06 Sep 2014

Exciting new projects

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tracking shot in product video

Behind the scenes of a Film By Numbers production

What a summer. We’ve been busier than ever in 2014, working on projects ranging from training tools for social workers, product demonstrations, promotional videos, case studies and short dramas. We have found ourselves filming in large studios, music recording studios, schools, offices and a huge mix of exterior locations.

We’ve also being doing more animation than ever before including hand drawn animations composited with video footage, stop motion videos, and motion graphic video presentations.

We will be updating our website soon with a new design and lots more content, so watch this space for more of our work and some thoughts on what we learned from each production.

 

 

06 May 2014

Learning About Filmmaking

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Over the years I have tried every way possible to learn more about filmmaking and photography. I started out taking nightclasses in film theory and basic video produciton, then went on to study photography at college and then studied filmmaking at university. I have taken additional classes in screenwriting, attended conferences and workshops, taken online courses, read books, magazines, websites and listened to podcasts. So what is the best way to learn about filmmaking?

 

1 – make something

It doesn’t matter how good the instruction or how well written the book, nothing compares to picking up a camera and filming something.

 

2 – watch films

Watch good films and bad films. See the difference. Make notes. Then watch it again with the sound off. This way you will really study the camera positioning, movement, and the use of editing.

 

3 – read books

You simply can’t beat ‘On Filmmaking‘ by Alexander Mackendrick

 

4 – meet people and help on their productions

Learning from others is a great, quick and fun way to improve your skills. Being the ‘worst’ person in the room is something you should relish because you will be the person learning the most. It is also rewarding and enjoyable to meet other people with a passion for filmmaking. Remember that filmmaking is a team sport and you will produce your best work and enjoy the process most when you collaborate with others.

 

5 – watch more films and videos

So now you are making films and working with other filmmakers and improving your skills, but don’t forget to keep watching great films and videos. Finding new films you love will keep inspiring you to tell your own stories and to consider new techniques and ways of working.

 

6 – online training

If you want to learn about filmmaking in general, specific roles on a crew, using any piece of software, or virtually anything else about film and video production then someone has probably posted a tutorial online. There are also thousands of production blogs, filmmaking forums, podcasts, and manufacturers demos online, so start searching for the best content and get watching, reading and learning.

 

7 – make something else

It is easy to get caught up in learning abot the tools, or obsessing over the piece of equipment you want, but try to look instead at the equipment available to you and create something using that. Thrive on limitations – they inspire creative solutions. Don’t worry about gear – remember that amazing films have been made with worse equipment than you can find in most phones.

 

8 – lead an interesting and varied life

As simple as that eh? Traveling, doing new things and seeking out new experiences and relationships will inspire you to create new work. I think the greatest gift that filmmaking has given me is the ability to appreciate the beauty in every day life. It can be the way the light falls on a hill or a wall, the colour or textures of a building or sometimes the decay or weathering of every day items. Amazing things are all around us, so keep looking and appreciating them.

06 Mar 2014

Property videos

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For over 4 years now we have been producing videos all over the UK to promote properties which are being put up for sale.

When we noticed recently that the first property video was being re-used as the property hit the market again, it got us thinking about all the work we had done.

We toted up the sales from the properties and while some exact figures remain confidential we can confidently say that sales from properties for which we produced the videos and photography have netted over £80 000 000.

We thought this was a good time to take a look back at some of our work in the property sector.

So why do property videos work?

Well for these sort of commercial properties which usually have tenants currently leasing the space, the numbers are certainly important. Years left on a lease, percentage returns, monthly rents etc. However if the past few years have shown us anything it is that no tenant, however well established is safe from going under. When buying a commercial property you have to consider the ease with which you could find a new tenant and this is why videos can be such a great tool.

With a video you can see the level of footfall past the front door of a high street shop, you can get a feeling for the area, see the neighbouring shops and cafes, get an understanding of the area, transport links, nearby parking, and of course see around the property itself. Real images can bring life to the blueprints with a clear understanding of how light and airy a space is, how a layout really works, and of course see the condition of the building.

We have filmed everywhere from designer shops to business parks, from garages and car showrooms to warehouses and factories, from supermarkets to newsagents and in each case have tried to bring context to the property, to allow prospective buyers to gain a better understanding of the property and the area in which it sits. With more commerical property investments being completed online by foreign investiors who may never set foot in the properties, this understanding can be a vital tool for you when selling a property.

As more transactions are conducted online we think that this sort of marketing will also be used more and more in the rental sector, with letting agents showing both commercial and residential properties online with extensive photo and video libraries. By displaying the key features of the properties and helping prospective tenants to picture them selves in the property the videos could help to boost occupancy levels. The videos will also allow individuals or businesses to quickly tell when a property is not right for them and reduce the number of needless viewings and expensive show homes which cost the sales and letting agents both time and money.

17 Feb 2012

Photography book

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Following our post about our favourite filmmaking book I thought I would also tell you about our favourite photography book.

Before studying filmmaking I studied and practised photography. The basics of photography are fundamental to filmmaking: composing an image, exposing the image, controlling the aperture, shutter speed etc. More than the technical aspects though it is a great way to develop your visual style, and learn how to tell stories through images.

Throughout my photography studies I ready many books found one to stand out as a clear favourite.

The Moment it Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters

This is a very different book to ‘On Filmmaking’. It has very little text, but still contains more useful and clear information than I have found in any other photography book. Each double page contains a photograph on one page and some comments about the shoot on the opposite page. His comments generally reflect on the circumstances of the day, but always come back to an incredibly well defined idea or lesson. The book is a joy to read and simply inspired me and taught me more in each photo analysis than most photography books managed to achieve in hundreds of pages.

Joe McNally's book The Moment it Clicks, my favourite photography book

McNally is a top photographer who has worked with a number of publications including Sports Illustrated and National Geographic. Most of the images in the book are portraits and the breakdowns include recollections of the shoots are often very funny and contain great advice on dealing with subjects, whether they be models who are happy to pose all day and try any idea you can dream up or superstars who are difficult to deal with and want to be done and gone inside two minutes. He also gives very detailed technical information about lighting set-ups and in particular his famed us of off camera flashes. More importantly however he explains the reasoning behind why he chose these lighting set-ups.

More than the technical information, the funny stories and the advice on composition or working with models though, this book contains about 250 pages of inspiration. Every incredible image is explained and seems very achievable, every lighting set-up is made to sound simple, every story about working with subjects sounds like an interaction I could mange, every expression or pose sounds like something I could get from a model, every concept and every spark of inspiration for the photographs is explained in such a way that it fills me with the confidence to grab a camera and go and shoot.

Of course the pictures in the book are great pictures and things aren’t that simple, but this book gives some clear direction and technical information to give you ideas and set-ups to test out and get you started. Most of all though it inspires me and I defy any photographer or filmmaker to read this and not feel the same way.

 

 

18 Oct 2011

Essential reading for aspiring filmmakers

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I am in the process of preparing a post about the best ways to learn about video production and develop as a filmmaker. As a prelude to that post I thought I would share my favourite book on filmmaking with you.

I have read many books over the years about filmmaking from the very technical to the entirely anecdotal and this book for me stands head and shoulders above the rest.

On Film-makingby Alexander Mackendrick

When I was at university studying filmmaking one my local cinemas, The Filmhouse, showed a season of comedies from Ealing Studios in London. I went along to the first screening and enjoyed it so much that I decided to stay for the other two films showing that evening as well, before heading home very hungry but very happy. Those three films which I loved so much – Whisky Galore, The Man in the White Suit and The Ladykillers – were all directed by Alexander Mackendrick.

His films were witty, charming, exciting, and often displayed a dark, almost twisted sense of humour. As Mackendrick himself remarked, ‘There’s a moment towards the end of certain kinds of comedy when they ought to get a little nasty’.

Although Mackendrick directed several films which are now regarded as classics including The Ladykillers and The Sweet Smell of Success, which starred Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, at the time he never really enjoyed the sort of success he deserved. In 1969 he ended his career in filmmaking to accept the role of Dean of the Film Department at The California Institute of Arts. It is his lectures and handouts from his decades of teaching that form the basis of his book, On Filmmaking.

Despite being a product of his time in academia ‘On Filmmaking’ is not a dull textbook. In fact it is a very easy book to read and enjoy. It covers a lot of ideas, both technical and conceptual but it is not difficult to follow or at all dry. This is because it is at its heart a book about storytelling, told by a master storyteller.  For anyone thinking about a career in film, video or theatre I would say it is essential reading. It raises questions and ideas about writing, acting, directing, setting up scenes, utilizing the camera in different ways, and how to guide an audience through a story. It is simply brilliant. In fact flicking through it now, I can’t wait to read it again!

 

  

04 Oct 2011

An overview of video specifications

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The technical side of video production has never been straight forward, and is often extremely confusing for video producers and clients alike. I thought I’d make a series of posts which address some of the basics to help people develop a better understanding of how things work.

 

Picture Aspect Ratios

The aspect ratio is simply the relationship between the width and height of the picture. In films this is generally expressed as a decimal ratio such as 1.85:1 or 2.35:1.  With video and television the convention is to express this relationship using whole numbers, generally either 4:3 or 16:9.

4:3 was the ratio for standard definition television all around the world. Several television standards emerged, using different numbers of pixels to make up the pictures and showing the image at a different number of frames per second. A pixel is basically the individual dots which make up the picture.

Widescreen videos are typically shot in 16:9. This can be both in standard or high definition. Any modern flatscreen television will be a widescreen.

 

Standard Definition Systems

The UK and other countries use the PAL television system which uses 720×576 pixels to make up the image.

A system called NTSC is used in many countries including America, the picture is made from 720×480 pixels.

SECAM is the standard definition system used in France, and parts of Africa and Eastern Europe. There are several variants of SECAM but it generally uses the same resolution as PAL but manages colour in a completely different way.

 

Interlaced vs Progressive

These standard definition pictures were made up of interlaced fields in which every other line would be shown alternately creating the illusion of a complete image.

In PAL systems each field was shown 25 frames per second – giving a total of 50 interlaced fields per second, each comprising half of an image.

With NTSC each field was shown about 30 times per second (actually 29.97 times). This meant that 60 fields were actually shown per second.

Feature films shown in the cinema are projected at 24 frames per second.

Progressive whole frames are generally considered to be a major part of the ‘cinematic’ look of feature films and are far better to work with especially if the video is to include motion graphics or animation along with the video footage.

 

High Definition

High definition technically means anything larger than standard definition but has really come to be known as a picture with either 1280×720 or 1920×1080 pixels.

HDV cameras typically shoot 1280×720 progressive frames (720p) or 1920×1080 interlaced frames (1080i).

Full HD typically refers to 1920×1080 progressive frames (1080p).

 

Pixel aspect ratios

Now as if this weren’t already confusing enough the pixels which make up the images in PAL and NTSC are not square and are all different. Newer screens, including all computer monitors and flat screen televisions however do use square pixels. This means that any standard definition video shown on a new television screen would be made slightly thinner because the rectangular pixels would be replaced by thinner square pixels. This distortion will make people look taller and thinner and can be quite off-putting and obviously is not desirable.

To compensate for this when exporting a standard definition video for use on a square pixel display it is necessary to add extra horizontal pixels. With a 4:3 PAL video this means using 768×576 pixels instead of 720×576. A widescreen PAL video would become 1024×576 pixels.