’t want to be staring into someones house, I could see that it was a business, it had many brass plaques either side of the portico.

It is a beautiful entrance with the majestic pillars and lovely wide door with it’s lead glass windows and I stepped closer although the lights outside were glaring, internally it seemed to be almost pitch black, creating an impromptu mirror and as I stood there I could see my reflection, and I imagined this shot being the last shot in my story, where the hooded figure finally sees themselves and starts to remember who he was, this is a doctors practice that he used to visit when he was getting help perhaps…



My last location shot is the visually stunning little road off of Newmarket road where the lamps are old fashioned style all the way down one side with a cobbled floor and high brick walls to either side, I was with a friend and asked him to walk down the lane a small distance and just pause whilst I got my last shot. This shot totally encapsulates the feeling I want for this short film.





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Our tutor Liam asked us to take a soundwalk around 6 locations in Norwich, all suggested by our fellow students,

1. Primark

2. St gregorys church

3. the car park behind rainbow wholefoods

4. Norwich Cathedral

5. to sit a bus stop

6. walk through a crowd…

and as we visited each one to listen, to eavesdrop on the conversations going on around us.

I found this really tricky and after almost an hour I decided just to write anything I heard down, it seemed either I wasn’t catching what people had said, or I was just missing it…

I set off for the Cathedral after trying to go through a crowd and not catching  a bean and found that this location gave me a chance to ‘get into’ listening and in the shop I was able to look interested in the things they were selling whilst noting down the visitors comments as they made their own purchases, this got me off to a good start and then I felt more confident as I travelled to some of the other places, I didn’t get to them all, but the one that stood out for me, or has fired my imagination, is almost one of the last overheard sentences before I returned to College, it was just as I was passing by the market – quite slowly – and two guys went past at a rapid rate, one of them announcing to the other in an urgetnt tone “There’s just one more place to try Danny…” it sounded slightly desperate, the urgency in his voice stuck in my head and got me wondering, had they lost something, were they just looking for something, what could it be…

I haven’t been inspired to write a script – the point of this exercise – but I have had visions of what different scenes might look like, made up of silhouettes and reflections, not quite the whole picture as we try that ‘one last place to look’.

ideasP1 ideasP2



Sit on this one with your legs dangling down – (a photographer to a magician sitting in an alcove)


That’s a bit spooky


I don’t think I want to read that, no, not today

I’m always looking for ideas for my partner for Christmas

I always seem to be visiting that machine… more cash, more cash… it’s too easy isn’t it

He’s seen a sculpture of a scantily clad woman in the Garden centre, he keeps saying it’s only for the summer house

Those boys last week didn’t want the blue balls, they only wanted the pink and purple ones,

DSC_0035 DSC_0036 DSC_0037 

At the bus stop—————————————————–

I’ll just check before we get on the bus

I never want to sit next to the window

Do they bus them in?

I think it was Albert – I don’t know

You want to get on first or they’ll make you stand up

In Primark————————————————————-

Where are the womens onsies, ooh no where are the mens

Can you ask for a medium in that one please

They’re horrible aren’t they, do you agree with me… oh yeah, they had loads more before

Has she seen your size has she or is she getting it for you

Yeah he’ll be well chuffed when we get to the um.. what are we doing..


En route———————————————————————–

Just one more place to look Danny

I was gone for two weeks – officially it was all going well until I spoke to my Grandma

Yeah, but do you wanna change.. do you wanna 

So whose side are you on then, you know after the fall out

If I saw him coming I’d go the other way

Some like um.. outdoor shop

Go on you must have right muscly arms from pushing that – in reference to a pushchair

It only lasts like a day

When they were in court the other day he said it was better because he had to focus on what he was doing

Okay then I’ll meet you at the Argos bus stop

I’m not worried about because I’ve got five watches anyway

It’s all neon

Can’t get anybody to help you

Did you watch emmerdale? No, I can watch it on catchup

We’ll use satnav or we’ll end up in Nottingham

We don’t have to wear a hat…

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