Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Of Shark and Man update and a new partnership!

Screencap #1

I've been meaning to update you on progress for a while now but have been so busy actually doing the things I want to update you on, I haven't had the chance!

Last year I set a target of finishing the first edit for "Of Shark and Man" by November/December dependent upon whether I managed to secure the funding for full post production but now, as we near March, I can see that even had I had the support of an assistant editor, graphics people, full edit suite, sound stage etc, the whole shebang, then that would still have been unreasonably optimistic! As it transpired however, I have thus far ended up doing every aspect of post production on my own, not on my own with the help of a few volunteers here and there, but completely on my own. Add to that the two projects I was asked to conceptualise and complete before Christmas and the ongoing efforts to get Behind Blue Glass released (almost there now, the delay was thanks to either Correos or Royal Mail, who kindly lost the master copy of the finished, subtitled film) and you can probably understand the length of time everything is taking to complete.

With regards to the two projects I mention above, I am hoping they don't remain secret too much longer, not just because I want you all to see and hopefully enjoy them, but primarily because of what their release will signify. I'll leave it there for now...

Screencap #2

The task in hand and ahead of me is enormous, no question about that. It would be a big job for a full post-production team with access to all the resources normally utilised by production companies, so when you consider it's just me and a laptop in my parents' house then you can imagine how daunting it can be to tackle something so huge. Imagine if you can, converting, logging and editing down every single shot of 2.6Tb of footage filmed over a month to establish the shots you predict you will need, those you might need, and those you probably won't, filing them all in simple, easy to understand order and imagining how they all fit together as part of a multi-layered story that is both engaging and informative and which connects all the pieces together of what I want to say so that you, the viewer, have an enjoyable viewing experience. Now imagine doing that on a system which has only 50% of the muscle needed to process the files you are giving it. It has been a painstaking, frustrating and at times depressing task but it has been completed, the latter stages thanks to a very exciting new partnership with two new supporters of all I am striving to achieve.

I am delighted to announce the involvement of a little company you might have heard of who are trying to make a name for themselves in the field of computer technology called Microsoft (!!) and a company you may not have heard of yet but who I wholeheartedly recommend, Novatech.

If you have been a longtime reader of this blog or especially, if you know me personally, you will know that technology and I have never really got on. Being a musician for ten years, spending three years in a call centre, then joining an industry reliant on jobs and opportunities just as a global economic meltdown occurred, have ensured that, throughout my life, I've never had money to splash on high end computer gear. As someone who always wanted to get involved in shooting and editing films, this is a problem but was also a good thing looking back.

I learnt the art of how to edit by shooting footage, transferring to VHS then filming everything in sequence again off the TV! No opportunities to scrub back and make those high precision cuts, no colour correction, no sfx and the dubbing of music was done via a minidisc player, plugged into a hi-fi, going through the TV then recording the sound over the top of the final edits of each sequence, again played back off the television, of course, with the delay of analogue tape rolling and digital music loading and the hundreds of attempts to get the sync right. It was ludicrous.

This however, taught me the importance of shooting with an edit in mind, seeing the film in your head before you even start filming, shooting in short bursts, and how to make the most of the meagre resources you have available, as and when they decide they want to work. I didn't even own a computer until 2005 but when I finally got one, it was to edit video, using Magix Movie Edit Pro 2005 (the use of the word "pro" is highly misleading,) then the world went HD mad, I started this journey and when Canon got on board, I finally had the tools to shoot broadcast quality, fully glorious HD footage. The only problem was, after having upgraded my editing set up to a decent consumer HP laptop running Adobe CS4 Master Suite, although being able to actually see and edit the footage, it took forever! The first HD export of Behind Blue Glass took 46 hours! 

"Just get a Mac for god's sake..." 

As wonderfully insightful and obviously enormously well thought out as this nugget of wisdom may sound, we don't all have two grand lying around to get a Macbook Pro and upgrade the RAM from 4 to 8GB. "Get an iMac then..." the only problem being that I don't have a desk, let alone a permanent base and for my edit system to be portable is essential, time away from a desktop means time not spent on the film, I don't get paid to do the post-production so time not working means time spent releasing this film, doing paid work and making more films gets further and further away. Also, upgrading to a Mac would mean all the dozens and dozens of plug ins, textures, colour correction and effects software also need to be replaced with Mac versions so another cross against humanity's obsession with trying to force Apple products upon me.

Also, I happen to really rather like Windows, it's good enough for ITV, most of Hollywood and a whole host of other production companies and broadcasters so it'll do for me. It also happens to be obviously good enough for you as well because of the almost sixty thousand people who have visited this blog since its inception 18 months ago, 79.8% of you did so on a windows machine.

Statistically speaking, you're on a Windows system now and if you are also interested in editing video then you will want to pay attention to what I say.

I had never heard of Novatech until around September/October last year, when I asked about 8-16GB laptops on a site I am known to frequent, and where, in reply, somebody pointed me to their website. What appealed straight away was the fact all their machines are customisable  and that they could support super powered components that lend themselves fully to the editing of HD video.

I liked what I saw, called them up the next day, told them what I am doing and why I would like them to be involved, answered their questions and fast forward to three weeks ago, received a lovely shiny, turbo powered Elite Ultimate 2760 running Windows 7 Ultimate. Novatech liked my commitment to conservation initiatives and general "get up and go" and I liked the fact they actually listened to what I wanted and answered all my questions in simple, easy to understand language (essential when it comes to me and computers).

So on to the laptop itself, the upgrade from 4 to 16Gb of RAM, the upgrade to Intel i7, a bigger, 500GB hard drive, the availability of two USB 3.0 ports and three USB 2.0 ports, a Blu-Ray burner and a screen with full 1080p HD resolution makes this an absolute joy to use. It flies through everything infinitely faster than what I was used to, everything looks stunning and the basics are just so much smoother. I was able to finish logging the remaining footage in only three days, a job which would have previously taken about two weeks, the difference being that now, with the additional power, I don't need to render every video file in order to be able to watch it. This saves a huge amount of time which was previously being wasted, plus, the additional capacity to run memory intensive programs like After Effects and Premiere with all the associated plug ins, side by side, means that productivity has gone up!

Oh, and the battery life is exceptional as well!

Screencap #3

I appreciate this sounds a lot like an advert and that's probably because it is. Sometimes, people telling you to simply "get a Mac" won't answer your technological issues or automatically address your own specific needs. Whenever I am in need of a new bit of kit, I exhaustively scour the internet for reviews and opinions from people like me, who have the same issues and requirements as me and who don't simply subscribe to the view that because of a name on the exterior, it is automatically the best choice for you.

If you're on the lookout for a portable, powerful, stylish and practical editing system which enables you to do all the things you need to do to get broadcast quality results, talk to the guys at Novatech. Yes, you could "get a Mac" because they too, are great pieces of kit but this is more powerful and not just that, it's costs less.

So, with the new set up finally up and running, I've been able to start reassembling the intro to "Of Shark and Man." I said from the offset that I wanted this film to be completely different to any other shark related film you would have seen previously and I genuinely believe it will be. The intro alone is now in its fourth, highly conceptualised and stylistic guise. This first ten minutes is enormously important and also, by far, the most complex part of the film so getting it right is essential. The music I have chosen is perfect and lends itself to the ambient, atmospheric feel incredibly well, plus, not rushing things has allowed ideas to ebb and flow and creatively, I am incredibly excited about how things are going. As I said, I don't have anyone to bounce ideas off so patience and a hyper critical, objective approach, is needed to make sure I get things right.

I have been filming the shots for this intro since October and tomorrow will see (hopefully) the near completion of everything aside from a couple of shots that need to have me in them. Those shots will be discussed with Liam who helped on Behind Blue Glass tomorrow also so it's going to be a fun, creative and very long day and I can't wait.

I know a lot of you are keen to know when this film will be released, I am often surprised at the amount of people who contact me to say they are looking forward to its release so I will say to all of you, please be patient. I want this film to be the best it can be, my plan is to finish a first cut then do a private screening for impartial and objective guests and then get feedback. It's unlikely the first cut will be the final one so there are still many months left in this yet. I am hoping trailers will be available around April/May time, I am planning three in all and these will all be public for anyone to see.

Stick with me and keep an eye out for further updates, please be patient with me and huge thanks to you all for following me on this journey. An extra special thanks to Tim at Novatech for being awesome and for making this gargantuan task, that bit easier! You're a hero mate.

By the way, all the screencaps above are taking from footage from the film so you can see how good its going to look :)

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