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.

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!

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.

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!

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!

Stop press…

Richard Leigh has persuaded “Malcolm Marvelle – Master of Mystery and the lovely Rita” to return to Jermyn Street Theatre this November 2010. Ticket information will soon be available on their website.
It’s a show not to be missed. But don’t just take my word for it. Click the video here to get a brief glimpse of what others have thought of past shows in the “Twilight Ballrooms Guestbook”