Sunday, December 30, 2012

Looking Back at 2012 - Our First Year!

Hardy Productions UK started officially in April 2012 although our cameras had been filming for a year before that, supporting an organisation in the West Midlands called the WMCCE where Michael Thompson worked part time as an Executive Advisor. Moving from the Construction Industry after 45 years into the filming and production industry was quite a move! Michael had filmed a few weddings during his time, first using VHS tape (the technical quality? Oh dear!) and later moving to high definition video about 4 years ago. So the move to filming and production was in fact a natural one.

Nigel Anderson came on the scene also having had filming experience over a number of years, with a very creative "bent". He has great imagination and when he can, likes to introduce it into his films. He is also an adept still photographer.

We have been fortunate during 2012 and have had fun also! As a small independent enterprise in Chorlton, to the south and west of Manchester, we have made a number of films both for the community, unpaid, and for commercial organisations, paid. We love the mix, and also the challenge, preferring to make unique ("one off") films rather than too many of the same.



One of the highlights of our year was the filming of Cameron Foster - A Phoenix Rising, a 15 minute documentary on a young man of 17 who as a result of an accident when he was 9, has raised a considerable amount of money for charity. We were grateful for the support of Brian Blessed, Freddie Flintoff and many others during the making of this film.

We have had enormous fun working with Strider ("Join the Balance Bike Revolution") at the National Cycling Centre. We have worked with The Vintage Home Show at Victoria Baths, Manchester, with Sports Travel International at Bolton Wanderers, and with many others.

So where will 2013 take us?

We are looking for more challenges, and we are looking for the development of a film making alliance in the North West of England where small independent enterprises like ourselves can work together and take on productions which one enterprise alone could not do. So far, we have worked with Freezeframe Productions and Tristan Mayer.

Here is to 2013!

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Multicamera Conference Event

It is 11o'clock on a Thursday morning and we have arrived complete with equipment for the filming of a Conference Event in Central Manchester. Our client has asked us to film 9 people discussing various subjects around a conference table, and so far as possible, make it look natural. We have two and a half hours of filming ahead of us, with three operated High Definition cameras and a small static HD camera set up on a tripod looking across the proceedings (the still seen here is from that camera). In addition to the cameras is our portable 4 channel digital sound recorder attached to 4 microphones mounted on the conference table.

It is actually quite difficult with an event like this to prevent the filming from taking over completely, but fortunately, only once, near the beginning did we have to bring the proceedings to a grinding halt and start again. Some of the invitees couldn't be seen at all by the centrally positioned camera.

We could ask for nothing more from the performance of our client and their invitees who attended the session. They were excellent! They maintained a natural air all the way through and must have been just as tired as our three camera operatives by the finish!

The filming went smoothly and soon we had 8 hours of film "in the can" - actually on MiniDV Tape and on SD cards.

Having completed the session and also recorded some interviews, it was time to take our film back to the editing suite, and to start work synchronizing four camera sound tracks and a further 4 microphone soundtracks, so that they all sounded as one and maintained a stereophonic sound image. Actually, once synched, we don't bother too much about the camera sound tracks, and turn them down or even off altogether if there is sufficient input from the main microphones!

Then the editing begins in earnest. You have to select which camera output is used where and for how long so that the resulting film looks natural. The beauty of using 4 cameras is that you have so much to choose from when editing!

The results? The Client is pleased and the 7 short films of the event will be released for public viewing early in 2013.

Our thanks go to Reading Room Manchester for hosting the event and being our Client, and to Tristan Mayer for providing camera operator support to us. And lastly, we would like to thank Freezeframe Productions for their association with us on this production.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Joining the Balance Bike Revolution!

We had the privilege to be invited again to film the Strider UK World Cup event on 18th November in Manchester, the second of its kind and the largest to date in the UK. Some 320 children aged between 2 and 5 appeared for the event at the BMX Track at the National Cycling Centre, Manchester, accompanied by their parents. Strider wanted us to film something that would show just how much fun the children have with their Balance Bikes and this we think we have achieved.
The Strider UK World Champion, Ashton Heron, winner of the previous event in Manchester and runner up in the World Championships in Florida in October, interviewed by Mike Bushell of BBC Breakfast TV, proved just how good he is, by winning again in the 3-year old group. Put him on a bike and no one can beat him!
What was particularly obvious was just how determined and brave many of the children participating were. One small boy, aged 3, fell from his bike just yards from the finishing line, landing painfully on his face. He picked himself up, got back on his bike and rode across the finish ...... and then he burst into tears!
Click here to view "Join the Balance Bike Revolution!"
To make this film, we used four different HD video cameras, including a palm sized Sony HandyCam fitted onto a Steadicam, and a helmet mounted GoPro camera, ably used by two of the young contestants!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

An evening at Band on the Wall, Manchester

It is a Sunday evening and we are at one of the monthly Sunday Sessions at "Band on the Wall" in Manchester to film one or two of the sessions, and in particular, The Beggar Kings, Rob Lanyon (right) and JBS.
We are there with three video cameras, two of our normal Sony "work horses" which can operate in most conditions, and a very diddy palm sized HandyCam, all capable of producting high definition results. Being a live recording we are up against relatively poor lighting, even though we brought along one of our own portable LED lights. We are also up against a public address system which if you are not careful will drown out our own microphones linked to a portable 4 channel digital recorder. Our highly directional microphones are focused as well as possible on voice and guitar.
But after nearly 2 hours of filming, we have something in the can to take back for post production. The results are going up on YouTube, subject to the agreement of the performers.
The camera operators: Michael Thompson, Nigel Anderson and Richard Green.
View Rob Lanyon's full video

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bringing Back Memories

We were delighted to have been invited to film the Vintage Home Show at the Victoria Baths, Manchester on 28th October. Although the show started at 11am for the general public, setting up of the stalls commenced at 8am, and we were there shortly afterwards, meeting with the organiser, Keeley Harris of Discover Vintage, and various stall holders, and interviewing them for the film. There was so much to see at the show, and I found myself excited at the prospect of re-discovering things that were familiar to me, not only in the 1970s, but in the 1960s, and even in the 1950s!
One of the hardest things is to find members of the public who will stand in front of the camera and be interviewed. But two ladies were brave enough to do just that - why is it that men always seem to avoid such things by referring you to their wives or girlfriends?!!
You can see the short film on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHrtLy7rFiI. It is only 3 minutes long and shows lots of things that were there for sale. So enjoy! And for those old enough, immerse yourself in the nostalgia! We made this film in association with Freezeframe Productions.
The next Vintage Home Show is at Fazeley, Birmingham on 18th November 2012.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cameron Foster - A Phoenix Rising

This is our first short documentary film and it has been a labour of love planning it, developing it, filming it, editing and producing it.
It is, we think, a quite remarkable and unique story about a young man in his late teens, who aged 9 had a traumatic accident which changed his entire attitude to life. He fell off a ski lift while on a school trip to Northern Italy and fell onto hard compacted ice, breaking almost every bone in his body. It truly is a story of A Phoenix Rising from the ashes of disaster.
Hardy Productions UK are proud to have made this film because we believe that it is a story worth telling.
We would like to thank Brian Blessed, Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff MBE, Trevor Barton MBE, Susan Heritage, Cameron Foster and his parents, Martin Ainscough, Lisa Nandy MP and several others for taking part in this film and for giving its creation so much support.
We have donated this film to Cameron to help him in the future and to help the various organisations that he has supported.
The film was made over a period of 4 months from the end of May to the middle of September 2012.
Running Time: 15 1/2 minutes.
View on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUUh5VsjAs8

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Story of Chorlton-Cum-Hardy lives on!

Click here to view video
Hardy Productions UK was delighted to be able to attend and film the opening ceremony of the exhibition for "Chorlton-Cum-Hardy - The Story" on 7th September. The Right Honourable Lord Bradley of Withington opened the exibition which is to be found on 80 metres of hoarding around the old Cosgrove Hall film studio site (Albany Road), the birthplace of many stop motion films, such as "Chorlton and the Wheelies" and "Postman Pat". The site is now being turned into retirement homes by McCarthy & Stone, to be called "Cosgrove Court", ready for occupation in 2013.
The exhibition is about the passage of time, from the 17th Century through to the present day, showing paintings of some of the more iconic streets and buildings by local artist Peter Topping (GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON) and the story, written by local historian, author and researcher, Andrew Simpson.
McCarthy & Stone donated the funds for the exhibition, enabling something which is unique to Chorlton, and which could be unique to Manchester and the rest of the nation.
The production of the film, just under 7 minutes long, is now available to view.
Click here to view video

Friday, August 17, 2012

And so it goes on

We had hoped to have completed our film on Cameron Foster, Olympic Torchbearer, Fund Raiser and Coach, but this has not been possible, as there are still one or two things to film and complete. But we are nearly there!
We were out filming him coaching youngsters at cricket at Wigan last Sunday morning, just before he and his family embarked on a trip to London in connection with the Olympics and his Diana Award. And we are due to film our last interview with someone on 31st August, who has been key to his work in recent years, particularly related to his passion for cricket.
We are also waiting for some footage of a famous cricketing celebrity.
Once it is all together, reviewed, re-edited, we hope to release - watch this space, hopefully mid-September.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Quite Remarkable Story


Have you ever embarked on a project which is extensive but has to be reduced to something manageable? So with our short documentary on young Cameron Foster, Olympic Torchbearer, sports coach and fund raiser, which we hope to release in August.
Cameron sees it next week as a first cut after several hours of filmed interviews and activities have been reduced to just 17 mins.
This is a quite remarkable story about a young man who after a nasty accident aged 9, recovered and set about making better lives for other less fortunate people. 
In making this film, we have had support from famous and prominent people locally and nationally who are 100% behind what Cameron is trying to do.
The film will help you to understand, admire and most of all help him to help others.
Hardy Productions UK are proud to donate this film to Cameron and those he helps.
Watch this space!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Creating something special

Since the end of May we have been filming material for a short film on young Cameron Foster, Olympic Torchbearer, supporter in the community and fund raiser.
This has taken us to several different venues to watch him in action, at the Street Games annual dinner, coaching disabled children at sports, the lighting of the Wigan Beacon, the carrying of the torch through Hindley and so on.
We are indebted for the support we have received in the making this film, from such interviewees as Martin Ainscough, Trevor Barton MBE, Brian Blessed, Sue Heritage and others, all of whom have given their time to say strong, positive and supportive things about Cameron. And a special mention of Cameron's parents who took the brunt of the consequences of Cameron's skiing accident when he was 9, which triggered what he does today.
We are not quite finished yet, and there is still some filming to do. But the hardest task will be in the editing, reducing the 7 hours of material that we have down to around 7 minutes!
Then we hope to have something that will help Cameron to promote the many charities that he supports, as well as himself.
We hope to be able to release the film by the end of August or early September.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Manchester Strider UK World Cup - the first of its kind?

A race is about to start!
The scene is the BMX Track at the National Cycling Centre, Manchester (June 30th, 2012) and 120 children between the ages of 2 and 5, accompanied by at least one parent, have assembled for the first event of its kind in the United Kingdom.
Hardy Productions UK were commissioned by Strider to film the event and turn the film into something short and promotional for the event, showing the kids (and parents) having fun.
Two cameras were used to record the event and in particular the highlights of the various no-pedal races, 2 year olds and 3 year olds on the flat, and 4 year olds and 5 year olds on the hills. The enthusiasm was overwhelming - nothing deterred them. And then it was discovered that the youngest of all, at 22 months, had also been competing on his bike with the 4 year olds!
Some of the winners go on to the World event in Florida later in 2012.
After the event, our task was to reduce the film from 3 hours to 4 minutes! Not an easy task.

Thanks to Strider Cup, Sway Communications and Melrose Kids for commissioning the film and their support.
Click here for the resulting film, made in association with Freezeframe Productions.
The good news is that it doesn't end here as further BMX no-pedal events are organised for the BMX Track and it is hoped that there will be more Strider UK World Cup events in the planning.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cameron Foster, torcher bearer and fund raiser extraordinaire

Click to watch movie
We had great fun with thousands of other people lining the streets of Hindley, near Bolton for the arrival of the Olympic Torch and its change over to young Cameron Foster.
Hardy Productions UK is putting together a Showreel for Cameron who at the age of 17 has led a very full life, triggered when about 6 years ago, he had a terrible accident, falling 40 feet off a ski lift onto sheet ice. Recovering miraculously from his injuries, this has been a wake up call for him, and unlike most people of his age, he has worked with several charities raising money on their behalf, and it is understood that to date, he has raised more than £20,000.
When he is not at school, he is coaching football, cricket and karate with other youngsters, he is working with the Lancashire Country Cricket Club Foundation and several others and more can be found by visiting his blog.
So there we were on Wigan Road, Hindley around 5pm on May 31st watching and filming Cameron arrive in his Olympic bus, to the roar of the spectators, light up his torch from the previous runner, and make his way along the designated 300 or 400 yards to the next torch bearer. This is a spectacle that few of us will see again in our lifetime, and everyone present enjoyed the fun!
So what of Cameron?
Well, he is working on his next venture seeking out 10 celebrities to participate in 10 challenges (of their choice), so that £1million can be raised for several charities.
Anyone up for Celebrity Challenge? Twitter @CCCChallenge for more information.
If anyone can leave a legacy for the future, it will be Cameron Foster!

A Pinch of Salt - Virgin Media Shorts

A Pinch of Salt - Virgin Media Shorts

This is a poignant reflection on Alzheimers and those who become involved with it.
It was made specifically for Virgin Media Shorts by Nigel Anderson, with help from Michael Thompson, their first entry into any sort of film competition. See what you think!
The film may not run from the Virgin Media Shorts if you are using a portable device. If this is the case, the film can also be found on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RuqgNkZjAk

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What can go wrong, will ......!

Weddings are very much in the air at this time of year, and it is number one, not only for the bride and groom, but for the videographer, that those irreplacable moments are recorded for posterity.
One of the first weddings that I covered was for friends (and fortunately unpaid - it was a gift). I had only one HD video camera at the time, and no additional sound recording equipment.
OK, it is amazing what you can do with one video camera, particularly if you have it set up on a tripod and dolly. This means that when at the crucial moment as you are filming the bride with her father, walking up the aisle, the unwanted obstruction by a guest moving into "the line of fire" so that they can see more clearly, can be corrected in a moment by moving the camera sideways and back into clear view. That is a relatively easy one.
But what if, in the same Church, the priest is using an acoustic system to make sure that the guests can hear everything that is said?
"It was installed by a soundman who works at Pinewood Studios, so it must be a good one", says the priest with pride.
And that same system muffles the sound being received by the camera microphone from certain positions in the Church so badly that the words being spoken cannot be deciphered? That is what happened to me, and, unfortunately, I had no separate back up sound recorder and microphones to pick up what was being said.
Well, I could hardly go back and ask them to do it again! Sub-titles were the answer on that occasion, accepted by the bride and groom as an unfortunate thing that could not have been avoided.
Lessons to be learnt: Try to be prepared for the unexpected, whether as a result of someone else or as a result of what is present, and ideally have a back up of some kind, for example a second camera, and most importantly, make sure that there is more than one microphone to record the sound, preferably to a separate recorder!
I make it a habit, prior to the event, to find out as much as I can about the programme of the event and the circumstances in which it will be taking place, ideally visiting locations in advance. That is often harder to arrange than one might imagine.
Then there is the stills photographer ...... but I will leave that for another time!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tinker Tailor and the Oscars

Sir Alec Guinness as George Smiley (1982)
There is no doubt that Gary Oldman in the 2011 film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes a good Smiley, which is praise considering the impeccable acting in the BBC's 7 part serial in 1982 of Sir Alec Guinness in that part.
But that is about as far as the 2011 production goes as a film worthy of an Oscar, or for that matter a BAFTA.
The BAFTAs were perhaps kind with the Best Adapted Screenplay and the Outstanding British Film. The Oscars, for once, got it right, with nominations but no Oscars.
The BBC serial had the luxury of around 5 hours and 15 mins to get the story across with all its nuances, and the individuality of the various characters. From the start, the 2011 film at 2 hours and 7 minutes was at a disadvantage, and there were things about it which were downright irritating. The very reason that the Circus was the Circus was because it was in Cambridge Circus, not some monumental building elsewhere which bore no resemblance to a circus, in the building sense. Gwillam was suddenly gay, but early in the film admires a passing attractive girl, and why did Gwillam (the gay) have to give up his boy friend? And no attempt was made (probably because of the time element) to display the various characters which made up the Circus "team" if it can be called a team.  Better understanding of the team in particular might have helped the viewer to understand how it could be that a Russian mole was able to survive within the Circus for many years at a high level without being uncovered.
There were nevertheless some good performances in the film version.
So when will the BBC re-issue their original (and in my opinion better) version of Tinker Tailor, originally filmed presumably on 16mm film and now capable of being scanned to a High Definition standard. I for one would be pleased to see it coming out in BluRay, even if the format remains at 4:3 and the sound is still mono. These do nothing to inhibit a really top quality and classic version of what is a very good story.

Friday, February 24, 2012

WMCCE Award sponsored by University of Wolverhampton


I had the pleasure on Thursday 23rd February of going to the Deanery at University of Wolverhampton to film Prof. Rob Moreton, Dean, Professor of Information Systems at the School of Technology talking about his and the University's enthusiasm for sponsoring the West Midlands Constructing Excellence Awards 2012 - Innovation Award.
Rob stood on the balcony of the Deanery, above the noisy mill of students below him, talking to camera, watched by his colleagues in the Deanery itself.
The noise below presented sound difficulties which were soon overcome using a microphone clipped to his tie, and recorded separately for synchronisation during the edit stage. This was the first time I had used a small battery powered LED fill in light and it worked a dream.
We use Sony Vegas Pro 11 for film editing which, after you get to know it, is easy to use and never ceases to surprise when it reveals yet something else it can do.
Enjoy the short film at http://youtu.be/so7xI9qZenA

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Snowdrops at Rode Hall

It was a spur of the moment decision to put the cameras in the car, accompanied by tripod and steadicam for a visit to Rode Hall in Cheshire on a very cold but sunny winter's day in early February, a day before the long expected snow arrived. Rode invites visitors to its mile long snowdrops walk each year from late January through until early March, showing off its many varieties of snowdrop, crocus and even a few early daffodils.
The resulting short film can be found on YouTube so as to share what can be experienced at Rode including the spectacular view across the frozen lake and the abundant wild life.

But while there, be sure to have a lunch including the most delicious home made pies! At any time of the year, Rode Hall is worth a visit, privately owned by the Baker Wilbraham family, whose current representatives are often present to help their visitors enjoy the very best of experiences. This family have enjoyed continuous occupation of Rode Hall since 1669, three years after the Great Fire of London.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Very Special Event

All Saints Ukrainian Catholic Church, Bolton
I was invited at very short notice to film last Sunday the Baptism of the child of a friend of the family in Bolton, in the North West of England. This was rather a special baptism, for the first child of young parents, supported by close family and a good many friends. The brief was "to film the Baptism".

How do you do that and make it interesting?

The filming in the Church was easy because the priest had indicated from the start that I could film the ceremony from wherever I liked. And this, I had to do. But to create a film of nothing but the service would not have reflected the excitement of those involved.
So, I was pleased that Parents, Grandparents, Godparents, Aunts and Uncles were all prepared to sit in front of the camera at the reception afterwards to talk about what the event meant to them. The support for the baby, only 9 months old, was overwhelming.
The net result has been a 20 minute long film interlacing the ceremony (Ukrainian Catholic) with the short interviews with friends and family.
The parents seem pleased with the finished product!