Psycho The Clown is official

As you know, the Twilight Ballrooms film has been a labour of love for me for the last 10 years and will continue to be so for many years to come as I’m only half way through. The reason it takes so long is because I am doing everything from writing, acting, directing, scoring, grading, compositing, 3d art, editing etc… this list goes on.

However there are one or two bits in the project which are not me. Buster Cristo’s car comes from a royalty free 3d object online repository. The sweet wrappers used in Mrs Kepelwicks shop (which I don’t think are in view anyway) came from a lovely fella called Jason Liebig (who collects sweet wrapper images on Flickr) and who gave me permission to use them. And this week I got kind permission from JP Pirie. Users of Snapchat may well have used his masks on their snapchat pics. It was one of his masks, Clown O Freaky, that I used (along with my face of course) to create the posters of Psycho The Clown. Not only did he give me his permission but even had a quick butchers at the website and was really encouraging with his comments. So, many many thanks JP Pirie!

Wits End Archive

This unique archive footage taken in 1979 shows the dilapidated state of Wits End. The footage was kindly donated to us by the Tour Guide of the closed Twilight Ballrooms.

Of course Wits End is fictitious. And any sharp eyed seaside fan would realise straight away that it’s Blackpool. And naturally it wasn’t filmed in 1979 but over 40 years later. Effects to degenerate it include saturation reduction, augmented green and red channels, white noise, dust and specks (created using fractal noise and random seed at 25p/s). And not to forget the fantastic Video Copilot Twitch plugin (the only plugin that WAS used mind) plus various other tweeks here and there. Weird, I used to dream of having a good HD camera 20 years ago and here I am with great footage degenerating it. Funny ol’ world.

Planet textures

Hope to publish soon a montage of planets I’ve been working on with my son. But I thought I’d share any easy tip today for making your planet look unique. Go to Google maps and, in satellite view, screenshot an area of terrain. The one shown below here was around China!

In the layers panel you can deselect the labels giving you a clean image.

Now the only drawback of using this as a texture is the poles won’t be seamless and you’ll see the join. But the easiest way to solve this is to just not show those sides of your sphere when you do your composite. Then using After Effects, make the image black and white and then using levels tweak the image to something as shown below. This will become your bump map.

This will be a desert planet so no need for glossiness or reflection. And this is the result!

Stay tuned for the montage coming soon. Still have to do the music for it too!

Synthwave Art

Wikipedia says “Synthwave (also called outrun, retrowave, or futuresynth) is an electronic music microgenre that is based predominately on the music associated with action, science-fiction, and horror film soundtracks of the 1980s. Other influences are drawn from that decade’s art and video games.”

So, think Tron meets Bladerunner. The colours are usually neon lit or based on old computer graphics. There is quite a nostalgic sometimes melancholic quality about these graphics. Themes usually promise adventure and reward in a brave new electronic world whilst using quite basic shapes and perspectives. The accompanying music is almost always synthesiser with artists like Vangelis, Tangerine Dream and Jean Michelle Jarre. Indeed I listened to the entire Equinoxe album by JMJ recently (listen to Part 5). For electronic escapism it simply can’t be beat.

I hope to try and compose some original tracks in the future of this style. But in the meantime I’ve used a two minute excerpt from an apt song by Pet Shop Boys called “This Used To Be The Future” – a great song featuring Human League’s Phil Oakey and vocals from BOTH Pet Shop Boys. The song was never released as a single so I’ve created an unofficial video using a montage of some of my Synthwave Art clips. Enjoy.

Moving clouds tutorial

This is the first movie diary entry where I actually share a good tip in post production. And it’s an effect I use a lot in the Twilight Ballrooms movie. Parallax with a 2d photo. Making a static pic of clouds come to life with a good 3d optical illusion. And its simple. CC Slant.

I do mumble a bit when I don’t have a script so I hope this isn’t too dull an entry, but if you’re a PostProd nerd like me I think you’ll love it.

When baking goes wrong

We are currently in Week 8 of the Covid 19 lockdown and on a more optimistic note, I’ve made about three years worth of progress in that time on the edit. But it’s not without it’s trials and tribulations. Here below we see the Box Office I drew a good 7 years ago. I’m now at the point where I need to use the model for some shots and am tidying things up. One of the tools I’ve been using recently to speed up modelling was importing from C4D into Element 3d – the excellent plugin from Video Copilot – which can handle basic 3d models much faster in After Effects than C4d and is excellent for constructing the final composite of the shot you wish to use.

But sometimes it goes awry. And when it does, it can go almost surreally awry as seen below. The top image is how it should look and the bottom is how it looks using C4D’s bake feature.

I’ll take this point to also give a shout out to two very useful free plugins for C4D – SteadyBake was very useful for exporting my 3d Fuse/Mixamo characters from C4D to After Effects. Also worth a mention is DropToFloor plugin which does exactly what it says on the tin – levels selected polygons/models to ground zero so to speak – a big timesaver and essential for avoiding glitches in later import/exports of your model.

Virtual studio

With both kids at school I’ve recently got my mornings back, which has meant that I’ve been able to have some time for myself and indeed the project. And when they went away for a week during the Summer holidays, I was also able to get some filming done. Currently I spend my precious free time working on the pub scenes in the film.

Working with a virtual set has many benefits. It’s cheaper which given my zero budget is always good. And the pressure to shoot on location and get everything right first time is also eliminated. A virtual set allows you to take your time to experiment and play around when it comes to camera positions and angles.

The Severed Arms virtual set

You can take your time getting the lighting right, take down walls if your camera angle requires it, take multiple retakes if necessary, takes care of props and continuity and so on. And, as I discovered, you can rebuild the set as can be seen here with the entrance door reset between the two pews opposite the bar.

Orientation has changed too. The Twilight was originally positioned outside the left windows but this too has been rejigged and now appears over Mundesley’s shoulder at the right windows, making it more haunting and menacing for him as they appear over his shoulder (he is sat on the pew on the far right by the toilets) I think I will also add a porch with side entrance to cover the entrance door in the pub.

For the edit I have files dynamically linked between After Effects and Premiere Pro. I am still developing a good workflow for both with much scope for improvement, but more of that in a future post.

The Tripods

The Tripods is a cult BBC sci-fi classic from the mid-80’s, a Satuday teatime tv trilogy which sadly got the boot after series 2. I, like many, was gutted and years later I’m still not quite over it. In fact only the cancellation of Channel 4’s Utopia has equalled the feeling. So as a kind of therapy I’ve recreated the opening titles using the brilliant original theme music by Ken Freeman

Old door to Ballrooms

I found the old front door of the old Twilight model today. Question is, should I incorporate it into the New Twilight on the pier or is it not in keeping and too ornate.
I’m stumped cos I quite like it. The original was not my drawing btw but from a royalty free library and then tweaked by me and placed in situ with the rest of the Ballrooms.
The clumpy stairs are definitely me though 🙂

More exterior shots

The history and evolution of the Twilight Ballrooms concept. From a house shaped theatre perched on top of a crumbling cliff to its final incarnation, a crumbling variety hall on a pier in Wits End.

This video will show the real life venue that inspired it – a venue that sadly burnt down almost 100 years ago!

POSTSCRIPT: This week, the end of Colwyn Bay pier collapsed into the sea. Eerily similar to the story. Full story here

Four Men in a Pub – Twilight Movie Diary

Since becoming a dad, the Twilight Ballrooms project has ground to a halt. That’s parenthood, there’s just no time to engage in the work required. So to sate your appetite and in a rare entry for the Twilight Ballrooms’ Movie Diary these days, I’ve decided to release this rough clip of an experiment I did a while back with a genuine scene from the film. The acting is rough, the cuts are crude but it was fun to explore the green screen environment (the set is CGI by me). It also explored the feasibility of playing all the parts myself – if I can brush up on the accents that is! (which, if you hadn’t noticed are English, Irish and Scottish for the pub regulars and American for Buster Cristo) This would certainly help save money as I can’t afford to pay anyone being a zero budget project, nor do I wish to exploit anyone’s talent for zero pay.

Also on a practical note, it would be easier for reshots and dubs! When I did A Life Of Brian (my first half hour project) my friends all worked for free. It was their 30th birthday present to me. However I only had them for a few days and in the proceeding months, during the edit, I was frustrated when I found I needed a link line recording or a clip redoing. I remember having to edit a conversation together from two recordings I’d recorded in different places and revisiting the location with my partner to shoot more clips. All of course without the actors. So this project, given its virtual environment, I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that life would be easier and more flexible if I just play all the parts myself. Well, not ALL the parts, but more on that anon!

What if…?

On-Pier-Rough3Have entertained the notion recently that the Twilight would look like a pavilion and it and the Rubicon rollercoaster, essential parts of the film, would be on a rotting pier rather than on the edge of a cliff. Radical I know. To help illustrate this I’ve done a rough mock up of what I mean. The Rubicon is at the back of the pier with the end part missing as per accident in 1973. The pavilion is a basic 3d model I’m working on based on the original pavilion at Victoria Pier in Colwyn Bay which itself was destroyed by fire in 1922 (the actual pier still stands but sadly has fallen into ruin). The pier structure used in this composite is a photo I took of the pleasure pier at Eastbourne. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Let me know what you think and whether the new look Twilight could be the way forward. Is it spooky or dangerous enough? Does it make you want to know it’s story, especially the collapsed roller coaster at the end? Feel free to add comments below. More composites to come!

Twilight Movie Diary – E05

Recently got into a new site called Pinterest. I found the app version and downloaded to me iPad. Now I’m hooked. It allows to pin most (more or less) pictures on the internet into a folder on Pinterest. So if, you’re doing some compositing on FOG (see below) you can collect a folder of other peoples images to inspire you. Just inspire mind, no stealing! And I was inspired, though it’s your decision whether I actually got a decent foggy composite, rather than just a bleached effect!

Time Flies!

Anyone who doesn’t know, my flat is undergoing extensive repairs since a flood last November… and yes, it’s STILL going on. So I’ve been quite preoccupied with that on what feels like a full-time basis. I’ve also been doing lots of web-design favours for friends. So what I’m saying is basically it’s been a while since I last blogged. But before you get the violin out…no don’t… there have been some exciting stuff going on too. Like I’ve purchased a Zoom H4N for sound recording…more experiments from that anon…stay tuned viewers. Also a NAS drive, more or less my very own 3TB cloud, though it’s video streaming leaves a lot to be desired thanks to Seagates badly designed app. However, I’m not disheartened as knowing the geek community it won’t be long before someone releases a better one than Seagates miserable effort.

Anyhoo, here’s a video clip. Pretty basic….

…except that that was originally just a photo!

The flies are created using the png on the left with a particle system, whilst the clouds are used moving masking and a simple skew. Skew is better than simply moving the cloud layer as it allows the clouds at the top (and therefore nearer) to move quicker than the clouds at the bottom (the ones further away nearer the horizon) A simple technique yet very effective. Considered adding a lens flare but thought it might be overkill. Sometimes simple is best.

New dates for The Twilight Ballrooms (LIVE)

Whilst the movie project is called The Twilight Ballrooms, there is also a LIVE show with the same name. This is also written by me but is completely different storyline from the film which is set in 1980. The LIVE show is set in present day and is presented by the Ballrooms’ resident magicians Malcolm Marvelle – Master of Mystery and the lovely Rita! Other characters include The Butler James and The Roger McGuffin Holiday Dancers.

Originally called “Malcolm Marvelle Master Of Mystery and the lovely Rita”, it will be at the Curtains Up Theatre, Barons Court for the first fortnight of August 2011 at 8:30pm. More information including links to buy tickets can be found at www.falseimpressions.co.uk – The show which features live magic is produced by Richard Leigh. To get a flavour of what it’s like visit www.thetwilightballrooms.co.uk

Here is just some of the show’s posters that are appearing around the pub theatre.

Vanishing Point

Experimented today with something called “Vanishing Point”. There is much you can do with this Photoshop filter which helps you edit a 2d photo in a 3d environment. One of the cool things is when you export it to After Effects. (Check out this tutorial from Andrew Kramer) By moving the virtual camera in the import you get this. If edited right it can look like a perfect faked dolly/crane shot. This one is just rough, but remember, the original is just a flat 2D photo. Can’t wait to try some more test out.

The Devil’s in the detail

Have completed this 3d model as part of the local village store. The sweet wrapper images were a real bonus and are courtesy of Jason Liebig from Flickr! Many thanks Jason.

The actual model may well end up as a blur in the background, but that would still be the case if I were dressing a real set. At least this way I don’t have to Flambar everything!

Panarup!

So the last few weeks have been a mixture of different Twilight related projects. Lots of 3d drawing, notably the top of the Twilight tower which has now been added to the Ballrooms. I have also been designing numerous posters from the Twilight’s history. I did something similar to decorate the set when we took the Twilight’s live show to Edinburgh in ’06.  However, these new ones are far more superior, even if I do blow my own trumpet. The new posters not only appear in the film but are also needed for the new live show this August 2011. Indeed much of the current pre-production is dictated by Richard Leigh’s deadlines for set building for this show. It’s been great fun thinking up old variety act names (“The Wimple Sisters – There’s Nun like’em”). It’s also started making the Twilight come alive.
Today, to try something completely different, I’ve been working on manipulating 2d images to make a 3d aerial pan. Here is the result of my experiment. (Very rough, you can even see the edges of each photo, but you get the general idea)

Great tip – if you use the advanced search bar in Flickr you can choose pics that have a Creative Commons License, some even for commercial use! (IF IN DOUBT – ALWAYS ASK THE OWNER). Some of the pics in these shots were CCL but I hope to use original shots once I get my new DSLR. More of that anon!

Softbox lighting

2 x 5500K 85W 5000lm pure white daylight bulb

Bought 2x85W softbox lights and stands to use with my green screen from Amazon. There is a slight problem with fluorescent flicker but at the moment I’m putting that down to having a cheapo camera. It’s not too much of a problem at the moment anyhow as you can see in this demo below. The only faff at the moment is having to assemble and then dismantle all the equipment  – you do need a lot of space for green screening, particularly because you don’t want shadow hitting the green, nor do you want green reflected onto the subject. Things should get a little easier once I get a camera with a wide angle lens, something my current cheapo camera lacks.

This clip marks my first official visit to Wits End where the film is set. As you can see, service at the pub is not great!

Greyscale Gorilla & C4 Cafe

“I am the gorilla!”

A blog worthy of mention, Greyscale Gorilla This one covers all my favourite subjects on Post Production, namely After Effects, Cinema 4d, Photoshop and others. Some great video tutorials (video tutorials are always the best) and a competition called the 5 Second Project which is very entertaining, check out the superb entries, inspiring stuff. All this done by a fella called Nick Campbell (he is the gorilla) from Chicago, USA. Nice one Nick!

As I explore the demo of Cinema 4d even more, I have subscribed to c4dcafe.com – who have some excellent tutorials too.  However it took me 3 attempts to get my subscription accepted, (you can’t view anything until you have subscribed which is annoying) and once you’ve completed their rather interrogative questionnaire, they hint heavily for donations. I hope some day they take a leaf out of other sites more accessible walk-in setups and deal with their funding issues by advertising or selling their own products, such as my favourite site Video Copilot or indeed Greyscale Gorilla! Another brownie point for them!

Blowin in the Wind

Had a little learn and play with the Daylight System in 3ds-Max today. Made a little weathervane from scratch to render in it that I imagine would probably sit well aloft the Twilight Ballrooms main tower. Maybe we’ll see this shot again someday in such a context, though hopefully less plain looking (Come on, I quit Art when I was 12 years old. That’s what happens when your homework is pointlessly sticking bits of dry pasta to cardboard!)

And I’m excited about seeing Gareth Edwards movie Monsters soon. Saw an interview with him on the Culture Show the other day. The guy is doing exactly what I want to be doing (if only I had the money). He’s living the dream! And I want his big flat screen TV too. From what I’ve seen he’s really committed to the immense amount of work that is involved whilst coming up with some very imaginative stuff – though I’m pretty sure it’ll look low budget compared to my attempt here at a weathervane. Now they ARE scary!

Red Giant Software

Not only a great selection of post-production software and add-ons, the website also has a great selection of videos and tutorials on how to get the best out of these products. From Grading software with fabulous presets, to lens flares, text effects (including the ubiquitous Matrix generator), vintage effects, state of the art video noise reduction, ray effects, keying software, oh to name just a few!
But Red Giant’s “Pièce de Résistance” is its Trapcode Collection of particle generators, most notably “Particular”. This effect comes in many forms and categories and Red Giant have been wise to subdivide its possibilities into various different versions of software. Also worthy of mention, and one of my personal favourites, was “Psunami” which is a sea generator like no other. Incredibly realistic, you can also have huge control over its environment including camera angles giving you the power to make some amazing effects which would only otherwise be possible shooting from a helicopter. In can take a while to render but its still significantly faster than doing it on 3d modelling software, and the wire mesh preview gives almost realtime rendering which is ideal.
So check out the website, the software, Red Giant TV and give their demos a try. It’s not so much whether you’ll buy something because you will, but more that you find the perfect solution from its vast array of offerings.