Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Still Like Football - The Movie












Visit the web site at http://istilllikefootball.netcipia.net of the short film by Eric Robinson (Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland), for which I am the Production Manager.

Planned to be recorded March 2008... stay tuned (it is not all about football ;o)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Script to Popcorn

I have discovered a fast and efficient way to 'produce' a film with the use of software for scheduling, budgeting and shooting. Or from script to popcorn ;o)

Here is how to go about it:

STEP A: Write the Script (a.k.a. screenplay) with Final Draft.

Example:
EXT. LONDON BAR - NIGHT
YING YING arrives at a bar in London sporting bright pink hair.
All the men in the bar are looking at her.
Two men (MOB 1 & MOB 2) wearing black suits walk towards her.
She makes a break for the back door.

STRANGER A
I like London.

STRANGER B
Oh, can you bear the shit weather?

STRANGER A
C'mon, this is a cool city, very fun.

The men (MOB 1 & MOB 2) are chasing YING YING down a London street.
YING YING's shoes race along the pavement.


Save it as a "Movie Maker" file (*.rpt).



STEP B: Open Gorilla and make a New Project.


Choose to import the script (*.rpt).



STEP C: After the import and deciding on the start and end of the shooting days, Gorilla shows the Calendar of the Principle Photography (a.k.a. the Shooting).


Click to enlarge: Calendar, automagically generated from the imported script!

STEP D: Next by pushing the Breakdown button we switch to the Scene-by-Scene (or breakdown) overview.

Click to enlarge: Breakdown of scenes

See how it relates to the original script, with Scene heading (EXT. LONDON BAR - NIGHT) and Characters involved in this scene (e.g. STRANGER A, STRANGER B).

NOTE: Since the characters YING YING, MOB 1 & MOB 2 didn't have a dialogue in this scene they are not (yet) listed in the right hand column, but I will do so by selecting and moving them in there. Problem resolved!

One of the many conventions in film making is that we colour code the scenes depending on if they are taking place inside (INT.) or outside (EXT.), if it is day time (DAY) or night time (NIGHT). The following diagram shows this and it is reflected in Gorilla as you can see on the righthand side.



NOTE: The top bar is 'red' but that is because we are currently on that scene's page, if we step off it it will be .... 'GREEN' of course (EXT. NIGHT).

STEP E: Very useful for the casting (linking the script character to an actor or actress) for your film production is the Characters screen.


Click to enlarge: Lead Character YING YING linked to actress KATHLEEN

STEP F: Films are directed by directors. Directors are directed by... Money. So switching to the budget and accounts views.

The individual budget lines are divided into two categories: "above the line" and "below the line" expenses.

In the "above," or ATL, category, you'll find costs associated with a film's cast, writer, producer, director, stunts, and story rights. The remaining expenses -- set design, camera rentals, special effects, film, editing, etc. -- are categorized as BTL, or below the line.

...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Life has a Steering Wheel

I took the wheel and gave it a spin...

Now I have a job with ScotSys, Apple's Premium Reseller in Scotland.




They are the only company in the UK to be both a Microsoft Gold Partner and an Apple Premium Reseller.

They are in fact Apple’s No. 1 Education Partner in Europe. They are therefore uniquely placed to combine the best of Microsoft and Apple technologies across your educational establishment, and to understand the complexities involved in providing innovative and robust solutions.

Is this a tiptoe into the US?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Song as Scripts

Songs that read as Scripts is what this web log entry is all about.

Let me start by one of the songs that was playing on the radio and inspired me to write about it.



Tiffany

Song: "I think we're alone now" by Tiffany Darwisch (original by Tommy James And The Shondells in 1967, writer Ritchie Cordell).

Lyrics:

Children behave
That's what they say when we're together
And watch how you play
They don't understand
And so we're

Chorus:
Running just as fast as we can
Holdin' on to one another's hand
Tryin' to get away into the night
And then you put your arms around me
And we tumble to the ground
And then you say
I think we're alone now
There doesn't seem to be anyone around

I think we're alone now
The beating of our hearts is the only sound

Look at the way
We gotta hide what we're doin'
'Cause what would they say
If they ever knew
And so we're

Repeat chorus

I think we're alone now
There doesn't seem to be anyone around
I think we're alone now
The beating of our hearts is the only sound


How would this look if we story boarded it? Perhaps the video clip will give us an idea.

Video clip of "I think we're alone now" by Girls Aloud

- more following -

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Stick Meets Board

After trying to construct a methodology for storyboarding following a few well-defined steps AND having built a shared library of stick figures representing characters in a story we can now mix them in. Welcome Stick Figure, please enter the Storyboard!

So, to put things to work, here is an example picture which we will accept as being the main character in a heavy crime story ;o)



Alicia Keys as a bad girl

Now since we (the audience) will be at eye level with her, that is where to draw the red line (i.e. eye-line) and also the horizon leans a bit to the right bottom side.



Sketch phase of the storyboard with main character features shown through (blue) stick figure.

A good point to notice is that the fierce eye of Alicia (showing her emotion) is well placed at a crosspoint of the pink thin lines. This crosspoint - according to the rule of thirds - is a position in a picture that attracts us by nature.

See that apart from the character, the important item in the frame (i.e. the gun) is also part of the sketch phase. Make it a habit to sketch in blue lines. If we trace over them in the Ink phase (folowing) blue tends to 'hide' itself from our attention thus focusing on the Ink lines (in brown).

... more following

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Guys and Girls on Shelves

This web log entry discusses the solution I have found for re-using 'stick figures' in my storyboarding projects.

If one wants to use something over and over again without re-creating, establishing a library is a good idea.


For comparison, to learn about 'anthropology' one can simply go to the library, get the book (or a few books) and use them as 'references'. The same approach works for me with the exception that I will source 'stick figures' rather than books.

Stick figures as explained in a previous web log entry 'represent' (human) beings in drawing, for example in storyboards for movie productions. The stick figure can be male or female (or a hybrid). As soon as I 'stick' (pun intended) such a sketchy drawing in my library I can re-use it over and over again. That speeds up the process of drawing, and I can concentrate on the narrative (i.e. the story) rather than the technology (i.e. drawing).

Here is an example of a stick figure's parts (skull, chest, hips).

Stick figure from three angles: side, 3/4, front

I see the advantage of shelving the head, upper-body and lower-body for each angle separately in my library so I can move them around individually, to arrange more different poses.

Below is an example of how a stick figure underlays a more detailed sketch.



Dean Yeagle's sketch of girl 'Mandy' follows the general shape of the side view of my stick figure. Although to accentuate the female body he has decreased the chest, increased the breasts and the head. Also, whereas her body is 'drawn' from the side, her head is actually facing 3/4 aside (i.e. profile). Had I used the 3/4 head of my stick figure, the 'match' would have been even closer.

Excerpt from an interview with animator Dean Yeagle:

How important is color to you when designing characters?
"Not important at all in the beginning stages. First the line, always. Color adds mood or indicates a character's state of mind or general health perhaps, and is therefore a very important component eventually, but first of all is the character, expressed in line. The ultimate color may be in the back of my mind as I design, but usually that comes later. In designing backgrounds, however, the color may well be the first thought and the determining factor in the end result."

Rather than using one (big) library where I could store all re-usable items (such as stick figures) to make a specific storyboard, I have decided to store the stick figures in a 'shared' library. This way I can develop different storyboards, whilst sourcing from a single, specific library of stick figures. I need only to keep my stick figure library updated and well-organized to have all using storyboards benefit from it.



Shared libraries, rather than one massive single storyboard-tied-in library.

...more following

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Back on Board

With so many storyboard assignments I have been supplied with for film and DVD productions I have decided to speed up the process.

The best way to make something go faster is by introducing a routine.

With that I mean a set sequence of steps to be taken from start to finish, with each step clearly defined.

The first consideration when trying to visualize a story is by choosing a frame or window within which the story will happen. If you look around in the world around you there is no limitation to the horizontal and / or vertical broadness of your view. It is 3-dimensional (i.e. height, width, and depth) all round.

In a 2-dimensional (i.e. height and width only) medium like film, the audience's view IS limited both horizontally and vertically, however. This needs a creative decision: what to show and what to leave out. In sum, what to frame. By the way the same counts for a painting, poster or TV commercial.

So, that said, I call step one the FRAMING step.

STEP ONE: FRAMING

Below you see an image of the aspect ratio and size of the frame (aka window) that every film maker has to decide on.



Click to enlarge: Frame sizes and aspect ratios for film medium

A few notes are helpful to fully understand my choice of aspect ratio and sizes.

First of all we are used to having a wider size of an image as compared with its height. This automatically suggests that the frame is rectangular and 'on its side' or landscape as it is called. With a photocamera one can take portrait pictures and glue them in the photoalbum, with film we cannot turn the film screen 90 degrees or ask the audience to lay on their side. Film is landscape angled, no exceptions to the rule!



Comparison of three common aspect ratios constrained by the screen diagonal size (the black circle). The widest and shortest box (blue, 2.39:1) and the middle box (green, 16:9) are common formats for cinematography. The most square-like box (red, 4:3) is the format used in standard definition television.
[source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspect_ratio_(image)]

Second, the choice of 'stretch' in a horizontal direction (standard versus widescreen) is an artistical choice. In general, the wider the frame, the more the audience 'feels' part of the scenery; subjective view. In contrast, the more squared the frame is the more distant (say objective) the audience experiences the film.

See underneath examples:



Standard (4:3) used for objective, documentary, technical, instructional, training purposes. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.



Widescreen (16:9) used for subjective, fiction, narrative, dramatic, emotional purposes. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Next, the reason for the two light blue areas on both ends left and right of the frame is as follows. We will have to draw a "horizon line" at some point to start an image of the storyboard. Just as in real life, every place we visit has a horizon. This line is topic of our next step. Yet, already we need to reserve space for the vanishing point(s) left and right of the frame. The vanishing point is discussed in the next step too.

Finally, to adhere to a European standard I have taken the paper size A4 as the overall drawing space for my storyboards and adjusted the frame size to fit on paper. No reason other than convenience.

STEP TWO: PERSPECTIVE

By choice of camera angle (high, neutral or low) the perspective of an image is changed.

The eye-line is always at the distance from the ground - where the spectator (or camera) is standing - to the position of his or her eyes cq the lens.
It is a misconception that the eye line is 'on the floor', unless the spectator or camera is on the floor himself or herself. For ease of use the eye-line is also called the horizon line, although one would expect the horizon to be at floor level.

Also if the spectator (whose eye is always at the height of the horizon line) views an object or actor not from straight on (horizontally) then 2 vanishing points depict the scene's (imaginary) lines. As a rule of thumb these vanishing points are always at 1/2 the width of the frame aside, where no distortion takes place.



Actor at spectator's eye-level: neutral



Actor above spectator's eye-level: dominant
Example of dominant actor below provided by AnimatedBuzz





Actor below spectator's eye-level: submissive
Example of submissive actor below provided by AnimatedBuzz



STEP 3: DEPTH / RULE-OF-THIRDS / POINT-OF-VIEW

The next step is to bring a new dimension to the width and height of the flat surface of a storyboard paper or screen, i.e. depth. This is by default an illusion, but it has tricked the eye of the spectator successfully and adds a sense of 'space' to the shot.

Underneath figure shows how with a change in size of the character (big in front, small in the distance) and with the use of overlapping (the cloud over the moon) this illusion is applied.


Click to enlarge: Overlap and sizing, creating the illusion of depth.

Another point of interest is the distrubution (or arrangement) of the elements of the image in the frame. From research it has been found that the human eye likes to rest at what is now known as the crosspoints of the 'thirds' of the frame; the Rule-of-Thirds. Here these crosspoints are depicted by little pink circles on the pink dividing lines. We perceive information of interest to reside at those crosspoints, and if so we find this aesthetically pleasing. So, I suggest in storyboarding this should be aimed for.

In addition, placing a character far behind for example another character's shoulder signals to the spectator that he or she takes the Point-of-View (the 'observation') from the nearby character. The spectator sees along with this foreground character and thus experiences his or her feelings. The script will have hinted from whose point the particular shot is experienced, which should be drawn likewise in the frame.

STEP FOUR: BALANCE & CONTRAST

Text...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In Good Shape

This entry will discuss the 'shape' of human being, in particular the difference between the male and the female body. To speed up the drawing and communication of the intention in storyboards, which character is male and which is female, I try to simplify their body form by use of well-known geometric shapes.

The following comparison is one by opinion rather than by physics rule or law. In general, the female body mimics a 'pear' shape (or two stacked triangles), whereas the male body looks like an apple shape (or one pentagon).



Female body shape is that of a pear or two stacked pyramides.



Male body shape is that of an apple or pentagon (i.e. 5-star).

In conclusion, we could draw just the geometrical forms and provide enough visual cue to the viewer to distinguish between the two sexes.



Male and female figures in abstract form.

NOTE: The male shoulders are three heads wide, his hips two heads wide. The female shoulders are two heads wide, her hips three heads wide. The legs (3.5 heads high) of both genders are almost as long as the head and upper body (4 heads high). These are the biologically correct measures. Exageration might help to define their characteristics more, e.g. big male chest, slim female waist.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

How To Find Music You like

Enjoy the following instruction video:


Learn IT from the pro's ;o)
[source http://www.frenchmaidtv.com/pages/episodes.htm]

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Tell a Story in 5 Frames

I found a wonderful group on the Web that urges its members to Tell a Story in 5 (Photo-)Frames.

A good story has characters in action with a beginning (Act 1), middle (Act 2), and an ending (Act 3).

Fortunately a lot of information can be given in a single photograph, enhancing the limitations of five photographs for your story.

Location, time, and atmosphere aid viewer imagination. Keep standards of pictorial beauty, but pack as many story telling elements in one photograph as possible to develop an action.

ACT I:
1st photo: establish characters and location.

2nd photo: create a situation with possibilities of what might happen.

ACT II:
3rd photo: involve the characters in the situation.

4th photo: build to probable outcomes

ACT III:
5th photo: have a logical, but surprising, end.

Have a look and try it for yourselves at www.flickr.com/groups/visualstory/

Here is an example:

... images following...

The Power of Five:

- We have 5 Fingers on one hand, or 5 five toes on one foot
- We have 5 Senses (vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch)
- We have 5 Working Days in a week
- We have a 5 Forces Model in Competition according to Michael Porter, an Economics Strategist
- We have 5 Elements (Water, Earth, Fire, Wood, Metal)
- ...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

On The Lot

The Television channel FOX has started a competition between film makers called 'On the lot'. It is a lot of fun to watch and learn from it along the shoot.

A sure success has been the short film "Die Hardly Working" by director Zach Lipovsky, which you can see at here.



Click to watch: Die Hardly Working

About two co-workers while bored in their cubicles, declare a make believe war with one another. A battle of epic proportions ensues.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Problem with Pets

Yahoo... another child-friendly film is in the making!!!

The title: The Problem with Pets

And I will be Art Directing this wonderful story about MONICA, her tortoise SPEEDY and the bright orange LAWN MOWER..... ;o)



SPEEDY, the tortoise of MONICA

Excerpt from the script by Frances O'Neill:

"A picture perfect cottage sits in a beautiful garden surrounded by farmland. MONICA, a sweet looking girl of 7, wanders through deep grass taking photos with her polaroid camera. BARB, her impeccably turned out mother, is at the other side of the garden, she appears to be dusting the roses. SPEEDY, a pet tortoise, moves slowly through the long grass at the edge of the manicured lawn towards MONICA.

The peace of this idyllic scene is broken by the roar of a tractor lawn mower which moves ever closer. DR DICK, still dressed in his work suit is astride the bright orange lawn mower. MONICA raises her eyes to heaven and makes for the house. DR DICK waves to BARB as he drives by almost out of control. BARB smiles encouragingly and waves back to him, then turns back to her roses.

Speedy and Dr Dick are on a collision course.

Titles on black: THE PROBLEM WITH PETS."


We will be filming from Sunday 3rd of June upto and including Friday the 8th of June in a beautiful estate across the river Firth of Fourth, in the Scottish countryside.

Read about the Art Department and what we have in stock for our film crew to capture... a lot of pets, I promise.

Visit the web site at http://theproblemwithpets.blogspot.com

Or for pictures of the shoot go to http://www.myspace.com/problemwithpets.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Who is watching who

I have spotted a documentary (de Meta & Fosa Show) made by my niece Marjolijn van Heemstra and her sister Anneloor van Heemstra amongst a creative team.

Well done, it was good fun watching this:
Now who says Television is dumb... maybe we should watch more who's in the audience rather than what's on stage.

Or not...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

China by Plane 2007

The late-breaking news has reached my weblog.

Aileen and myself will be traveling through Mainland China from end of June 2007. Our account of this journey will be documented, as you can expect after having read my blog so faithfully in the last two years of its existence.

The scratch page is at http://chinabyplane2007.blogspot.com

Ni Hao
(good day)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Shinju the movie web site

A long awaited link to the official pictures web site for Shinju has now been made public. Please have a sneak preview at what is to show and tell you all about my latest short film about Japanese breast bondage.



www.shinjuthemovie.com


More still images, sound clips and a trailer will follow soon ;o)

See you in the cinema!

Willem,
director

Friday, May 11, 2007

Shinju Matsuri

The Shinju Matsuri is the Festival of the Pearl.

It is held in Australia, Broome. (see http://www.shinjumatsuri.com/).

Broome's Festival of the Pearl, Shinju Matsuri, began over 35 years ago.



Handing out the meal.

The pearling industry thrived here, with up to 400 luggers fishing off the local shores. People from Japan, China, Malaysia and elsewhere were brought in to work the boats and dive for pearl shells. When the pearl harvests would finish, the traditional cultural festivities and celebrations would begin.

With the release of the film Shinju we will soon be celebrating the 'Festival of the Pearl' ourselves ;o)

NOTE: Shinju (from the Japanese 真珠 meaning pearl).

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ever

At three minutes and four seconds after 2 AM on the 6th of May this year, the time and date will be 02:03:04 05/06/07.

This will never happen again.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Shinju the movie recorded

On Saturday 5th of May we completed the film recording of my latest film Shinju (see http://shinjuthemovie.blogspot.com).

This film has been produced with the help and support of a great many people (and a spider).

Amongst them Waki, wife of my producer Nigel Smith. Below she is depicted in her Japanese kimono.



Wife in Japanese kimono [picture taken by Jacqueline Weir, 2007]

Her picture plays an important role in the story about Japanese dual love suicide; Shinju.

More pictures following...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Coming Soon - Shinju the Movie

Hello and welcome back after a fair stretch of radio silence on my part.

I can explain my hiding by telling you that we have been - and still are - preparing the next big thing; SHINJU (meaning Pearls) the movie.



Shinju in Japanese characters

This is my major project - as a director - for the completion of my second year at the Edinburgh College of Art in Film and TV Studies.

Have a sneak preview of all arrangments before we start filming and keep your fingers crossed for a successful release half of June 2007.

http://shinjuthemovie.blogspot.com

Sleep tight!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Shower Scene



Two girls decide to take a shower together in this hommage to Alfred Hitchcock and Saul Bass's film PSYCHO.

Release Year: 2002
Credits:

* Actor: Courtney Jones
* Actor: Stelianie Tekmitchov
* Filmmaker: Mark Pederson
* Director: Mark Pederson
* Producer: Eric Robinson
* Producer: Don Estill

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Going Steady

Yahooooo... we have been trained in using a steadicam (short for steady-operatable movie camera).

It allows one to film people walking, climbing stairs, running and the like. More freedom to movement of the camera than is possible with a tripod (=fixed stand) or dolly (=stand on wheels).



A steadicam

More following...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Discovery in Photography

Today I handed-in my pictures for our elective (i.e. a week outside of the film department); Photography.

The theme is 'Confessions' and I have interpreted it as letting someone know something after he or she has discovered (the way to) this information.

For my pictures I made use of the human body as the canvas, whilst drawing with black marker on the skin.



Barcode - hidden numbers



Tie - hidden image

As you might have discovered, both a barcode and connect-the-dots are leading towards either a (barcoded) number or an image (e.g. a tie with flowers). Therefore revealing hidden information, confessing.

On Friday (today) is the judgement by the department of Photography in the Edinburgh College of Art, and I hope to win a prize. We will discover the outcome of their verdict soon ;o)

Stay tuned!

=== UPDATE - These pictures did indeed win this year's best pictures for the two week electives at the college. ===

NOTE: Don't try this at home, real laser light and lasting marks of black have been employed for these pictures.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Japanese script writing

Writing might be one of the most difficult, but also fun, parts of learning Japanese.

The Japanese don't use an alphabet.

There are three types of scripts in Japanese: hiragana, katakana and kanji.


HIRAGANA: expresses the grammatical relationship between blocks of meaning (endings of adjectives and verbs, particles) - existing of 46 characters.

KATAKANA: is used for foreign names, the names of foreign places and words of foreign origin - existing of 46 characters.

KANJI: represents blocks of meaning (nouns, stems of adjectives and verbs) - existing of over 2000 characters.

I will focus on the last and most difficult one, kanji.

Horizontal or vertical
In old days Japanese was only written vertically, top to bottom. Nowadays, writing horizontally has become popular (left to right). Since each kanji has its own meaning, they can be arranged either way without losing their meaning. I stick with vertical here.

Stroke count and stroke order
Both stroke count and stroke order help you to write a kanji character properly.

The stroke count is the number of strokes used to write the kanji character.

The stroke order follows below rules:
  • Horizontal strokes are written from left to right and are parallel.
  • Vertical strokes are written from top to bottom.
  • When strokes cross each other, horizontal strokes are usually written before vertical strokes.


Last but not least, all kanji should be uniform size.

Here we go...



meaning: BIG



meaning: SUNSHINE

Together they mean: SUN



The characters that make up Japan's name 日本(国) literally mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes identified as the "Land of the Rising Sun".
[source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan]

More practising on next blogs ;o)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Why tie...?

restrain = the trait of avoiding excesses, the quality of being inhibited
source: free (!) dictionary

A central theme in the upcoming movie 'Shinju' is restrain. Physical restrain - by means of tying the body with rope - is often the visual representation of the emotional wish to be limited of obligation.



Image courtesy of www.restrainedelegance.com

As performers of bondage acclaim, once restrained who cares what the world thinks, you are free!

As it being a fascinating ritual, I have looked up one of the film directors who has portrait this phenomenon of restraining the body: the Japanese Shunji Iwai.



Side Note: How playful that Shunji is so much alike Shinju (breast bondage).

Filmed in 1994, his film 'Undo' concerns a pair of bohemian Tokyoites: he's a struggling writer, she is slowly going insane, aided in part by the negligence of her boyfriend. She becomes possessed with the idea of tying things with twine and rope, leading eventually to tragedy.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Maggie Cheung

Maggie Cheung Man-yuk (age 42) of Hong Kong origin is probably the most well-known and most liked movie actress in China and parts of Asia.



Maggie Cheung

BEAUTY
Cheung spent part of her childhood and adolescence in the United Kingdom. Upon her return to Hong Kong, Cheung ran and won second place in the Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant contest in 1983 at the age of 19, and was a semi-finalist in the Miss World pageant the same year.

BRAINS
One of Cheung's many notable movie roles is that of "May", the girlfriend of police detective "Kevin" Chan Ka Kui in the Jackie Chan's Police Story movies. Audiences outside Asia have become increasingly familiar with her work, including her roles in Centre Stage (as Ruan Lingyu), In the Mood for Love, Irma Vep, 2046, Hero, and Clean.



Maggie Cheung in movie 'Hero' (2002)



Maggie Cheung in movie '2046' (2004)

I have the honour to be filming Maggie in an interview with my dear friends Sandy Wang (interviewer) and Vivian Hu (sound recordist).