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.

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!

Robot Love animation – 2004

I’ve got hold of my digital archives, going back to somewhere around the turn of the millenium. Brace for Old Art, but for now, here’s a cute little animation, which I assume I did in mspaint.

Giffing about

I’ve recently become possessed by the urge to create GIFs – low-resolution, low overhead animated images that’ll usually play automatically in your browser. While I was fossil-hunting on the beach last weekend I used the ‘burst’ mode on my Sony Cybershot DSC-HX9V (a camera which I extremely highly recommend – includes a great macro mode, and can do most things in a very noob-friendly manner) to snap sequences of the waves on the shore, or over my fabulous wellies.

I used these as source to create a couple of quick gifs, but the result is very jerky, so I think I’ll try creating some from videos instead – more work, but hopefully much smoother and more realistic results. (Also I can actually ensure I get the timing right, instead of guessing vaguely!)

test-wave1

test-wave2b

At least now I know it’s not going to work I can delete all those nearly identical pictures and free up some space on my hard drive…

Crosses – Credit Sequence

One of my contributions to TortoiseButler’s entry into the Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Challenge 2013 was the closing credit sequence.

Our film was based on the following criteria:

Title: “Crosses”
Dialogue: “There’s no way of knowing I’m afraid. Only time will tell”
Prop: “A torch – A character shakes the torch, pulls it apart, and puts it back
together again. It still doesn’t work.”

We came up with a complex yet tight script involving time-travelling cops, the fight actors (including one untrained!) developed some kick-arse fight scenes, I knocked up some props and tattoos and we shot a beautiful, tense, cohesive film.

As with most creative products though, the ‘finishing’ is at least as much work as the creation. The second night of the 48 hours was spent packed into a tiny hostel room, where a truly stunning number of macbooks were put to work on the editing, graphic effects, scoring, sound design and grading of the film. Alongside them all, I was in the corner making 8 seconds worth of credits (Final version has an extra 4 seconds to credit the installation artists).

As our composer was creating the score live from Germany, the editors pulled together a rough cut to give him an idea of what we’d made. I snagged a copy of this, identified key moments from the narrative, and selected dynamic and interesting stills to represent them. Manually tracing the stills gave me silhouettes, with which I created a huge spread which the final animation explores, reflecting the journey of the film. It was great fun to apply what I know of storyboarding, composition and comic design to creating something dynamic, stylish and exciting.

Animation – CERN LHC Data journey

Not much shy of a year after I left, CERN released the animation I researched, scripted, storyboarded, and supervised production of. They’ve polished it up, slowed it down, added a little more text and more blocks in one spot, and made lots of the global stuff prettier, but it’s mostly there.

I was responsible for researching, interviewing, scripting, designing, storyboarding, and directing the animation, which was produced remotely by a 3D production studio in Spain.

If you want to find out about how LHC data is processed, check it out!

Science in Motion animation

As part of my Science Communication MSc, we were challenged to produce a ‘cultural product’ which explores some of the concepts from the first term’s lectures on the history of science and society and science and the media.

Our trio elected to use stop-motion to portray a ‘day in the life’ of a scientist who is crafting a scientific paper. Many ideas related to the creation of science are depicted; how many can you spot?

Created by Nils Hanwahr, Morag Hickman and David Robertson at Imperial College London.

Music credit: Overture by The Who.