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Behind the scenes of the new Avengers Age of Ultron movie

Working with colour

Filmmaking professional Sean J Vincent tackles another crop of your questions on kit and much more...

How a pro colourist gets the best from DaVinci Resolve

Moving on up

Wolf at the door

How and why new short Crying Wolf was shot in just four days

We chart the meteoric rise of drone and gimbal maker DJI

PHILIP BLOOM The innovative filmmaker returns to continue his look back at making The Wonder List series

kit to get started BLACKMAGIC MICRO



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Welcome to ISSUE 26

Welcome to another issue of Digital FilmMaker and one that’s more diverse than ever before. We’ve always had a pretty open mind when it comes to deciding what gets featured and this outing is no exception. Both ends of the budgetary spectrum are showcased too, with the upper echelons represented by a piece on the Avengers Age of Ultron movie through to Crying Wolf, a film shot in 4K and completed in no less than four days. Meanwhile, the Cannes film festival has, of course, come and gone and there are one or two reminders of what happened down there in the sunny south of France, including a snapshot of the role of a colourist who uses the superb DaVinci Resolve. Elsewhere, our old friend Philip Bloom is back and follows up on the piece he did for us a couple of issues ago. You’ll find his latest thoughts on page 24, sandwiched between a brace of catch-up kit features that highlight just how much stuff we’re still sifting through after NAB 2015 in Las Vegas. We’ll probably have just caught up and it’ll be time to pack our bags and head over for IBC in Amsterdam during September. We’ve got the regular stuff too by the way, including Ask the Filmmaker on page 56 and a look at some of the latest kit releases over on page 99. Keep us posted on how your own projects are moving along and feel free to drop us a line with any news. Simply send an email with a brief overview and some decent quality behind the scenes or production shots and, who knows, you might be next to feature in an issue of DFM. See you next time.

Rob Clymo

SELECT PUBLISHER SERVICES LTD PO Box 6337, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH1 9EH Tel: +44 (0) 1202 586848 CUSTOMER SERVICES If you have a query regarding the magazine, or would like to place an order, please contact our back issues hotline on 01202 586848 or email MAGAZINE TEAM Editor Rob Clymo Email: Twitter: @theclymobrief Design Imran Kelly CONTRIBUTORS Philip Bloom and Sean J Vincent SPECIAL THANKS TO Anybody who pitched in! PRODUCTION & DISTRIBUTION Production Manager John Beare Email: Tel: +44 (0) 1202 586848 Circulation Manager Tim Harris Email: ADVERTISING SALES Advertising Sales Manager Rob Cox Tel: +44 (0) 1202 586848 PRINTED BY Precision Colour Printing Ltd, Haldane, Halesfield 1, Telford, TF7 4QQ Tel: +44 (0) 1952 585585 DISTRIBUTED BY Seymour Distribution Ltd, 2 East Poultry Avenue, London, EC1A 9PT Tel: +44 (0) 20 7429 4000



All text and layout remains the copyright of Select Publisher Services. Digital FilmMaker cannot accept responsibility for any unsolicited material or transparencies. Digital FilmMaker is fully independent and its views are not those of any company mentioned herein. All copyrights and trademarks are recognised and all images are used for the purpose of training only. All trademarks used herein are the property of their respective owners. The use of any trademark in this text does not vest in the publisher any trademark ownership rights in such trademarks. Nor does the use of such trademarks imply any affiliation with or endorsement of this book by such owners. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. Digital FilmMaker can accept no responsibility for inaccuracies or complaints arising from advertisements. Copyright © Select Publisher Services, 2015 ISSN 2052-0964 Registered in England. Registered Number 05450559. Registered Office: Towngate House, 2-8 Parkstone Road, Poole, BH15 2PW

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Modern day marvel

6. Digital FilmMaker news

32. The digital dream

56. Ask the filmmaker

The lowdown on the latest developments from the world of digital video filmmaking

Manfrotto has released a natty bit of new kit that will get your workflow firmly under control

Professional filmmaker Sean J Vincent tackles another round of your kit and career questions

10. Modern day marvel

36. First time out

60. Working with colour

Ben Davis talks about work on his work on the awesome new Avengers Age of Ultron movie

John McColl is an amateur filmmaker who has recently completed directing his very first short

Colourist Arthur Graham-Maw talks about his work using Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve

18. Moving on up

42. The race for space

66. Wolf at the door

We have a chat with DJI man Michael Perry to hear how things are on the up for the company

Kenneth Barker talks about his stylish sciencefiction movie On The Shoulders Of Giants

Jason Rivers is the director of psychological thriller Crying Wolf shot in just four days

24. The journey continues

48. A sporting chance

72. Exit strategy

Philip Bloom returns to talk about the creative Neville Manuel is the producer behind a quirky choices he made while filming The Wonder List new documentary called Coaching Penguins


Moving on up


Filmmaker Richard Oakes talks about his new Exit Plan film shot on Blackmagic cameras


The journey continues

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First time out



The digital dream

The race for space

78. Done to a tea

99. New kit

Mark Brennan and April Kelley sit down for a cuppa to chat about their Tea for Two project

We pick through a whole host of the latest hardware from cameras through to gimbals

84. The student perspective

107. Next month

Writer and director Alice Dover talks about her time studying film production at art school

Make sure you make a note of the date when the next action-packed issue hits the stores

91. Hardware advice

108. Subscriptions

We take a look at all of the latest kit that you’ll need to get yourself up and running

Get Digital FilmMaker the easy way. Take out a subscription and have it sent to your door

92. Interview with a Pro

111. Hot 40 indie films

Ray Shane from Vislink explains why their work We pick out 40 or so of the current most with GoPro will transform live video broadcasts talked about and anticipated new indie films


A sporting chance


Working with colour


Exit strategy


Wolf at the door Digital FilmMaker

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Digital FilmMaker

JUNE 2015


The lowdown on latest developments from the world of digital video


FROM PANNY Panasonic has released the LUMIX DMC-G7, a featurepacked new camera that offers a wealth of options for the filmmaker. It’s a hybrid mirrorless model that offers 4K UHD video capture that is based around a 16-megapixel Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor and a beefy Venus Engine 9 image processor that should make the unit an impressive performer in a variety of shooting scenarios. The G7 boasts an impressive low-light capability with ISO 25600 on offer and there is also a wealth of manual controls for filmmakers to get stuck into. With a stylish and well-puttogether body, that comes with


easy to reach exposure control dials and six customisable function buttons, the G7 also benefits from a high-resolution EVF and a 3-inch tilting touchscreen LCD. There’s also built-in Wi-Fi for quick and easy sharing of footage too. Other key features

include improved creative panorama (360-degree), 3.5mm microphone socket, improved eye cup and sensor, Focus Peaking, Silent Mode, Level Gauge, Creative Control with 22 filters, Time Lapse Shot/ Stop Motion Animation plus iA+ (Intelligent Auto) Mode for Photo and Video. “The LUMIX DMC-G7 records stunningly smooth, high-resolution 4K video (3840x2160) at four times the resolution of full-HD,” says

Panasonic. “The result is crystal clear footage that captures even the most intricate details, such as individual blades of grass or stars in the night sky.” The LUMIX G7 will be available from mid June and launch prices are as follows: DMC-G7HEB-K in black - £849, DMC-G7KEB-K in black - £679, DMC-G7EB-K in black - £599, DMC-G7WEB-S in silver sold at Jessops - £779 and the DMC-G7KEB-S in silver sold at Jessops - £679. For more information head on over to

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NEWS : JUNE 2015

LILY CAMERA DRONE If you’re looking for a different way to shoot video footage then the new drone camera from Lily might fit the bill. This quirky little device is designed so that you can film yourself, without needing anyone else to help you get the job done. All you need to do is turn it on and throw the unit into the air. The Lily has been carefully designed to suit those who shoot footage in the great outdoors so it’s waterproof, very compact and weighs in at just 1.3kg. Once it’s airborne, the camera drone can move in pre-programmed routes or follow a transmitter signal. The on board camera features 1080p video capture (H.264 codec/ MP4 file format) and can also shoot 120 frames per second slow motion as well as being able to take 12-megapixel still images. It boasts a 94-degree field of vision, has automatic image stabilisation and fixed vision. There’s an external

memory slot that supplements the supplied 4GB microSD card while a Lily companion app comes for the iOS and Android operating systems. Power comes from a builtin Lithium-Ion battery that promises 20 minutes of flight time while a recharge takes 2 hours via a 5A charger. The Lily is said to have a top speed of 25 miles per hour and a maximum above head altitude of 15 metre and can operate up to 30 metres way from its user. The device won’t hit stores until early next year but it’s already stirring up interest from GoPro users and suchlike who are always on the lookout for innovative ways of capturing new footage. It’s expected to cost around $600. You can find out more about it over at

SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL The well-respected SmallHD has recently unveiled its latest iPhone-sized display for DSLR owners in the shape of the dainty little 501 unit. We’ve seen this new range on show at NAB in Las Vegas, and the 501 proves to be the perfect supplement to the already available SmallHD 502 model. Needless to say, the follow up is compact but very nicely put together, with 5-inch Full 1080p resolution LCD with 441 ppi, there’s 3D LUT support, HDMI

in/out ports and a super easy to use interface complete with joystick navigation. Adding to the appeal for DSLR filmmakers is its capacity for using Canon LP-E6 batteries, which are the same as those used in the likes of the 5D Mark II and III. The extra benefit of the 501, which has slightly less features than the 502, is the fact that it’s significantly cheaper at $899. However, you can still boost its capacity by adding the ‘Sidefinder’ attachment for $300, which transforms the unit into an instant EVF. Find out more over at www.


A SCRIPT DJI has come up with a natty idea for a new competition and is inviting budding scriptwriters to submit their compelling stories based around the theme of ‘innovation’. In its press release, the enterprising outfit says ‘Believing that each screenwriter has an

NIKON CASHBACK Nikon has announced a summer cashback promotion that could see savings of up to £60 on selected DSLR models, plus lens and speedlights. The promotion will run from the 21st of May 2015 through to the 26th of August 2015 and all claims must be received by the 30th September 2015 (inclusive) in order to qualify. “With the holiday season fast approaching, now is the perfect time to step up into the world of DSLR photography to get those all important holiday snaps and create lasting memories,” said Edward Allinson from Nikon. For more information on the promotion, the complete range of products and how to submit your claim, see


inspiring and powerful story to tell, DJI is hosting its very first international screenwriting competition. To celebrate the launch of the Ronin-M, DJI invites aspiring screenwriters to send in a 5-minute screenplay, centered around the theme of ‘Innovation’ by July 4, 2015.’ Following the competition, DJI will pick five of the best screenplays to produce and screen at an event in Los Angeles on August 13th. The top five screenplays will also receive several awards, ranging from the Ronin-M for the fourth-placed runner-up to a selection of professional filmmaking equipment for the Grand Prize, including a DJI Ronin-M, DJI Inspire 1, Sony Alpha A7S and Paralinx Triton. Get more details and enter over at ronin-film-competition

Panasonic has released a new firmware upgrade for the GH4, which features a new true anamorphic 4:3 mode at a resolution of 3328 x 2496 that can be found in the motion picture menus. This actually now puts the humble GH4 in a similar league capacity-wise to the Arri Alexa, which isn’t too shabby for a relatively cheap consumer camera even if they sit at different ends of the hardware spectrum. Once added, users will find that they can enjoy better shallow depthof-field, higher resolution and also the impressive 2.66:1 aspect ratio. You can find links to the version 2.2 firmware update via the Japanese website over at

CANON CASHBACK Canon is also offering cashback for the summer with up to £50 off selected products in its range. ‘Whether you’re looking for a superzoom camera with the PowerShot SX710 or a small and light DSLR like the EOS 100D, with great cashback offers on selected Canon products until 19th August 2015 you can choose your perfect companion to capture and share your movies this summer and beyond,’ says Canon’s press release. The offer runs from the 20th of May 2015 to the 19th of August 2015 for eligible products purchased from UK or Republic of Ireland retailers. To see the entire range included in the offer pay a visit to

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The arrival of summer is bringing with it plenty of heavy discounting from the camera manufacturers. One fine example is AJA, maker of the mighty CION, which has launched its own ‘Summer of Savings’ promotion, that includes discounting for not just the CION Production Camera but also the Ki Pro Quad, Ki Pro Mini and Ki Pro Recorders. As a result, the price for CION is now $4,995 US MSRP, which reflects a sizeable $4,000 price reduction. Ki Pro Quad is now $2,995 US MSRP,

Ki Pro Mini is $1,495 US MSRP, Ki Pro is $2,495 US MSRP and Ki Pro ND is $2,295 US MSRP. AJA customers who purchased the CION production camera before May 26, 2015 will receive two AJA Pak 512 SSDs for free, directly from AJA (valued at $2,495 MSRP). “CION already offers so much in terms of cinematic image quality, functionality, workflow flexibility, and with this new lower price we’re completely removing the barrier to entry for so many in the indie and commercial filmmaking market,”

said Nick Rashby, President, AJA Video Systems. “Our Ki Pro products were the first to deliver hardware ProRes recording in a portable device, and this price promotion is designed to get this proven performance into even more customer’s hands.” AJA’s “Summer of Savings” runs through until the end of summer 2015. Current CION owners can submit their request for the free Pak media drives to For more information about AJA products head to

Aussie outfit Rode has released an updated edition of its VideoMic Pro, which addresses some of the shortcomings of earlier incarnations of the popular unit. The company has joined forces with respected British manufacturer Rycote to add in a Rycote Lyre suspension unit, which offers better performance and a more durable unit overall. It also packs an upgraded microphone capsule that has higher sensitivity and lower selfnoise. “The VideoMic Pro was a revelation for DSLR users the world over, making broadcast quality audio accessible to everyone at an affordable price” comments Rode’s Damien Wilson. “Now we’re taking it to another level. With the Rycote Lyre upgrade, and an upgraded capsule, it’s now even better value for such an amazing broadcast quality product.”

CANON LENS LANDS Get connected Canon has recently unveiled its new optic, the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, which features an improved design, the company’s super spectra lens coating, a 7-blade aperture and STM technology for smooth, near silent focusing. Compact, lightweight and affordable, the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Canon reckons the optic will be a welcome addition to any kit bag for people who want to create more impactful imagery. The lens has a compact and lightweight design, weighing a mere 160g, and easily slips into your bag adding very little


to the overall weight of your kit. Crucially, the lens’s new external design compliments both Canon’s consumer and mid-range EOS DSLRs, while the new metal mount provides a more robust connection to camera bodies. Additionally, the lens’s manual focusing ring gives you added freedom to control the precise area in focus in your movies. “Canon’s optical heritage of creating high-quality lenses is something we are very proud of,” said Yuichi Ishizuka, president and COO of Canon USA. “Regardless of skill level or budget, all videographers should have access to superb creative tools that enable them to capture not only beautiful images but images that tell the story of their lives. This new lens will provide videographers with outstanding images they will want to share for years to come.” The EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is available from now with an SRP of £129.99.

We all rely on internet connectivity to manage our workflow these days. More importantly, it’s crucial to stay powered up so a bundle of new releases from TP-LINK Technologies address these issues. If you’re after 3G connectivity for multiple devices and have a 3G-only SIM then the 3G Mobile Wi-Fi M5350 is worth a look. This connects up to 10 devices simultaneously and delivers up to 7 hours continuous connection time. Meanwhile, if you want 3G connectivity for multiple devices plus charging then the 3G Mobile Wi-Fi, 5200mAh Power Bank M5360 might appeal. This one lets you recharge one device at a time while providing a 3G wireless hotspot for up to 10 devices at the same time. The battery enables up to 17 continuous hours of use. Finally, if you have a 4G SIM then the LTE-Advanced Mobile WiFi M7350 is a solid option. This device creates a secure 4G hotspot wherever you can get a 4G signal and if you can’t get 4G but there is a 3G signal it will create a secure 3G hotspot and share a single 4G/3G connection with up to 15 devices simultaneously. It has download speeds of up to 150Mbps and upload speeds up to 50Mbps and battery life is up to 10 hours of continuous use. Take a look over at

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Introducing Blackmagic URSA, the world’s first user upgradeable 4K digital film camera! Blackmagic URSA is the world’s first high end digital film camera designed to revolutionize workflow on set. Built to handle the ergonomics of large film crews as well as single person use, URSA has everything built in, including a massive 10 inch fold out on set monitor, large user upgradeable Super 35 global shutter 4K image sensor, 12G-SDI and internal dual RAW and ProRes recorders. Super 35 Size Sensor URSA is a true professional digital film camera with a 4K sensor, global shutter and an incredible 12 stops of dynamic range. The wide dynamic range blows away regular video cameras or even high end broadcast cameras, so you get dramatically better images that look like true digital film. The extra large Super 35 size allows for creative shallow depth of field shooting plus RAW and ProRes means you get incredible quality! Dual Recorders Blackmagic URSA features dual recorders so you never need to stop recording to change media. That’s critical if you are shooting an historical event, important interview or where you just cannot stop shooting! Simply load an empty CFast card into the second recorder and when the current card is full, the recording will continue onto the second card, allowing you to change out the full card and keep shooting!

User Upgradeable Sensor Blackmagic URSA features a modular camera turret that can be removed by unscrewing 4 simple bolts! The camera turret includes the sensor, lens mount and lens control connections and can be upgraded in the future when new types of sensors are developed. This means your next camera will be a fraction of the cost of buying a whole new camera! Choose professional PL mount, popular EF mount and more! Built in On Set Monitoring! Say goodbye to bulky on set monitors because you get a massive fold out 10 inch screen built into Blackmagic URSA, making it the world’s biggest viewfinder! The screen is super bright and features an ultra wide viewing angle. URSA also includes two extra 5” touch screens on both sides of the camera showing settings such as format, frame rate, shutter angle plus scopes for checking levels, audio and focus!

Blackmagic URSA EF



Blackmagic URSA PL



Lenses and accessories shown are not included *SRP is Exclusive of VAT

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modern day

marvel DOP Ben Davis talks about work on his work on Avengers Age of Ultron movie and how digital filmmaking has revolutionised the way he works


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Feature: Modern day marvel

“Why digital? A certain amount of history, in that everything Marvel had shot previously was digital” When it comes to blockbusters then they don’t come much bigger or better than the Avengers Age of Ultron movie. However, despite all of the thrills, spills and liberal amounts of special effects, it’s the filmmaking expertise of DOP Ben Davis that’s at the core of this latest Marvel outing. He recently took time out to talk about the project and how filming in digital has been a real revelation, something that readers of this very magazine will no doubt agree with… So, without further ado, let’s hear what Ben has to say about his latest work over the course

of this quickfire question and answer session. This wasn’t your first Marvel production, but it was a first in terms of working with Joss Whedon, how was that experience for you? “He’s a delight to work with,” says Ben. “I particularly like the experience of working with writer/directors because they have a particularly strong understanding of their material. Remember, by the time it gets to production they may have been living with those words, in some instances, for several years and so they have a very strong idea of how they want it to look, particularly someone as experienced as Joss.”

Production value So why did you choose to shoot digitally? “The previous film was digital and all of Marvel’s previous work has been a digital workflow,” reckons Ben. “It seemed the right choice at the time for what we wanted to achieve. I’ve shot a lot of

features on film and just as many on digital, and I believe you have to make the decision that is right for the project. In this instance, shooting digitally was right. Why digital? A certain amount of history, in that everything Marvel had shot previously was digital, I also

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think that with the looks we wanted to create it was the right way to go. It’s a wonderful time for DPs right now as we have the choice. Not only do you have this wonderful sort of pallet in terms of texture and colour and look but you also have the option of shooting 16mm or Super35mm, and some are even shooting 65mm. And just as the different film stocks and film ratios have different feels, so too do the various camera platforms in the digital realm.”

What formats did you record in and how was it framed? “That’s interesting because the original Avengers film was shot 1:85,” furthers the filmmaker. “Which at the time was appropriate for that film. They shot a big battle sequence in New York at the end of the film, so there was a lot of vertical size that needed capturing and that wasn’t the case with the Age of Ultron. Now we started of with the idea that we could shoot 1:85 but as more of the concept artwork and set

“A LOT OF AVENGERS IS LOCATION BASED WORK. IN MANY RESPECTS, IT IS EASIER AS IT IS BASED IN REALITY” designs came through, the whole thing seemed to gradually lend itself to a widescreen format (2:35). And Joss was very aware of that and felt in the end that this was the better way to go, and I think you’ll agree that he was right when you see the film. At the time of the first film, the


was a lot of stuff around, it was the rebirth of 3D and their was talk at the time that everything in the future would be shot 3D, their was also a lot of talk that 1:85 was the correct format for 3D, that you couldn’t shoot wide screen (2:35) for a 3D movie. And I think those ideas have been

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Feature: Modern day marvel

diluted somewhat, the 3D aspect of a film is not now the overriding factor of all the artistic choices. I actually think that some of the tent pole action movies are very good in 3D, and on Guardians of the Galaxy I preferred the 3D version, and it’s not often I would

say that. So whilst it is sometimes merited, I wouldn’t have wanted to see something like Birdman or Whiplash in 3D, they wouldn’t have been improved, in fact I think it would have been detrimental to the story. If you are following a very precise narrative the sensory bombardment of 3D could in fact remove you from the story. Now if I had the choice of seeing Age of Ultron at the cinema in 2D or 3D, I would go with the latter. This film and its story is all about visual spectacle, and the 3D really enhances the viewing experience.”

Optical inspiration What then were your lens choices and why? “Our primary camera package was the Panavision fronted Alex,” furthers Ben. “And I shot with the Primo lenses. As

lenses, they are compact, very easy to use and not too heavy, which makes them good for handheld shooting, and I love the quality. Their small size also made lens changes during a shoot very quick and easy. We also need to do a lot of close focus work, and they do a good range of close focus glass.”

On Guardians of the Galaxy you shot on very detailed sets rather than relying on green screen and blue screen. Was that the case with Avengers? “A lot of Avengers is location based work,” says the DOP. “In many respects, it is easier as it is based in reality, it’s not set in space as Guardians of the Galaxy was. Very little of Avengers

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Age of Ultron was on green screen it was either on builds or location. The two films really are very different. Where as Guardians was about extraordinary people in an extraordinary environment, Avengers is about extraordinary people in a very ordinary world. The aim of the film was to create a very real looking feature based around real places, but it just so happens that you have this group of super heroes that the story centres on, and that is what the Avengers is about. With Guardian’s we played with a lot of light and set design, where as with Avengers we had to create something that looked and felt grounded.” How did you approach developing a visual language and style for the film, and did this end up being very close to the original? “It differs,” says Ben. “I feel, quite significantly from the first film, and in fact this is one of the first discussions Joss and I had. The first was about a coming together where as this film is about a coming apart, which is reflected in the tone of the script. The tone of the film is far more dark and menacing so the visual approach was grittier, darker, and more earthbound film.”

Making magic How did you make use of the eight Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras during


production? Did they help solve any particular problems or issues for you and how? “We had a lot of 2nd Unit plus a lot of stunt work to do on Age of Ultron,” says Ben. “And we required a small robust camera. I was a big fan of the work Anthony Dodd-Mantle had done with smaller cameras

on Rush, particularly in mounting them in unusual places. So I carried out tests on a number of small camera platforms, however the quality of the image we were getting concerned me. During those tests, I always had in the back of mind that we would be cutting this material in within action sequences, and I had

reservations about using the material we were seeing. I then bumped into a DIT friend of mine who’d recently purchased a Pocket Cinema Camera, and he was raving about it, so we pulled one in for testing. For me, it was a no-brainer really, it was all about the latitude and size. Suddenly I had a small camera

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Feature: Modern day marvel which could not only output a 12-bit Raw image, but it also had a latitude that was getting up to and around the level of the Alexa. What I found it akin to was shooting 35mm, and then placing 16mm cameras around to capture all of the action shots. I felt the footage from the Pocket Cinema Camera matched incredibly well with our primary camera package, and the added advantage is that I could change the lens and set the lens focus and aperture where we wanted it to be. A lot of the other small camera platforms didn’t have that level of flexibility. It was a fixed lens size and then it would gather its own exposure. They

were always a wide-angle lens with a fixed focus, which was limiting.” Are there any particular scenes in the film that we should be looking out for where the Pocket was used? “There are two large battle sequences in the film,” adds Ben. “The first is at the beginning whilst the second features in the third act, and we very much wanted these to be shot as war footage. So when you watch material filmed by correspondents covering news stories in a war, they’ll put themselves in the line of fire, so you are always hidden behind something and peering out over an obstacle to try and grab the moment.”

Working smart “So,” the filmmaker continues. “What we needed was lightweight cameras that we could distribute around the set during these battle sequences, and that included eight Pocket Cinema Cameras equipped with a 14mm pancake lens or a 12-35mm zoom, which we mounted to impact points. So for instance, say a truck was being blown up and thrown through the air and was landing

on top of a car, we would put one of the Pockets in a small metal housing and put it in the car. Another instance involved mounting Pocket Cinema Cameras to a tank, because you could literally strap one on the end of a magic arm and bolt it to almost anywhere you’d want it to be on the tank because it was so small. When I got these in I thought they would be a nice to have, however I ended up

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Feature: Modern day marvel using these far more than I ever thought we would. The appealing thing about this camera is its size to quality ratio. The footage is usable for a much longer cut time than previous incarnations of small camera platforms. And so the camera does in fact become far more useful. Before,

if we thought a shot was worth getting, we’d try and stick a larger camera in to get it, but now we know the Pocket Cinema Camera can cope. It not only has the latitude, but it also has the look and so it becomes a usable shot as opposed to the six to twelve frames we’d been getting from other small camera platforms. And that is why it’s such an appealing camera - its size. The Alexa with a lens on it is a big camera, and even the Canon C500 once kitted up becomes a big camera,

“I DON’T SEE ANY POINT IN TAKING A CAMERA FOR ITS SIZE AND THEN STRAPPING 10LBS WORTH OF ACCESSORIES TO IT” however suddenly you have something far smaller, and far more versatile. Size really does matter in this instance.” Did you use any specialist rigs? “No,” says the filmmaker in closing. “The whole idea of using the camera was to keep it small and light weight. I really don’t see any point in taking a camera for its size and then strapping 10Ibs


worth of accessories to it, it really doesn’t make any sense. Say you were doing a strafing run, we’d put a camera right in the middle of the charges pointing straight at you, and leave it to film. And because of its size the other cameras didn’t see it, and generally they bounced quite well if you put them under an explosion - it’s a remarkably robust camera. ■

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Feature: Moving on up

moving on up It’s been a riotously successful 12 months since we last saw DJI PR manager Michael Perry and, by the sound of it, things look set to get even better during the summer

DJI took things up a notch with their latest kit announcements at NAB 2015 a while back. There were the variants of its ground-breaking Phantom drone platforms – the Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 3 Advanced, both of which provide greater control and creative options from the sky. “In developing the next generation Phantom, DJI remains committed to providing a top tier flight experience in one easy-to-use platform,” said DJI CEO Frank Wang at the time. “We pride ourselves in creating a flying camera that fits in a backpack and can be ready to take professional quality videos from the sky in less than a minute.” On top of that, there was the Ronin-M, an improved gimbal system that was a step ahead of DJI’s earlier iteration and a couple of other interesting developments. Never a dull moment then, it seems, for this company that has been moving faster than one of its aerial cameras…

Exciting times “We’ve got a number of things that have happened since NAB last year,” agrees the always-affable PR manager Michael Perry. “And of course, at NAB this year one of the main things was that we announced the new DJI Ronin-M. The original Ronin has obviously changed the way camera

stabilisation is operated because it’s at that accessible price point plus it’s also easy to set up. You don’t need any tools… basically; you can change a camera or a lens and then be back up and running within five minutes. So, we’ve taken all of those intelligent features and then shrunk them down into a package that is lightweight and backpackable. This new platform, the DJI Ronin-M is just five pounds (2.26Kg) in weight and can carry any camera setup that’s up to 8 pounds (3.62Kg), so it has a lot of different options for how you’re able to modify it. The arms twist off, so you’re able to take it with you wherever you go and the battery life has been extended

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to six hours, so you’re going to be able to shoot almost all day and get some great shots. We’ve also extended some of the peripheral accessories that go together with the Ronin, like we’ve got the new gimbal thumb stick. So as a single operator you’re able to precisely point the camera exactly where it’s supposed to be.” It doesn’t stop there either… “Then we’re also showing off our new prototype follow focus system,” adds Michael. “We don’t have pricing details at the moment but it’s been out there on the booth so that people can take a look. We’re really excited about that. For the Ronin-M, that will be available for pre order right about now and we’ll release the pricing details shortly too. But we’re basically looking at something slightly less than $2,000, so I think that’s going to be a really competitive price point and something that anybody who’s creative is going to be able to access and use.”

Busy schedule “In terms of the aerial equipment that’s developing then a lot of stuff has been happening there,” Michael continues on their rollercoaster last year or so. “Late last year we introduced the DJI Inspire 1, which was our first kind of platform to bridge the accessibility of the Phantom series with a lot of the professional functions of the Spreading Wings series. So you’re able to have a 4K camera that’s built-in and on-board, you can angle the camera and use it with two camera operators; one operator is flying it while the other is controlling the precise movement of the camera. Also integrated is Lightbridge technology as per the Inspire 1, so that you’re able to precisely


see what is exactly in the frame. That’s really important for a lot of filmmakers who want to make sure that they’re getting exactly the right shot.” The end result has been the Phantom 3 and so far it has been receiving much critical acclaim. “We’re really excited about this model because it takes DJI’s

most advanced technology and has shrunk it all down into that really accessible package,” enthuses the PR man. “And all with the Phantom form factor. So again, on-board you have a 4K camera, you’re able to stream 720p footage, you have a downwards facing camera that keeps everything nicely

stabilised indoors, so even if you don’t have a GPS connection you’re still going to be able to get really steady flight. The platform itself is really accessible and includes the DJI Pilot app to control the camera, similar to the Inspire 1. Plus, with this app we’ve included a bunch of exciting new features recently. One is YouTube live integration, so you’re able to show friends the sunrise if you happen to be in Oahu for example. You can send up your Phantom and then show your friends who might be on the other side of the world and say ‘this is what I’m seeing right now’. You can also use the Director function, which tags your favourite moments from your flight and then, when you land, the Director edits them all together so that you can post them immediately to Facebook. So there’s a lot of amazing new functionality built on board and it’s a very user-friendly experience.”

Improved products The Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 3 Advanced are certainly impressive. Both versions feature the strongest professional control features DJI has developed so far. Using DJI’s innovative Visual Positioning System (VPS), these Phantom 3 platforms can hold their positioning indoors without GPS and can easily take off and land with the push of a button. As Michael mentioned, controllers for the Phantom 3 come paired with DJI’s Lightbridge technology, which allows pilots to see what the Phantom 3 camera is seeing in HD (720p) at a distance up to 1 mile (1.6 kilometres) with almost no latency. What’s more, the Phantom 3 Professional is capable of shooting 4K video at up to 30 frames per second,

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Feature: Moving on up while the Phantom 3 Advanced records at resolutions up to 1080p at 60 frames per second. These cameras are stabilised using 3-axis gimbals to keep the video smooth regardless of flight or wind conditions. Both models shoot 12-megapixel photos using a 94-degree FOV, distortionfree lens, and a high-quality, 1/2.3-inch sensor that is more sensitive to light than the sensor in previous Phantom 2 Vision models. All camera settings, including ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation, can be set using both the DJI Pilot app and the physical controls on the remote controllers. The DJI Pilot app also features a Phantom 3 flight simulator for virtually practising aerial manoeuvres, and that Director feature, which automatically edits the best shots from flights into short videos, allows content to be shared immediately after landing. The upgraded app also allows pilots to live stream their flights to YouTube. “Pilots, whether they are journalists, extreme athletes, or global travellers – will not just be able to share aerial videos of where they were, but will also be

able to send a YouTube link to their friends and colleagues to show them the aerial perspectives of where they are right now,” said DJI’s San Francisco General Manager Eric Cheng during the launch. “This has tremendous potential for changing the way we share experiences with one another.”

Customer control

says Michael, citing an example. “Whereas now you can control any of the camera functions and that includes angling it up or down. So the vast majority of the functions are now available on the controller itself. That means you don’t have to take your hands off the sticks in order to turn the gimbal up and down. Starting and stopping record, or even adjusting exposure compensation, all of that stuff can be done via the controller so that you have precise control of both the camera and the flight at the same time.”

However, the last twelve months or so has also seen the world of these flying machines being affected by some people using them for less savoury purposes. So how has the mixed press that drones have been getting affected DJI as a company? “Well, there’s certainly a lot of things that have been happening with the technology,” admits Michael. “And any new emerging technology has a lot of potential, but it also has a lot of risks. We strongly believe in the potential of all this and the regulators and users can also see that the


Much of the way things have turned out has been down to working with customers in order to fine-tune the way the DJI product range can be used on a daily basis. “One of the things we’ve done having taken the feedback from our customers is that previously you had to take your hands off the remote,”

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positives outweigh the risks of this technology in terms of how it can be used to save lives, or to improve crop yields or provide a lot more intelligence about the world round us in a way that we weren’t previously able to access. So, in terms of the regulatory side of things, we’re increasingly seeing them share our opinion, which is that we want safe skies and we want to stay open to innovation. A lot of the regulatory rules that are coming out around the word right now are starting to push in that kind of direction, which is to say that there’s a clear framework for what you can and cannot do. If you want to do something with this out of the box product that you’re not able to do - such as fly over crowds, fly in the city or at night, for example – we’re starting to see the processes that you’ll need in order to gain the right certification to do all that stuff the right way. This is what we are all hopefully


working towards. We feel that this is a really common sense approach to take, so by using this technology we can open up more possibilities as things move forwards.”

Harmful issues What about those folks who might want to use these devices for the wrong reasons, does that nag at him in the back of his mind? “Well, certainly we have to be aware of the way that people want to use the devices and in

all circumstances,” says Michael. “At the same time I would argue that this is a scenario that faces every technology, whether it be everything from cars to rice cookers to cameras. You know, all of those things and all of this technology can be used in a way that the original technology wasn’t designed for. At the same time, we feel that with a strong regulatory

system in place then you’re going to have a lot more controls and just a lot more awareness of what is proper use too. And then, if someone spots improper use, then hopefully there will be this path that you go down to ensure that it gets reported. The exciting thing is that the FAA here in the US has already taken some strong steps to make sure rules are

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Feature: Moving on up in place in order to ensure that people are able to operate these things safely and responsibly.”

Changing tack So as DJI becomes ever larger are they going to stick to their core product area or, instead, being such an innovative outfit, will we see an even wider range of products being developed over time? “That’s hard to say,” chuckles Michael. “Certainly at this point in time we’re cruising along nicely, but if you look at our history then we started off really just focusing on stabilisation. That was really our core technology to begin with… taking this information from gyroscopes and IMUs and then making sure that platforms such as handheld gimbals would stay stable. So as we’ve gone along we’ve been expanding that portfolio of technology to provide even more

“WE NEVER THOUGHT THAT THIS WOULD BE THE EXACT TOOL THAT MANY ARCHAEOLOGISTS MIGHT NEED, BUT IT IS” options for aerial filmmakers. And, as a result of that, we’ve opened up areas for other creators too, so that now includes the likes of the video transmission technology that we’ve developed, which is not only being used for aerial shots but is also being used by journalists. They’ve been using it to send feeds back across vast distances, so DJI is starting to move in that direction also. But, at the same time, we’re also trying to develop a platform that anybody can access and provide their own level of innovation on.” Indeed, DJI is looking at its growing customer base to help improve existing products and, perhaps, develop new ones too…

“That’s why we’ve released an SDK,” adds Michael. “Using our software development kit now anybody can create their own app. Eventually this will expand to other platforms, and in the meantime we’ve already seen some really innovative apps coming to our systems and that includes 3D mapping, plus there’s fleet management, so that you can see how different drones are working together. That allows you to set different work parameters meaning that you can have the machines flying in a certain space or whatever, plus you also have live streaming. Before the Phantom 3, NBC had set up live streaming from the Phantom 2 Vision Plus

straight to their Streamwire service, so that if you’re in New York working at NBC you can cut to drone footage immediately and get it out on the air.” So in a way it’s your customers who are co-collaborators in all this? “Yeah, and not just in the software development, but also the hardware side of things,” agrees Michael. “There are a lot of applications that our technology is being put to use with… stuff that we’d never dreamt of. For example, we never thought that this would be the exact tool that many archaeologists might need, but it is. So, every week we’re seeing a new level of innovation and application from our users that we didn’t ever think was possible. That’s really opening up our perspective and broadening the possibilities of what all this technology can do.” ■

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Feature: The journey continues


CONTINUES Philip Bloom returns to talk about the creative choices he made while filming The Wonder List for CNN, a documentary series that took him to all points of the compass In the issue before last I talked about how and why I chose the cameras to film The Wonder Stuff, a documentary series for CNN, and I also touched on some of the creative choices I made. This month I want to expand further on those creative choices and talk much more about how it impacted on the actually shooting process and the delicate balance for things to not overwhelm the most important

part, the content. This original series for CNN is in eight parts with each 1-hour long episode focusing on somewhere amazing in our world that is on the brink of change. We set out to capture ‘time capsules’ of each place that also examined the issues and discussed possible solutions and outcomes. It was shot over 6 months in 8 countries and across 5 continents. A very ambitious project with a very

small crew that I was determined to make look as good as I could possibly make it, despite the size of the crew. In an ideal world, to film this series properly you would have a camera crew that consists of the following; DP/operator, 2nd camera, 2 assistants, sound recordist, DIT. More than this and you would be tripping over each other. In fact, this amount of people in some of the places we went to we most certainly would

have been tripping over, bumping into and getting into each other’s shots… a lot! And, as much as this sort of team would be wonderful, I am a very realistic person and I know that most of what I needed I wouldn’t get for a number of reasons.

Creative challenges Many have a preconceived notion that working for a big network like CNN means that money is no object. Anyone who has

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worked in this business (or, to be honest, any business) knows that, of course, it does not work like that. You are given a budget and you have to make that work. Shows only get commissioned if they can be made within a certain amount of money, hence there is absolutely not an endless pool of money you can dip into. Quite the opposite. We had a fixed budget and decisions were made based on that. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the crew I wanted for this. In fact, I knew I would be unlikely to get any of them! This wasn’t sprung on me once I signed the contract… I knew this going into it. We were making the show on a tight budget and stretching things as much as we could. I took a big cut in my normal rates because I wanted to work on the show. This is pretty normal when taking jobs you really want to do. You do the better paying corporate gigs so you can do more stuff that excites you, but often doesn’t bring in the same amount of money. I most certainly am not in the business to get rich, I am in it to be happy, both creatively and as a person. If I wanted to be rich I would have gone and managed a hedge fund or something! If I just worked for money all the time and not for the projects I wanted to do creatively and personally then I could imagine falling out of love with my passion. It would be a sad day if that ever happened. I adore what I do, both in the creating and in the sharing of the knowledge to anyone who wants to learn from my experiences. That’s why I am


constantly doing my own little projects and taking on bigger jobs like this to make me feel ‘creatively fulfilled.’

Action plan During the initial pre-production stages I explained to CNN how difficult it would be to shoot this series with all the gear I was using without help. In case you missed the previous article, I used a Sony F55 or FS7 as ‘A’ camera, a Sony A7s as ‘C’ camera, another Sony A7s on Movi M5 as ‘D’ camera, plus Phantom 3 or Inspire 1 drones and everything that goes along with that. Whilst I was told the rest of the team would help out, I explained that an experienced camera assistant was more than just another pair of hands. They understood, and when I was finally able to get one a few episodes in it a made a world of difference. Until that happened, I had to make do. Sound is so important and not having a sound recordist on a job is

“I KNEW I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO GET THE CREW I WANTED... IN FACT, I KNEW I WOULD BE UNLIKELY TO GET ANY OF THEM!” very common. Sound is absolutely as important as the image, but if there is no budget for one then you work around it. You don’t have a choice. After all, I have done countless jobs as a one-man-band. You just have to realise there will be a compromise. Like most men, I am not the greatest multi-tasker in the world, but you do your best!

Bite-sized chunks For each episode there were four of us; Bill Weir who is the host/ presenter of the show, myself as DP/operator, the producer of the episode, which would rotate between Cassius Kim and his opposite, Elgin Fulton (each had

4 episodes to produce) and, finally, Julian Quinones, our field producer. Bill, myself and Julian went on all the shoots, with the other two leapfrogging each other. Back at base, we had our executive producer Conor Hanna and one researcher. A very small team indeed. Whilst I was in charge of the look and did most of the shooting, both producers also shot. The main producer used a CNN owned C100 as the main ‘B’ camera, which was mostly handheld or used for getting another angle on interviews on sticks. Julian often manned my A7s during interviews for a third angle and did some other shots

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Feature: The journey continues

when we needed to split up. Whilst both my ‘A’ camera and the C100 are terrific video cameras, with superb audio handling, a couple of episodes in we decided the best way to handle audio was not to run it through either of these cameras but to do it through a dedicated audio recorder. Before we did this it was either through my camera, the C100 or an audio recorder. Messy. With no sound recordist able to send it to both main cameras we felt it would be simpler and much less fiddly when it came to the edit to do it all as dual system audio. We needed

some continuity. We mostly used my Zoom H6, an excellent recorder with 4 XLR inputs. Julian was more or less in charge of sound from this point on.

Audio excellence The easiest mics to use in situations like these are radio mics. A nice Rode NTG-3 on a boom would be great, but with no sound man this was the way to go. We used my Sony UWP or CNN’s Sennheiser G3 mics with lavs. I am a firm believer in not seeing a mic in shot, in the same way I do not believe we should see a tripod or a light stand in shot

either. This is why I am a big fan of using Rycote undercovers to hide the lavs under clothes. The key thing here, like you should always do anyway, is to monitor what is being recorded with headphones. If there is any rustling from clothes you know you need to make adjustments in mic placement. There were two occasions when the wireless lav and undercover system would not work… that was in the Yakel village in Vanuatu.

To use undercovers you need something to put them under, as in clothes. The male villagers here wore little more than ‘penis sheaths’! When the time came to do two separate interviews, not only was I looking for where to film them, I considered the problem that we were going to have with audio… “Where do I put the mic?” After awkwardly looking our interviewee up and down, I realised that the only bit of clothing

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the men were wearing was too far away from their mouths and would also be a very tricky place to attach it to! Thankfully, in my audio bag I have my Rode NTG-2 shotgun and boom pole! Julian locked his wide shot off on the A7s and held the boom. It worked great! Crisis averted!

Arrival time Before we even set foot in each destination we had most of the interviewees and locations set up. You can’t just turn up in places like these and hope for the best.

Research and planning is key. We had a very short period of time filming in most of the episodes. In the Alps episode, we did it all in three and a half days, but in the Everglades one we amazingly had eleven days. On average there were six days of filming per episode. That’s not a lot of time to shoot an hour-long documentary, especially with the size of crew we had and the amount of production I wanted to put into each episode. What was key though, was the ability to be flexible. You never use every interview you shoot

or every location you go to. You need to have space in the schedule to be flexible. The story can often change whilst filming and on every episode we filmed we met people who were not prearranged who were amazing and we had to use them. Over stuffing your schedule before even arriving is a big mistake. Finding that middle ground is very important. When using kit and techniques that can raise your production visually you have to be wary of a couple of key pitfalls. Overuse and time management. With a schedule as tight as we had, and without anyone dedicated to prepare kit like Movi and/or the drones, you needed to factor in

set up and technical problems. I am very experienced with the Movi M5, especially after using it so much for this season and I can set it up within about 5 minutes easily, but that does mean stopping doing anything else and you need to be prepared for the times when things don’t go according to plan!

Tricky situations Because of the way we were working and the nature of the tool itself, the Movi couldn’t be left set up. There weren’t enough hands, or even a place to put it. It had to be packed away into its Peli case to protect it while it wasn’t being used. Not ideal, and

Mac Stone Photo


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Feature: The journey continues as the series progressed I found a way, in combination with the Movi ring, to protect it and keep it mostly set up. Not ideal at all really, but setting it up each time and dismantling it was too time consuming. When you are filming someone, whether they are tight for time or not, you still need to be as efficient as possible. Making people sit around whilst you set up gear is not ideal and, if you have technical issues, even more so. There was only one time when the Movi wouldn’t fire up and I decided within five minutes of fiddling to abandon using it for that interviewee as the light was fading. Other than that, I was amazed how few little problems

we had from something that was not designed to be used in the way that I used it – it all worked so amazingly well. From being at sea, to beaches and deserts, it was a superb and robust performer. I just kept it clean each

night and it behaved impeccably! Early on in the filming of the series I felt we were overusing the Movi at times and doing too many ‘walk and talk’ interviews. While I love the added energy it gives to an interview, unless you are walking for a reason, as in seeing something, they are a pain. They’re hard to cut and hard to get any second angles on. So, I decided we were to do our interviews on tripods with multiple cameras initially and then repeat some questions via a walk and talk when needed. Most of the time this ‘second interview’ was much more ‘actuality’ than another formal interview. While

showing or doing something, Bill would touch on some of the same points. Much more natural. Much better!

Up in the air Drones weren’t used much at all sadly in the filming. I used them in three countries where we were legally allowed to, and really only in Vanuatu did I have the time and freedom to be able to use them to their full advantage. Often the weather didn’t co-operate (which was more of a problem for the Phantom 2 than the Inspire 1), or there simply wasn’t enough time. When you use one nothing else can be done. The noise

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stops that! But when I could use them it was an absolute joy. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will be in a much more ‘sorted’ situation globally where people like myself who use them occasionally, much like any other production device, can use them if they want to. A globallyrecognised licence for example. Shooting slow motion, especially super slow motion that both the Sony FS7 and F55 offer, is lovely. It’s also a very hungry beast. It eats up data so fast you should buy shares in Western Digital! Just about everything looks better filmed this way… well, filming a giant tortoise on the Galapagos looked exactly the same in slow motion as it did in real time! If there was enough light (super slow motion needs light as the shutter speed needs to be fast)


“I TRULY BELIEVE WE HAVE MADE SOMETHING REALLY SPECIAL, SOMETHING I AM MORE THAN PROUD OF” and no interfering artificial light (to avoid flickering), I shot a lot of B-Roll in either 60fps or up to 180fps. When you do this the video is mute, so you need to remember to get some natural sound at some point.

Editing time I wasn’t editing the series, this was being done by Broadway Video in NY, but I made sure the producers had notes of what I was doing and that they knew if they didn’t want the shot to be slow motion, if it didn’t fit in with the edit, they could always speed it up! As the episode was shot 23.98p (24p) as it’s for US

broadcast TV, if I shot 180fps then to get it to playback at ‘normal speed’ they would need to speed it up by 7.5x. The downside to this is the motion wouldn’t look as natural due to the high shutter speed. There are ways around this with software like DaVinci Resolve, that can add motion blur, but you have to be realistic and know that is unlikely to be implemented at the edit stage. The rule I tended to stick with was if there was any key audio, whether it was sync audio or just natural sound, I would shoot normal speed rather than slow motion. That data usage was always at the back of my mind.

Whilst I had enough memory cards to easily last, it’s the data management side that was always at the back of my mind. With no DIT, offloading and media organising was down to me. With most of the shoot days being 15+ hours it’s never ideal to offload after this. When you are tired you make mistakes. The way I dealt with media offloading to avoid these mistakes was simple. I took all the cards from the day, not

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Feature: The journey continues just mine, but everyone’s. I then offloaded them to two separate hard drives, this took a couple of hours. Once that was done, I gave all the cards to Julian who did the same thing. Never did I give him my hard drive copy. If I had missed a card, or screwed up somehow, he would be making a copy of my mistake. He had to offload then independently. Then, the next day we would compare folder sizes. On more than a few occasions we didn’t match. I missed something, or he did. Thankfully, we never both missed the same cards. It’s an easy mistake to make, so try and find a system that can minimise this. Have enough cards for two to three days of filming if you can, so if you realise you’re missing something then you haven’t already formatted and recorded over it!

Getting sorted Things became a lot more organised when my camera assistant from London, Holly Cochrane, was brought on board for the Venice and Alps episodes. She labelled all the cards and the batteries. She knew what was charged and what wasn’t. Prior to her arriving, I had the unpleasant task of not just doing the media management and the cleaning of the gear each night, but also putting on about five different battery types on charge each night and I went through a lot of batteries each day! Normally about seven A7s batteries, four V-locks with the F55 or two BP batteries with the FS7, plus six Sony L series batteries for monitors, four Movi batteries, drone batteries... and so on. Having just this one person dedicated to helping me felt like a huge pressure had been lifted. Suddenly, I had someone who could set up the Movi and make sure there were cards and batteries for the day. Although she couldn’t make the last episode in Florida, I had my friend Juan Castaneda for that one. My ability to focus on what I was capturing increased at least three-fold when I had an assistant. I was able to

think about the bigger picture and not worry about things like media, batteries and all the rest of it. I look at the three episodes I shot with an assistant and the quality of my work is much higher, although this is through my perfectionist eyes! The one regret I have about filming this whole series is, because it was such hard work and so relentless, I didn’t really have a chance to take in what I was seeing. I captured it all as well as I could, of course. I just never had that chance to realise how lucky I was to be there and see what I was seeing. I do still feel that way, though I feel privileged to have filmed this show and met these amazing people in these amazing countries. It just came later, not whilst filming, but on reflection when looking back at the rushes or the edited episodes.

Magic touch I truly believe we have made something really special, something I am more than proud of. I think it’s an important show, very much shown by our first episode in Vanuatu. Just two weeks after it went out the whole country was flattened by a massive cyclone. Little was left. It was heartbreaking. The task of rebuilding the country is huge, but we had something to show people what this place was and can be like again. Never did any of us realise our ‘time capsules’ would be looked back on so quickly and used as a reference to bring back what

once was. The world is full of places that could be in a future series of The Wonder List and, after eight episodes and six months of working together, we hit a rhythm. It was a way of working that really… worked. What was initially a terrifying and daunting task became something natural, with a flow that can only come with experience and a team working as a team should. I hope we are given the chance to do more. Once the series is shown outside of the USA (the global distribution is being done by Endemol, so it will be seen not on CNN international around the world, but on different commercial channels in every country that buys it), I hope its reputation grows and becomes recognised as something new, something different, something that maybe can help people understand better this amazing planet we live on. After all, it’s so easy to take for granted what we have because it could be gone before we even realise it. I hope that doesn’t happen. ■

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Feature: The digital dream

the digital

dream Manfrotto has released a rather natty bit of new kit that will help you get your filmmaking workflow under control by tethering an iPad to your DSLR Manfrotto is well known for its tripods and other kit accessories that can make a filmmakers life that little bit easier. Now though it is branching out into another area of peripherals, with the Digital Director. This nifty new gadget was on show at NAB in Las Vegas a while back, which was where we got to see it and hear a little bit more about what it can do. It is effectively a sophisticated tethering system that also provides you with a live view monitor that can be used with Canon and Nikon DSLRs via an iPad. You get an iPad holder that’ll keep everything in place, which is the hardware part of the package, and there’s a software app that goes with it that works on an iPad Air, Air 2 or Air Mini. While you might think that the humble mounting bracket doesn’t hold many secrets then you’ll be surprised to learn that it actually contains a built-in ARM Cortex A8 600MHz microprocessor. That means you get a low-latency live view feed of your work and it’ll also handle speedy transfer times between your memory cards and the iPad itself. It’s a great idea and very easy to use, with connectivity between camera and the iPad utilising a USB cable while the app allows quick and easy control of your camera via the iPad screen itself. It’s actually

a great way of bypassing the LCD screen on a DSLR, which can often be quite frustrating to use in many shooting environments.

Bright idea “This is the first Apple-certified interface that allows you to intuitively control the interface of a Canon or Nikon DSLR using an iPad,” agrees Thomas Halley, product manager from Manfrotto US on their booth at NAB. “Digital Director consists of the hardware that sits at the back of your tablet, it’s a casing effectively that is mounted to the iPad. There’s a Lightning connector that plugs into your iPad and then once you’ve plugged in you have a tethered connection that goes to the DSLR that you’re using. This then allows you to have complete control over your workflow. In terms of the type of workflow we’re talking about then that covers everything from setting up your shot to taking the shot itself and then doing the editing afterwards and, finally, sharing the stuff that you’ve captured. There’s a live view monitor that allows you to go to a full screen preview, there are remote controls over on the right, plus there are the likes of Camera Roll and other features within the interface that allow you to get the most from the system.”

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The idea seems like a relatively simple one but it’s surprising to think that there’s not much out there like this little gadget. There’s more too… “There are a couple of very cool things, such as the interactive focus,” Thomas continues. “So that wherever you touch on the screen then the camera is automatically going to focus on that. To ensure that you’re getting the focus what you want you can turn the focus peaking on and that’s going to highlight the focus point in red


on screen. Also, it’ll do the same thing in different colours too, so you can personalise it to suit yourself. There’s also a digital zoom, so it’s going to centre the focus point and then blow it up. So, when you’re ready to capture the shot, then you just press the shutter release and there’s your shot. That’s going to store the files on your memory card and also transfer a low-res image to the Digital Director itself, so if you turn on the autoplay each time you take a shot then it’s

automatically going to download a high-resolution image directly to the iPad, which is going to pop up once it has downloaded. At the same time you will be allowed to edit the images, rate them, zoom in… You see exactly what it is that you’ve shot, so there’s a great opportunity to check everything at this point, rather than going back to your office, looking at your work on the computer and then realising that there are problems with what you’ve captured. All you need to do is press ‘Edit’ and there are your edit options, contrast adjustments, crop, stuff like that, and you can also share the content via FTP, email or send it via Camera Roll. Once it’s in there you can put it on Instagram, Facebook and all those social media websites.”

A new direction So does the introduction of Digital Director herald a whole new direction for Manfrotto? “Yes, absolutely,” says Thomas. “Traditionally Manfrotto has

been focused more on lighting, supports, bags and accessories like that. Whereas this is a completely new thing for us to do. I think there has always been a need for a larger monitor, and this works really well with the Retina display, and people have been asking to be able to interact with their camera and tablet for a long time. So I think taking this initiative allows us to expand outside of that whole world of supports, lights, bags and so on. It’s a whole new ballgame and it’s the first Apple-certified interface too, so right now we’re the only ones in the marketplace who have something like this.” One word of caution though is that it only works with Canon or Nikon so you’ll need to own one of those and also check that the model you are using is compatible. Presumably Manfrotto will make that straightforward to do via their website. So what will be the plan to expand that appeal moving forwards? “Yeah, so those are the two we have started out with,”

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Feature: The digital dream says Thomas. “Obviously it’s a lot of work getting all this stuff to communicate and translate through iOS, from the DSLR, so there’s quite a lot of computer protocol to work out along the way. So we started out with those two manufacturers, but we’re hoping that we can develop others further down the road. What that means is that you only need to buy the Digital Director once, so you’ll need to buy the hardware and then it’s possible to download the app for free. So, in the future, when there are those updates they’re going to expand to models made by the likes of Fuji or Panasonic then the basic interface isn’t going to change and the app should also recognise and be compatible with those other models further down the line, via the updates. And another cool thing about it being an app is that there’s some space right here for additional features, so again, further on down the line all you’ll need to do is update the app and you’ll get a lot of extra stuff to make it even better. Just as long as you’ve got that hardware then you’ll get these continuous new app upgrades.”

Streamlined workflow Given that the Digital Director adds another practical string to your bow it might well be worth shelling out for. Pricewise it seems quite a lot for what you get, although there is some solid technology packed inside that seemingly innocuous hardware. “It costs $499.99 (about £320) although it’ll be out across the world,” says Thomas. “It comes out in the US after Europe, so it should be available in over there during June I’d think. As you can see, I’m also using it with this brand new friction arm that has also been launched at NAB. It has a 3/8-inch adaptor on the back, so that anything with the same size thread can screw right in. At present Digital Director works with the iPad Air 1 and iPad Air 2 plus the iPad Air Mini, although that will come out a month or two later. So far the reaction to it has been great, really awesome. We’ve

already sold a few on pre-order, so people seem to love the idea. The thing is that you’re getting a full Retina display monitor, so we’ve effectively taken the weakest part of the camera, which is the LCD display and have blown that up so you’ve got a great preview area, plus all of these workflow and productivity tools.”

Which, at NAB 2015 looked pretty good alongside a couple of other new products from the Manfrotto camp. “Yeah, we’ve got a new slider,” adds Thomas on the expanding range. “We’ve obviously already got the Sympla, but there’s a follow focus we’ve just released and the 502 Heads, plus there are a couple of video

monopods that we came out with too. I know the lighting guys also have a couple of cool new things there, so it’s certainly a great time for Manfrotto now that we’re expanding our original range of products. We also have the 535 aluminium series too, which means that the slider is going to work just great with those bits of kit. They come with a flat base video head so that you can put the slider right on there and you’re ready to go. I think the main reasoning behind all of this is that people can get all of this equipment in one place, and these items also appeal to both filmmakers and stills photographers too. If you’re a video guy then you just switch over to video mode and you’re ready to go. What’s more, you can also take stills while you’re in video mode, so this is just the tip of the iceberg for us and there are going to be so many more features and functions further down the road.” ■

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FIRST John McColl is a keen amateur filmmaker who has just recently completed directing his first short, a drama that goes by the name of Redundy John McColl has gone from being an avid reader of this magazine to featuring in it within a relatively short space of time and his short, Redundy, is something that sounds right up our street. It’s his first stab at directing and the film itself is a drama, shot with virtually no budget. It’s part of a filmmaking learning curve that has seen John dabble in many different aspects of the business, not least of which has been appearing in other shorts himself…


“I co-founded the Basement Theatre Company in 2005 along with my friend and colleague Heather Morrison,” he says on how it all came together. “Since that time we have produced theatre plays and worked with a number of great actors. Prior to this, Heather had previously written and directed a short film (Boys Will Be) and filmmaking was always something we wanted to develop as part of Basement. In 2013 both Heather and I auditioned and were cast in a short film by Andy Stewart,

who has had great success with films such as Dysmorphia, Split and Ink. Through this casting we met a number of great actors and crew including Mark Boggis (Director of Photography), David McKeitch (sound), Alan McLean

(camera assistant) and Wullie Marr (stills photography). Heather and I had a script in mind and it seemed that everything we needed to make our first film was there so we grabbed the bull by the horns.”

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Feature: First time out script and when we were happy with it, we organised auditions. It was important for this project to get the right people involved in bringing the script to life, as I was keen that the actors would not ‘act out’ or ‘play a role’ but, in fact, the actors themselves would be the individuals in the film. We had a great response to the auditions, which resulted in some difficult casting decisions. As with any project like this there were availability problems for some people, which resulted in a couple of cast changes, which in the end was a blessing as the final cast were brilliant.”

Busy schedule

these scripts was Redundy (a term for redundancy). I discussed with Heather the possibility of making it into a short film. We adapted the play script into film format and arranged for a group of actors to read it. Some minor amendments were made to the

As we all know, planning in a production schedule around people who might have other things on their plate can mean big hurdles to overcome when it gets down to shooting a film. John, however, managed to pull it all together pretty well by the wound of it… “I contacted the crew mentioned above who were all happy to be part of the project,” he goes on. “We had very little in terms of a budget for the film, but we agreed to discuss this up front

“We adapted the play script into film format and arranged for a group of actors to read it” Rising force Needless to say, although things are going well at the moment, it’s still not at that stage where John can call himself a full-time filmmaker who is working solely on his own projects. “I am sure anyone involved in filmmaking would love to do it full time as would I,” he laughs. “However, sadly this is not the case. I have a full-time job, but there are very few occasions when film or theatre is not in my head in some form or another, whether it’s learning a script,

planning a film or developing film ideas and so on. Nevertheless, I directed Redundy and then edited the film on Premiere Pro. From what he says, it sounds like Redundy came together after a great deal of attention was paid to the script, which really captured the imagination of the filmmaking partnership. “I was given a few short one act plays by a friend and work colleague Donald Couper,” says John. “Which he was happy for our theatre company to use as workshops for actors. One of

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with everyone before they got involved. Thankfully and really lucky for us, the crew were happy to work to whatever budget we had. We tied down some dates with everyone and the shoot was on. I planned out as much as possible early on and provided Mark (DOP) with a shot list and some basic storyboard drawings for the opening sequence. I gathered the cast together on only two occasions prior to the shoot, initially to meet each other, but to highlight that I wanted the film to look as natural as possible and therefore did not want to rehearse it as such. So it was more a ‘blocking’ exercise as there were a couple of moves I wanted at specific times.” Naturally, once things did get underway they had to work smart… “We shot the body of the film over a weekend,” chuckles the filmmaker. “This involved two very long days, but Heather and I had agreed that we would structure it so that everyone was clear when their scenes would be shot throughout each day.

We also made the decision to arrange for all cast and crew to eat together at specific times throughout the day. This proved to be a great bonding experience and a chance for everyone to relax for a short time. All catering was provided by Heather’s husband Gary, as we had access to kitchen facilities. We knew we couldn’t pay the actors, but we made sure everyone was well fed.”

Food for thought It’s always commendable to hear of a director and producer team taking care of cast and crew, even if that only really boils down to filling them up with food. It seems to have paid dividends nonetheless… “On the shoot, Mark Boggis provided his great expertise and knowledge, which was invaluable,” reckons John. “He helped to structure the shots in such a way that we managed to reduce the overall number of shots originally planned. It was also a bonus having Alan McLean and David McKeitch on board as, along with Mark, they had



all worked together previously so they knew what was required of each other. Wullie Marr was always on set with his camera taking stills. These proved very useful particularly for continuity and reference purposes. Heather was my right hand. She was not only assistant director, but kept track of the changing shot list and continuity and at the end of the location shoot, handed me a marked script and final shot list for the edit. I arranged to meet with Mark and Alan at a later date to film the exterior shots for my opening sequence.”

And, as he says, the film needed to be done right as it’s not a throwaway horror project or tinpot comedy. What we have here is a meaty short that required some thought to be put in. “Redundy is a drama piece,” underlines John. “It is based in a mobile phone factory, which is closing down due to production being transferred overseas. The film takes place during a tea break with one of the work teams just after they have been given the news, each character having their own personal issues to deal with. As I mentioned

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Feature: First time out were made following an actor’s read through, but these were mostly structural.”

Short and sweet

earlier, Redundy was written as a short one act play by Donald Couper and it was then adapted for film by myself and Heather Morrison. The adaptations took two to three weeks in total as the majority of the original dialogue was used. Some amendments

However, the film actually works perfectly as short, which meant that cast and crew had more to focus on to get right within the confines of a pretty small length project time. “The original script was written as one act therefore this project was always going to be a short,” reckons John. “As this is my first film as director it was a great starting project. Heather and I are working on another short film script and we are hoping to film this later in the year. We both write and at the moment we are both working on separate projects. Heather is writing a stage play and I am developing a feature-length film script.” Working with a small cast and crew kept things nice and fluid and kit choices also proved to be an exercise in time-saving to

boot… “In addition to the crew members mentioned above I also had Claire Meehan (make-up), Nicola Stewardson (runner) and my daughter Lori McColl who shot some ad-hoc video, off set,” says John on his compact and bijou team. “Meanwhile, Mark shot the film on a Canon 7D with Canon L series 24-70 lenses. This was a perfect set-up for this shoot as there is a lot of close-

up action and the definition in the footage is first class. David recorded the sound on a Roland R44 recorder and Rode NTG2 microphone. Again perfect for this shoot.” Low-budget filmmaking is always about being resourceful and inventive, so given the subject matter of the project, John looked at places close to home that would be ideal

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for the shoot. “The location for this shoot was my workplace,” he grins. “It is a day centre in Inverclyde, which was perfect. My employers, Inverclyde Council, kindly let me use the building over a weekend and we utilised the training kitchen as the factory staff room. We also had access to the main kitchen and dining room for all cast and a small hairdressing room, which was used for make-up.”

Noise cancelling Neverthless, things were not quite as straightforward as the filmmaker might have hoped for, with noise issues being somewhat problematical by the sound of it… “We shot all our planned scenes on day one,” says John. “Everything


was going smoothly and on schedule. On day two we were due to shoot some scenes where there are lengthier pieces of dialogue when a team of workmen started to fit a new fence around a nearby house. This involved considerable

drilling and hammering, typically just as we were about to roll. At one point we were convinced they heard the clapperboard and started drilling on cue! All things considered though, the location was perfect for this shoot. The main challenge was to get all

the shots completed over the Saturday and Sunday as the centre would be in use on the Monday morning.” There’s certainly a good vibe coming from the project, which John puts down to his crew and, naturally, a cast that went the extra mile to ensure things turned out right. “I had a great cast for this film,” he enthuses. “Some of whom I have acted with before on stage. Neil MacGillivray, Ryan Kane and Karen Murray have all been involved in Basement Theatre Company productions prior to Redundy. Maureen Kelly, who is a professional singer, worked with Heather and I in a collaborative project, writing and performing Con~Certo, a play for the Renfrewshire Mental Health festival. Kim Morrison,

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Feature: First time out who is Heather’s daughter, had not acted for some time but was keen to be involved. I met Gordon Holliday and Chris Goldie on the set of Andy Stewart’s film Banquet and we were keen to work together again. I really look forward to getting the opportunity to work with these people again at some point, hopefully in the near future.”

Minimum budget And, you won’t be surprised to hear, the whole thing was done for the usual peanuts, which is something all low-budget filmmakers are used to hearing… “We were working on a budget of approximately £1,000,” John confirms. “Which in the wider

scale of things is very little, but because the crew agreed to work to budget, we were able to feed everyone and give them expenses. Right now, the film is currently being graded by Mark

and the sound is being mixed by David. I’m happy with the overall look and feel of the project too. As it is a drama, it is dialogue driven, which has provided its own challenges particularly in terms of editing but I am happy at this stage. In fact, I think if I were to do Redundy again, I am not sure I would do anything differently. I had a great crew and a brilliant team of actors. I planned as much as possible and liaised with the appropriate people beforehand, although

this time round I would have the benefit of more knowledge. It would be nice to have a bigger budget and pay the actors, but I am sure all low (or no) budget filmmakers would say the same.” It’s certainly left John and Heather fired up with enough enthusiasm to do it all over again and the sooner the better as far as they are concerned… “Heather and I are currently working on a script with the plan to start our next film project later this year,” says the filmmaker. “We will look at different funding options with the hope that we may have a bigger budget to work with. In the meantime, this has been a great experience and one which has certainly fired me up to do more film work. I would say that it is important to get the right team on board and I was blessed with Redundy. I have gained so much knowledge from making this film. It has been a great learning curve, both in terms of directing and editing, and I can’t wait to get my teeth into the next one.” ■


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FOR SPACE Kenneth Barker is a Leeds-based independent filmmaker who has recently completed work on his adventurous science-fiction movie On The Shoulders Of Giants


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Director interview: The race for space

Filmmaker Kenneth Barker clearly loves a challenge and making a science-fiction outing in the shape of On The Shoulders Of Giants meant that he had to use every drop of imagination in order to get the project made. He’s also very determined, in the way that you have to be to get any kind of movie finished, although even his relentless persistence got pushed to the limit during production when he was let down by a crew member… “On the Friday before the commencement of principal photography one of the main actors pulled out,” he groans. “No need to go into reasons, but suffice to say this person will never work on any of my films again. Right now that might not be a loss. But when anyone - cast or crew simply removes themselves from a production because of a flimsy reason (especially on a low-budget film) they entirely jeopardise the project. I also believe they damage their own reputation. Thankfully I was able to recast this role with the brilliant actor Adam Lee. There was one unexpected happy event. Two of the lead actors Sarah Wood and Carl Isherwood met during the pre-shoot read through, become closer, fell in love on the set and a year later were married. They now have a child. Result! Whatever else happens in their lives they will always remember how their collaboration during OTSOG brought them together. As an aside: because I was so stringent (read anal) in adhering

to the schedule there were no major production issues. The film could not afford to lose a day or be stood down without that time being planned in the schedule.”

Total control A far from ideal beginning but, hey, every cloud has a silver lining. Needless to say, Kenneth has been very keen to keep control of his project from start to finish… “I was the writer, producer and director...” he laughs. “And did several other unofficial job titles. By random chance, a progressive Leeds businessman gave me the opportunity to shoot this movie in his empty church hall before it was due to be renovated. This was a huge deal because it meant reliable access to an enclosed workspace with electricity to boot. Keeping those factors in mind, I could evolve the screenplay and production infrastructure around the location. Coincidentally, it is a good discipline having to write within a given set of parameters or resources. Too many newbie filmmakers have unreasonable expectations in their productions from budgets that do not exist or that are woefully inadequate. I am a three-headed beast - having to wear the writer-producer-director hat and be pragmatic. This makes me entirely results driven - every film I have started has been completed and I have zero time for the unreasonable.” And, it seems, a sciencefiction feature was always on the agenda… “The roots for OTSOG

grew from my love of the various BBC television seasons of classic 1950s/60s sci-fi films I used to watch as a child,” reflects the filmmaker. “That was back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The films that particularly piqued my interest and imagination were When Worlds Collide, This Island Earth, The Day The Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet. I can happily say Forbidden Planet subtly inspired OTSOG in terms of its aesthetic. Realising my film’s production design would benefit from a ‘retro’ treatment to fit in with its 1950s milieu became more attractive to me - the film did not have to look as flash as if it were in a contemporary setting. Combine this with high-definition shooting, some pretty standard off-the-shelf software and hardware and all of a sudden, a really cool retro sci-fi movie could be produced for relatively little. The big theme behind OTSOG is - once you invent a technology it cannot be un-invented. A good example of this is nuclear physics. We can use it to power our homes, industry and for other useful purposes. Alternatively, take that same nuclear technology and subtly twist it by tuning it into a weapon with terrifying destructive capability. In OTSOG the antagonist Professor N’tron Zepthar (Warkwick St John) discovers an alien technology far more sophisticated than anything in the film’s Federation of Planets. The crew sent out to

rescue our Zepthar only have one directive once they understand the magnitude of his discovery: destroy it before others put the technology to nefarious use. At best, destroying the technology is a delaying tactic because if it has been created once, it can be recreated or reproduced by someone else. This is why I love feature length films - you have the chance to put in rich, complex and deeper themes because their long format allows for this.”

Labour of love “I started writing the screenplay in autumn 2009,” says Kenneth on how it all started out. “At that time I was working in a bank and frankly not enjoying my job: it’s a bank and there was no outlet for creativity. Once I knew the main location was locked down for the possible planned duration of the shoot I made the first of many touch decisions. In October 2009 I left the bank and the first happy by-product of that event was getting the time back to purely focus on polishing the screenplay. By November 2009 I was busy looking around for potential Heads of Department (HODs) to collaborate with. Christmas 2009 holds particularly fond memories for me; I travelled back to my hometown in Suffolk where I knew for the next 12 uninterrupted days I could further refine the OTSOG screenplay and schedule. I strongly believe us independent filmmakers can match Hollywood’s resources at

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least in the screenplay department if we give ourselves time to refine our work. The other important driver was creating a viable, robust schedule because the film would by necessity be a complex project. If you are shooting a film on a micro-budget and you do not have a good schedule then you are planning to fail. For me the schedule drives every part of the production - the sooner it can be distributed to all the collaborators, the sooner you can push harder. People can block out work around your project, actors can book time off their day jobs, locations, props and equipment can be booked down to the precise day, months in advance of the actual shoot.” There was never any doubt in Kenneth’s mind that this needed to be a feature too… “Are shorts a good calling card is my question,” he says. “I suspect most people would probably sit through a ‘considered’ no-budget featurelength film to engage with the story over watching a stream of shorts. Artistically it is sometimes harder to successfully tell an involving story in short form - when this is done well it is spectacular. At film school (NSFTV in Leeds) we produced


“Andromeda, Ultra City and vistas across Theta 25L were all built inside the disused church hall” shorts on 16mm celluloid film. These exercises gave me the technical grounding in the process steps of producing a film. The time spent at NSFTV is something I will always be grateful for even though it was a nerve-wracking year. Keep in mind there is no absolute rule that says you must attend film school to be a filmmaker but in my case it helped. I knew even on my first feature film Kingdom in 1999 that at an absolute minimum I could sell copies of it at my local car boot if I could not secure distribution. I do not think that would have been viable with a short - what was the last short film you purchased on DVD or Blu-Ray or Video on Demand? The other great thing about making a feature film is having time to ‘soak’ in the process of producing it. You will take 3, 4, 5 weeks or more to shoot a feature length film if there are multiple characters and it has lots of dialogue. There is no better way than to nurture

your own experience/talent over such a period. Personally, I do not relish working on shorts as their schedules are mostly very tight which can translate into intense days. On a feature there is usually more time to find your own technique, pace and to just think in the moment. Of course the days can be equally as tough, but if the schedule is well thought out those days should not be as gruelling. A feature is also the place to be if you enjoy telling stories about people - there is nothing more innately fascinating than exploring a character that you have nurtured over 70, 80 or 90 screenplay pages. Sure, a short is good for just getting hands on with the basics of shooting. After all is said and done - just make your film to tell your story. Long or short.”

Time to film Meanwhile, Kenneth called on the services of a trusty Canon HFS10 to shoot the film…

“This is a terrific little fixed lens camcorder with an HDMI output,” he enthuses. “We captured all the live action performances from the HFS10’s HDMI output to a 1 Terabyte hard drive via a Black Magic Intensity Pro capture card. Using the Black Magic Pro was useful for various data compression reasons, but also because it allowed each shot to be named as it was recorded to the hard drive. This gave a huge logistical boost-up for the editing process. Instead of seeing pages of files named ‘9839498747. mov,’ I had the much more useful ‘Scene 23 Slate 4 Shot 234, Take 4 Commander Altaire moves towards a’ I know which one I’d rather edit with! Audio was recorded directly to camera. Later in post-production my sound designers Timothy McHugh and Sam Hughes said the audio quality lagged behind the visuals. It was just not good enough. So, after some deliberation, I was fortunate enough to have the entire cast come back to re-dub all their dialogue in near studio conditions through a high-end mixing set up facilitated by Timothy. All of a

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Director interview: The race for space sudden the film was transformed to one with clean, crisp punchy dialogue without the extraneous noises leaking in from the busy brewery next door to the shoot.” And what about postproduction? “Post-production was mixture of kit,” adds the filmmaker. “Most of the visual effects team were PC based. Some used 3DS Max, Cinema 4D and Maya to create the featured spacecraft, aliens and environments. The edit itself was done with an Avid system - just a brilliant piece of technology to handle and keep track of thousands of pieces of footage and audio clips. Compositing of the VFX was performed mainly with After Effects, but Dave Ellis, one of the team, used Nuke. This section goes back to what I said above - technology is a great enabler. OTSOG could be so technically ambitious because the software/ hardware had dropped in price or was readily available. If you are a filmmaker this realisation should empower you. Embrace it. Okay, so maybe you don’t want to make sci-fi film, so make your period piece. Place that grand stately mansion in the empty field because the technology allows you do this with virtually no cost. You are only limited by your imagination.”

Location challenge Making a science-fiction film inside an old place of worship must have been interesting too… “The main sets - the bridge of the Starship Andromeda, Ultra City and vistas across Theta 25L were all built inside the disused church hall,”

says Kenneth. “The bridge was a practical set. To afford the set materials I had to sell my beloved Honda Pan European motorbike to generate cash. Initially that was a bit of a struggle until I realised the chance to do this film would not happen again and producing it would boost my career. The chance to buy another motorbike will always be there. I often have a wry smile when I watch OTSOG thinking ‘that console or that bit of costume was bits of my bike’s left pannier or fuel injection system’. Ultra City and Theta 25L (the planet the crew lands on with Ultra City as main hub) were achieved entirely digitally. The actors were shot against a large green screen, then the background was composited in later. That challenge was met in a number of ways. The best one was painting a mental picture for the actors during blocking. After all, the actors were performing against a flat piece of green cloth with only their imaginations and my screenplay to power them. On

some occasions for a particularly complicated shot that required definite eye lines I created stickmen illustrations, just so they could have a context of where the action was occurring. A storyboard would do the same job. Once again the technology came to the fore; if an eyeline was wrong I could flop the picture to change which direction the actor was looking in, or use a bit of VFX magic to alter the framing. During the shoot I had no idea what the environments would look like. There was no resource or time to lock everything with storyboards. However with green screen, computers and VFX the actors just had to deliver great performances; filling in the ‘blanks’ could literally come later.” The filmmaker was also blessed with having a bunch of actors who were more than willing to work with him again… “Having them want to actively return to work with me was very pleasing,” laughs Kenneth. “I must be doing something right! Some auditions

were performed on the set (during its construction) to one side. Bizarrely, I did not formally audition the lead actor Sarah Wood. She was introduced to me by Wayne Ewart who had by then been cast as Captain Joseph Ruscoe. I met Sarah in a local coffee shop and we immediately engaged in 2-hour conversation about OTSOG. After a very short time it became abundantly clear to me that Sarah was the perfect actor to play the central hero Commander Jane Altaire. Another actor, Alex Skerratt, was working long hours in another job but he said he would quit if he got the part under consideration. Heady words. Alex stuck to his guns, but his workplace was able to accommodate his on-set hours. The filming schedule was given out 8-10 weeks in advance of filming, which allowed all the cast to book their shooting days off. I sincerely thank them (as I do the crew) for believing in themselves and the project to give me that time.”

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Limited funding “The budget was literally miniscule,” adds Kenneth. “Selling my motorbike and clawing a back a few savings pushed me through. I mainly relied on sponsorships, individual generosity, and favours in kind, people taking deferred payment, people wanting to practice their specialist craft skills, serendipity and some plain good luck. There was much I could do if I absorbed the cost myself such as telephone calls, a lot of the production management (until Stu Cummins came aboard) and scheduling. Many, many organisations or sponsors will offer their services or goods for free if approached in a professional manner. When filmmakers moan about not being able to afford to shoot my eyes roll back. They need to think laterally, use the lack of cash as a driver to create alternatives. Create the story around what resources you already have access to, or can get your hands on. Never lie, under promise and over deliver. The haters will always complain and moan about micro-budget films. That generally does not prevent others looking for the experience by jumping in and just doing it.

At the end of the day, the savvy get to walk away with the tangible experience and contacts, which adds to their professional CV… Right now, the film is available online from Amazon Create Space as a download or stream. It has also been picked for distribution by American company Continuum. Producing OTSOG has given me two things in life: better professional confidence and a deeper insight into story telling craft. The professional confidence stems from having to have pushed OTSOG through so many film production disciplines; liveaction, Computer Generated Image (CGI) environments, pure

CGI, puppetry for some aliens, prosthetics, green/blue screen filming, miniatures and live action inserted to miniatures. Also, the management of a disparate crew, especially the VFX and sound effects teams over the course of two years would be a test for any filmmakers tenacity. All the technical accomplishments mean so much more because the storytelling craft was able to underpin the visuals and audio. So the film has its own commercial life now with people actively downloading it, plus the urge it has instilled in me to continue developing as a filmmaker.”

Another way “Moving forward, I have learned to embrace social media a lot more robustly,” adds Kenneth on the key things he has learnt from the experience. “Building a fan base that will eventually power the distribution effort is the key to unlocking meaningful success. Meaningful success to me is deriving a revenue stream from my work. In this way, I can continue to support myself and move onto other projects. The opportunity to


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Director interview: The race for space

showcase one’s work and past efforts is also incredibly valuable in print, internet or TV interviews. Why? You can become the worlds’ latest 20-year overnight sensation! I was surprised recently at a screening for one of my films when a gentleman turned up because he just wanted to see my latest offering - people begin to follow your career. However far off mainstream your film world might be, I would stake £10 sterling that if your work is in the public arena someone is possibly accessing and enjoying right now. My most valuable ‘asset’ is my reputation as a producer - I can run an entire production and deliver (proof in having now produced several shorts and five features). Next time around I always think ‘how I can improve on that status?’.”

Career decisions “Since completing OTSOG I produced the sci-fi schlock comedy Bikini Girls v Dinosaurs: The Movie (Blvd.) starring Hannah Robson,” adds Kenneth on another of his key projects. “I wanted to have fun on a fast turnaround project that served as a useful means to work with new VFX artists. I also learned how to better integrate effects elements into live action. Next up, I am developing a new feature film project called SpaceRace. The pitch is classic Star Wars filtered through Wacky Races (the kids cartoon from the 1970s) with the irreverence of Monty Python. SpaceRace is intended for theatrical distribution so that means a massive increase in production quality. This has a knock-on effect because everything else has to be ‘better’

and more convincing than anything I have done before. The funding proposal for SpaceRace has recently been completed and a full screenplay is ready..” Kenneth sounds like he knew pretty early on that he wanted to become a filmmaker too… “That moment in time was a special midnight screening of Robocop II at a cinema in Ipswich some time in 1990,” he chuckles. “This is full-time now though. I’ve done more shit and varied jobs than I care to remember leading up to knowing film is my real career passion. I have not been lucky in coming to this; it was a natural progression. Without passion, making films is pointless. It is an intangible set of emotions and notions that continue to drive me. If I were to explain to the average person why film has this pull it would lose its lustre:

suffice to say you either do it or you go home. The competition is too tough, too ruthless for it to be any other way. Sacrifices were made to put myself in a position to continue making films. By happy coincidence the wonderful worlds of computers and software have conspired to make it possible for the modern filmmaker to do so much more, at a higher quality, requiring less money and fewer people than ever. I believe it is not good enough for someone who is not in the mainstream to say ‘I just write, direct or whatever.’ The technology is a blessing that allows you to cover the other bases if you have the drive. Caveat to all this - sure, when you get your big breakthrough then you can home in your specific speciality. In the meantime, work your arse off!” ■

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Producer interview: A sporting chance



CHANCE Neville Manuel is the producer behind a new documentary called Coaching Penguins, which charts the progress of a rugby team visiting Cape Town

We’ve had one or two sporting-related projects in Digital FilmMaker over the last couple of years but never one quite as unusual as Coaching Penguins. It’s a 24-minute documentary about what happens when a rugby side called the Penguins heads to Cape Town in order to coach local kids. With an edit that is just about to be finished, BT Sports is apparently going to air the film imminently. What’s more, its producer, Neville Manuel, also hopes that it will have a premiere screening at the Marriott in Twickenham, just before the Rugby World Cup opens in September. Neville got in touch recently to elaborate and along the way was keen to point out that none of the production team are youngsters trying to break into the film business. “On the contrary,” he says. “We are all in our 40s and 50s trying to break into the film business! We all have other jobs, but we all want to follow our passion here and have finally decided to do something about it.”

Passion for film Fair play to the man and he appears to have done a very good job of getting the project underway and then seeing it through to fruition… “I have been very involved in TV and internet content distribution in the past with my day job,”

explains the filmmaker. “And that, coupled with the passion I have always had for films and documentaries, helped me see that independent film making is within the reach of anyone with the determination to get on and do it. I started to do shorts and promos for people I knew and built up my shooting, lighting, sound and editing skills until, after a few years, I felt ready to take on a proper production. A friend of mine produced a film that I helped to fund - it won a Randance award - and that gave me the final nudge to get a bigger project off the ground.” So with a full-time job to balance getting the film made was tricky but Neville was keen to see the thing done and dusted sooner rather than later. “The full-time job meant that this was something I had to do in addition to that,” he explains. “It means working evenings

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and at weekends and doing production during holidays. But the nature of filmmaking is that much of it involves planning, writing and editing - all essentially pretty solitary tasks that can be done whilst you do a full-time job. Production is obviously something that means taking time off to do. But the plan is to build up the production business and one day I’ll definitely be doing this full time!”

Off the wall This is no ordinary project and, as you can see from the production photography, the documentary looks like it was a lot of fun to make. “I developed the idea with my partners Florent Rossigneux (an ex-rugby player) and Roydon Turner (a creative director),” furthers Neville. “Then pitched


it to investors, got the money in to make it, pulled the production team together for the shoots in the UK and Cape Town and am currently just finishing off the edit with our editor Liz Roe. I like to

film, so I also did some of the B camera shots during production. I am a passionate rugby fan and I attended a book launch last year hosted by a rugby club called the Penguins. I had barely heard of them, but their founder, Alan Wright, spoke with such passion about their mission to bring the values of rugby to disadvantaged youngsters round the world that while he was speaking I exchanged looks with Florent my partner in this project - and we both immediately knew that this was the subject for our film.” So what’s the general theme and storyline of the film? “The

basic premise is: can three rugby coaches - from the Penguins club - go to the townships of Cape Town and make a difference?” says the producer. “They work with a local sports programme - the Good Sports Trust - and bring their message of teamwork, good will and optimism to the kids in the area. But, it’s not simply a rugby film, it’s about how people can go to completely different

“the plan is to build up the production business and one day I’ll definitely be doing this full time!”

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Producer interview: A sporting chance cultures, armed with nothing but goodwill and some practical skills, and make a difference.” What’s more, Neville thinks that the documentary has universal appeal rather than being limited to something for sports fans only. “The audience for this film isn’t just the core sports audience,” he adds. “It’s the wider audience that likes to be reminded that people giving of their best - whatever that is - can be a powerful force for good. Liz Roe, my editor, who knows nothing about sports - is always saying she loves this film because “it’s a story with heart”. Hopefully that’s how the audience will see it too!”

Team effort The documentary also illustrates how teamwork is just as effective off the pitch as on it, with numerous people collaborating to get the job done. “I wrote the basic narrative and the shot list,” says Neville. “But had great help from Roydon, my director, and Don MacNab-Stark, a scriptwriter who works with Roydon. We’d been looking for the right subject for about a year,

but from the moment we went to the Penguins book launch and discovered our subject, to the moment we landed in Cape Town for production, was about 9 months in all. Once we’d reached agreement with the Penguins it was relatively straightforward to turn what they do into a film narrative.” What’s more, there was also a good reason why Neville and his team got the project to the length that they did. “I have an in principle airing agreement with a

sports channel,” he furthers. “And wanted to make sure we edited it so that it had a good level of ‘sustain’ for this audience. Our options were to either go for a commercial half-hour (24 minutes) or a commercial hour (47 minutes). I chatted through the options with the team at the channel after reviewing the footage and we both agreed that ‘less is more’ and so we’ve gone for a shorter cut initially. I may do a longer cut later on as we’ve got something like 40 hours of footage!”

Keep it local Meanwhile, Neville sourced his team close to home, which meant he had a good idea of the capabilities of those involved at this end of the production. “We used local crew in the UK,” says the filmmaker. “Paul Teverini was our DOP who did a great job on the interviews and UK playing footage. I also want to name check Rachel Gold, who did make-up and I can’t stress enough how a good make-up artist can make all the difference in producing a

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we all have to contend with. “There wasn’t anything majorly unplanned that happened,” recalls the filmmaker. “But, as you can imagine, getting a week which works for three rugby coaches in the middle of the rugby season is hard enough and the only week we could shoot was the week before my mother’s 80th birthday. She lives in France, so I had to leave the shoot early in order to get

professional-quality interview. We used Red Petal Productions in Cape Town who were awesome. We had only a week to shoot there and they arranged local coaches, teams, township shoots and a great crew. I plan to do a follow up film in Cape Town and

to France in time to celebrate her birthday. In some ways I’d like to have thought there was a noticeable decline in the quality of footage after I left, but that definitely wasn’t the case - Roydon and Red Petal were outstanding. So, I guess that either means I am a good producer who can successfully delegate, or a bad producer because it made no difference when I wasn’t there!”

captured quite a lot of super slo mo with both Sony cameras and, thankfully, the light both in London and in Cape Town was perfect for that. The light in Cape Town is, in fact, perfect period!”

Tight for time Not quite so perfect was having to get people to far away places and still manage to juggle those other everyday things that

Rwanda next year and they will definitely be my go-to producers over there. As for kit… it was a mix of C300’s, Sony F7’s and my own Sony FS700. Mostly we used Canon cine lenses and I also used my favourite lens - a Leica prime. The Sony’s have the same sensor and we used comparable settings. We used colour boards throughout to help with grading - particularly given the differences between the Canon and Sony cameras. We


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Producer interview: A sporting chance doing things for me, so I was a bit reluctant at first, but after a few days I was saying things like: “I’m just finishing this latte Jonathan, please could you set my camera up on that on the second branch to the left on that tree over there!” - you get used to it very quickly!”

The end result sounds professional and should look a treat when it gets aired. Not bad for a team that had to fit all this in between other commitments. “We shot the set up interviews and a staged rugby shoot in London and then shot the main story in and around Cape Town,” explains Neville on how they pulled it off. “The thing that cannot be underestimated is the amount of planning that goes into preparing for a successful shoot - whether its a studio based interview or shooting playing action on a pitch. You simply have to be across all the details, including parking, food, water (critical in a hot climate), wardrobe, permissions - the list is very long and that’s before you even get to the filming part!”

Surprising outcome All things considered, Neville and his team therefore got it right in most parts, although there were challenges. “The biggest problem was getting a good local producer on the ground to help us set up the locations,” he adds. “And also subjects to shoot as part of the tour and to get our crew. We looked at a few options, but settled on Red Petal Productions who were great. The logistics of getting around wasn’t a problem as we had transport

laid on for the week, but it is easy to underestimate how long it can take to get from location to location - traffic around Cape Town can be very busy. Shooting in townships is hugely rewarding, but you can’t just turn up and film - again Red Petal sorted out local people to smooth our path. As the producer, I had someone look after me throughout the shoot and he would always offer to set my camera up and so on. Now I am not the sort of person who is really comfortable with people

Perfect people “Our cast is really the Penguins,” adds Neville on the people who ended up in front of the camera. “Plus, the local coaches from the Good Sports Trust and, of course, the local kids. The Penguins are a touring rugby and coaching side who tour the world in order to bring rugby and its values to disadvantaged kids – so they were an ideal partner for the Good Sports Trust - an

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inspirational initiative set up by a guy called Anton Moolman. They train and develop local sports coaches to go out to townships throughout the Cape area and teach youngsters the benefits of exercise and playing sports, both for the physical benefits but also for their mental wellbeing. It helps with developing self-discipline, motivation and a positive outlook on life to help them address the extraordinary challenges they


face. Their programme now reaches 25,000 kids a week, which is simply amazing. So the Penguins went out and helped the Good Sports Trust to develop their rugby coaching skills. The local kids have a thirst

for opportunities to learn and develop, so the tour really hit a sweet spot. Hopefully that authentic goodwill and optimism shines through in the film.” The documentary actually had a pretty sizeable budget by the sound of it, which must have helped move things along nicely, right? “We’ve had a budget of about 75k,” says the producer. “Which we sourced from private investors enthused by the project and from ourselves. Getting investors wasn’t easy but wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be either. I found that the key was to pitch the essence of the story and the passion we all felt for it - I think our investors felt that

passion and wanted to be a part of it. Something about sports helps people bring the best out of themselves and that is a story we always want to watch, however it’s told.”

Finishing up “We are just finishing the edit and will go into sound design and grading over the next few weeks,” adds Neville on how things look at this stage of the game. “We need to get everything done pretty sharpish now. I have set up a little editing suite in my house and we’ve been using Premiere Pro CC and After Effects. They are amazingly powerful tools and Liz - who has


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Producer interview: A sporting chance edited mainly on FCP and Avid made the transition very quickly. It’s looking really encouraging. Firstly, I think the edit is looking great and I think a wide range of audiences will enjoy watching this film. Plus, we have the in principle agreement with a sports channel to air at the end of May. We are also working with a couple of corporate sponsors to host a screening event in Twickenham stadium just before the Rugby World Cup. I am working with a couple of people to secure licensing deals with

broadcasters and airlines and will then look to distribute on DVD and online later in the year. I will also be looking to show it at festivals, but haven’t quite decided on which ones yet.” Anything he would do differently next time around? “I’d have longer production time in Cape Town,” adds the producer. “Which is just another way of saying I’d have a larger budget I guess! But not much larger as you should never forget that the key is to do three things: a) make a great film that people want to watch, b) connect with that audience and then c) monetise that connection between the film and the audience to recover your costs and give a return to your investors. To build a sustainable pipeline you’ve got to do all three, which means you should avoid using a budget that is too high to get a return on. I guess learning what the right mix between those three objectives is has to be key for a producer. But, in terms of production time, one week in each location was the absolute minimum and did restrict our ability to go into character back stories and segues, which

always just emerge and can add texture to the core narrative. I’d probably do more planning too - surprises are great unless they happen to you!”

The next step Neville will be doing more projects like this one if he can too, with plans afoot to make a second documentary already in place. “I really want to do the follow up film,” he says. “Which will be the Penguins taking a Good Sports Trust coach from Cape Town on tour with them to Rwanda. The story would be far more focused on that coach as the central character and we’ll shoot a back story and set up in Cape Town for a week and then shoot the tour in Rwanda. I am talking to potential investors and we’ll see how that develops. The plan would be to shoot that in 2016. I am also developing a factual documentary about the River Thames with a London guide and emerging onscreen talent, so we plan to start on that in the autumn this year. As for this project - I think our editor Liz Roe summed it up best: It’s a story with a heart!” ■

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ASK THE FILMMAKER MAKER major camera functions and acts as a monitor. Do a search in the Android Play store and you’ll find it. It’s probably worth checking it will work on your particular device before you get it, but the Play Store will tell you. As you know, your GH4 has Wi-Fi built in so it’s ready to go as soon as you network the camera and the tablet together.

Watch the skies We’ve got bold plans to make our next film as dramatic as possible and want to get the sort of sweeping aerial shots that you can only do with a helicopter or, nowadays, a drone. What in your opinion is the best of the bunch currently, bearing in mind that we don’t have a lot of money to play with. Can we get professional level results from a device around the £1,000 mark and what are the limitations of these models at the lower end of the drone spectrum? Andy Parks, Hemel Hempstead

Sean J Vincent is a professional who faces filmmaking challenges every day of his career. Here he takes some time out to answer a few of your questions…

Small is beautiful

I’ve been reading about the new Digital Director (featured in this very issue) and understand that it is a tethering system for both Canon and Nikon DSLRs. However, while this sounds like quite a good concept, I’m wondering if there are any options for me because I own a Panasonic GH4 and am keen on Android, rather than the Apple iOS. Do you know of such a device that will allow me to use my Samsung tablet as a standalone monitoring device?

Having seen the recent move by some manufacturers towards small cameras, with Arri and Blackmagic being the main ones that spring to mind, I’m interested to know what you think of these models. I run a videography business and am considering one of the smaller cameras, mainly for reasons of practicality. We do a lot of outdoor shoots and these are often in awkward situations, so a smaller camera makes a lot of sense. So, what I’d like to know is are they any good and will there be any noticeable difference from a standard-sized shooter?

David Cheshire, Dover

Alex Sanderson, Woking

SJV: The GH4 has an ‘Image App’ that runs on Android and does similar things to the Digital Director system. It allows control of all the

SJV: It’s interesting that you say ‘videography’ rather than ‘cinematography’ and that’s probably a clue as to which

In the picture


SJV: First things first. Drones are easier to fly than RC Helicopters and with practice, you’ll be able to get some good shots, but this will take time. Expect a few crashes and broken rotor blades while you are learning. It might be cheaper, easier and safer to hire a local drone filming service rather than do it yourself. But, if you’re set on doing this yourself and picking up skills you can use in the future, I’d have to recommend the DJI Phantom 2... Or for a bit more cash, the new Phantom 3. There are more advanced models around, but the DJI drones are designed with filming in mind and are ready to go out of the box, which is very helpful.

model you should look at. The Arri Alexa Mini is not cheap and is aimed at feature shoots where a small form factor is needed. The Blackmagic is similar, but far cheaper and much easier to use within a more traditional videography business. These cameras are

basically just a sensor in a box with a very simple recorder section. They will be great quality but will require a slightly different way of working. If getting cinema quality pictures in tight spaces is what you need, these cameras are well worth looking at. Keep in mind

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Ask the filmmaker

Noise from shooting in low light is just one of those things you get used to dealing with. It’s often not visible on small monitors

making a prize-winning short? We’re assuming that these could also be good for building up the profile of our own fledgling video business. What do you think? Steve Adnam, Eccles

that they will require extensive rigs to make them work in a handheld mode, so only get one if you need the compact size over the usability.

Fuzzy feelings

We shot a short film recently and it’s currently in post-production and we are tidying up what we have got in the can, so to speak. However, a chunk of the footage was filmed in very low light, sort of dusk time, and as a result it is as noisy as hell. What is the procedure for minimising the detrimental affect of this and is it removable so nobody will notice or will we just have to do a damage limitation exercise? Victoria Williams, Kenilworth SJV: Noise from shooting in low light is just one of those things you get used to dealing with. It’s often not visible on small monitors (especially DSLR screens) so we often don’t notice

until post-production how bad it is. But, all is not lost. Both NEAT Video and Red Giant make decent Noise Reduction plug-ins, which work wonders. You have to be careful not to over do it or everyone’s skin will look plastic, but they can usually remove the worst of the noise and make the shots usable. In the future, keep the ISO to the maximum you can before noise creeps into the shot and light as much as you can. Battery powered LED lights with diffusion gels can lift the light level of night shots just enough to avoid noise without ruining the look of the night. Another option is day for night shooting. Shoot the night/dusk scenes in broad daylight (avoid getting the sun or bright reflections in the shot) and then use grading to make it look like night later. Remember that streetlights, car headlights and suchlike won’t be on, so don’t shoot them in the background!

Money shot

We’ve been eyeing up a few of the short filmmaking competitions that are seemingly all overt the place at the moment. Some of them seem to have quite good prizes and we know we have the knack for shooting something good. So, do you see these as worth taking part in and what is your own best advice for

SJV: If I had the key to making a prize winning short, I’d probably have made one by now! It’s

harder than you think. It’s very rare that I’ve been able to guess the winner in a shorts competition from watching the various entries. Judges aren’t necessarily looking for the same thing that I am. Winning these competitions can lead to bigger things, but only if you capitalise on your success quickly. More often than not, it’s a short-lived glory that doesn’t push your career forwards as much

Shopping list

I’d like to get started in filmmaking and need a basic shopping list in order to do this. I guess this has been asked before, but what are the items I’ll need and can it be done for a smallish budget, about £1,200 is my limit all in. If I can’t buy new then I’ll happily buy from an auction site but are there any items that you consider too risky to purchase in this way? I know that lenses are a good bet going down this route, but are electronic items a no no? Erica Andrews, Nuneaton

SJV: Without knowing what kind of films you want to make, it’s hard to advise in much detail. Assuming you’re not looking to start shooting 4K cinematic pieces, I’d advise a secondhand Canon 550D or maybe a Lumix GH2 or GH3. Any of these will shoot great HD video and give you the ability to use a variety of lenses. That should leave you enough cash to get small slider, a rail system and follow focus to get started… you’ll have to make do with cheaper brands for now from the auction sites, but it’ll get you off the ground. Make sure you factor in media such as SD cards and hard drives for all your footage. Electronic items have few, if any moving parts, so are generally pretty safe to buy secondhand. Make sure you pay via PayPal or credit card, that way you have some protection if you run into any problems.

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You’re someone who has used a lot of different equipment and me and my mates were discussing the other night about having a dream kit list, if money was no object. With that in mind, we’re keen to hear what you would go out and buy if you didn’t have to worry about what it cost. More to the point, what benefits would it bring to your filmmaking? And, being broke, we’d like to know if there are cheaper alternatives that allow budget filmmakers to get similar results? Any thoughts? Can we really get that professional look for peanuts? Mark Warburton, York


as you might hope. That doesn’t mean entering them is a bad idea. It teaches you to work to a deadline and more importantly, to finish your films! You’d be surprised how many filmmakers never finish their projects. So, make something exciting, thought provoking and original and you’ll stand a good a chance as anyone if you give it your all.

Snob value

I’m not a professional filmmaker by any stretch of the imagination, so it’s therefore good to see what other people are doing in this magazine. What I have encountered during my own shooting sessions is that some people can seem to be a bit sniffy if you don’t have high-end kit. I’ve got a rather battered old Canon DSLR that shoots video and the results don’t look bad, but maybe I could be doing better. So, are there any tips and tricks you can offer that will silence my snobby friends and leave me with video footage that looks a treat, without


SJV: Hmm… that’s a tough one. If money was no object I’d definitely like the new Alexa SXT and probably a coupe of Alexa Minis too… also a collection of Cooke S4s, some Cooke anamorphics and Panavision Primos. It’s a never ending sweet shop if you’ve got endless funds, but at the end of the day, you could still shoot a load of crap on even the best gear… so I try to keep that in mind at all times. On a more achievable budget for most of us, you could look at the Sony FS7 or the incoming BMD URSA Mini… both of these should be able to give you a stunning cinematic image for a very reasonable price. There’s so many great lenses out there that will work with both of these cameras, but I’d advise using prime lenses, even if it means buying second hand. Prime lenses, even older models look so much more cinematic to my eye. Keep in mind that ‘the professional look’ is much more about composition and content than it is about picture quality.


Top value

There are some basic rules for setting up your camera, such as shooting 25p and setting the shutter to double the frame rate

the need to upgrade. Are there any basic rules and regulations for people starting out? Will Anderton, Chiswick

SJV: There are some basic rules for setting up your camera, Will… such as shooting 25p and setting the shutter to double the frame rate (shutter speed of 50 for 25p). Then there’s getting the aperture and ISO settings right for the amount of available light, but all these things you will pick up over time and by reading this magazine. When it comes to gear snobbery, you can ignore it! Your results will speak louder than any amount of flashy looking equipment. That said, if you want to make your rig look more professional to impress clients, a rail system and a mattebox often ‘bulk-up’ a rig so that it looks more professional. Spend you time learning to shoot quality footage and then how to deal

with it in post-production. Being an editor as well will teach you very quickly what you need to improve about your shooting. If you really want to impress, learn how to light a scene. Whether it’s drama or factual or corporate, someone who knows how to use light will always shoot a better picture than someone who doesn’t.

Spring cleaning

I’m a casual filmmaker who has amassed loads of footage over a lengthy period of time and I’m currently out of work. So, I’m looking to spend this enforced downtime organising and cataloguing my content. Therefore, can you suggest a program that might allow me to do this with ease and, while I’m looking at all of the footage, is there software

that can standardise what I’ve shot? The thing is that I have filmed lots of things on lots of different cameras, plus there is some phone footage too. Is there any one program that can tackle a job like that? Fraser Smith, Hemel Hempstead SJV: Apple’s Compressor or Macroplant’s Adapter will both convert almost any video codec to anything else… as will the ever popular MPEG-Streamclip, but none of these will organise your footage for you. There are applications such as Red Giant’s Bullet Proof might help you. It’s designed for handing and backing up footage on-set, but it might work for organising

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Ask the filmmaker Anamorphic addict

I’ve been reading a lot about anamorphic and this magazine has featured a few examples, but I’m keen to know more. Have you ever shot a film in this way and what benefit do you think it will bring to a filmmaking project? If it is a positive move, what is the basic setup that I’ll need to get everything looking right and is there anything I need to be mindful of when shooting gets underway? Thanks in advance. Mikey Evans, Cardiff

your files too. For the sake of future proofing, I’d just use folders to organise your footage manually. Make folders for different kinds of footage like FX Shots, Cityscapes, etc. or maybe just name them with the various project titles that you will recognise. At least this way your footage will still be searchable on any system in the future.

No juice

What’s the best piece of kit that you can suggest for a location shoot we are doing where there will be no access to power. We’ll be there all weekend and want to have lights, cameras and also warm up food for the cast and crew. Would a generator be the ideal thing to have in this case and, if so, presumably we can hire one for peanuts? Stuart Riggs, Manchester SJV: Again, without more details it’s hard to be specific, but it sounds like you need a generator. Unfortunately these aren’t hired for peanuts and you need to factor in fuel costs and security

for the generator when you’re off-site… they are usually too big to move around easily. The other issue with generators is that unless you spend over the odds on a proper film-location silent generator, they will make a right racket, which will ruin any audio recorded anywhere near them. Look online for local generator hire and speak to them about your specific power needs. You might not need as much as you think. Also, consider battery powered lights wherever possible if you are on a budget.

Helping hand

Do you know if there are any easy ways of getting some practical experience on a name film? I know that most people start out by helping on small projects and suchlike, but with so many films being made these days, I’m trying to think big and want to get on the crew of a ‘proper’ film. Is there an easy way to do this or is it simply a case of knocking on doors. I only ask because I’m not far from Pinewood

SJV: I’ve only shot experiments in anamorphic. It’s a great look and really isn’t something you can fake, even by cropping to 2.35:1! Shooting anamorphic professionally is one thing, but on a budget, it becomes quite a pain. It usually involves using an old anamorphic projector or adaptor lens in front of your regular lens. This is held in place with an adjustable adaptor, which aren’t easy to use. When you focus, you have to focus twice… once on the regular lens and then again on the anamorphic lens. The 2-1 squeezed image looks weird on your monitor unless you’re lucky enough to have an un-squeeze function, but once you get it into post and stretch it out again it usually looks stunning. You need to decide if the aggro you will go through while shooting is worth the amazing image. For many, it’s just too much hassle for a benefit the audience often doesn’t notice. You could look up Andrew Reid (@EOSHD on Twitter) for some great advice on shooting anamorphic with DSLRs.

Studios and with their relentless schedule they must surely have the occasional opening for a runner or something. Any ideas? Fraser Smith, Hemel Hempstead SJV: Even the lowest runner on a professional film shoot probably had to work pretty hard to get there. It’s very unlikely you will get hired or even allowed to hang around the crew on a feature shoot unless you know someone who can ‘get you in’. Everyone is very dedicated and talented and has earned the right to do their job. Another

issue on large shoots, is that you might not pick up too much as it’s such a large machine and the lowly runners are often too busy to see what’s going on. However, if you offer your services to an indie film shoot, you could be doing more than just running errands and making tea... You might actually get involved in the creative process. As with anything, it’s always who you know, not what you know, but if you know enough, you become an asset and that’s more likely to get recognised on a smaller shoot. Keep at it! ■ Keep up with Sean and his work at

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Working with colour Arthur Graham-Maw is a colourist whose work, alongside that of writer and director Dan Hodgson on the acclaimed short Love is Blind, has recently been seen at the Cannes Film Festival


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When the official line-up of the 68th Cannes Film Festival was first revealed there were several films in competition with a UK connection, including The Lobster by Yoro’s Lanthimos, and Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender. British director Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary Amy was in the Midnight Screenings line-up whilst Love is Blind competed in the Short Film Competition. What all of these submissions had in common was that they were graded, right here in the UK, on Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve. So, for this feature, we go behind the scenes on that new comedy short Love is Blind, which takes a fresh look at the

traditional love triangle scenario, with its writer and director, Dan Hodgson as well as online editor and colourist, Arthur GrahamMaw, who talk to us about how the project was financed, and how the film’s overall look was developed.

Getting started Typical of many independent short films, funding proved to be a challenge according to Hodgson. “We were initially shortlisted for Film London’s short film fund, London Calling,” he says. “They helped us to develop the script, however we didn’t ultimately secure the funding. After some discussion with my producer Elizabeth Brown, we decided to self-fund

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the project - raising some of the money on Kickstarter and with Elizabeth’s production company, Bird Flight Films, putting up the rest.” However, where the original inspiration for the short first originated Hodgson still isn’t certain. “I’d lived with the idea a long time before I wrote it, so I honestly couldn’t tell you. Ideas can pop into my head - whether it be a character, a scene or a concept - as a result of anything. I once developed a whole script because I went past a cobblers and thought it would be a cool location for a film.”

Graham-Maw looked after the online edit and grade using Resolve, a high-end suite of software power tools that many of us are able to experience first hand thanks to Blackmagic Design making the program so freely available. And, if you’ve ever experienced its sophisticated interface and endless workflow options, you’ll know just how valuable an asset it can be when you’re producing a film. Little wonder then that DavVinci Resolve is proving to be such a hit with so many people who are involved in the filmmaking industry.

“I TRY TO INTELLIGENTLY GRADE EACH SHOT FOR A MORE TECHNICALLY NATURAL AND CLEANER RESULT” Working alongside the director and DOP (Adrian Marciante) the trio initially experimented with various LUTs. “The only reference I was given came from Her by Spike Jonze, a lovely film with a very singular palette of pastels and watercolours with plenty of shape and colour in the shots. Love is Blind was shot at 2K in Pores 4444 and at 25fps,” says Arthur.

Colour magic “Adrian and Dan wanted Love is Blind to feel cosy and intimate. The conventional method for achieving that warmth is to add


yellow, but it felt too forced. Wanting to retain a neutral balance to the overall image, I focused on keeping the gamma in the primaries relatively low, allowing the highlight details to blossom whilst neutralising them with some blue to keep them white. Skin tone is what gives the illusion that it’s warm inside - I pushed these to a strong pinkish/orange. This is not seen in films very often. In fact, many DIs don’t like it, but we felt it sat well with the tone of the story.” The grade used two baseline looks, the bedroom scene and kitchen scene, and everything in

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between was a blend of those. The shots were primed, the LUT applied and then began the main grade. It is a fairly heavy grade overall, using between five and nine nodes.

Careful fine-tuning “Hannah Purdy Foggin (the production designer) created a wonderful space, with lots of shapes and colours, and that

was complemented by lots of nice camera angles. This allowed me to really pop the colours. I didn’t want it to look over saturated - just colourful. There were some challenges that had to be overcome in post. Take, for example, the curtains and chairs, which were very red, so I carefully desaturated these and nudged the hue a little towards orange. The brain still processes them as red, but now they don’t demand so much attention on screen. The walls and carpets, mostly in the corridor shots, also presented some challenges. As is typical with short films, not everything on set was perfect; the walls and carpets were of a buff colour, which when you are trying to key out skin tones is a bit of a nightmare. With patience and fine-tuning DeVinci Resolve got me the results.”

Seamless Grade “For me, Resolve’s nodebased system has great clarity of workflow, and its editing features allowed me to online the film easily,” Arthur continues. “When I grade, I tend to use the curves HueVsHue and HueVsSat. I avoid using qualifier as much as possible and try to intelligently grade each shot for a more technically natural and cleaner result. One challenge in film is when a shot is moving from one space to another,

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“Really the whole film is just a great little story. All the players have done a fantastic job” large to small, and shape, colour and elements within that shot change. To deal with this, a technique I used on Love Is Blind was to cut the shot in the edit then do a 6-12 frame cross fade so as to keep the grade seamless and consistent. This allowed me more power and control to accommodate the one take transition, especially when power windows are involved.” In all, three days were spent on the DI at Graham-Maw’s studio in London; two days on the main

grade and a final day for any remaining tweaks, quality control and rendering the deliverables. At the end of the process he exported several versions, both in ProRes and Digital Cinema Packages (DCP). “Really the whole film is just a great little story. All the players have done a fantastic job. It’s a very well-executed short,” concludes Arthur. “As a colourist I don’t really want you to notice the grade, just like you’re not supposed to notice

that the camera exists, that’s the whole point of film – to tell a story and allow yourself to believe it has taken place; and I think the grade does a good job of that.”

Success story Cannes was a big moment for Blackmagic Design as a whole too. Special screenings at the renowned film festival also included the premiere of Mad Max: Fury Road, which features scenes using the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, as well as the directorial debut of Natalie Portman’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, lensed by cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, who also shot with the


Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. The Cannes Classics, an element of the festival that celebrates masterpieces of cinema, also screened stunning digital restorations, which have been graded with DaVinci Resolve, including a showing of More by Barbet Schroeder and the 1931 film Marius by Alexander Korda. Inclusion in the Official Selection is one of the most prestigious honours in cinema, and Blackmagic Design digital film cameras and DaVinci Resolve continue to be used by a huge number of filmmakers and post-production professionals creating amazing films. No wonder they’re smiling. n

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The Official Selection films shown at Cannes that were graded with DaVinci Resolve included: Main Competition

Un Certain Regard

Short Film

• Amnesia, Patrick Lindenmaier, Andromeda Film AG • Chronic, Richard Deusy at M141 Films • Dheepan, Charles Freville at Digimage • Il racconto dei racconti (The Tale of Tales), Andrea Baracca at GRANDE MELA FILM • Marguerite et Julien, Richard Deusy at M141 Films • Macbeth, Adam Glasman at Goldcrest Post London • The Lobster, Tony Ford • Valley of Love, Richard Deusy at M141 Films

• Comoara (The Treasure), Christophe Bousquet at M141 Films • Hruter, Norman Nisbet • Maryland, Serge Antony at Digimage • Un Etaj Mai Jos, Fatah Shams, Shoot & Post • Kishibe no Tabi, Toriumi Shigeyuki at IMAGICA

• Love is Blind, Arthur Graham-Maw • Pojkarna (Boys), Fateh Shams, Shoot & Post • The Guests, Anna Howard ASC

Special Screenings • Amy, Paul Ensby, Company 3 London

Cannes Classics • Marius, Jerome Bigeur at Digimage; • More, Pauline Bassenne at Digimage

Critics Week • Ni le ciel, ni la terre, Mikael Commereuc at M141 Films • Krisha, Daniel Stuyck

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Wolf at

the door Jason Rivers is the director of Crying Wolf, a psychological thriller that he completed in just four days using a pair of dependable Blackmagic cameras There’s nothing like flying by the seat of your pants and making a short film in as little time as possible. You’ve only got to look at the countless short filmmaking challenges that go on up and down the country to see that plenty of people love to be pushed to the max. It was a similar story with Crying Wolf, a pretty compact and bijou psychological thriller, which has been filmed in 4K on a Blackmagic URSA and a Blackmagic Production Camera. The whole thing was done in four days and is now in post-production having had a cast of eleven and a crew of fourteen. The shoot took place across seven different locations within the Midlands and its director, Jason Rivers, still sounds pumped by the whole experience. “The story follows Alex, an 18-year-old girl who personally refuses help and avoids letting people into her life, especially men,” says Jason on the topic of the film. “She is a youth basketball player and her coach is concerned about her friend Charlie, who has missed the last couple of sessions. After initially dismissing this and being distracted by the attractive assistant coach James, Alex soon realises her friend is missing and maybe to a worrying extent. She works through


the clues, becoming a ‘would be’ detective in the search for Charlie. As she searches she uncovers the truth, but by finally letting people in she undoes her own chances of survival by putting herself in danger for the benefit of Charlie.”

Leading role The film sounds like a challenging one, and not just because of the time constraints and James seems very pleased with being able to direct it… “Personally, it was always a direction that I wanted to head towards,” he says. “But going back many years when making my choices for university it seemed that most film schools wanted a portfolio of work, which was something that I did not have. Rather than take the time to produce that while my friends and peers advanced into higher education, I stuck to what I knew and went into IT and business and then straight into teaching. Throughout my teaching practice I looked for ways to use and get into filmmaking with students and within my teaching, but it was always on restricted equipment and with limited budgets.” Things finally took a step in the right direction a few years ago though… “About six years ago I entered into a business venture with

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my brother-in-law, running and promoting a sports organisation,” furthers the filmmaker. “And eventually the marketing side led me into shooting and editing trailers, interviews and highlight videos. It was great to have something to actually apply some skills to and have content to shoot. Three years later I joined up with a friend who had set up a UK-based media group to cover different sports promotions and events and, again, began to create and shoot similar products but never had full creative control. It was all missing something that I had initially set my goals on when I was a teenager.”

Do it yourself Therefore, James decided the best way forwards was to take things into his own hands… “Nearly twelve months ago I set up my own organisation and venture,” he says. “Taking the plunge and beginning with some simple interview videos and spending a bunch of money on

a DSLR set up. Fairly quickly, I felt the need to take the next step and recruited a few people who could help me out behind the camera. I developed and wrote several small scenes; usually inspired by something I’d recently watched to practice the craft of filmmaking and, after taking some advice on that, to make films you actually need to go and make them. It was a great way to learn from mistakes

in this way rather than when on a bigger production and it has helped immensely. I took the time to read and read, shoot and learn, watch videos and plan for the next one, making mistakes to reflect on practice and somehow managed to attract more professionals to my most recent and first major production, Crying Wolf.” It was a slightly different story for others on the team however… “From a totally different perspective, Crying Wolf’s director of photography Will Price started making films when he was 15,” adds James. “Admitting that horrendous things that now lie dormant in the depths of YouTube. Likewise, time and experience have helped him come long way since then and by learning a lot of things, mostly by making mistakes. The biggest one for me being spending my life savings on a Canon Xl2, unaware that the DSLR movement was about to take off.”

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Bad timing It’s all in the timing and that mistake must have cost him dearly, but the team thinking certainly seems focused on the same goals… “Will always hated the thought of normal work,” laughs James. “And, after making his first short; a love story where the girl turns out to be a ghost all along, he decided filmmaking was something he could do for the rest of his life and not grow to hate it. Even though Will studied Film and Video at university, he has pretty much learnt everything he knows on set, observing other DPs, finding cinematography fascinating. Nothing excites him more than seeing a shot

that I spent hours lighting, composing, rehearsing and finally shooting come together on screen. Personally, Will loves the excitement that people get when they see the footage and that smile directors get when the scene they envisioned has been perfectly executed by you.” Which sounds like it happened quite a lot on this project… “Crying Wolf came about as I began to feel comfortable creating and producing short five minute videos,” James continues. “But I wanted to work on something bigger in every way; cast, crew and story and that ambition drove me to search for an idea and for a solid script to produce a short

“Crying Wolf came about as I began to feel comfortable creating and producing short five minute videos” 68

movie for festival submission. I had tested the water with my previous work and was looking for something that had depth to move forward. Through building a network of cast and crew I was pointed in the direction of a local writer and after talking and meeting, we looked at some ideas for development. We both shared similar tastes in non-Hollywood based endings; storylines that had a darker edge and the thinking that sometimes life and the situations that it throws at people just sucks and I wanted to find a picture in that essence.

However, after some back and forth communication and the fact that normal life at times just gets in the way, the final treatment was just not what I had agreed and developed from his original idea for a story. The script was too short, around 3-4 minutes, had some logistically difficult things for us to acquire rights to film and was too dark, featuring a central character that just wouldn’t be supported by the audience; a lesson I had learnt in developing my own short films previously.”

Different strokes “Consequently, after talking to my writer and something getting lost in the communication, I had to develop the script myself,” says the director. “Initially, I developed the original outline to have a central character that could drive the audience through the plot and began thinking about the clues and structures needed for

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Feature: Wolf at the door her to develop across the story. This resulted in a fairly detailed step outline for the production and, after nearly twelve weeks of waiting for it to be fleshed out by the writer, I had set my heart on that story and was excited about the prospect of what I would receive. However, that’s not what rolled into my inbox and, sadly, I just couldn’t use the script that he had developed as it had no resemblance to the structure of a story I had outlined. Therefore, across a three-week period through Christmas and New Year, I created the script to my original requirements and storyline idea and had a draft from which I could begin some form of preproduction, while redrafting the script as required.” Quite an undertaking, especially when you consider the tough storyline of the film itself… “In the final production meeting with the crew I outlined the theme and premise to be around what people actually show those they interact with and whether we are ever our true selves,” says James. “By which, I mean there’s a different side of my persona for work, home, friends and for family and it’s all based on a central core of what is essentially me, but slightly or dramatically different in places for each of those audiences whom all sees something different. I used that idea to develop some of the characters having clear realisation of that fact, or being blissfully unaware as they make their journey through the story.”

Quirky storyline “To be honest, I really like the mystery, detective and plot twist-based films as a personal preference,” adds James, trying to summarise his vision. “I love the idea of people watching a film going ‘It’s him, definitely 100 per cent him’ and then changing their mind several times throughout

as the picture evolves and progresses. However, whether it’s just the onslaught of US-based influence or my own experience, I just cannot see the grit and character flaws that a UK-based police officer can have or offer. Therefore, I decided to not have that official detective in my story. A driven and determined young woman can have far more behind her from an audience perspective and can be as gritty and rulebreaking as need be in the search for her missing friend.” James also fancied the idea of making the film a feature, but as is often the case, those practical considerations took over… “This film, more specifically the story of Crying Wolf, could have easily been a feature,” he says. “With a total of eleven characters, there’s so much that could be done to introduce them, develop and show their relationship to the main

storyline and character. However, a feature film is a pretty serious thing to do well and do right and I think many people see that as the gold baseline to filmmaking, thinking that having a feature to your name no matter how good it is has more kudos than a strong or several good short films. I’ve learnt to produce films by making them and haven’t been trained or taught in a workshop or lecture hall. However, even if that was the case, I think trying to jump to the end point first would be an ill-advised move. Wherever the finance comes from to produce films, it should not be wasted and I cannot think of a worse feeling than having a large budget and blowing it because I’ve never had to learn those lessons early on.”

Quality kit Central to making this film happen was some of the kit the

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Smart strategy

team used, which centred largely around Blackmagic cameras… “We shot the film primarily using the Blackmagic URSA,” explains James. “The colour science of the camera is phenomenal and, with the new compressed Raw options available, we can push the images to be as good as they possibly can be in DaVinci Resolve. We also used the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K in conjunction with the DJI Ronin, which allowed us to get some really fantastically choreographed shots that just blew the cast and crew away. We had a set of the Samyang Cine-prime lenses, which held up surprisingly well, even when shooting wide open in some of the darker locations. Will also made use of his SmallHD Dp7, which with its custom LUTs, allowed him to really visualise the gritty look of the film in-camera, without having to wait for dailies. Will really adores Blackmagic cameras and it never even entered into discussion to use anything else after talking with him. I think


it’s really exciting what they are doing for the film world; they have been a real workhorse on this film and made it possible to achieve a truly beautiful cinematic look.”

Nevertheless, while cameras were fine, other areas of the production had their issues… “The one area we were lacking in was the lighting,” adds James. “We only had a Ledgo LED panel, two small LED panels and the dreaded Redheads that follow every production like a dark cloud. Despite this equipment drought we did a fantastic job - my gaffer Jerome Puri is one of the best I’ve ever worked with and he helped me achieve some incredible set ups with such a limited amount of

gear. My Manfrotto autopole came in useful in almost every location, being slung between walls to get an LED panel into unholy positions, enhancing or simulating daylight. As I’ve read numerous times, many people forget that sound is equally important to the filmmaking process and having Adam Fletcher on board ensured we had the right tools there as well. Adam uses a Sound Devices 633 recorder and mixer. The recorder allows him to focus completely on capturing great audio without having to worry about things like battery life, file corruption, clip distortion and various other things that might be an issue with other recorders. Personally, he loves the workflow, being able to label each shot and generate sound reports on the mixer, which post-shoot means he does not need to spend time at the end of each session writing sound reports and relabeling each take. Furthermore, he can also make notes on each take if there was an issue with it.”

“During Crying Wolf the majority of the scenes were internal,” James continues. “Occasionally, in large reverb spaces. So, a shotgun microphone like the Sennhieser 416 would just make it sound worse than it does in real life. For Adam’s main internal boom mic he used an Octava 012, as the mic is a hyper-cardioid condenser and is great for dialogue. It’s still very directional and captures really crisp and clean dialogue, even in some of the worst acoustic environments. Better than a shotgun mic at least. It’s also extremely light and small, so if you are in a tiny room you an still get the mic in a good spot without getting in shot or knocking a lovely vase over. Furthermore, Adam also used wireless lav mics with the cast. The mics I used are the popular Sanken Cos 11 mics and these are widely used on a lot of things you see on TV and in film. They’re used a lot on the popular TV series Breaking Bad. The lav mics penetrate through clothing nicely, meaning when you’re hiding them under a layer of clothing you are still getting a crisp clear signal. Some lav mics can sound very muffled and low-endy, but the Cos 11’s seem to cut through nicely. When shooting outdoors, Adam switched to using a Sennhieser 416 shotgun as his boom microphone to capture the audio.”

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“perseverance meant that we pulled everything off ready for the last production meeting”

Endless hurdles James and his team did put in plenty of groundwork before the shoot, but he was also affected by tiresome niggles along the way once things got started… “Day one was a reshuffle within the locked schedule,” he sighs. “That was due to a basketball arena having to move the availability for us, which in turn meant that two actresses had to be replaced four days ahead of the shoot. Our underground location beneath a stately home on day four also limited our filming time from that originally agreed, cutting about four hours off what we had planned. That meant a quick

change in the shot list, but we still had one external that needed the night to set in. Luckily, during lunch, I had to pop into the local town and saw an abandoned building, did a quick bit of location scouting and had sorted out the arrangements for later that day to complete the film and shoot. With a fair few of the locations being in inner city Nottingham, we had one day of hitting some major traffic and a massive factory fire raging for 24 hours adding to that.” Ah, the joys of a location shoot… “We shot solely on location,” chuckles the director. “And it’s a challenge getting and securing places from the

start when you’re working with a limited budget. There were many emails, deals, sucking up and thanks dished out across the entire process and it was the most difficult part of the entire production to be fair. We had seven locations - a basketball arena and changing rooms, a bedroom in a flat, three family homes, an office and an underground boiler room.” Said locations were therefore one of the biggest hurdles to overcome it seems… “Locations were a challenge from the offset,” laughs James. “The most difficult ones from the script seemed to be the easiest to secure, but then the rules would change before and even during the shoot. When you’re not handing over a large sum of money for the use of that

location, you’ve just got to smile through it all and get back to work. Funnily enough, the locations that I thought would be the easiest, being peoples homes, were the most difficult to secure. Again, perseverance meant that we pulled everything off ready for the last production meeting heading into the shoot, but that held us back as the majority of locations were only known to us via images alone. So Will and I had no time to get in and accurately plan for lighting and technical set ups. If it wasn’t for Will’s flexibility and resourcefulness on location and Laura’s consistent timetabling pressure we’d probably have fallen into a spiral and would have not completed the principle photography in the allocated time.” n

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Exit strategy Richard Oakes runs his own production company in the shape of Dark Fable Media and he’s recently completed Exit Plan, another film shot on a Blackmagic camera


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Blackmagic cameras are increasingly becoming one of the key tools of choice for budding filmmakers and also those professionals looking to use great kit, but at an affordable price. Richard Oakes is one such example – he got in touch at the beginning of the year, letting us know of his plans to make Exit Plan and, since then, he’s finished it up and all is good. “We filmed everything on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera,” he says looking back on the project. “I love the thing! Compression is something I have

grown to hate over the last few years, so that ended my affair of the DSLRs I once loved. We used the Metabones Speedbooster and EF lenses, mainly the Sigma 18-35 1.8, a great combination for low light stuff! Everything was shot in Pro Res HQ due to the high workflow issues of shooting in Raw, but it’s still a great image. All the lighting was either Red Heads, floodlights or daylight studio lights. We used a few blue filters on the lights for different moods. Sound was recorded using the Rode Videomic Pro on a boom going into the Tascam DR-60 Recorder.”

So, a simple set up by the sound of it but one that has helped Richard and his team complete Exit Plan without too many glitches along the way. “Everything went pretty much by the book so I can’t complain about anything,” adds Richard of the experience. “Two of the planned crew pulled out on the first day of shooting due to illness, which really put the pressure on. But it didn’t hinder us at all really. We ended up with less time maybe


as a result of this, but thirty minutes sleep a night seemed to be doable for the four days we were shooting, ha! Mind you, the lack of sleep could have been down to the fact that we all had to sleep in a tiny room with three horrific whip scorpions. We used them in one intense scene of the film. The whole crew were highly arachnophobic, so it was pretty funny to work with them!”

Wild and wonderful As you’ll see from the assembled images, shooting took place in the great outdoors, in a location that looks rather like a junkyard… “We shot at my dad’s farm in west Wales,” chuckles Richard. “He’s a bit of a hoarder so it’s like a filmmakers paradise as far as props and sets are concerned. I think we ended up buying about three props. The rest were just found there in one barn or the other. There are three main, nonCG locations in the short. ‘Adams Flat’, which was an old recording studio of mine that had been left to rot, ‘Saul’s Lair’, which was an old shipping container that was left after we moved back to the UK from Dubai and the ‘Market’, which was built in a yard from old scrap we found lying around at the farm. For all the CG locations I converted one of the barns into a green screen set. No mean feat by the sound of it,

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were over 300 entries and I got down to the final ten. One of the judges ended up calling me to apologise that I hadn’t got any further. He explained that if it was down to the visuals alone I would have won. However, they felt the story was just too controversial to win. This actually ended up giving me a massive confidence boost, so I took the plunge and quit my job as a bin man. I then started a full-time music video production company called Dark Fable Media. The second video I did was for a band on Universal Records and ever since then it has only got better. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of my favourite artists of all time and share stages with them at the UKs biggest music festivals.”

Small time wonder

so did that prove problematical? “Besides being extremely cold there were no real problems as far as filming was concerned,” adds Richard. “I had planned all the shots I wanted to do and I knew the locations like the back of my hand as this was where I grew up. The only challenge we narrowly avoided was the rain. It was meant to be raining the whole four days we were there, which would have made sound impossible, especially in ‘Saul’s’ Lair’ as it had a thin tarpaulin roof. Luckily, all we got was Sun!”

Starting out Richard got bitten by the filmmaking bug early on, and spent his formative years dabbling with dreams of making his own movies one day… “Even at a young age I loved the idea of making films,” he reflects. “I used to spend entire days riding my bike in circles, thinking up film ideas until it got dark. Whenever I could, I would borrow my dad’s giant video camera and film whatever came to mind. I was always really interested in effects, ever since I was around


ten-years-old. I used to film my brother’s Star Trek models and build miniature sets to crash them into. Five years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the Canon 500D and I was blown away by the image at such a low price! Until then, a good quality camera was just way out of my budget. After inheriting a small amount of money I decided to bite the bullet and buy a Canon 600D and a copy of After Effects to begin teaching myself how to do visual FX.” Determination and a willingness to get his head down and learn the ropes soon meant that Richard was making progress. “I spent a solid month learning the ins and outs of Adobe After Effects,” he says. “Until I decided to enter a film competition. There

Meanwhile, for Exit Plan the crew count was rather less impressive with Richard having to do much of the legwork himself. What’s been his involvement? “Let me see,” he quips. “My roles on this film are writer, director, cinematographer, editor, visual FX artist, lighting and colourist. I wish this wasn’t the case, but I just couldn’t afford to

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Feature: Exit strategy hire in specialised people for the job. Hopefully in the future I’ll be in a position to work with a much bigger team, so that I could focus on maybe just one or two specific roles. But coming from the lowbudget music video production side of things, I’m used to taking on a lot of roles. The idea came to me about seven years ago. I was obsessed with space, and read a lot about the plans to start a colony on Mars. The idea of starting again on another planet fascinated me. I thought to myself, what if something Earth shattering was imminent and we only had Mars an option? I wrote a rough idea down and attempted to film it with whatever I could get my hands on… this was before my DSLR revolution. I did all the visual FX in Adobe Flash as I had no dedicated compositing software at the time! Safe to say, it looked

terrible, which I was clearly aware of. I made a tough call of putting the idea on the shelf until I had the gear and technical knowhow to pull it off again. In November 2014, I decided it was time!” And, as you’d expect, the end result is a rather other-worldly effort with a quirky edge. “Exit Plan is a short, character driven,

“I thought to myself, what if something Earth shattering was imminent and we only had Mars an option? sci-fi film about an exile called Adam,” says Richard. “After machines become the sole workforce for the industry, the lower classes are deemed surplus to requirements, banished from the utopian cities and left to starve. Adam is trapped in the slums of this dark future. As the rebels plot against the elite known as The Order, he is left stuck in the middle, accompanied by his only companion, a robotic helper called iO. After discovering that the Earth will soon be destroyed by a cosmic natural disaster, Adam has to find a way off the planet. Exit Plan is a short, cross-

section of the full original idea, a proof of concept for a feature length I guess. So there is a lot more to be told in the future.”

An epic tale “The story and the script was written by me,” furthers the filmmaker on who came up with the storyline. “The rough concept was pencilled out seven years ago, but when I decided to make this into a standalone short, I faced a lot of challenges. I had to be careful on choosing what part of the larger story could be made into a film that would be self-contained enough to not

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Minimal help

leave the audience confused. I was on a roll and, after making a few minor changes, it all started falling into place. New characters and interesting sub-plots were introduced, and this was very satisfying. Once I felt I had a solid story in my mind, I wrote the script in three days. Safe to say, it was revised a number of times after discussing it with friends and,


even up until the shoot, many changes were even made on set.” Richard has already mentioned that this is a project that could happily become a feature, although the current film is a short, which boils down to… “Time and budget,” he laughs. “The whole idea of this project was to push to get a whole feature made. Initially, I wanted

to do just a trailer as a proof of concept, but a short film seemed the better way to go. I’ve seen a few sci-fi shorts taken on by big production companies in the last year. I haven’t been able to spend much time doing my music videos whilst working on this film, so the quicker I can get back to supporting my family with an actual income, the better.”

With little budget Richard was therefore handling a lot of the work himself, but did manage to get some additional help along the way. “The sound man is Marc Brugere and we do a lot of filming jobs together,” adds the filmmaker. “He worked with me on a festival shoot for Gibson Guitars. He is a great asset to the team and helped me with many creative decisions on set. We had two guys down to help build the sets, Gillan Williams and Joe Lewis. I was very proud of the work they did building the market. The actors also chipped in with everything from script ideas to set building. That’s it! Six people in total, including myself. Pretty much all my cast were people I had gotten to know while shooting music videos. Both main actors are singers I had worked with in bands. AJ Reeves (who plays Adam) is in a band called Jensen and Adam Leader (who plays Saul) is in a band called In Search Of Sun. As a front man for a band you tend to have a lot of confidence and showmanship, so I felt they would work well. My wife Rachel Oakes played the part of Nekana.” And the budget appears to have been virtually nothing… “We started with nothing,” Richard confirms. “But I soon realised we would need something to work with if we were going to make the film any good! I decided to set up an Indiegogo campaign for the film

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Feature: Exit strategy

“We’ve also been contacted by many different industry professionals wanting to know more, so I’m excited...”

and we managed to raise £1,800, which was great! This meant we could afford to get a few more things, like 3D models and a couple of props to help sell the film. All the cast and crew did it for no money and I can’t thank them enough for it! They just really believed in the project and we were all incredibly excited to make something so special.”

Finishing line So Richard has managed to do the dream and complete his film. Where is he with the project as of now? “I’m currently in post-

production,” he says. “It’s coming along a lot faster than I thought it would. We finished shooting on the 16th of March and I’d say I’m at about 60-70 per cent through post. One third of the film is completely CG environments, so this is the hardest and most time consuming part to put together. I built a lot of the environments prior to shooting though, which has helped speed up the process a great deal. After this, it’s going to be handed over to the genius Benjamin Symons to work his magic on the score. I’m really happy with it so far, it’s the best

thing I’ve ever done by a long shot! We released a trailer last week and it’s had a phenomenal response so far. We have been officially selected for one film festival off the trailer alone. We’ve also been contacted by many industry professionals wanting to know more, so I’m excited about the promising future of this project for sure.” If he did it all again, however, Richard would do one or two things slightly differently it seems. “I’d love to use all physical sets,” he states. “Building sets in CG is a lot of headwork and will never look as good as a real set, but sadly real sci-fi sets cost a lot of money. A bigger crew and more time to shoot would be great, because directing, composing shots, pulling focus and judging a performance all at the same time is pretty tough and your brain can become fried very quickly, especially on 30 minutes sleep a night... damn whip scorpions!”

Keeping busy “I’m still chugging along with the music videos,” adds the filmmaker in closing. “But I’m really excited to see what doors this film will open. There is still so much of the story left to tell. If I could get the funding to make a feature off the back of this, then that would be ideal. I have ideas for other film projects too, but if I let myself get too interested in that, then I will lose focus in this current project. So I’m trying not to think about that too much right now. But this has been one of the funniest experiences of my life! Everybody got along so well that we were like a family. I’ve not laughed as hard as we did while shooting this. At the end of each night we would have a whisky at Lazy Dan’s (the slum bar set). There were no egos at all and every decision by any member was for the good of the project. It has been a great learning experience. A truly a special time that I will never forget!” n

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Done to a tea Mark Brennan and April Kelley sit down for a cuppa to talk about their latest project, the charming new short called Tea for Two featuring Amanda Barrie and John Challis


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Feature: Done to a tea

Quirky new short film Tea for Two is being readied for release and it is, on the face of it, a quintessentially British curio. Written and directed by Mark Brennan, Tea for Two involves comedy, romance and a mystery twist. The film’s executive producers include renowned baker Fiona Cairns (creator of Prince William and Duchess Kate’s royal wedding cake) and James Webber who’s an award-winning filmmaker. Production of the film took place over the winter and features a stellar British cast. Amanda Barrie (Bad Girls, Coronation Street) and John Challis (Only Fools and Horses, Doctor Who) star as the lead couple, supported by William Postlethwaite (The Suspicions of Mr Whicher), Abigail Parmenter

(The Longest Night) and James Hamer-Morton (The Fitzroy). It’s been made on location in leafy Hertsfordshire and the film will roll out pretty soon in order to coincide with the festival circuit. Key crew includes director of photography Lorenzo Levrini, whose experience spans digital, West End, television and film

industries; Production Designer Rachel King, owner of RK Studio and Editor Carl Austin, co-founder of Pork Chop Pictures, who has been a professional editor on short films, music videos and corporate video projects for over eight years. “Mark and I met at a mutual friends birthday and he told me about the story over some cocktails in a noisy bar,” says April Kelley, producer and founder of Mini Productions. “Once he sent the script over, Sara (the other Mini) and I saw how much cake would be involved and we were sold! Cake aside, we were looking to do a comedy and Tea For Two had so much heart it was impossible to say ‘no’.” “The short started life as a zero-budget project,” chips in Mark. “Carrying on from the other

work myself and Carl Austin have done at Pork Chop Pictures. This time though we were keen to do something more substantial and try to raise our game. The film is about an older couple running a quiet tea shop who aren’t quite what they seem. I’ve always found it funny how older people get away with odd behaviour because we’re too polite to call them up on it. I felt there was some fun to be had there, especially if I added some method to their madness. I started tinkering with the idea just before Christmas 2013, when run ins with older relatives are most prevalent! I then re-drafted a couple of times after the holidays and a few weeks later had a finished draft.”

Short and sweet “I enjoy short films as their own art form and believe that many stories suit a shorter length,” furthers Mark on why they went down the short format route. “Stories can always be expanded upon, but this one felt right to tell as a short film as it was an exploration of a relatively simple idea. It also costs less!”

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Plain sailing

whose skills of encompassing multiple emotions within one ping of an instrument is beyond me and the immensely talented Rachel King, our production designer whose eye to detail and endless energy was both inspiring and infectious.” And this great talent was augmented by equally great kit… “We used RED Dragon with anamorphic lenses and the magician of a Director of Photography Lorenzo Levrini,” beams Mark. “We went to Onsight for all our lighting and kit,” adds April. “They were and have been incredible we love them.”

This all sounds a little too good to be true, so did nothing untoward happen along the way? “There was a moment when we ran out of Nutella,” quips April. “But Sara and I managed to rectify that situation fairly quickly. In a similar vein, on our second day of shooting our RED Dragon faulted for reasons that nobody is really sure of, but this solution occurred quicker than the Nutella crisis. Our lovely focus puller, Chloe, came up to me and whispered the issue but in the same breath said, ‘it’s okay, Onsight are on their way with a new one’ … Brilliant! And Mark had no idea this even happened.” Better still, both cast and crew must have had endless brews on the go seeing as the short was shot in a real life tea room! “We did,” confirms Mark. “We filmed on location at the West Mill Tea Room in Hertfordshire. A lovely, working tea room, which we were lucky to have the run of for three


“In Tea For Two’s case it simply wouldn’t have worked as a feature,” agrees April. “It was made purposely to be a short. As for Mini, we’re still wanting to expand our slate of shorts in different genres whilst we develop features along the side.” With both Mark and April having bulging contact books it was pretty straightforward to get things together for this project, with the crew falling into place with ease…


“It was a dream team many of whom we had worked with before such as DOP extraordinaire Lorenzo Levrini and Heather Bradley - the only costume designer I’ve ever needed to work with,” laughs April. “It was great to find gems of talent who none of us had worked with before; our make-up artist Samantha Allen who kept everyone (crew included) looking flawless with her airbrush gun, Roly Witherow our composer,

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Feature: Done to a tea

days. They’re used to filming in the village as Foyle’s War has also shot there, but I don’t think the tea room owners were quite prepared for us hijacking their lovely tea room in the manner we did. We really turned the place upside down.” “Yes, that was another reason why this script excited me in particular because I knew straight away where I’d personally like to shoot,” agrees April. “Having grown up in Hertford I knew the tea room and area really well. The owners, Joanne and Alex were incredible - safe to say we kept that sleepy little village wideawake for a few days.”

Tight fit All well and good, but if you look at the stills on show in this feature you’ll see that the location wasn’t exactly big on space. “The tea room, while lovely, is tiny,” confirms Mark. “Almost prohibitively so. When we first saw photos we really didn’t think we could make it work in the space, but we chanced a visit on a recce anyway and just fell in love with the place. While April and I were sat with a tea thinking about how it could work, an old couple came in and actually ordered ‘Tea for Two’ so we took that as a sign! “ “From a producer’s perspective, accommodation posed a problem initially…” furthers April. “When you’re shooting long days out of London and your call time is 8am, you can’t expect your actors and crew to be up and travelling from 4am… Fortunately, Hertfordshire had our backs covered, in particular Rigby’s Guest House and The Salisbury Arms were superb at putting everyone up. Other

“WE’RE THRILLED WITH THE FINAL FILM AND THRILLED TO HAVE FOUND A TEAM WE’D LIKE TO WORK WITH AGAIN” than that, cake was the biggest challenge… It was everywhere and come the last day it was all up for grabs. Sara and I are still trying to get our waistlines back to where they were prior to the shoot.” The production team also bagged the name cast of their dreams too, so how had that panned out? “Well, we started with older actors,” April explains. “Sara had a loose connection with John through a friend who had previously worked with him so we reached out to his agent. I knew Amanda’s agent so contacted them. Amanda was in fact on a years break at the time, but once she heard John was definitely on board so was she, as we quickly found out they are old friends. The young cast members miraculously fell into place… Sara again, knew

William, having grown up in Shropshire and one day Mark sent through an actress he had found and said ‘What about her?’ ... lo and behold I knew her, Abigail was a friend and I swiftly kicked myself for not thinking of her in the first place and then it turned out that she knew William too - what are the odds! Moments like that remind you how tiny this industry is. And finally, there was the hilarious James Hamer-Morton who Mark had seen in the improv comedy troupe Chuckle Duster and who also features in upcoming features The Fitzroy & Banjo.”

Spending power Money for the project was sourced via crowdfunding arrangement, which is a common enough approach these days but made

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all the more sweeter by reaching the target amount needed to go into production. “By Pork Chop standards it was practically a Bruckheimer budget,” laughs Mark. “Our last film cost around £40. This time we decided to run our first ever crowdfunding campaign and were lucky enough to hit our target, which allowed us to really step up our game. We also benefitted hugely from some very generous private investment.” “With Tea For Two we were lucky to have a film which had


potential hooks…” elaborates April. “Tea, cake, biscuits, vintage… So we decided to also seek private investment from those who could relate to the film and its hooks. This is when the wonderful Fiona Cairns came in, who has been superb. Pork Chop approached Fiona and her team and after charming them they agreed to meet with Mini as well and from there things really took off. Fiona didn’t just invest but created a whole new cake especially for the film. We’ve

actually just screened the film to a private audience at BAFTA and have sent it for our crowdfunding backers to see. Now we’re looking at festivals and are just keen to get it out there. BAFTA was an absolute delight, was great to watch the film surrounded by a new audience who appreciated moments that we had become accustomed to. As for festival time… We’re preparing press kits and materials, whilst Pork Chop continue to charm their way into the hearts of festival organisers.”

Cake time Thanks to the seemingly straightforward shoot and less than problematical fundraising, all the team really need to do now is wait for further feedback on the film and get on with their marketing campaign… “The response at the screening was very positive,” reckons Mark. “But with most things, especially comedy, everything is relative. It’s not the arthouse cinema that some festivals and film-goers love, but I’m very happy with the

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Feature: Done to a tea

“NOT THE ARTHOUSE CINEMA THAT SOME FESTIVALS AND FILM-GOERS LOVE, BUT I’M VERY HAPPY WITH THE FILM” film - however biased I may be!” “We’re excited,” adds April. “I think we can all agree that we created this film to entertain and to make others smile… Not to revolutionise filmmaking. Personally, I would love to see this film reach audiences who are rarely exposed to short films. With television gold in the form of John Challis and Amanda Barrie it would be wonderful if Tea For Two could be seen on the telly, by those who watch the telly.” “There are some things I personally would have done differently with the benefit of hindsight,” says Mark looking back on their latest project. “But I wouldn’t change any of the work the cast and crew did. I

“We’re currently developing our first feature,” adds April. “The Promise of Peace, which is based on the true story of how my grandparents met. We have a short film shooting later this year, Edith, which we’re producing alongside Fiona Neilson, directed by Christian Cooke and starring Peter Mullan. We’re also preparing to take a play our theatre company, End of the Line created up to Hull Truck. We like to keep busy...” And how would the dynamic duo best sum up this latest project of theirs? “The entire

experience has been such a pleasure I may retire now and quit while I’m ahead!” laughs Mark. “I love the team and I love what we’ve put together.” “Textbook,” says April. “You’re always going to have your obstacles with filmmaking, especially doing a short film, but Tea For Two was one of those projects where all the stars aligned, the ducks found their row and the universe wanted us to eat cake for three days straight. We’re thrilled with the final film and even more thrilled to have found a team we’d like to work with again and again.” ■

thought everyone was fantastic, I was really spoiled.” “I wouldn’t let the Nutella run out,” quips April with her thoughts on how to manage things in the future. “Besides that, nope, nothing else would be any different and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. It was a joy.” So what else have they currently got their filmmaking sights set on? “I’m co-writing a feature script with another filmmaker, Andrew Harmer, whose debut feature film The Fitzroy is currently in postproduction,” says Mark. “I’m very excited about that, plus some of my own short and feature projects that I’m working on too.”

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01/06/2015 16:24

The student perspective

Alice Dover, writer/director of Who Will Separate Us and soon to be graduate of the Arts University Bournemouth, discusses her graduation film and experiences while studying film production at art school


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The student perspective

I have always had an interest in stories, but particularly in film. It was when I was 13, after seeing Little Miss Sunshine (2006) that I knew I wanted to make my own. The interesting and complex characters put in a situation where they had to interact so closely with one another, and in turn learn about themselves, inspired me want to want to write

about people. After taking film studies at A-level I went on to the Arts University Bournemouth to study film production, as I wanted to be more practical and creatively stimulated. After specialising in directing in my second year, I got to spend time working on short films. Together with my peers we slowly prepared for our graduation film.

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I have spent my final year co-writing with producer Jordan Smith, and directing Who Will Separate Us? Set in contemporary Belfast, the film follows Cat and Danny, two siblings trying to decide between staying loyal to their family and following their own paths. Jordan created the idea after experiencing the day-to-day lives of her family living in Northern Ireland. For a city declared ‘at peace,’ she became aware that bomb


scares still occurred weekly. The story greatly intrigued me. With similar conflicts taking place all over the world, the strain and tension created in a domestic environment was a subject I wanted to explore. Having two writers equally invested in the story was a great benefit to the film and made me more critical of my work. The script went through months of drafts, interviews with Belfast residents and fine-tuning in the rehearsals before we felt ready to shoot.

“WHO WILL SEPARATE US? SET IN CONTEMPORARY BELFAST, THE FILM FOLLOWS CAT AND DANNY, TWO SIBLINGS...” To me it was imperative to be respectful of ‘The Troubles’ and the many lives it affected. We took time and money from the budget to regularly travel to the city, absorb culture and capture supporting footage for the final edit.

Personal experience This filmed pushed me more creatively than my previous films. The themes of the story are more serious than those I had ever dealt with before. Having worked primarily in comedy it was refreshing experience to be able

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The student perspective had close working relationships with director of photography Adam Davies and production designer Georgina Devine. The film consisted of five sourced locations and a set build. Together, Georgina and I worked on the film’s colour palette. Focusing on the living room set, we took care in details that would give insight into the

to work with actors in drama. When I am not working, I like to travel. I am in the process of planning a trip around the world with a friend in photography. For 6 months we plan on taking photographs and making short films about the cultures we come across and the people we meet.

family. Georgina designed the set with floating walls, allowing us to shoot both sides of the construction. The benefit of having a set build is that it ensures total control over the design, lighting and camera possibilities, within the film’s budget. The main cost of the film was paying for the actors and their accommodation. It

Cast and crew This film had the biggest crew I have worked with yet. There were 30 crewmembers working for 6 consecutive, 10 hour days. Having worked together before, and being comfortable in our different roles it was a smooth and rewarding experience. I

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was crucial for me to cast native Northern Irish actors, for the experience and realism they could bring to the film. Through crowdfunding, fundraising through event nights, and crew contributions, we managed to raise ÂŁ4,500. This budget allowed me to cast a fantastic roster of actors that were a pleasure to work with.

The kit choices We were fortunate enough to shoot the film on the Arri Alexa classic, in 2K resolution and using CP2 prime lenses. We also hired in a Steadicam operator and Easyrig for montage scenes that required more movement. The sound was recorded on envoy, boom and radio mics depending on the type of shot. The film was edited on Avid and Pro Tools, then colour graded in DaVinci. Our editor Beth Harvey, also produced a mural digitally in Nuke, to recreate a Belfast street scene. A definite


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The student perspective

benefit of attending University is the access to professional equipment. Without it, the budget would have needed to have been much higher.


Promotional push

modern comedy focusing on the expectations of women, all shot on 16mm. I’m currently in the process of writing another much more personal short. It focuses on an old man’s ambition to create and store hydrogen in his garden in an attempt to become part of our changing world. As I said earlier, I am also in the process of planning a trip around the world with my photography

Who Will Separate Us? will be premiering at the British Film Institute this summer with nine other graduation films. From there we intend to enter it into different festivals and see how an audience responds. This will be my second festival submission this year, having recently co-wrote and directed The Three Graces. This is a

friend for 6 months, taking photographs and making short films about the cultures we come across and the people we meet.

Best advice The most important thing I will take away from university is to have a good team. The best teams are all focused on the same vision, and work hard in their departments. Filmmaking is

impossible without the support of others. Pre- production is also the most important stage in the creative process. Who Will Separate Us had the longest amount of prep time our crew has experienced, and the effort proved worthwhile, both on set and in the edit. University was extremely beneficial in providing me with the equipment to practice with and introduced me to like-minded creatives. Moving on, I will not have the luxury of the university’s equipment, but I will definitely still find ways to continue telling stories. ■

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HARDWARE ADVICE The DFM team offers up essential advice on getting started and takes a look at some of the best kit currently available for filmmaking

Interview with a pro

92 New kit 99

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01/06/2015 16:30


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Interview with a pro: Vislink

with a Pro


Ray Shane from Vislink explains why their work with GoPro will revolutionise the way we film and distribute live footage particularly in the world of sport GoPro is another booth at NAB, or any trade show for that matter, which is always buzzing with people keen to see what it has on offer. And, this year, NAB 2015 was the place where GoPro was showcasing its collaboration with Vislink, to produce new products that could transform the way live events are covered. Vislink is helping GoPro take its innovative small action camera approach to bigger and better

markets, thanks to kit that allows folks like professional athletes to shoot live footage as they compete and then stream the video as it happens. It is a move that could prove to be a game changing moment for the industry and people taking a look at the setup on the GoPro booth were certainly excited by the prospect. Ray Shane from Vislink, who was present to talk those interested through the new kit, sounds similarly chuffed

with the outcome and feedback so far. “What happened is that GoPro came to us because they had wanted to find a way to take the quality video that they already had but make that even better,” he says. “The challenge has always been how do you get that footage from the athlete or professional sportsperson from the point of view that they’re filming and subsequently broadcast that content live. So they knew they had a challenge on their hands.”

Smart shooting Enter then Vislink, a Britishbased company with a wealth of expertise in the field and plenty of ideas about how best to move the vision of GoPro forwards. “Up until that point everybody had been taking the SD cards and then running back to base with them,” says Ray. “But that’s not quite as much fun as

seeing the footage at that very moment, right? So they came to us because we’ve been in the broadcast environment for over 50 years and said that they wanted a transmitter that was as rugged as the products they produce. It would have to meet the same requirements as what people expect from GoPro currently. That meant it would have to be lightweight and the power supply would have to be good. Plus they wanted it to be something that could use all of the GoPro accessories too. So we said ‘all right, we’ll see what we can do’. So we built this new equipment for them; there’s two versions, the HERO BacPac, which is what you see here, which is where it’s sandwiched together or there’s also one unit

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called the HEROCast, which is where you have a cable connecting the two, the camera and the pack, because we realised that not every device is going to be right for every application.” Thankfully, with that sort of experience and a long time spent working on research and development, Vislink were subsequently able to produce exactly what the GoPro people were looking for. “Of course, when you’re dealing

with athletes who are going out there in sporting events, you’re always going to have a weight issue, right,” says Ray. “So, we have the camera that gets put on to give you that perspective you’re looking for and then the transmitter gets put on in whatever location

proves appropriate to allow the athlete or competitor to do they best they possibly can without being affected by this new system. And, with it, we’re able to take that HDMI signal that’s coming out, it’s HDMI 59 54, so we can encode it, and then we’re actually putting out there as broadcast quality, broadcast frequency spectrum, in this case 1.9 to 2.7GHz. This is FCC channel licensing, so it’s very well controlled RF spectrum. We receive it with our Vislink receiver kits that we have, there’s actually a variety of them, so when it’s coming out of there it’s as broadcast

“THE HEROCAST, WHICH IS WHERE YOU HAVE A CABLE CONNECTING THE TWO, THE CAMERA AND THE PACK” technology equipment utilising the same high-quality broadcast format, which is HDSDI. So once you have that then the video can be plugged into virtually any broadcast level infrastructure. And that’s why when you watch sports events in the future it’ll be live straight out there using the same sort of configuration.”

Moving forwards All of which makes this a very sizeable evolution indeed, right? “It’s a huge development,” Ray agrees. “We’ve been hinting at it in the run up to NAB of course, but as of this week here at NAB, everyone is getting a chance to see it first hand and people are saying it’s great, awesome and all the rest of it. But, they are also asking when is it going to


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Interview with a pro: Vislink

be available? The answer to that is that we’re coming out with it right now. So people can start putting in their orders right now if they wish to do so.” All well and good but different geographical markets might have wider requirements, particularly when it comes down to the technical side of things. So is this the sort of kit that can work on a worldwide scale or are there technical limitations depending on the country that you want to use it in? “Within the frequency allocations,” says Ray, mulling over the question carefully. “So as long as you take that into consideration, then

absolutely. So this model works from 1.9GHz to 2.7GHz, so for example if I was to head over to Europe… our headquarters is in the United Kingdom anyway, so I know that I’ll go over there and the receivers will work perfectly fine. As for here in the US, well, it’s up and running right now and it’s all working perfectly fine so far. For the pricing side of things, the transmitter is around $7,500 plus the cost of the camera, which will

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take that to about $8,000, so that gets you your video capture and then right on through to the transmission. The receiver side of things is completely dependent on situations and that’s where you work with our solutions engineers like myself, because one system might be better than another depending on what it

is that you’re trying to do. So going with a rough ballpark figure it’ll work out at about $15,000 for the receiver side of things. However, if you just wanted to get the basics in order to get set up right on through to the receive end then the cost is going to be around $23,000 and that’ll get you right to HDSDI out.”



Standout products Ray sounds justifiably proud of what Vislink has achieved and it sounds like this is the sort of setup that really could transform the way live sporting events are broadcast. However, there are obviously other uses for this product, thanks to that ‘as it happens’ setup. So is there a comparable product on the market at this point in time? “No, not one that’s made to work with GoPro specifically,” beams Ray. “We’ve done this joint

partnership with them, but there are probably others out there that might be trying to cobble them together, but not in this case where it has been a total team development.” And, in that respect, what sort of time span is needed for the development of a new system like this? “It’s probably taken us, I would say, about a year and a half,” reckons Ray. “Maybe even two years, with a lot of the work being done in the very deep and dark background. There were

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Interview with a pro: Vislink that system ready to go, it’ll cost you about $23,000 but it’s that basic $15,000 cost that will be appealing to a lot of people at the lower end.”

numerous hurdles to overcome obviously, including the size, the heat issues, battery power, the ruggedness was always critical too. See, we normally work with the large broadcast cameras, where we generally have much more space to work with. So it’s a

big difference to go from that, where you have a cameraman who is sitting there and he’s relatively stationary, through to working with athletes who are always on the move. Therefore, we’ve had to create this product that can go into snow and ice,

water, high altitudes, all of these different extreme environments. Obviously, because of that fact we can’t load people down with piles of equipment and, as you can see from the examples we have here, the camera and the transmitter together are incredibly lightweight. All that’s missing from this example that I’m showing you now is the battery, which is very lightweight in itself. As I’ve said previously, it does depend on the scenario, which is where you need to work with our solutions guys in order to get the right setup for the sort of thing that you’re planning to video. It really all depends on what it is that you’re trying to do. So again, if you want to get

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Interview with a pro: Vislink Different world If the idea takes off, and early indications are that Vislink and GoPro could enjoy plenty of benefits from this innovative collaboration, then the sky could be the limit. Indeed, if you’re a GoPro aficionado and have designs to get your live content action footage out there in broadcast land, this is a system that is at the cutting-edge of development. “There’s nothing out there right now that is aimed at working with the GoPro cameras specifically,” reiterates Ray. “And it has certainly been tested to destruction. In fact, at the Aspen games we had things like snowmobiles flipping over and it was all going out live. All of that stuff was being done with this equipment. So it can certainly handle being used by a rider on a snowmobile in an international competition doing these incredible 360-degree flips and all the rest of it. It’s just amazing to think that people are now able to see these shots live and as they happen.” This is certainly an interesting development. However, it’s also tempting to consider just where all of this stuff goes next. After all, not so long ago nobody


thought it would be possible to get such great results with something as small as a GoPro or similar action camera. So have we reached the absolute limit for small cameras and equipment or can we go even more miniature with all of this technology? “Well, we’d love to keep going smaller and smaller,” chuckles Ray. “But for now the limitation is really what’s inside. So when you look at this box, there’s a lot going on. We’re encoding HDMI to HR264, we’re modulating the signal into RF, and then on top of that we’re


transmitting it. In that respect we’ve managed to tuck all of that into this tiny package that hooks up with the GoPro camera. So with technology moving forwards in the way that it is then sure, anything is possible, and it might even get to the point where you won’t be able to find it under a 25 cent coin someday. But, for now at any rate, you will not find anything smaller and certainly you won’t find a product like this that is the end result of such an incredible period of team development.” ■

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New Kit

New Kit Reviews

Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4K

The new version of the Ursa is smaller but no less powerful than its bigger Blackmagic brother

Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K Blackmagic Design reckons you’ll be able to get this little camera into the tightest of locations This is just one of many new Blackmagic releases and it’s by far the smallest camera they make. And, as you’d expect from this manufacturer, it’s been designed and engineered after listening closely to the needs of its customers. In much the same way as Arri has responded to market pressure, Blackmagic has brought out a downsized model to meet the desires of filmmakers to get into tight spaces and also shoot from on high, via drones and suchlike. Amazingly, the camera can sit in the palm of your hand, but it’s no slouch in the performance department, offering up a swathe of features and functions, including a built-in colour corrector and can deliver 3840 x 2160p video up to 30 fps and 1080p video up to 60 fps. In fact, this little camera does much that its standard-sized counterparts deliver, but it’s all squashed

inside this compact and bijou design. Indeed, Blackmagic has included everything that you need inside this classy chassis and we can’t wait to see what imaginative uses the filmmaking community puts it to.

VERDICT The Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K weighs just over 300grams and is, as we’ve said, very dinky indeed, while the magnesium alloy construction means that it is pretty solid and should prove very durable over time. The unit is also compatible with Micro Four Thirds lenses too, which means that it’s going to work with a variety of optics that you might already own or can pick up cheaply. So, in that respect, the Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K looks to be a very exciting proposition.

Not everyone was overtly enamoured with the Blackmagic Ursa that came out a while back but it was a good camera that, it seems, people wanted to use for purposes that were nt really suited to its design. Its weight and chunky design certainly didn’t lend itself to being used on out and about shoots So, what to do? Well, Blackmagic listened to the feedback and as a result have come up with the Ursa Mini 4K, which is a diamond of a camera. There are highlights aplenty, with the overall design emulating its full-size predecessor. However, the slimmed down construction still packs the same punch as the bigger edition, thanks to an impressive specification and a feature set that will meet the needs of most filmmakers working in any kind of field. The super 35mm CMOS sensor, 4000 x 2160 video up to 60p capacity, compressed and uncompressed Raw recording and ready-to-edit Pro Res 444 and 422 recording means

that this is a formidable little package. Add on a 1080p flipout screen with a touchscreen interface and dual CFast 2.0 memory card slots and it’s a rock-solid proposition.

VERDICT Blackmagic Design deserves a pat on the back for working hard and fast in order to come back with an Ursa that will appeal to a wider market and still offer the same performance and features that were found on the original. The quality of the design makes it stand out from the crowd and the build quality is excellent too, with a magnesium alloy body that’s much lighter to use over any length of time. What’s more, the diminutive stature of the Ursa Mini 4K means that it’s got much more practical appeal, particularly if you’re someone who will be out in the field or on geographically awkward location shoots. Price ££2,298 EF / £2,670 PL Web

Price £1,115 Web

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New Kit

Canon XC10

Will this newest shooter from the Canon stable persuade more of us to pick up a camcorder?

Canon EOS C300 Mark II

Canon has unleashed a second edition of the C300 and it’s got loads to offer the filmmaker While the original incarnation of Canon’s EOS C300 had some idiosyncrasies to contend with it was generally seen as a success story and has been used on countless projects by many different film and documentary makers. Now it’s back, with a revised Mark II edition that sees the compact and modular design getting a makeover and lots of new features and functions squeezed inside that good-on-the-eyes body. Specification-wise there’s plenty going on, with a Super 35mm CMOS sensor that boasts a 4096 x 2160 resolution that can deliver Cine 4K images, as well as supporting Ultra HD (3840 x 2160), and Full HD (1920 x 1080). This is augmented by a dual Canon DIGIC DV 5 image processor arrangement that means it’s a speedy performer while XF AVC Codec and Canon Log Gamma support means that it’s got a lot to offer the professional who will expect a decent return


on the sizeable outlay to buy the C300. Canon has clearly spent a lot of time with filmmakers, working out those practical considerations too, so as a result, the layout of the buttons and dials makes using the camera surprisingly straightforward.

VERDICT This is a professional camera that comes fully-loaded with everything you need to get the job done. The feature list is a mile long, but cool additions such as the ultra0high resolution EVF, power-packed audio controls and twin CFast card slots simply add to the appeal of this device. Granted, you’ll need deep pockets to buy one, but this will also be a regular feature at rental houses, so if you get the chance to get acquainted with the C300 MK II then be sure to snap it up/

There are camcorders and there are camcorders and one thing is for sure, the Canon AC10 takes the concept of a dodgy and tired video device that’s used for capturing holiday videos and turns it right on its head. Indeed, the Canon XC10 is a grown-up camcorder in every sense of the word. This is a professionallevel UltraHD 4K recording powerhouse that comes armed with a 10x f/2.8 to 5.6 SLR-style manual zoom lens, a DIGIC DV 5 image processor and it can also capture video at up to 3840 x 2160. So, who then would buy one of these things? Well, take a look at the design and you can see that it’s going to be ideal if you’re a videographer of the run and gun persuasion. There’s even a 3-inch LCD display and CFast ad SD card slots, so you’ve got everything on board and ready to go if you want to travel light and keep filming even in the most challenging

of conditions. As it’s a Canon, the build quality on offer here is largely excellent and, much like the C300 MK II that we’ve also been looking at recently, this is a model that will soon earn its keep and it’s also top value with a price tag like this.

VERDICT While some people laugh out loud at the thought of picking up a camcorder the Canon XC10 will be a pleasant surprise to anyone who fires it up for a trial run. The design is tailor-made for people who want to shoot on the go and don’t have the time, money or inclination for carrying lots of additional kit with them on a location shoot or documentary foray. And, for the money, this will doubtless find a home with many professionals as a second camera. Very impressive. Price £1,530 Web

Price £13,500 Web

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New Kit

DJI Phantom 3 Professional

DJI goes from strength to strength and its latest consumer drones are leading the push Every show you go to the DJI booth is always rammed with people and it was no different a while back at NAB in Las Vegas, with everyone clamouring to get a look at the two new drones. The Phantom 3 comes in two variations, the Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 3 Advanced, while both are packed to the rafters with functionality tweaks and new power tools. Both new models utilise the innovative Visual Positioning System (VPS) that DJI has perfected over successive models. That means they can hold their positioning indoors without GPS and can also take off and land at the push of a button. Better still, these new incarnations also come paired with DJI’s Lightbridge technology, which allows pilots to see what the Phantom 3 camera is seeing in HD (720p) and up to a distance of 1 mile (1.6 kilometres). Elsewhere, additional new features include enhanced GPS (with GLONASS) for better position accuracy, flight logging to help document flight statistics and safe flying zones to prevent take off or flight near airports and other sensitive sites.

VERDICT DJI has really upped its game with the latest versions of its drone package. We love the dedicated remote controller with camera and flight controls for enhanced ease of use and safety. Adding to the appeal is the new Rechargeable Intelligent Flight Battery with sensors for real-time battery information, which is vital when you’re using such a valuable piece of kit. All in all, this makes either variant of the Phantom 3 an ideal option if you’re looking to start filming from the air. Price £1,390 Web

Walimex Aptaris Universal Frame

Upgrade the potential of your DSLR or system camera with this natty universal cage system Walimex has been releasing a string of top quality products over the last couple of years. And, naturally, because it’s a German company that spends large amounts of time both designing and manufacturing these accessories, you get premium results. However, the pricing of their units is suprsingly affordable and that’s certainly the case with this, the Aptaris Universal Frame. Now, what this innovative piece of kit can do is allow you to fit all manner of accessories to your DSLR or system camera, using a variety of ¼ and 3/8-inch threads. It’ll work with the likes of the Canon EOS 5DS, Canon EOS 5DS R, Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Nikon D7200, Nikon D810A, Nikon D4S, Sony Alpha a7 II, Sony Alpha a77 II and Panasonic GH4 plus more besides. There are ways of attaching pretty much anything

that you might ever need, from lamps through to microphones and all points in between. Better still, it allows you to do this without impeding access to memory card slots, battery compartments or cable connections.

VERDICT While the Walimex Aptaris Universal Frame might not be one of the most exciting additions to your kit arsenal, it might well turn out to be one of the most practical things you’ll buy. The fact that it comes littered with ways of attaching just about anything to your kit setup makes it a real boon. What’s more, it’s hard to knock the quality of the components used to produce it, while the ergonomic styling makes it a joy to use. Highly recommended. Price €379 Web

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New Kit Zeiss Batis FF E-Mount Lenses These impressive new Zeiss lenses are designed with Sony’s E-mount in mind

Zeiss has been making lenses for many, many years and as a result has built up a formidable reputation in the world of optics. Now it has unveiled these fullframe autofocus lenses, the ZEISS Batis 2/25 and ZEISS Batis 1.8/85, both of which are ideally suited to use with Sony’s Alpha range of mirrorless full-frame system cameras. Although they’re not going to be available to buy until July, Zeiss reckons that they are going to be easy to use but will also deliver highend performance. The brace of optics offer manual focusing and have an ergonomic design that will not only turn a few heads but also deliver the goods when it comes to filming duties. What’s more, both lenses have floating elements, which is said to compensate for aberrations of the glass at different distance settings. There’s also a standard filter thread on both, while the pair also support all of the operating modes and functions


found on the current range of E-mount cameras according to Zeiss.

VERDICT You can’t go too far wrong with a lens from the Zeiss stable, which alongside Cooke Optics, is one of the oldest names in the optical business. While they might not be in the shops as yet, just one look at the images here should be enough to persuade you that this pair of lenses is going to be something a little bit special. We can’t wait to see what they’re capable of in a day to day shooting setup. Price £979 Web

ActionCam Raptor kit

Can this professional-level stabilising system take your filmmaking to the next level? We’ve heard good things being said about this outfit that resides in Switzerland and it’s certainly clear that they like to be methodical in the way they engineer their new kit. This, the ActionCam Raptor kit has been in development for some time it seems, three years in fact, and it is now available to buy. We don’t have a price at the time of writing but we’d assume it’ll be a premium offering. Nevertheless, parting with your hard-earned readies will get you a kit setup that is fashioned from 7075 aerospace aluminium and also carbon fibre. Actionproducts says that the arm has an 8-38 pound weight capacity, which even when using old-money stats sounds impressive to us. Comfort is also high on the list of priorities too by the sound of it, with a back mounted vest that allows long periods of shooting without the dreaded fatigue setting in.

The company also seems to pride itself on offering a mix and match-style arrangement, so that you can tailor the rig to suit your own specific needs. That’s always a plus when you’re a filmmaker who might need to add stuff at a later date due to budgetary limitations.

VERDICT We like what we see from the Actionproducts camp and the Raptor looks like a seriously impressive bit of kit that is clearly made to very exacting standards. Although we’d like to hear clearer pricing details, we suspect that this is going to come cheap. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a versatile stabilisation system that can be accessorised as and when needed, then this could be worth a look. Price £Call Web

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New Kit

Blackmagic Ursa viewfinder

Add this viewfinder to your next Blackmagic Ursa purchase to complete the package Another very tasty offering from the Blackmagic stable and this time it’s aimed at people who’ve decided to splurge and get themselves a shiny new Ursa. It’s a high-resolution viewfinder that comes touting a 1920 x 1080 colour OLED display, adjustable dioptre and a built-in digital focus chart that enables you to get perfect focus in any kind of shooting scenario. Better still, the unit has been designed and built so that it is usable with the left or right eye plus there’s an internal record light too. Of course, the benefits of having an accessory such as this are even more accentuated if you tend to do a lot of over the shoulder or handheld work while the fact that it can be plugged in and running in seconds also means that it’s a no-frills and no-fuss affair into the bargain. In addition, a sensor will also turn off the screen as and when it’s not being used, thereby ensuring less

drain on your batteries and increasing the longevity of the OLED itself.

VERDICT While this might seem like an additional cost that you might want to do without, if you’re going down the route of the Blackmagic Ursa then this is a very sensible add-on that will boost productivity. And, given the fact that it has been designed specifically with the Ursa range in mind you can also expect that you’ll get plug-and-go connectivity. Better still, combine it with the new Ursa Mini 4K and you’ve got a devilishly appealing combination, right? Price £1,164 Web

Came-TV 7800

If you’re looking for an affordable gimbal then the very cool Came-TV 7800 could be for you There’s no doubt that a handheld gimbal stabiliser is an invaluable tool for getting more professional footage that looks smooth and stable. However, many of the options out there aren’t too wallet-friendly, whereas the Came-TV 7800 comes with a price tag that’s ideal for aspiring filmmakers. What’s more, for the money, the Came-TV 7800 also comes with a feature-packed specification that includes at its core the 3-axis arrangement that delivers the stabilisation part of the package. It’s also wonderfully easy to both setup and use, with a quick release plate and monitor bracket adding to the practical appeal of the overall construction. This thing is lightweight too at just 2.2 kilograms, while it can handle cameras including the Canon 5D Mark II and III, the Canon 7D as well as the Panasonic GH4 and the

Sony A7s. In that respect, it’s ideal for just about anyone and, if time is tight, there’s no assembly required, so this is pretty much an out-of-the-box stabilisation solution.

VERDICT We love what the Came-TV 7800 can offer the fledgling filmmaker and the multiple operation modes, including standard, upright and briefcase, allow you to shoot footage that will transform your next project. It’ll take a maximum load of 3 kilograms, so it’s more than up to the job and is compatible with all those models we’ve mentioned and more besides. Good stuff for the $1,280 (around £828) discounted price you can get it at on their site at the time of writing, although be warned that this may be time limited. Price £828 Web

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New Kit Cooke Anamorphic/I Zoom lens

Cooke Optics is very excited about its latest range of lenses for folks who want to shoot anamorphic

Les Zellan, the current owner of Cooke Optics, is hugely enthusiastic about the company and its current new developments that are addressing the growing demand for anamorphic lenses. At NAB back in April, the company announced that it was releasing this, the new anamorphic/i Zoom offering that will be the first in a whole series of front anamorphic lenses that are likely to be released over the coming months. Zellan reckons that it will be the perfect compliment to the range of Cooke Anamorphic/i prime lenses and, based on what we’ve seen so far, it certainly looks to be everything we’ve come to expect from this most revered of lens manufacturers. After all, the name Cooke is synonymous with the filmmaking industry, so it seems likely that any new product from this stable is going to be very desirable

indeed. Details are still somewhat sparse on the more technical intricacies of the growing anamorphic range, so for the time being you’ll just have to slobber over the image instead. We’ll be taking a closer look at the new range of optics themselves as and when they appear.

VERDICT Anything new from the Cooke camp is always worth getting excited about and, if our enthusiastic encounter with Les Zellan at NAB 2015 was anything to go by, then these anamorphic offerings are going to be hot news. As you can see from the pic, the design is gorgeous and doubtless that will be backed up by the usual impeccable design and construction. Needless to say, these won’t come cheap, but Cooke is a name that means you definitely get what you pay for in terms of quality. Price £TBC Web


DJI Ronin-M

DJI has unveiled a new and decidedly improved version of its popular Ronin-M gimbal system

With everyone clamouring to get a look at the latest DJI drones it’s easy to forget that the innovative company also has fingers in other pies. And, when it comes to accessories, the outfit it pretty good at giving filmmakers what they want. Case in point has to be the Ronin, a sophisticated though relatively easy to use gimbal system that delivers superb shooting opportunities thanks to its clever design. Now though DJI has tweaked the original and made it more compact, and lighter too. Now that’s a real boon as the main drawback with these systems is that they can cause fatigue in the operator. The Ronin-M weighs in at just 2.3 kilograms, which is around half what the first model required you to lug around. However, it’s no less up to the job and can support camera setups weighing up to 3.6 kilograms, which is very

impressive indeed. There’s a better emphasis on simplicity this time out too, with set up being achieved in under 5 minutes, while the Auto Tune Stability feature means you get precise results for less effort.

VERDICT The magnesium frame construction of the Ronin-M is a real step forward, while it still packs the same appeal as the original. Three modes of operation and the capacity for having a second operator via remote makes this competitively-priced piece of kit a real handy item that, considering what it does and the results it will let you get, is pretty good value for money. That build quality should see it lasting for plenty of shoots, both now and well into the future. Price £1,299 Web

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New Kit


The simple but effective Grip&Shoot accessory is ideal for anyone filming video on a smartphone

Some filmmaking accessories are so simple but effective that you often end up wondering how you ever managed without them before. The Grip&Shoot is a prime example, because on initial inspection there doesn’t seem to be much to it, although what it can do in practical terms proves to be a real blessing in disguise. The main target of its gripping capacity is the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but it will also work with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and S5. Now that many people are starting to shoot decent videos with their smartphones, this therefore means that the Grip&Shoot could shift a few units. In short, it allows you to wirelessly control your phone with just one hand and the smart grip design features three buttons, including a trigger that allow you precise control over your phone’s video tools. There’s also a blue LED that flashes to show that the grip and phone are connected,

using Bluetooth 4.0. The pistollike grip works a treat and there’s also a removable stand that will attach to any standard tripod while the remainder of the grip can be used as a remote control that works up to 100 feet away.

VERDICT The simplistic concept on show here actually manages to hide quite a bit of sophistication going on inside the Grip&Shoot and if you’re a filmmaker who’s keen to exploit some of the benefits of shooting on a phone then it’s well worth investigating. With practice it’s possible to get some really good footage with the aid of this clever little tool. The company also makes a few accessories for the same gadget and they’re definitely one of those accessory outfits that you need to keep a keen eye on. Price $99.95 Web

Blackmagic Video Assist

Add a professional edge to your monitoring duties with this high-end monitor from Blackmagic Another one of the many new releases from the Blackmagic Design stable that is well worthy of a mention is this, the Video Assist, a professional monitoring and high-quality recording solution that can be used with all sorts of cameras. It comes with a fantastic 5-inch Full HD 1920 x 1080 display while the array of on-screen controls allow you to tweak and finetine the likes of brightness and contrast no matter where you happen to have set up location. There’s also the added benefit f a wide 135-degree viewing angle, which lessens the need to huddle up close if there is a bunch of you working on site and clamouring to see what’s been shot. Going back to the touchscreen aspect of this great little monitor and there are a wealth of controls that can be accessed in this way, including recording status, histogram, audio level, timecode and battery status. Meanwhile, video and audio

are captured using 6G-SDI and HDMI 1.4 inputs, which means it’ll be good to go with a variety of camera makes and models. In fact, it comes so fully-loaded that you’re probably better off checking out the Blackmagic site for the finer details.

VERDICT This is a rocking new monitor that comes with a wealth of tools and options for taking on your next shoo tor using back in the studio. It’s very nicely put together too, with a quality machined aluminium housing plus a built-in kickstand, so it should suit a variety of purposes. Adding an extra touch of versatility are six ¼-inch-20 threaded mounting holes, with three sitting on the top and a further three below. Add it all together and you’ve got a tasty bit of kit. Price £361 Web

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Another offering from the Actionproducts stable and it’s another quality filmmaking accessory

We’ve already hinted at the potential greatness lurking behind the new products emerging from the Actionproducts company over in Switzerland and here’s another one to tempt you to part with the readies. The Runner is, the company says, the ultimate gimbal support, which is a bold claim especially when there are plenty of other similarly impressive products on the market. This item has been in development for around a year adds Actionproducts, and it is actually the world’s first vertical stabilisation and weight support system that allows you to call up any gimbal you might have to hand and manually control it without the need for any kind of Steadicam support. It’s a natty idea and one that is attached to your body and arms in a way that allows a substantial amount of natural movement. Needless to say, if it’s comfortable to use then the end results are going


to be all the more impressive. Actionproducts also reckons that it is much more adept at getting better shots in those awkward and downright tough angles, and for longer periods too. And that, in filmmaking terms, makes it sound very appealing indeed.

VERDICT Again, we have no information on pricing for this at the time of going to press so you’d best email them for up to date information on that front. However, this looks like a high-end, precision item so we’d assume that you will not be getting it for peanuts. Still, if you’re a professional who needs kit to last and be ready to go whatever the location then that initial outlay can invariably be recouped over successive jobs. And, if you get one, do let us know what it’s like. Price £Call Web

CONVERGENT DESIGN ODYSSEY7 This high-end filmmaking monitor will boost productivity and ease your workflow woes Shooting anything requires a few basic tools to get the job done, not least of which is the camera along with a decent standalone audio arrangement. However, increasingly, more of us fledgling filmmakers are seeing the advantages of owning a monitor, the benefits of which have been well documented in this very magazine. While may people look towards the very good Atomos product range, there are other options on the market, with Convergent Design being another prime stopping place if you’re on the track for one of these invaluable accessories. The Odyssey7 is certainly a quality item, something that strikes you the minute you take it out of the box. It’s a professional 7.7-inch OLED monitor that boasts a raft of high-end features, including Waveform, Zebras, Histogram, Vectorscope and Focus Assist to name but a few. It’s also highly practical thanks to a magnesium construction, which means durability but

also allows it to be carried around on a shoot with relative ease. Better still, the unit can also be beefed up, thanks to upgrade capabilities that will allow options including compressed (Avid DNxHD up to 120fps), uncompressed HD/2K RGB 444 (up to 60p), 2K/HD Raw, ArriRaw (full 16:9 and 4:3 support), and Canon 4K Raw.

VERDICT If you’re becoming increasingly confident as a filmmaker but get the feeling that you’re outgrowing your basic setup then it might be time to move to a monitor arrangement such as this. It’s not a cheap item to buy although it will last, due to the durable nature of its construction. And, just think of the extra scope you’ll have when you’re out on location, thanks to a unit that shows everything in perfect detail via that capacious and crystal clear OLED screen. Price £1,125 Web

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HOT? Dope

In this throwback 90s hip-hop comedy, we meet Malcolm, a studious teen growing up in Inglewood, California. His dreams of attending Harvard University are tainted after an invitation to an underground party leads Malcolm and his friends down a dark path. Directors Rick Famuyiwa UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 115 minutes UK Certification TBC

The team singles out current and forthcoming indie movies plus documentaries that are creating a buzz!

Slow West


This film, set at the turn of the 20th century, tells the story of Kodi, a 16-year-old on a journey across wild frontier Colorado in search of the woman he loves. Along the way he meets a dangerous stranger who accompanies him on his mission.

In post-World War II Berlin, a woman who has been facially disfigured during her time in a concentration camp, travels across the city in search of her husband who mysteriously vanished, and who she suspects gave her up to Nazi Germany.

Directors John Maclean UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 84 minutes UK Certification TBC

Director Christian Petzold UK Release May 2015 Language German, English Duration 98 minutes UK Certification 12

Spare Parts

3 Still Standing


A true story in which four Hispanic teenagers start a robotics dancing club. They have no experience and no money, but with a few used car parts and a dream, these dancing underdogs go up against the country’s reigning robotics champion.

A nostalgic rise and fall documentary about three comedians, who in 1980s San Francisco, were at the top of their game, and success it seemed, was just one good performance away. 30 years on, they find the stand-up circuit isn’t what it used to be.

A young couple live their lives brazenly conning and hustling people to feed their drug addictions, until one day they are ultimately forced to stop and face the severity of their situation, when one of them is hospitalised and close to death.

Director Sean McNamara UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 83 minutes UK Certification PG

Directors R.Campos, D.LoCicero UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 90 minutes UK Certification TBC

The Overnight Having just moved to a new area, Emily and Alex are trying to make new friends, but an invite by their new neighbours to an all night party presents conversation and questions regarding their relationship that will test their marital bond. Directors Patrick Brice UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 80 minutes UK Certification TBC

Director Collin Schiffli UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 90 minutes UK Certification TBC

Northern Soul


Northern Soul is set in an eerily authentic 1970s England. It is a tale of two friends whose lives are transformed by the discovery of black American soul music and the desire to spread the word by becoming DJs on the local club circuit.

With a maze of dream-like plots and sub-plots that are barely connected to one another, Reality is a bizarre tale of wanna-be filmmaker Jason, who is promised financing for his film on one very odd condition; find an actor with an Oscar-worthy groan.

Directors E. Constantine UK Release 2014 Language English Duration 102 minutes UK Certification 15

Director Quentin Dupieux UK Release 2015 Language French, English Duration 95 minutes UK Certification TBC

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5 to 7


White God

When an aspiring author enters into an affair with the wife of a French diplomat, cultures, political views and personal ethics clash as the forbidden relationship develops and feelings deepen. A romantic comedy set in New York.

Kidane, a humble cattle herder and his family who live in the quiet region of Timbuktu find their once peaceful lives disrupted by modern Islamic extremists, determined to take control of their town, their laws, and their faith.

Young Lili is in search her dog Hagen after her father releases him onto the streets of Budapest. There is a split narrative to this film. Lili’s story, as she searches for her dog, and Hagen’s urban struggle to survive. Here’s a dog film with a difference.

Director Victor Levin UK Release 2015 Language English, French Duration 95 minutes UK Certification TBC

It Follows

Director A. Sissako UK Release 2014 Language Arabic, English Duration 97 minutes UK Certification PG

Across the Sea

Directors K. Mundruczó UK Release February 2015 Language Hungarian, English Duration 121 minutes UK Certification 15


A Detroit woman is stalked by an unknown human-like entity after a sexual encounter with her boyfriend. The spectre perpetually follows her, driving her insane. The only way to rid the demon is to find someone else to have sex with, and to pass on the curse.

After 8 years away, a Turkish woman returns to her home town with her new American husband. He can’t wait to be accepted by her family and find out about her roots, but soon a dark past, which she hoped to keep a secret, is slowly unveiled.

The humble people of a small Russian coastal town are at risk of losing their land and businesses to a corrupt and powerful mayor, until a family man and his old military friend attempt to fight back in an unlikely political battle to save the town.

Directors David R. Mitchell UK Release June 2015 Language English Duration 100 minutes UK Certification TBC

Director N.Dag, E.Saydam UK Release 2015 Language Turkish Duration 105 minutes UK Certification TBC

Director Andrey Zvyagintsev UK Release 2014 Language Russian Duration 140 minutes UK Certification 15


Along the Roadside

Two parents, who have recently had their young son kidnapped, deal with the tragedy is different ways, but when they are faced with new evidence that neither want to hear, their lives spiral further, with a dark and uncomfortable ending.

An unlikely pair from very different cultures cross paths after a near traffic accident. This chance meeting kickstarts an entertaining road trip across California to the biggest open air music festival in the state. Not your average road movie. Director Zoran Lisinac UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 108 minutes UK Certification TBC

Director Oren Moverman UK Release TBC Language English Duration 130 minutes UK Certification TBC

Nina Forever

A young man, once suicidal over the sudden death of his girlfriend, attempts to date again after striking up a conversation with a coworker. The would-be relationship, however, is haunted by the apparition of his late girlfriend. Director Ben & Chris Blaine UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 98 minutes UK Certification TBC


Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

A young filmmaker and social outcast is struggling to get through college as anonymously as possible, but is sidetracked by a fellow student who has cancer, when they become inseparable friends. Director A.Gomez-Rejon UK Release TBC Language English Duration 104 minutes UK Certification TBC


Woman in Gold

Diana is a single mother. Widowed three years ago, she raises her troublesome son alone, but when he is sent to a juvenile detention centre for an arson attack, her life changes, and she meets a mysterious new friend in the neighbourhood.

Maria Altmann, a Jewish Holocaust refugee, takes on the Austrian government with the help from her American attorney, in an attempt to recover a Gustav Klimt painting previously owned by her aunt that she still believes rightfully belongs to her family.

Director Xavier Dolan UK Release March 2015 Language English, French Duration 139 minutes UK Certification TBC

Directors Simon Curtis UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 109 minutes UK Certification PG

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Road Hard

After a traumatic and costly divorce, followed by the sudden cancellation of his long-standing TV show, a middle-aged comedian is left with no other option than to get back on the road and tour again, if he and his daughter are to survive. Director Adam Carolla, UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 98 minutes UK Certification TBC

8 Minutes Idle This is the story of Dan, a call centre worker who’s life takes a turn for the worse when his mother wins the lottery. He finds himself homeless and living in the dreary call centre he works in all day, whilst trying to make sense of a complicated relationship. Director Mark Simon Hewis UK Release 2014 Language English Duration 86 minutes UK Certification 15

The Riot Club

A Wonderful Cloud


Katelyn and Eugene, two ex-lovers entering into business together, do everything in their power to delay the signing of the business contract, and spend their time trying to rekindle their friendship during a weird weekend in Los Angeles.

An ageing feminist and poet who suffered the loss of her long time partner to cancer more than a year ago, now has to deal with the breakdown of her current relationship, just days before her pregnant granddaughter turns up on her doorstep asking for support.

Director Eugene Kotlyarenko UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 81 minutes UK Certification TBC

Director Paul Weitz UK Release TBC Language English Duration 78 minutes UK Certification TBC

Welcome to Me A chat show-obsessed woman suffering from mental illness attempts to change her life through extravagant spending after she wins the lottery, but her tainted personality and narcissism begin to take its toll when she buys her very own TV show. Director Shira Piven UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 105 minutes UK Certification PG

Acceptance from her family eludes young Shirin. She’s a politically correct, bisexual, hip New Yorker, but fails in her attempt to please everybody, so she embarks on a personal journey of sexual discovery whilst trying to decipher what went wrong.

Director Lone Scherfig UK Release 2014 Language English Duration 107 minutes UK Certification 15

Directors Desiree Akhavan UK Release 2014 Language English, Persian Duration 86 minutes UK Certification 15

A young girl deferring college for a year writes a blog chronicling all of the bad choices she makes throughout her life. As the journal becomes increasingly honest, suppressed secrets and events from her past begin to emerge. Director Allison Burnett UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 100 minutes UK Certification TBC

A teenage boy goes missing in a small town which has already been devastated by a fatal mining accident. Three strangers from the town find themselves drawn together in a web of secrets, lies, and the collective grief of the community. Director Sara Colangelo UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 105 minutes UK Certification TBC

Appropriate Behavior Christmas, Again

Two first year Oxford University students from very different backgrounds become bitter rivals when they join the infamous Riot Club, an established drinking club, priding themselves on frivolous spending, good times and debauchery.

Ask Me Anything

Little Accidents

A disillusioned Christmas tree salesman has hit rock bottom, until one night he finds a woman passed out on a bench near his work. After letting her sleep in his trailer, they become friends and begin to help turn one another’s lives around. Director Charles Poekel UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 80 minutes UK Certification TBC

The Nightmare

Amira and Sam

Here is a documentary-thriller hybrid about sleep paralysis, a frightening affliction that effects thousands. It follows several individuals as they explain the severity of their condition and the nightmarish scenarios that they have to deal with regularly.

Sam, a US army veteran returns home from Iraq to a life he no longer recognises, and when he falls for an Iraqi immigrant, their relationship is put to the ultimate test when she is faced with the prospect of deportation.

Director Rodney Ascher UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 90 minutes UK Certification TBC

Director Sean Mullin UK Release 2015 Language English Duration 90 minutes UK Certification TBC

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BEST OF THE REST... Life in a Day A very unique documentary shot by many filmmakers from all corners of the globe. It documents the eclectic lives of people all over the world on one particular day in history: the twentyfourth of July, 2010. Directors Year Language Duration UK Certification

Various 2011 Various 95 minutes PG


Sam is just days away from getting married when he has a moment of clarity. So, accompanied by his estranged brother, Tom, he sets off on a road trip to track down his fifth grade girlfriend and first love. Director Drake Doremus Year 2010 Language English Duration 81 minutes UK Certification 15

Frozen River After Ray’s husband leaves her and their children two days before Christmas, she is left with nothing. But through her desperate struggle, she meets Lila, who introduces her to the criminal world of border smuggling. Director Courtney Hunt Year 2008 Language English Duration 97 minutes UK Certification 15

Weekend After a drunken house party with his straight friends, Russell heads out to a gay bar where he meets Glen. What starts off as a meaningless one-night stand, turns out to be something much more. Director Andrew Haigh Year 2011 Language English Duration 97 minutes UK Certification 18


Releases by inspirational filmmakers that may have passed you by

Red State

Bellflower Two friends spend their time building their own weapons of war in the hope that an apocalypse is around the corner, so that they can start a war and pave the way for their imaginary gang, Mother Medusa. Director Evan Glodell Year 2011 Language English Duration 106 minutes UK Certification 18

Trouble the Water In the midst of Hurricane Katrina, a hopeful rapper grabs a camera, takes up shelter, and films herself, her family and friends for the duration of the storm. When it’s over, we see the rebuilding process for the family. Director Carl Deal, Tia Lessin Year 2008 Language English Duration 93 minutes UK Certification NA

Like Crazy Two young lovers, one American, one British, are forced apart when the girl overstays her visa and has to return to England. They discover the hardship of maintaining a long-distance relationship in the face of their changing lives. Director Drake Doremus Year 2011 Language English Duration 90 minutes UK Certification PG


Director Year Language Duration UK Certification

Kevin Smith 2011 English 88 minutes 18

Black Pond

The Thompson family and their friend are accused of murder when it is revealed, six months after the event, that a stranger had died at their dinner table. The press descend, and they become known as the Family of Killers. Director Tom Kingsley, Will Sharpe Year 2011 Language English Duration 83 minutes UK Certification 15

We need to talk about Kevin

A bohemian writer gives up a life of travel to have a baby. As the years pass, the motherchild relationship turns sour because of his mysterious resentment toward her. Director Lynne Ramsay Year 2011 Language English Duration 112 minutes UK Certification 15


Joe Bauers is selected by the American government to be a guinea pig for a time-travel experiment. He is sent hundreds of years into the future where evolution has reversed, and discovers he is the most intelligent person alive. Director Year Language Duration UK Certification

Set in central America, a group of promiscuous teenage boys receive a mysterious and sordid online invitation. On following this up, they soon encounter a religious sect with a much more frightening agenda.

Mike Judge 2006 English 84 minutes 15

A recently widowed maverick detective finds a disturbing link between a series of gruesome murders and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse prophecy, but the plot suddenly takes an unexpected turn. Director Jonas Akerlund Year 2009 Language English Duration 90 minutes UK Certification 18

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