I have fought off posting any clips of the Twilight Ballrooms safe for the trailer. However, this year marks the 20th anniversary of me starting this website and I couldn’t let it pass without doing something.
In 2015 I posted a clip of an opening scene from the movie. It was chiefly my first attempt at playing four characters at the same time and the technical challenges that involved. Well I’ve decided that given the script hasn’t changed, I will post the same scene again but from the finished film, so you can compare the two. The accents are still dreadful but YES it’s a first glimpse of the movie and the weird animated world of Wits End! Enjoy.
In the last post, we took a look at AI image generator Firefly by Adobe. Now it’s the turn of Stable Diffusion which can be used at clipdrop.co along with a host of other features and, unlike Firefly, is free to try. And in my opinion, it is superior to Firefly.
Judge for yourself. Below is the latest episode of the Twilight Ballrooms Movie Diary which starts with the prompt I gave it and the result it produced. I will add that all of these pics were also enlarged using Adobe Photoshop’s generative fill and I have added a Lumetri filter to make it really atmospheric.
And finally, a Happy 100th Birthday to the Big Dipper rollercoaster at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach. I took my family there last week and for my kids it was their first time on a rollercoaster. We also went for a cream tea dance at the Tower Ballrooms where we were taught the Charleston accompanied by, you guessed it, the Mighty Wurlitzer! Ah heaven! Thoroughly recommend it!
The year 2023 will go down in history as the year AI was released on the general public. Social media is already awash with people’s efforts. I’ve enjoyed ChatGPT (the GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer) and have jokingly called it my new friend. I’ve given it old essay questions from college and it’s churned out such impressive answers in seconds. I’ve also tried to baffle it with hard and surreal questions such as “Using Peppa Pig as a metaphor, explain string theory” or “Using follow-spotting as a simile, explain fascism!” And it’s answered everytime with erudition. With such “intelligence” there have been many media stories of scholars predicting the eventual destruction of our species because of AI, some suggest in as little as two years. Others have voiced concern about the job losses it could also lead to. But I digress.
This post is to showcase my latest efforts with Adobe Firefly. Currently in beta and therefore free (although I do subscribe to AdobeCC) I thought I’d check out it’s picture generator and why not try some Twilight Ballrooms ideas. So below is the result.
These are the pick of the crop. AI is still in its infancy and even with these images you can see some whopping errors. But they’re still impressive. And these haven’t been touched up with PhotoShop (even though I was desperate to). I very much wanted to present them as they were originally generated.
Each image has been generated through prompts given by me. For example, I’ve typed “An abandoned seaside resort in Britain. Closed down arcades and fish’n’chip shops and stalls. It’s dusk and stormy. Almost black and white with specks of colour” – I can then also add the styles, colour and tone, camera setup etc…
All creative AI still requires a prompt, clarification, focus and finesse. That’s the art bit. And for that reason I’m not convinced by those who feel threatened by it. All art requires the human touch. It’s merely the tools that are changing.
As for the Twilight project, I can’t see me swapping to AI to complete the project, but it is a great tool for inspiration, rather like a generative Pinterest. And would be amazing if you just wanted to create storyboards!
Detail is key to making something believable. Here you can see one of the many background buildings in Wits End. A closed down fish bar called The Golden Chip. And there’s a little story to this.
My family used to own a holiday chalet in Scratby (the original name for Wits End) in Norfolk. But my visits there were often with father, off season, so he could carry out repairs and decorate the chalet. I would often be left to my own devices and (this was roughly 1980 when this film is set) I’d wander off on my own and explore. Hence my love for closed down, off season seaside resorts. The weather was often hostile, the holiday facilities were often run down, shops were closed, many boarded up for the winter. I guess it was my own UK version of the Overlook Hotel. It was creepy, empty but at the same time exhilarating.
But unlike the Shining, my father didn’t turn into a psychotic axe murderer. My father was a quiet gentle man with a great, often dry, sense of humour. And at the end of the day, he would treat us to fish and chips which would be the highlight of my day. We’d buy them in Ormesby St Margaret which was a 10 minute car ride away. Despite it being called Ormesby Fish and Chips, my father would always refer to it as The Golden Chip.
I’m working on a big sweeping shot from the foyer of the Twilight through to the auditorium. It’s one of my biggest shots so far in one take and brings with it a variety of challenges and workarounds.
The biggest challenge involves the strain I put on my computer. The greater the strain, the longer the rendering, the longer it takes to complete. Good workarounds can not only radically reduce the time it takes, but it can also open up more possibilities and options in your post production workflow.
For example, the video below shows the shot I have in mind. At this stage I’m refining the movement of the camera shot as it pans around. This is easily done with keyframes – you do a start and end position and then tweek the journey in between making adjustments. However, seeing if it works is a challenge as the scene is so object heavy, its hard to get a smooth preview – it just jutters from frame to frame. One really needs to render it to see it at proper speed. Rendering in Wireframe is a much faster option.
I think when it comes to full rendering I shall use lots of object buffers and perhaps do two versions of the render, one of just the lobby and another just the auditorium. Stacking them together on After Effects will allow me to control the two rooms separately in post production – allowing for greater control on the final edit.
I ran into a problem trying to key out the greenscreen on a character who already had bits of green in their costume. There is actually a simple solution and I share it here on this, the latest episode of the Twilight Ballrooms Movie Diary!
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!
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.
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.
A demonstration on the wonders of stabilising footage from handheld cameras using motion tracking. Who needs a tripod on location when you’ve got a 4k phone and stabilisation software? This is taken from my jaunt to Blackpool, just before lockdown!
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!
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!