Archive | April 2013

The Fitzroy: 360° Photography

Here’s some examples of 360° panorama photographs I’ve been taking whilst on the set of The Fitzroy feature film. Click the photo for an interactive version. If you’re interested in having such panoramic images taken, please email contact@mercianmedia.co.uk :

Bedroom_THUMB

Galley_THUMB

The Fitzroy: Principal Photography

Something special happened this week. I became part of a film crew, helping shoot the feature film The Fitzroy. Normally I’m a freelance TV Director and a Vision Mixer and not a Camera Operator, so getting to be involved in something like this was an absolute dream.

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Back in December 2012, at the beginning of their crowd funding adventure, I offered my camera kit and services free-of-charge to the producers of The Fitzroy to help bring their idea to life. Since that offer I’ve shot gigabytes of footage for them, including the Green Rock River Band as they recorded the film score, filmed the production crew on a recce to the derelict submarine, captured the script read-through and rehearsals, shot some costume fitting, covered some of the studio build, and squeezed into ridiculously tight corners to capture behind-the-scenes footage during Principal Photography on the actual Black Widow submarine.

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Before I go any further I should thank some people for accepting my freebie offer; Director Andrew Harmer, and Producers Liam Garvo and James Heath. Without them saying yes and having confidence with me, none of this journey would have happened. I’ve learned loads, and re-learned things I thought I already knew! They have all been incredibly accommodating and for that I am eternally grateful.

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Part of the deal with shooting for free was that I’d be learning ‘on the job’, with no promise of perfection! A few years back my original passion for photography stemmed into shooting HD video using DSLR cameras as a hobby. Since then I’ve accumulated a shedload of kit (literally) but hardly had the time or opportunity to use it. Helping on The Fitzroy came around at just the right time, allowing me to use the kit practically and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

All this footage will eventually be collated and edited into behind-the-scenes clips for the website, social media and the DVD/Blu-Ray release. These videos will be similar in style to the following video released just this week (with my shots in!):

I’ve been given permission to share some of these raw screen grabs from the behind-the-scenes footage I’ve shot so far. So here they are!:

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At 10.42am April 15th 2013, Director Andrew Harmer calls “ACTION!” on the first shot!

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Actors Cerith Flinn and David Gant (Braveheart) discuss the scene with Andrew.

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DoP Ciro Candia shoots David Schaal (The Inbetweeners) in 4k resolution (Ultra HD!) with a “RED” camera.

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Who will be visiting The Fitzroy hotel? I could tell you…

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Cerith and Carol Robb check the script, preparing for the next scene.

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Carol (playing Mildred) shouts at David (playing Cecil). This pair are hilarious!

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Camera Operator Ciro perfects his shot, walking backwards through a submarine!

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Stuart McGugan (It Ain’t Half Hot Mum) and Cerith discuss the shot.

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Cerith (playing Bernard) and Stuart (playing captain Hunt) perform their scenes.

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Stuart and Cerith share a laugh on set.

Media Streaming To The World

Recently I bought a Netgear ReadyNAS Drive; i.e. Network Attached Storage. It’s a piece of kit containing hard drives that you connect to your home router, giving you a separate place to store all of your media and documents.

My NAS contains four 3TB drives; a total of 12’288GB of space! To complicate things further I have the NAS set up in a RAID configuration. RAID is a ‘first-level redundancy’ safety mechanism. In layman’s terms, hard drive two is a direct copy of hard drive one, hard drive four is a direct copy of hard drive three. If one hard drive fails, the data is still safely stored on the other drive. The downside to this is that it cuts the storage capacity in half because of the duplication.

Slight overkill, I hear you say, but my NAS serves a clear purpose…

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(UPDATE: Just to clarify the above numbers; although in computer terms 1TB is 1024GB, in manufacturing terms 1TB is 1000GB. So 12TB of space is actually 12’000GB, and not 12’228GB. In addition, due to the way restriping occurs and the redundancy effect of RAID, my 12TB of space actually accumulates to 8.2TB. Somehow.)

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The beauty of my NAS system is that it’s a self-contained unit with its own operating system, memory and processor. This means I can install add-on software and the box will do it’s own thing, without needing a computer. It’s possible to run torrent software to automatically read RSS feeds and download the latest TV episodes I’ve missed, or install software which runs a website directly off the NAS without having to pay for hosting, etc.

Today I discovered a piece of software called Plex Media Server. And I have to say, it’s utter genius. Plex is an add-on that will database all your files and play any media file you throw at it. Secondly, it will transcode and stream these files across your network to your TV, laptop, games console or smart phone.

I can store my entire music and video collection on the NAS, and it will stream the audio or video to anywhere in the world. My NAS is a place for me to archive and keep every piece of footage I shoot with my DSLR’s. I keep all my original files as back-up, even after transcoding, editing and final publication. Some of these files are huge. But with Plex, I can watch the footage back without having to copy the files across the network. Technically, I can show the footage to an editor using my iPhone whilst on the go.

Like I say, it’s brilliant. Now I have access to my entire media catalogue from anywhere in the world. It’s like YouTube for all my media stored at home! I’m currently in the process of going through my entire movie collection and archiving it onto my NAS system, which I then have access to from absolutely anywhere.

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UPDATE: I should make is quite clear that transcoding and streaming via Plex depends on your internet connection and what hardware you are operating with. Although my ReadyNAS NVX will stream video via Plex to my MacBook Pro with no problems, the ReadyNAS struggles to transcode video and stream it to my Samsung TV via the Plex smart app on the telly. I currently can’t work out why that is, considering it’s the same hardware in the NAS on both occasions, but I have run into complications there. The Plex FAQ suggests hardware for transcoding should be at least a 2GHz dual core processor. The ReadyNAS NVX uses a single 1GHz Intel processor and 1GB of RAM.