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.

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.

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!

Sad day for Eastbourne

© Jeff & Brian taken from Wikimedia Commons

I visited Eastbourne for a photoshoot back in 2011 – for the Twilight Ballrooms project. I took many photos including many of the historic and famous Victorian pier.
Sadly the amusement arcade caught fire yesterday and completely gutted the first section of the pier. Many have said that it’s a relief the fire only took 30% of the pier but it will put the entire pier out of action for a long time and this includes many small businesses. It will also be a concern to many that, as has been the case with piers like the West Pier in Brighton, that follow up disasters can occur as the pier is effectively unmanned in the following months. Fingers crossed this doesn’t happen.

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!

First ever make up test

The lead character in this movie will be played by yours truly naturally. Have taken time to start creating the character in the flesh and this included a trip yesterday to Charles Fox make up in Covent Garden. I was dreading the visit, knowing nothing about makeup. But the staff could not have been more helpful. I bought a moustache and have just tried it on. Here’s a quick vid. Have also darkened the eyes to give a jaded cynical look to the character. The moustache requires special makeup glue. I was surprised how strong and flexible it is. To take it off you apply special thinner. The whole lot came to about £30. But I think it’s essential the character has a moustache because it helps him look creepy, slimy and manipulative.

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.

Pre-production photo shoot


Had a marvellous few days in Eastbourne. Fought off the temptation to spend my time at tea dances and instead headed off across the South Downs taking in Beachy Head and a fab National Trust hamlet called Birling Gap which, for me, is the nearest thing in real life to Wits End I’ve seen so far.
The Downs were excellent, though you are reminded of it’s links with suicide (3rd highest suicide rate in the world). I met one of the chaplains, a group of volunteers who patrol that spot looking for lonely quiet individuals and offering to chat! Thought it best not to mention Wits End!
Now it’s back to the drawing board as I try and use the footage and photos I’ve taken to augment the project.

Latest from Wits End

Pre-production on the Twilight project has now taken half a year and may take another year or so at this rate. It’s slow but I’m learning so much. However, I am going to have to take some shortcuts, especially with the drawing, which ain’t necessarily a bad thing. Have found a new website called http://www.archive3d.net/ which has a huge repository of models and shapes which will help me in leaps and bounds. And they’re all royalty free and free to use commercially, which means I can use and adapt them for the set in my film.

Thanks to this I have made excellent progress drawing the managers office in the Twilight (complete with rehearsal piano). I had already made great progress with the auditorium and stage (including the Wits End Mighty Wurlitzer), Mrs Kepelwicks Village Store, The Severed Arms and the front gates. I still have corridors, fire-escapes and the main entrance/box-office to do and no doubt other bits and pieces which I won’t go into now. Once that’s all finished there will be fine touching, painting and compositing to do, not to mention experimenting with the greenscreen and finding the look and feel of the film before I return to the script.

Looking forward to watching the LIVE show of The Twilight Ballrooms  – I will be there on 7th August. Good luck to all those involved. The image of the exterior of the Ballrooms (above) wot I drew, appears on the poster of the live show! Yay!

On a downside, I’ve decided to loose the URL www.alifeofbrian.co.uk which finishes today. But don’t despair Brian fans (either of you) as the film will still be viewable on this site!

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.

If anyone can…..

Today was a bit of a Red Letter Day for Tranquility Base Presents in general. After months of research and general umming and erring, I finally bought a new video camera. However, no ordinary camera. You maybe surprised to learn that I actually bought a DSLR – something that I’ve seen other enthusiasts do of late, even though I will primarily be using it for video filming. Yes, I chose the Canon 550d or if you live in the States, aka The Rebel T2i!

A Rebel T2i without a cause

So why a DSLR. Well, for the same price as it’s camcorder equivalent, you get more manual control over important aspects such as exposure and focus, not to mention great depth of field. For the Twilight project I needed a camera that would respond well to greenscreen so exposure control was a plus. And don’t forget the ability to swap lenses too allowing extra features such as wide angle shots, great, detailed close ups, zoom without digital zoom pixelling and heaps more which I will, no doubt, discover as I learn to use it! All that and a great selection of formats to record video in – NTSC & PAL in 24p,25p,30p,50p and 60p, from standard to Full HD. Indeed, by most accounts and reviews on the Internet, Canon is the best for Video on DSLR. Just look at the numerous examples on YouTube and you’ll see why – others just aren’t good enough. And why have almost good when you want Red One perfect….well almost!

Everyone will have different needs when it comes to filming. I found this old post last January on the brilliant Video Co-Pilot website. Read it if you’d like a well written summary of your options.

There are naturally downsides – it’s polycarbonate body makes it a little vulnerable to any accident that may happen as well as susceptible to weather if used outdoors. But hey, that’s nothing when you consider its potential – and that’s precisely what I want to consider in the next month or so. No doubt, loads of demos and experiments heading this blogs way…. so bite me or humour me! Either way get ready, the Twilight Ballrooms is coming!

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!

Draft complete

Well, the Twilight script has now completed it’s first draft and is being re-written and tweaked as we speak. Am now exploring the feasibility of various things I would like to achieve in the film and that may take several months. I feel it is vital to tackle however – it will determine not only what I can achieve in the film but may very well determine the whole look and feel of the film.

My plans are to take the computer graphics a step further and make my set from them. It is after all much cheaper than building a set, and you can be more adventurous too as you’re not limited to space and budget. My first efforts in that direction this past fortnight has been drawing the local pub where some of the films scenes take place.

And here is the first draft…no doubt it’ll change a lot down the line.

You can see already that the whole thing isn’t going to look naturalistic, there is inevitably a drawn theme to it. But that’s no bad thing. My thoughts are for doing a similar thing to the characters.

The difficulty will be getting the actors inserted into the set. Will post my tests on this blog later no doubt.  Also, graphics like this takes a while to render (so have had to order more RAM – which may take 2 months to arrive, no thanks to Apple) And there is so much more I have to learn about rendering with decent light (Global Illumination, Caustics and Ambient Occlusion to name just a few) Oh, so much to do! I’m in Geek heaven again!

In the meantime, if anyone wants to give me money to buy a good camera (£700-£1,400) or some decent lighting lamps (£300) feel free. Cos I’m skint! (More on my search for those later in this blog too)

…and the lovely Rita!

Richard Leigh’s production of the live show wot I wrote “The Twilight Ballrooms” had a successful run at Jermyn Street last month and there is more to come in 2011. Michelle Roberts who plays what’s left of the “Roger McGuffin Holiday Dancers” took some great photos. These will be appearing on the Twilight Ballrooms website in due course. Meanwhile I was able to use one of the photos to create this demo poster.

 

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!