Thursday, November 27, 2014

SmoothieWars - something very different?

Overview of the venue through the eyes of our GoPro camera
We were very fortunate to be invited in late October to film something very different - the first of a possible series of "SmoothieWars", between members of a group of food bloggers, well known in the Manchester area. It was to be a 'fly on the wall shoot', following the action, but not controlling it, within the relatively confined space of the PostBox Cafe, a popular venue in the middle of Chorlton-cum-Hardy.
The purpose was to make a series of short films showing the Nutri Ninja blender, only introduced to the UK about four weeks before, in action, operated by the bloggers themselves.
Sian Morgeous being interviewed by Louise Bolotin (click for her short film)
Each blogger was asked to comment on their experience with the blender, how their smoothie turned out and whether they might use it at home.
After a tasting session, there was a vote for the best smoothie of the evening.
For an event such as this, we decided to use three High Definition video cameras, two operated and mounted on tripods with dollies, the other (the GoPro) fixed to the wall, facing the action. This gave us a chance to pick up on most of if not all of the action going on.
Lighting was more tricky, but we were lucky. There was just enough space to set up two flood lights reflecting off the ceiling, either side of the GoPro, and another two flood lights, back to back, set up behind the strategically placed banner.
The result, relatively even lighting, appropriate to the occasion.
The films of the event can be found on the Ninja Kitchen UK YouTube channel.
Happy blending!

Monday, July 28, 2014

"Angel Snow" - our latest short drama

Gabe, played by Stephen Fletcher
Last year, we made "Cry England!" written by Nigel J Anderson, this year we are due to make two short dramas, the first of which, "Angel Snow" (also written by Nigel J Anderson who also plays the criminal father in "Angel Snow") is now approaching the end of shooting.
There is one last scene to be filmed with an actor, in a magistrates courtroom, and there is a riot sequence that is still in the planning stage. We are already piecing the various scenes together, checking sound quality etc. for the first cut of the film.
Father and son outside a barber shop
"Angel Snow" is quite ambitious for another zero-budget film.
We think it will run for about 30 minutes, but we have filmed it in the 4K (17:9) format which is slightly wider than standard HD (16:9) and over four times the size! Also, it is being made in black and white.
Being in a cinema format, wouldn't it be great if it could be accepted for viewing in a cinema?
We wish ...... But the stills in this blog will give you an idea of the ultra high definition quality of the film. Click on them to find out.
Jackie, played by Nell Cooper, pleading with Shaun
The style of filming is very different to "Cry England!" where virtually everything was shot using a tripod with or without tracks or a jib. This gave a very "David Lean-ish" quality to the film, in a rather old fashion way.
"Angel Snow" is almost exclusively shot hand-held or on a monopod to convey an informal atmosphere to what is quite a difficult and fraught subject, the tussle between estranged parents over their 18 year son during some quite difficult times in Salford a few years back, the riots which sparked in London but were also experienced in Manchester and elsewhere. There is nothing protesting about the activities of Gabe and his friends. It is pure opportunism.
Shaun, played by Nigel Anderson, Gabe in the distance
We are indebted to a number of people who have allowed us to use their premises for filming, including Mr Ron Keeling of K-Style Barbers in Chorlton, Mr & Mrs Anderson in Swinton and Mr Frank Carr (modern flat in central Manchester) to name just some.
There is still quite a bit to do to the film, checking continuity between scenes, working on the sound and most importantly working on the music which it is hoped will be produced for the most part in-house.
We hope to release "Angel Snow" in the Autumn, by which time we to start filming our next drama, "Stuck in the Groove" based on a script by Gareth Preston. And yes, this is a zero-budget film also, involving quite a sizable cast of actors.
Now if we could only find someone who would commission us to make a film for money .............!
As before, we hope to raise money for charity out of showing "Angel Snow", the chosen charity being Talbot House which supports families of people with learning difficulties.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Filming in 4K for Hough End Hall, Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Anyone who has been living in Chorlton-cum-Hardy and indeed, Withington or Didsbury, all in the southern part of Manchester, will be aware of Hough End Hall and the campaign by friends of the Grade 2* listed hall to find a way of buying it for the community, particularly the South Manchester Community.
Hardy Productions UK are proud to have sponsored the making of a short fund-raising film, about the campaign to buy, featuring Carolyn Kagan and Peter Topping as Friends of Hough End Hall, and Andrew Simpson, local historian.
Picture and badge, courtesy of Peter Topping
So it was that we joined with Carolyn, Peter and Andrew outside the hall on Monday lunchtime, 7th July 2014, complete with 4K video camera, sound and lighting. Inevitably, as always seems to be the case on such occasions, as we were about to start filming the external speaking shots, what sounded like a complete operatic aria started up in the vacant office building next door, together with the inevitable gale force wind. Why is it, when we arrive somewhere, the weather is calm, the surroundings are peaceful, but by the time we are ready to film, all hell lets loose?
Still from our film of Peter Topping and Carolyn Kagan
Having completed the externals, it was time to go inside a building which has not been occupied for some years. The agents for the building very kindly arrived with the keys and in we went. It was quiet, it was fairly dark and the alarm was beeping, to warn that its battery life was near and end. And then suddenly, before we had started filming inside, all hell let loose again as the alarm went off. Fortunately that was not for long and we were able to film relatively undisturbed.
There is not much left of the original inside of the building, sadly, but we filmed Andrew on the first floor, against some of the windows that are in a better condition.
Why is all this happening?
The building is vacant and is up for sale for £300,000, well below its value at the peak of the property boom. It would make an ideal location for the South Manchester Community, close to two metro tram stations and on one or more bus routes. It is spacious and could house all sorts of community activities as well as providing somewhere to eat, if required.
More information on the campaign can be found at houghendhall.org and our film can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv-9NwvKO-A on YouTube.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Helping Out at an International Short Film Festival

The main image of the 12th Manchester International
Short Film Festival (2014)
The appeal went out over Facebook for help with the production of the 12th Manchester International Short Film Festival (also known as the KinoFilm Festival). This was due to take place at the end of May, beginning of June and we were already only a few weeks off. Could we produce a trailer for the festival? And could we assemble the films for the various events at the Festival (16 in all not including two other events organised by others)? The answer was that we would do our best.
The trailer was fairly simple. We went out and about in Manchester with two high definition cameras, one of our Sony "workhorses" and a GoPro. We decided on the latter as it can provide very wide angle images which in some instances is essential, such as at the newly renovated Manchester Central Library where you can only take shots from close to if you are to avoid seeing continuing construction works.
The renovated Manchester Central Library
We decided to make a moving logo which we could superimpose on many of the shots to give the impression that the festival was everywhere in Manchester, and we selected fast moving music to cut to. To see the trailer, click here.
Preparing for the festival itself was another story, as the organisers had received 900 different short films, from which they had selected 120 to show at the festival.
Largely out of choice, we decided to allow the film makers to send their films to us (mostly by internet) in the format of their choice. This would enable them to present them at their best.
We received all sorts of shapes and sizes, the largest files being around 15GB, the smallest around 200MB! Given the order of films at each event (for each programme), the task was to assemble these, not by using USB sticks which is often the case at festivals, but unreliable, but by creating high definition Blu-Ray discs each running for about 90 minutes. Films submitted in standard definition would be upgraded to high definition with a touch of "sharpening" to compensate.
The films were flying in from all over the world, some presented at 25 frames per second, some at 24 frames per second. This created a problem in its own right. If you start at 24fps and change to 25fps, this can create problems with fast motion. If you reduce again to 24fps, this can make it even worse. So we made a decision to create all of our Blu-Rays at 24fps, rendering every film in each programme to that rate. It took time, but it was worth it.
The programme of preparation was intense and with critical paths. On occasions, our main computer was multi-tasking, rendering two programmes at the same time while burning Blu-Rays in addition! (Oh and also DVDs where Blu-Rays couldn't be used!).
Behind the screen at the Anthony Burgess Foundation
The main venues (with one exception) had high-definition projection, some using their own Blu-Ray player, some using ours. These venues included the Manchester Central Library, Instituto Cervantes, Three Minute Theatre, Anthony Burgess Foundation and Gullivers.
The result? Good quality projection, showing the selected films in the format they were intended to be shown in for the most part.
For us, it was an experience!
We are not technicians, we are film makers in our own right, helping out.
But apart from the trailer, the bulk of the job was technical. What was worth it, was seeing short films (ranging from Oscar nominees to Student Films) made by our peers. Too bad that our own film "Cry England!" couldn't be shown, but at just under 40 minutes running time, it is too long for such a festival, and we will have to start thinking "short"!
The standard of the films being shown? Impressively good! For the most part, top quality!
More information on the Festival itself can be found on its KinoFilm Facebook Page and at www.kinofilm.org.uk.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hardy Productions UK raffle for the Christie Charity raises £387

Not the winning ticket!
In an earlier blog, we announced that we were running a raffle for the Christie Charity, the choice of the cast and crew who made our first film drama, "Cry England!" during 2013.
The tickets went on sale in early January at various locations around Chorlton-cum-Hardy until the draw on 7th March 2014.
We are indebted to all those who donated prizes, 10 in all, for the raffle.
Stef Underhill drawing
the winning ticket
These included Peter Topping's painting of the Lychgate at Chorlton Green Churchyard, a £25 give voucher for the Trafford Centre donated by Mrs Anderson, three hampers supplied by Epicerie Ludo (including two gifted by Hardy Productions UK), three vouchers from the Human Touch Centre for Natural Therapy, a set of keys from Chorlton Locksmiths and a bottle of wine from the Bowling Green Hotel.
We are also indebted to all those who sold tickets on our behalf, not just those who donated the prizes but others including the Post Box Cafe, Chorlton Eatery, Chorlton Bookshop, Elliotts Greengrocers and K-Style Barbers.
Without your help we would not have raised as much money.
The draw was held at the Christie Charity during the afternoon of the 7th March, the ticket stubs being mixed up in a tombola, before Stef Underhill from the Christie pulled out the winning tickets.
We are rather glad that she did, and not one of us, as the results were quite extraordinary. The set of keys, donated by Chorlton Locksmiths, was won by Chorlton Locksmiths.
Peter Topping presenting the first prize to Mark Canny
The first prize was won by the Bowling Green Hotel, who are practically next door to the Lychgate. And a relative of the organisers won a hamper! If the draw had not been independent, there might well have been good cause for those who participated to raise their eyebrows, but honestly folks, it was all above board!
We have been delighted to have been able to hand out the prizes to the winners who represented a broad cross section of Chorlton life (and further afield).
Mark Canny accepted the first prize from Peter Topping a week after the draw outside the Bowling Green Hotel, a prize which will hang proudly inside the bar!
And, ok, so far, we have raised about £600 from the raffle and from other collections, which is well short of our rather ambitious target of £2,000. We are not giving up yet as we have planned showings of "Cry England!" during the coming months, and fingers crossed, more money will be raised!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Filming Golfing Tips

A cool winter's Friday morning saw us on the Driving Range at Marriott Worsley Park together with David Screeton, Head Golf Coach. The plan was to film several golfing tips for publication by Marriott Worsley Park and GolfMagic magazine through Sway Communications.
The question was "How should we film this to get the best angles of David's coaching?"
Originally, we had considered using two high definition cameras, one facing David, as in this picture, the other slightly to the front of him on the driving range so as to see frontal shots of him driving. However, on reflection, we did not think this would be enough, so we installed two further high definition cameras, one to the rear, and one, on the ground, directly facing his drive. Needless to say, at some stage during the filming, that ground camera (GoPro) received the full impact of the ball, when driven by one of our colleagues. Fortunately, these GoPros are very resilient and no damage was done!
The resulting films can be found, as they are published on our website Sporting Films page.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cosgrove Hall Court - remembering a legacy

Brian Cosgrove cutting the ribbon
It is Thursday 6th Februry 2014 and miraculously,  a relatively sunny though windy day, and the rain held off till later.
We are at Cosgrove Hall Court, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester and people are gathering together for rather a special event.
What is the significance of Cosgrove Hall, one might say?
Anyone who has heard of iconic children's films like Chorlton and the Wheelies, will have unwittingly have heard of Chorlton.
Anyone who has heard of Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, The BFG may not be aware that these were all made by Cosgrove Hall studios, in the centre of Chorlton, until 2009 when the company of Cosgrove Hall ceased to exist and the studios were vacated. I should say that Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick are now live and well and based in nearby Didsbury, and Brian Cosgrove, one of the founders of Cosgrove Hall, is still very much involved.
McCarthy and Stone, developers and builders, bought the old studio and demolished it in 2012. Since that time, they have developed Cosgrove Hall Court, a block of apartments specifically designed for retirement living.
People are gathering because this is a very special event. 
A plaque in memory of the work of Cosgrove Hall Studios is to be unveiled by Brian Cosgrove, in the presence of the Court's home owners and guests. Among those attending is the widow of co-founder, Mark Hall.  Also attending are Peter Topping, artist, Andrew Simpson, historian, and John Leech MP.
Hardy Productions UK, who filmed the GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON - Opening of Exhibition of "Chorlton-Cum-Hardy The Story" at the site in September 2012, were delighted to be invited back to film the unveiling of the plaque. This latest film can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhnJEWH-_jg.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

And more on 4K experimentation

Still from film in 4K (Ultra HD) made at Salford Quays
We have been experimenting further with 4K (4096 x 2160 pixels) video filming, at Salford Quays during a sunny afternoon in January.
The resulting film can be seen on YouTube.
Someone asked whether we had "graded" the film during the edit and the answer is a resounding "no"! It is exactly as it came out of the camera, without any adjustment to its looks.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Experimenting with 4K

Still from a 4K test (4096 x 2160 pixels) - Sale Water Park
Just as the TV/video industry at a semi professional level started to cross from Standard Definition to High Definition a few years back, even before there were many Blu-Rays and HD TVs on the market, the industry is on the move again, starting to make the crossing to 4K (sometimes known as Ultra High Definition). The main (4096 x 2160 cinema standard) 4K format operates at slightly more than 4 times the image area of HD although there is another standard which is exactly 4 times, called the Quad Full HD.
Sony are one of the first manufacturers to release a 4K affordable video camera (the PXW-Z100) which came out a couple of months ago. 4K TVs are few and far between and expensive. There are no Blu-Ray equivalents to play the 4K material as yet, which is limited to computer screens at lower resolution (there are expensive 4K computer monitors) and YouTube which does now accept the full 4K, or straight HDMI link between camera and TV to play to a 4K TV.
For the progressive videographer, we felt that we should try the 4K format out, knowing that with time it could become the norm and in anticipation that more forward looking clients may wish to start filming in that format now.
We have made one or two short test films which can be seen  on our YouTube channel. We have not attempted to go for the beautiful scenic stuff that will show off the film to its best, preferring to shoot almost anywhere, under winter conditions when lighting is not so good. If you would like to see what we have done so far experimentally, see below.