Friday, 26 December 2008

Creating a video for "Toys" by Frost* (Part 10)

Happy Christmas everyone!

Ok, it was yesterday I know but I've only just got around to finishing off the tale of the video!

Well, I did it! I'm not sure how but I managed to put a disk containing my finished video into Jem's hand at The Peel! The amazing thing was how it coame together in the last 3 or 4 hours of the Saturday morning.

When I got in from work on the Friday night I was looking at having to do everything from the end of the piano part of the solo to the end of the track - something like 45 seconds of action. This was extremely unlikely given the previous rate of about 12 seconds a night. I started slowly too, seemingly taking forever to get the "crowd" characters (jumping people in black Frost* hoodies) to move correctly and not break each other. Then I had to do it all again viewed from the side.

In the end, I was amazed at how well these scenes worked. The impression of a gig-lit venue full of bodies bouncing ended up working very well, despite the very shallow scene depth.

Then I had to come up with the final chorus' "ride". I had planned this to be a rocket-powered thing, like a jet-pack but there was just no time to invent and tweak anything that complex.

I was also still stuck for how to get the character from the piano solo to somewhere "above" the gig. In the end I just used the Tardis again (meaning to re-film the piano bit showing our hero jumping into the Tardis at the end of his run but that never happened either) allowing the viewer to just assume the last bit of the Tardis flight had happened.

The ride ended up being a hot air balloon (the e-Go! ride was originally going to be an airship/blimp but that was not immediate enough so this spare idea was still hanging around waiting to be used). Inventing a Hot Air Balloon company call "Forum Air" I rigged it so the gondola would become detached shortly after take-off, providing the last "go down now, around now" bit and dumping our hero at the gig. This needed to be close to night time but making it dark enough for night made it too dark to see so I added red/green navigation lights to the gondola - to help the viewer see the motion.

Rigging the flight took far longer than I wanted and it was past 4am when I got this recorded. The transition between flight and landding outside the gig is a bit off but I was past caring.

I had planned for our hero to arrive on the stage just too late, just as the lights go out and the band have left the stage (squeal of feedback followed by silence, crying etc.). However, there was no way I would have time to set this up in time so I decided that our hero had had enough bad luck and that he would be seen happily on my original test stage with the balloon character band members.

Into the last hour of filming time I sorted the stage out and realised that it looked a bit boring, with the balloon band members just sitting there so I got our here to run around and "pull" the balloon strings of all 5 of them which made them sway side-to-side gently - at least this looked a bit more interesting.

So only the Christmas message scene to go - this was done in 20 minutes and turned out just good enough.

Back on the PC, I pushed the last few clips around and put in the closing caption. I also added the opening caption. Then I exported the whole movie for the first time - which took a what seemed like forever. All that was left was to upload it to YouTube (which took even longer and failed with "unknown" errors twice!).

At long last, the video was there on YouTube and looked....well, a bit rough really. Quite a bit of the small text was unreadable and some other details were motion-blurred beyond legibility but, despite that, it actually worked!

Mrs Pedro had here first proper look at the whole thing and her reaction was exactly what I was hoping for. So I burned some DVD copies and printed inlays to go with the discs - had a shower and got in the car to drive down to The Peel.

Mission accomplished!

PS Reaction to the video has been fantastic, so many people saying really nice things about it - better than I could have hoped for really.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Creating a video for "Toys" by Frost* (Part 9)

I have no idea if that is (or will ever be) a real word but I found myself using it a lot yesterday.
I guess it's intended as an amalgamation of "Shocking" and "Wonky" and thus it perfectly describes the crazy set-up I've been using to get my video from the Playstation3 to the PC.
It sounded so simple really; record the PS3 output using the DVD recorder. Put the DVD-RW into the PC and import the VOB files into MoviePlus. Edit, arrange and serve on a bed of roughly chopped storyline with a well seasoned reference or two. What could be easier?
Well, all of it really….
Problem 1 - Pilot error
I'm having to "perform" every scene "live", as it were, in a game where things can (and therefore do) go wrong - frequently.
Stand in the wrong place, forget to look scared/happy/angry at the right moment, go the wrong way, miss the jump, get squashed by falling objects….
Problem 2 - Slow technology….and more pilot error
Each of these mis-fires triggers a cycle of :-
- stopping the DVD recorder (waiting for that to be ready to record again). My Philips DVD Recorder isn't very fast at updating the disk and the remote control is, well, "shonky".
- re-cueing the mp3 player (cos I'm timing my actions to the music). My old iPod is a little slow to respond sometimes, so getting to the screen to "jog" fwd or bkwd is quite frustrating
- re-starting the "level" in LBP - having corrected anything that was was working
- hitting record on the DVD and play on the iPod and re-performing
Rinse and Repeat….until the DVD is stuffed with very similar, un-named clips - mostly worthless.
Problem 3 - The world is a dangerous place - particularly when designed by "erroneous pilots" like me!
Each "play" through of my "scenes" reveals a different and usually unexpected way for things to go wrong, not to fit, be too slow or too fast, be written too small to survive the resolution crush on the way to YouTube….and so on….
Problem 4 - My Windows PC….need I say more?
Well, I will. I've been using a single DVD-RW to transfer the files to the PC. So I put the disk in the first time and it correctly read the files.
I took the disk out, erased it in the DVD recorder, and put some new files on it.
I put it back in the PC….and it showed me the first set of files again….not the new ones!
It took me a while to work out what was wrong but if I put a different DVD in the PC first, read that, then put my DVD-RW with the new files in,it read the new files ok! Coupled with this, reading any disk on a PC takes longer when you are waiting for it.
…and so on.
So what progress?
Well, I've now only got the solo section and the last chorus to do….so I'm into the last 3rd.
I have most of it "built" in LittleBigPlanet too. Just need to get it set up and then "film" it.
I do have to go back and refilm the Intro and Waterfall sections (because I got the resolution wrong when importing them) but that *should* be fairly quick.
There are other bits that I think could be better but, hey, I'm not going to Cannes with it!
Then I just need to glue the bits together, export the finished movie, check it over and shove it up the YouTube!
Jem has said he's just too madly busy to give it the once over so I'll just have to loose it on the world and hope he gets to see it at some point.
Then I shall sleep…on purpose this time!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Creating a video for "Toys" by Frost* (Part 8)

Well, three days later and there has been some good last!

I managed to avoid the lure of the all-nighter and got in three reasonable days of forward motion. I've broken the song down into about 12 - 15 sections and I managed to complete about 3 sections this (long) weekend. The second bit of the solo (man that took some setting up!) and the "I'm an accident, a secret, I'll bother you for years" section are done and decorated. I also got the first and some of the second part of the final chorus done too. The final chorus is different from the previous two because the "story" has to get to the end - rather than tracking the lyrics so much. The first chorus is probably the biggest bit yet to be started - I've left it because it is just a (p)re-hash of what I've already done for the second chorus - should be simple, right?

So I've got about 10 sections just about "done" now, with only some tarting up required. Hopefully I can complete the missing sections in the week, ready for dress rehearsals and the beginning of princple photography (posh name for me hit record, stop delete, record, stop, etc. on the DVD recorder) next weekend. I've taken that Monday off too so hopefully on Tuesday or Wednesday I can get it under Jem's nose for "sign-off" as it were. Then hopefully the Frost*iverse will get to see it....and collectively say; "what the -?" :o)

Friday, 5 December 2008

Creating a video for "Toys" by Frost* (Part 7)

Hell's teeth! I fell asleep AGAIN!!

Woke up at 5am again and fiddled around for a bit but that's another evening gone. It's December 5th today and The Peel gig is two weeks tomorrow.....Waaaah!

Right, I've booked Monday off work so I can hopefully get a whole shed-load done this weekend. I really need to get 9 or 10 of the 11 sections done by Tuesday if I'm going to stand a chance of getting it polished up ready to get Jem's approval prior to the gig weekend.

Hmm...that's a big ask...actually, no....ASK....that is....

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Creating a video for "Toys" by Frost* (Part 6)

After the relative success of the weekend (getting almost a whole chorus complete) I have all but ground to a halt again.... :o( It's not a lack of ideas or lack of interest....I just can't stay awake!!

I'm in a definite cycle of productive "all-nighter" followed by two or three "useless" evenings.

This is extremely frustrating!

Last night (well, this morning when I woke up at 5am) I managed to get my concept for the first bridge (the "Ego come, ego go" one) to work in very simple block form.
It's a bit surreal, but then the whole thing is a lot surreal really so I guess it fits!

I've been spending a fair amount of time on the Frost* forum recently too - hopefully trying to help it to get it over a recent bumpy patch - looking good now I think.

So, no excuses not to get on with it tonight then.........(yawn)

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Creating a video for "Toys" by Frost* (Part 5)

Eeek...December 1st
The chorus I've been working on is about 80% done which isn't bad for the time I've been able to spend on it. This will be the second chorus in the song just before John Mitchell's guitar solo. The first chorus should be a little easier to do now that I have a feel for the scale and timing of it. I've also worked out a few important things in the process of doing the chorus that will help the whole thing hang together a little better, hopefully.
I've been wrestling with the original Playstation2 "EyeToy" camera to get graphics and stuff into the game. It turns out that the PS3 version (the "Playstation Eye") has four times the resolution and a faster capture rate! Wish I had known this sooner...ho hum. Too late to redo stuff now....I think I'll ask Santa for it though.
Anyway, time to grab some kip now, off to work in 5 hours or so.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Creating a video for "Toys" by Frost* (Part 4)

Friday night was a non-starter, zonked out on the sofa at about 10pm and opened one eye at just before 8am this morning. Curse this feeble human carcass....

Suitably recharged, I turned my attention to trying to get one of the choruses (chori?) worked out. It's only taken me all day but I have the first line and a half of it in place now. It's waaay too long though and the chopping of it will not be easy without losing some of the point of it....hmm, good job the innuendometer is away getting a good seeing to....

Anyway, only two more weekends between now and The Peel, my self-imposed deadline. I could do with one of my rare spurts of inspiration around about now.
*screws eyes tight shut, Hiro style....nothing happens.... ¦o(

Friday, 28 November 2008

Creating a video for "Toys" by Frost* (Part 3)

Last night was slightly better in terms of progress....but as the above image of one of London's Graffiti Snails suggests, it's not too rapid.

The solo section is now looking quite a bit better, particularly with the lighting closer to what I was intending - "he" is still not tracking the melody of the solo very well but in the time available it may just have to do.
"Wasted" a fair amount of time producing some printed items that turned out to contain too much detail to survive the import process (D'Oh!). They'll have to be re-done a different way or binned for a much simpler version. I've got "fall-back" options for most of the scenes yet to be rigged and I still have the option of resorting to my "balloon-band-live" set-up for some cut scenes if all else fails.
The intro is pretty much sorted although one or two audio bits either from the EIMA DVD or elsewhere might fit nicely. I'm having to tack on a bit because the actual track is straight-in. Anyone know good filter/EQ settings to mimic that transistor radio effect - things are coming out a bit too phone-line at the moment.
Pacing versus detail is probably the biggest hurdle to be overcome - largely because I've never attempted anything like this before. I know that "less is more" and all that in many cases, but bland is always bland and I'm hoping to get enough detail into every bit to reward at least a second viewing.
It could all still come crashing down though. I guess everyone has those "what-am-I-doing?-this-is-rubbish" moments from time-to-time when trying to create something - and this process is very drawn-out....compared to, say, bunging a few one-liners at a forum every now and again.
I begin to wonder how comedy scriptwriters ever put anything out - they must get bored with their stuff sometimes and begin to doubt that anyone will laugh at it.
Just got to buckle down and get it all done - plenty of time for editorial decisions when there is something that half hangs together....

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Creating a video for "Toys" by Frost* (Part 2.1)

Converting the video files seems to make them more usable so that's good. Just too knackered to do anything else constructive last night....that's not so good. :o(

Must try so much harder tonight....

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Creating a video for "Toys" by Frost* (Part 2)

Well, to get this little blog up-to-date with progress so far. I started all this on the November 14th so I've been at it for about 12 days now. In that time I've had ups and downs in terms of progress - mostly positive but time is going to be the killer here.

As usual, the big mistake is telling anyone that you are trying to do something - I sent some incoherent ramblings to Jem and, while I know he's been mad busy, I suspect the lack of response was down to a major dose of "WTF is this guy on about??". Silly Pedro.

Anyway, the "story" for want of a better term, is pretty much set now. It's only changed half-a-dozen times or so!
I can "see" what I want to happen in 10 out of the 11 "scenes" and, as of last night, Scene#1 is complete. That means the set, props and mechanics are all done and saved and I can "perform" exactly what I need to record whenever I want. 3 or 4 of the other scenes are about half done - so I'm getting there, slowly. I just need to stop "re-doing" things to make them "a bit better" - that kind of thing should deffo wait for the end of the process...if there's time.

The technical ins and outs of getting the video clips onto the PC for editing is beginning to tax the little bubble of candy-floss I call a brain.

My "signal path" (if you like) is to record the PS3 output to DVD+RW load the clips from there into Serif's MoviePlus. I've only had a couple of goes so far and it seems to be a minefield of formats, resolutions, pixel shapes(!), codecs, and other cobblers designed to shackle the creative spirit firmly to the deck.

The other pain is that the PC really "chugs" when it is trying to work with data from the DVD+RW. It's a fairly recent Quad core 2.4Ghz beast so I'd have thought it would be better.
In the past, when I've edited clips together from my crummy point and shoot camera - it's worked really well so maybe it’s a format or sheer size issue?
I'm going to try converting from the DVD "VOB" format to either MOV or MPG format tonight to see if that operates any better without losing too much detail.

Too much to little time.... be continued....

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Creating a video for "Toys" by Frost* (Part 1)

Some time ago, Jem Godfrey (the genius behind Frost*) put a call out for video makers to make a video to accompany his new song "Toys" from their excellent new CD "Experiments In Mass Appeal". At the time I thought, "I wish I could say I could do that but I don't have the tools or the skills" and thought no more about it.
Then I got the game "Little Big Planet" on the Sony Playstation 3....and suddenly, I had the tools and the skills!
The concept behind the game is brilliant, you play the levels supplied (basically a very slightly 3D platform running-and-jumping-etc game) and in doing so you collect the bits the designers used to make those levels. Then you can use those bits to make your own levels, upload them to the web where other players play your levels and rate them while you play other people's levels, and so on.
At least, that's what it is meant to be used for....however from the moment I created my first cardboard cube in the level designer, the doorway to the universe of video production suddenly swung open before me.
Using the tools provided I found I could create just about anything I could imagine within a few minutes of picking up the controller. If you have the Playstation camera you can capture any image and turn it into a "sticker" that you can slap on to anything you create. This give the chance to create signs, labels, photos or just about anything you like.

So I've turned my thoughts towards Jem's video request. After a couple of test videos (posted on YouTube) I realised I could actually produce something worthwhile so I have started the mammoth task of constructing 3 minutes and 8 seconds of loosely connected twaddle to sit nicely with the lyrics of the song.

I have it roughly planned out, or "storyboarded" is the better term I guess. Now I just have to get it all done. I've set a target of having it done ready to hand a DVD copy to Jem at The Peel gig on Dec 20th. Hopefully it should be on YouTube at about the same time.

Just got to get the picture quality limitations sorted out (first few trials have revealed that some of my text and other details get lost in the YouTube compression) and then build and shoot it all.

Who needs sleep, eh? :o) be continued...

Saturday, 3 May 2008

The Perils of Familiarity

Events this week have damaged my faith in human nature...

I've learned a big lesson this week...and a very painful one it is too. Spending so much time in the virtual company of others can lead you to imagine that people actually like you, largely because you can easily allow yourself to like them - even though they don't know you and you actually don't know anything about them in real life.

When you think you are in the company of people who like you, you relax and feel easier about speaking - so you post in almost a "conversational" way. This can be tricky without so many of the cues you get when having a real conversation (expression, tone of voice, gestures, etc.)

Similarly when you think you know someone you change how you talk to, or about them and you might even begin to take liberties with them; joking with them or about them and, in doing so, testing the limits of their tolerance without really knowing if you are crossing a line.
The feedback you get on-line is very limited; with "smileys" used a lot to add additional meaning to written words, which in themselves can often be read in various ways.

Another aspect of this is how other people view that feedback - because in the same way that the author has to interpret the feedback, other people apply their own intepretation to the feedback too. This can lead to wildly divergent opinions on the nature of an author and their posts.

So, when some people misinterpret some things you have posted in a big way, one of the ways you might get to find out is via a private message. In fact, unless someone has the stones to contact you about it you might be blissfully unaware of it all forever.

One can never claim total innocence in such a situation because the original posts are, of course, open to misinterpretation - no matter how well written they are. Once a misunderstanding has occurred, however, a lot depends on whether or not those who have reached the wrong conclusion are prepared to be receptive to an alternative intepretation.

Unfortunately, pointing out what you see as the misunderstandings may have precisely zero effect on their position - you are judged purely on the ropey evidence of two-dimensional feedback. The more you try to explain, the worse things can get and you can go from just misunderstood to misunderstood and annoying. In the end it can become a definite case of "their way or the highway" so, in the end all you can do (if you want to stick around and try to rebuild the illusion of being liked) is give in and apologise.

After such a run-in, one can never be as free as one was and this may be a good thing in disuguise...after all, letting one's guard down when there are people so willing to think the worst is probably not a wise thing to do.

It's still a shame though...