House of Cards Timelapse project

House of Cards Title Sequence

I’ve started another movie project. It’s not finished yet, so I wanted to tell you a bit about it but also give you a few tips if you’re interested in doing more mobile movie making yourself.

This project is time consuming – quite literally time consuming.

I love time lapse photography. With analogue photography it was a very time consuming effort and I didn’t do that much. However, with the time lapse apps now available for laptops and phones I’ve been time lapsing all over the place!

I got the bug again in 2010, using time lapse as a way of capturing some of the real world, treasure hunt games I was creating. A game that took a few hours to play could be captured in a few minutes of film and I didn’t always need to be there.

Time lapse is also great if you are documenting events where very little happens. Conferences for example can be very dull to watch – but if all you want to illustrate is the room filling up ahead of the event then time lapse is perfect.

Combine these film making tools with social media (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) and your phone becomes the perfect documentation device.

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Time lapse on TV
Just over a year ago I noticed a (kind of) trend in the use of time lapse on TV. Breaking Bad often used little time lapse sequences to illustrate the passing of time and the recent Netflix adaptation of House of Cards uses time lapse exclusively in its opening sequence.

The House of Cards title sequence is a series of 2-3 second shots of Washington DC. That was when the idea struck me. In my head, so many of those shots could be replicated in my local city of Dundee. I should recreate a Dundee version of the sequence!

The idea went on the back burner for a while, but with the new series of House of Cards now out on Netflix, and with a bunch of time lapse shot already in the bag from other projects, I’ve decided to give it a go.

Shots of Dundee’s McManus that may well find their way into this new film

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HoC around the world
I didn’t expect to be the first person to think of this and if you go on Youtube you’ll find a few versions – London, and Paris being two. However, most of them use much longer shots (therefore half as many shots required) than in the original and it struck me that I couldn’t find any that were shot-for-shot. So this is the brief I have set myself.

The original sequence is 38 shots. I can’t have every shot set up exactly the same but I am putting thought into what the Dundee equivalent building or location might be. I’m also following the ‘dawn ’til dusk’ pattern of the original.

Bagged another couple of shots for my #HouseOfCards shot-for-shot #Dundee #timelapse – #HoC_DNDs4s

A post shared by Jon Gill (@onthesuperfly) on

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Tools
All of the tools I’m using for this project have been reviewed on this blog in the past – so what follows is something of a retrospective of those posts.

Camera – iPhone
Mostly, if not exclusively, I’ll be capturing footage on my iPhone. I’m now on a the iPhone 6 and I have no complaints about the camera at all.

Software – iMotion
For the HoC project I’m using iMotion (formerly iMotionHD). There are other similar apps (as you’ll see next) but for me, iMotion remains the cleanest, most intuitive and effective application for time lapse photography as well as stop frame animation. I have in on my iPhone and on my iPad and use it in lots of different ways as you’ll see in all of the related posts.

Read more: Take Your Time

Software – MagicLapse
I’ve been using iMotion for almost four years, but a new app for me is MagicLapse. I’ve only tested this once so far (see below) but i’m hopeful for what it promises to deliver. Magic Lapse combines time lapse photography with long exposures. Every shot is captured over half a second or so and, as you can imagine, capturing light trails from vehicles as it gets darker could be pretty spectacular.

The test I carried out was in a moving vehicle while it was raining. While I liked the ‘fireworks’ effect I’ll be using this for static shots (hopefully in the dry) to capture the movement of the traffic. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Device – X-Lapse by Muvi
X-Lapse is a little clockwork device that moves a camera or phone one degree every second to help you capture smooth panoramic time-lapse images.

The official House of Cards sequence includes various camera moves which I won’t be able to replicate – they would have used computer motion-controlled camera dollies and cranes). X-lapse will at least help me to achieve some nice pan-shots.

Read more: X-Lapse

Device – GorillaPod by Joby

Finally, for the still shots I will be relying on my trusted Joby GorillaPod with the Joby Grip Tight attachment. Again, a tool that I’ve been using for a few years now and remains very reliable – especially as the equipment that is entrusted to it is not cheap. The feet are magnetic (up to albs in weight) and the GripTight is exactly that.

Again, read more for more examples of the products at work: GorillaPod

House of Cards Project
So, I’m going to drip feed shots (as above) every now and then – you’ll find a few on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #HoC_DNDs4s (which stands for House of Cards, Dundee, Shot for Shot).

Hope you enjoy following the process and the final film should be with you very soon.

Read more about the creation of the House of Cards time lapse sequence by ‘District 7’.

Andy Lowndes – Playlist For Life

I’m all about the creative use of technology and I get particularly excited when creativity and technology together translate to real and meaningful value in someone’s life and Playlist for Life fits into that category.

Playlist For Life is based on the very simple truth that people respond to sound – even when almost every other memory or sense has left them – and Playlist for Life has built on this idea to promote personal playlists as a therapy for connecting with people living with dementia. The effect is extremely moving – people who were previously unresponsive to loved ones seem to awaken, stimulated by music and songs that revive lost memories.

I had the opportunity to hear about Playlist For Life in May at an NHS event at the SECC where Andy Lowndes and founder Sally Magnusson had 500+ people near to tears as they witnessed, through video, the impact of the work; and then, in tears of laughter as the same audience shared stories of songs personal to them.

To learn more visit playlistforlife.org.uk

The videos on the website speak for themselves – in particular look out for Harry and Margaret.

Andy visited the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) in Dundee this week – I recorded the audio below for their SSSCfm channel.

Listen to what Andy has to say, think about what would be on your personal playlist and consider donating any old iPods or mp3 players you might have doing nothing.

Instagram HyperLapse

 

A new movie capturing app from photo sharing platform Instagram promises to bring powerful ‘steadying’ capabilities to your iPhone (and Android phone very soon).

Ordinarily steadying or ‘anti-shake’ software maps every frame in a clip and tracks constant elements to determine the movement of the camera and use that information to fix unwanted movement. This takes a lot of processing power which is fine on a pro setup but no so much on a phone.

So rather than scan the film and drain your battery, Hyperlapse uses the phone’s gyroscope data as reference and fixes the movie up from that. This is by no means a simple process but, despite adding much more functionality to the Instagram app recently, Instagram Inc. are confident enough in Hyperlapse’ ability to put it out as a stand alone app.

I can’t wait to give it a go – how about you?

Read more on on the Instagram blog.

Moonshot!

Not sure of the context or origin of this – and maybe that’s the best way to view it…

My take on it is that this is how prepared you should be when making a pitch – if you don’t believe in it then no one else will. And if you’re going to make a change, make a big one, aim high. That’s all.

Wellderly – collaborative participation

wellderly figures

My wife is currently studying on the Design for Services Masters programme at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (Dundee University). Along with two colleagues from the course she has been working on a submission for the Young Innovators Challenge (YIC) – entitled Wellderly.

“The Young Innovators Challenge returns with a new focus on social innovation. This is a great opportunity to develop ideas and new ways of tackling real issues that can make a difference in Scotland and beyond.” Scottish Institute for Enterprise website

wellderly set

Above: The stage is set. The whole film was captured and edited on an iPad with the models set out on a ‘lazy-susan’ to reduce the need for moving the camera. 

My involvement was purely digital – in that I helped create the movie. The script and models were all Keerthana, Jenni and Moyra. I took the pieces and the audio and put them into what you see below. We were tight for time which meant about three hours preparing the various elements and then four hours the following evening to animate the 90 second film – submitting in time for the midnight deadline with (literally) seconds to spare!

wellderly animation stuff

I hope you like…

I would consider this a prototype. At some point in the future I would hope to tidy it up a little – maybe add some sound effects – but I’m pleased to say that Moyra, Jenni and Keerthana have been announced amongst the finalists for YIC 2014, so, along with a very good idea, our little film did the job.

wellderly timing sheets

Above: Timing is everything – key points in the audio are mapped to two, three, second chunks which allowed me to work out how many frames I needed to capture for each segment.

Incidentally, in reference to my previous post on ‘social innovation’, the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (who organise YIC) offer their own interpretation of social innovation as “Social innovation is an emerging global phenomenon that brings together enterprising and entrepreneurial thinking with creative innovative skills to deliver solutions with a social impact. Done well, it changes people’s lives and communities for the better.” – again, it’s quite broad, but worth a read I thought.

wellderly title

Please let us know what you think of Wellderly by leaving a comment here or by contacting  Moy, Keerthana or Jenni.

Volvo not included – getting creative with iPad

learning-ipad-1

This Saturday at Glasgow University I’m hosting a Digital Media class using iPads at Nesta’s One Day Digital event for primary school teachers. The focus will, quite honestly, be my eleven year old self’s wish list of school holiday activities… film-making and editing, animation, audio recording, image manipulation and sharing them.

volvoTo do all of this 20-odd years ago – as I did – and to make it mobile would have required a Volvo estate… bulky cameras, VHS machines and clunky TVs, meters of power and connector cables.

Of course things have moved on, but do you realise how much? In 1982, nearly 10 years before I bought my first video camera, ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) the emerging digital division of George Lucas’ (creator of Star Wars) movie company Lucas Film, created cinema’s first entirely computer-generated (CG) sequence. It was in Star Trek II: The Warth of Kahn, it lasted 60 seconds and cost a reported $250,000 (total budget of which was only $11M) and required a computer that would have filled several large rooms.

Today, any reasonably high-end laptop has the processing power to generate effects vastly superior in quality at a fraction of the cost.

But we’re not going high-end. Let’s take a step back because while laptops got more powerful other options emerged too.

Joby gorillapod video and grip tight

I have several cameras in the house, but the one I use the most isn’t the best quality, it’s the one that fits easily in my pocket. Equally I love vinyl records too but I mostly listen to music on a device that, yep, fits in my pocket. Coincidentally the same device that I mostly take photos with.

So for me it comes down to convenience. Gary Penn of Dundee video game company Denki has a set of design rules for computer games – but I believe they could be applied to many creative activities. The key one here is ‘convenience‘.

If I can easily take the device with me everywhere I go then there are more opportunities for me to be creative. I don’t have to plan opportunities in the way that I would have with a car full of kit.

Now, we may not be making an Oscar winning movie on our iPhone or iPad just yet (except for this one perhaps) but the experience will be much more immediate, fun and equally as rewarding; not forgetting extremely convenient.

treehouse qr scan

Of course, in this instance the key audience are those who are unlikely to have Final Cut Pro running on a Pro Mac. What’s more likely is that at school or in the home they have access to a phone or tablet that is capable of colour correction and manipulation of images and moving images; film-making, animation, time-lapse and slo-mo video.

And despite the convenience of mobile devices they can’t yet take away the reality that movie making is often very hard work, with extremes of both intense attention to detail and periods of not very much happening. But we wouldn’t want them to. These mini-projects can help young people understand and appreciate the challenges of the processes as well as the satisfaction of the professional film-maker, documentarian or journalist; but in a space that they can relate to.

Hopefully we’ll capture some examples from Saturday’s workshop and get permission to post them here. I look forward to meeting those of you who are coming along – it should be a great day! UPDATE: Read about it here!

For reference here are the list of apps we’ll be using and what for:

Part One
Movie making – the trailer (App: iMovie)
Movie making – for fun (Apps: Action Movie + iMovie)
Movie making – the documentary (iMovie)

Part Two
Audio/AudioBoo (Apps: Instant Rec and AudioBoo)

Part Three
Frankenstien’s Photo – image manipulation (Apps: Snapseed + Nostalgio)

Part Four
Stop Motion Animation – (App: iMotionHD)
Time lapse – (App: iMotionHD)

Whether you are coming on Saturday or not please feel free to post any queries or comments below.