Lighting watercolours for photograpy

It’s always great borrowing someone else’s fancy kit; a friend was visiting with some £160 LED light boxes so I thought I’d have a go with using this technique for capturing watercolours or other drawings done on textured paper – something that I’ve struggled with in the past, especially when trying to create icons for websites. I was absolutely delighted with the results, now I just need to find some more reasonably-priced lights that will achieve the same results.

BBC R&D project at the Commonwealth Games – video overlay

BBC R&D have a cool project called IP Studio, which is looking to ditch the direct wiring of live sound and video equipment, and allow programmes to be produced using all the flexibility the internet has to offer. The technology was showcased using a super-high-definition broadcast of coverage from the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, via a sound desk and presenter in London.

This short video of interviews with IP Studio team members was produced by Alia Sheikh, and shows in their own words why they think that this is an important and exciting project.

I was tasked with enhancing the impact and clarity of key points. Once I received a cut of the interviews, I had a few days to transcribe the contents, plan and produce animated overlays. I created a distillation of the interviewees’ words, then manipulating the layout and timing with which they appeared to echo the speakers visually. With the addition of a few basic animated diagrams, the overlay was added to an Ultra High Definition version of the interviews, and become one of the first pieces to be broadcast at this resolution.

It was fantastic project to work on – self-contained, with very tight deadlines, but incorporating elements of technical communications, layout and animation design. I was delighted to get great feedback from the folks at the BBC involved.

Watch the video over on the BBC R&D blog here.

Hot Air Balloon Quilts

A pair of patchwork and appliquéd quilts, made for a much-loved pair of twins two years ago. The suggested theme was hot air balloons, to match the nursery. I initially designed them as double-sided (day and night), but even after that, I ended up with a far bigger bite than I’d expected to chew through… My first quilt, and not sure I’d make another, although admittedly many of the problems stemmed from the sheer scale and making it up as I went along!

I actually photo-documented the process in some detail for once, thanks to having an assistant, so you can see how I got through it.

BBC Props – Flower of Life

A recent short-notice commission from BBC R&D Production labs – props for a sci-fi short, intended to showcase new technology. The props are a set of broken McGuffins, a light-up palm reading device and a mysterious button, themed around a ‘tree of life’ and ‘flower of life’ design. I haven’t seen the film yet, but they were pretty excited – the writer wanted to take the McGuffins home!

Credits Sequence – Message from Mumbai

For this year’s film challenge, our entry depicts the last contact between two sisters, about to be separated for 30 years as a rogue exoplanet diverts one’s home planet’s orbital trajectory.  Say that five times fast.

In a film challenge, I usually have 20 seconds to cram the credits into, tacked on the end of our 3-5 minute film.  With actors, a team of about 10 and lots people to thank, it’s tricky to fit everything in and make it readable.  I had to drop dramatic impact and the loneliness of space for a dense but elegant arrangement, but I’m pretty pleased with the result. If I’d had more time, I would animate the planets along their orbital paths, and give each ‘page’ solo time on screen, as well as using a better blur which moves across the screen, rather than streaming everything upwards.

Film challenge – Message from Mumbai

Tortoisebutler’s entry into this year’s Sci-Fi London 48 hour film-making challenge.

The given mandatory criteria:
Title – Message from Mumbai
Prop – A handful of ball bearings is passed from one character’s hand to another
Line of dialogue – “These things come full circle. Why do you think it’s called a revolution?”

We shot up in Manchester this year, camping out on an empty floor of a converted cotton mill – oodles of space, not much in the way of power sockets or chairs, but it was a fantastic weekend and great to work with the team again.

The film stepped away from our usual time travel and action staples, working instead with a single location, a ‘talking heads’ focus, and working to build a world and a mood. I’m too close to it to assess it clearly, but although watching it felt slow and un-dramatic, I think that the feelings of love, loss and hope we were looking for came across, without resorting to manufactured conflict or blame. The actresses did a beautiful job of conveying brittle, forced cheerfulness over a crushing inevitability.

I helped out on the writing for the first time, including creating more ‘Science Bits’ at the start to help it make sense, although it was too late to tweak the rest to match, alas… I learned a lot, and it’s conquered a lot of my long-seated ‘I can’t come up with stories’ blind spot.  The experience also made me more aware of how much a story turns into a graphic novel in my head, so next time I’d like to add storyboards, if I can!

I also aided Ms Costume and did the credits sequence, which I love so much I’m going to do a separate post on them.

Oh, and one of our actresses turned out to be an operatically trained singer, so I wrote some lyrics to match our composer’s original score (in about two minutes flat). Alas we only had time to record three lines (hold on ’till the credits to hear it!) but there’s talk of turning it into a proper song!

One day, one day…

PS. Hammocks are absolutely fantastic, I’m absolutely taking one next time!