I’m currently taking a six month long course at Malmö Univerity called Experimental Mediaproduction. A week ago me and my group performed the outcome of two weeks hard work. This documentary about the project explains it way better than I do, and I’m sure watching beats reading in this case. I must add that this probably is my favourite project I’ve been involved in since starting my studies in Malmö. If you make it to the end – let me know!
A few days ago I handed over three versions of a video I produced for Helsingborg’s Stad. I guess you could call it a trailer of some sort for the upcoming street art festival ArtstreetHBG. The original seed which sparked the idea for this video was the tagline; “Be there when dead walls come back to life”. After weeks of planning, pitching scripts and drawing up a storyboard the idea was given the green light. While my colleagues were busy hunting actors, clearing permits and making sure we had a casket for the shoot, I started creating props and shooting the VFX-footage.
The plot is quite simple. Mourning humans carrying a casket. All black. Spray cans, which are alive, are watching, wondering if the sorrow will ever end. One of the cans chooses to act. The can gets hurt (looses cap), and causes an accident. The cascet falls, out comes the body. But the body is actually a dead wall (mono-coloured bricks). The spray can brings the wall back to life by giving it colour back. Everyone happy.
I created black flags for drama and a dynamic image. Black smoke to up the drama some more. I chose bamboo-sticks for the flags so that I could hide the smokecharges inside the sticks. I had two sets of bricks, 16 “boring ones”, and 16 “happy ones”, which I painted one afternoon while my kid was asleep. I had some old spray cans in the studio which I banged up quite a bit to make them look really worn and broken. It’s always nice when the hero has some flaws in your story. The stakes are higher that way. I went and got this spinning breakfast-tray from IKEA which I painted green. After that, I started shooting my cans. I wanted them to be able to bend and spin at the same time in my video to make them look as “real” as possible. I could have used a photo of a can, and the PIN-tool in After Effects to get them to bend, but I think the rotating effects really worked well and gave it that extra nudge.
After the casket falls we reach a peak in the video. All hope seems lost but of course, it’s not. It never is. The bricks you see during the fall are the normal, unpainted ones. After getting my “misery-shots”, the pile of “dead” bricks was replaced with the coloured ones. All I had to do in post was to duplicate the layer (I made sure to shoot with a tripod of course), mask out the stones and de-saturate the masked out top layer. After this, I could simply keyframe the saturation back (by changing the opacity of my top layer from 100% to 0%), and voila, boring stones are no more. Add a touch of the 80’s and we’re golden.
I really enjoy using real, on-set effects where you get the result straight away. I’ve done reverseshots before and this was my go-to plan for the end, when the bricks come to life. I hade the actors throw the bricks into frame twice – so that the shot could be reversed later. I had my multitalented friend Christian walking backwards in frame to sell the effects a bit more.For the final shot things got a bit more complex. Here I had to shoot a backplate (a clean background of the wall which is blocked by rope and actor in my used shot), and mask out the rope and actor afterwards. It’s not that hard in theory, but on set, with time pressure, it occasionally happens that you forget the backplate. So I made sure to really get that down on the storyboard and shotlist. Here is the original footage for the scenes mentioned before they are reversed and masked. Just look at Christian! Walking like a pro even following the bricks in reverse with his gaze.
I’m so happy with the final production and I had a blast shooting it. We shot the whole thing in about two hours (!) and got everything we needed pretty much straight away. Of course I couldn’t have done it without the help of an amazing crew that day (and the days leading up to the shoot). There is a massive credits-list in the end of the video and it shows how much work everyone put in just to create this little bizarre, but lovely video.
The video will be playing before screenings at cinema Röda Kvarn in Helsingborg, on the big screen at the central station, all over the web and with a little bit of luck, on busses and trains. I’m so excited to see how it will be received now that it’s out after one stressful week of editing. Here it is – enjoy.
More than once I’ve been planning a shoot (both film and photography) and stumbled upon a big problem. No electricity. If you’re documenting your urban explorations, or shooting a scene at night in the woods, a flashlight isn’t always going to cut it. This has bugged me for quite some time and I’ve been wanting a battery-powered LED-panel for ages. But as you know, these come with a pretty juicy price tag. I’ve been checking out tutorials where people build their own panels using LED-strips which are cut up and soldered back together with wires. Soldering is a thing I have yet to master, so I started to think about alternative solutions. This is what I came up with.
I built this lamp using 10 meters of (5050) RGB LED-strip which I got dirt cheap from eBay. RGB-strips come with a remote, which lets you mix your own colours so the possibility to get various coloured lights, from the same lamp, without filters really got me going. Soldering RGB’s would be even harder for me since there are more connectors (four instead of two) so I started to think about how to line up the strips without cutting them apart.
I live nearby an IKEA, and I really like to walk around the shop to see if there are things which can be modified into filmgear. Cue the wonderful TROFAST box. This box is cheap, lightweight and comes with a lid in frosted plastic. Perfect if you want to soften your light. The edges are rounded so I figured I could just loop the strip (folding is a big no-no) around the inside walls of the box. But looping them on the sides probably weakens the output a bit since it’s not shining directly out of the box. I thought of it for a bit, and realized a reflective surface could give me an extra needed push. So I went to the hardware store (Hornbach is my home away from home).
Here I found aluminiumtape (my new spiritanimal). I roughened up the walls of my box with P120 sandpaper to make sure the tape would really stick. I found a nice place at the top where I could put the beginning of my strip (a small box-reciever for the IR-controller with a DC input). The alutape was fun and easy to work with and the LED-strip stuck to it perfectly as i began looping it around the walls.
I attached an adjustable flagpoleholder made out of metal to the box. These are easy to find online and most of them will fit onto a C-stand. On the back of the box I put some industrial strength velcro so that I can attach my Anker Astro Pro II powerbank (12v output) and fire the lamp up wherever I may end up shooting.
As I mentioned before, the lid for the box is frosted plastic so it works like a diffuser. To make sure the lid doesn’t fall of when the light is angled, I drilled four holes in the box so that the hooks of the elastic SKÅDIS straps from IKEA would stay put.
The lamp lit up beautifully when I tested it in a pitch black room, and I’m really happy with the way this build turned out. I can store all the cables and the remote inside the lamp, (since it’s a box), and there are no delicate parts on the outside of the lamp which could become damaged when transported.
I hope you found this useful and that you’ll have your DIY-eyes with you the next time you set foot inside an IKEA. The place is packed with objects just waiting to be transformed. If you have any questions about this build, let me know.
By the way! What is your best IKEA-based build when it comes to creating filmgear?
Summer is coming up and with it a bunch of opportunities to get some nice footage. I’m documenting festivals this summer and I know I’m going to need some dynamic tracking-shots. So I decided to build a dolly. It had to be fairly easy to transport in a car, easy to operate (a 4-year old can handle this one) and not too expensive.
I made a shoppinglist of things I needed and it looked something like this (allthough the pricetags came in the end of course).
I always start my D.I.Y-adventures with a trip to the second-hand shops. This time I found some vintage roller skates as I was browsing for a wheel solution. For this build you’re going to need 8 wheels, with bearings. Skateboard-wheels will work as well, but the nice thing about the roller skates, is that they come with all the wheels you need. You’re going to need thick wheels, so rollerblades won’t do. If you can’t find used wheels, eBay is your friend.
Your local hardware store should hold all the other supplies. I had them cut the (30 mm) plywood for me at the store, so I paid a bit extra for that. I measured my tripod before going and decided that a 700 x 700 mm square piece would do the trick. I took the wheels with me to make sure all the bolts and washers would fit. I found some cheap 90° metal brackets which had all the holes I needed in them from the start. Drilling a hole in these ones isn’t really a problem though, if you can’t find pre-drilled ones that work for you.
After putting two bolts through each bracket the “hard part” is done. Since the L-brackets are 90 °, the wheels automatically angle up perfectly. Secure the wheels with nut and washer.
By the end, you should have four brackets, with two wheels on each one. Like so.
Before putting the wheels onto my plywood I painted it. You don’t have to, but since the plywood is quite naked, it might be a good idea to put some sort of protective coating on it. Also, it looks cooler. I don’t know if looking cool looking gear is important but I don’t think it hurts. I added some details using masking tape. Better safe than, ehrm, uncool?
When it’s time to put the wheels on your board, make sure they align with each other so that they run smoothly along the PCV-pipes. I placed them on my board and ran a pipe along each side and marked the spots for each bracket before putting the screws in. Also, it’s easier to get the brackets on if you take the wheels off for this step.
To prevent the PVC-pipes from rolling around, I added a cheap shelf-bracket on each end. I found mine at IKEA but any angled piece will do. There are no rules here, if it fits, it fits.
To prevent the middle of the track from sagging, I use rubber door-stoppers underneath. Works well and since they are angled, it works on ground which isn’t leveled. I also added some hooks on my dolly for wall-storage, and i found some small metal parts which lock my tripod in on the board. You can add whatever you want and having an extra look in the hardware store will surely give you the inspiration you need. Below you’ll find some test footage shot with this dolly. Good luck with the build!
In yesterdays post “Filmmakers hardcase for less than $35” I mentioned that I might cover the interior with vintage comic book pages. I spent about an hour thinking about it in bed last night and as I woke up this morning I knew it was something I had to do. I think it turned out really nice, and besides adding uniqueness to my cases, it should also give the insides some extra stability once it dries up.
For this I used about two 1970’s Wild West-themed comics and some wallpaper paste.
Any filmmaker (or photographer) tends to accumulate lots of gear, or as my friend Murphy calls it; stuff. And as you know, most of the stuff is quite useful once you’ve dragged it all to set. My main focus these last years has been on getting my hands on all the wonderful tech-stuff you need (and want) and each time I’m heading out, I’m doing so with a bunch of suitcases, padded bags and backpacks. So I decided to step it up a notch and get some nice cases to keep my things safe, in one place, and to be honest; to make me look less like Kevin Costner on his rig in Waterworld (1995).
I did what everybody does and started looking at hardcases online. I decided that a few padded Pelican-cases would be nice. And then I came to my senses and realized that I’d rather save the $300 for more (you’ve guessed it!) stuff. So here’s what I came up with:
How to make your own fitted hardcase to keep your gear safe while looking fly.
1. Go shopping. I went to a second-hand store and found a really nice set of three aluminum cases in different sizes. I got really lucky here but you could just as well grab a hard-shelled suitcase (BONUS: the wheels and handle make transporting everything easier). The ones I looked at cost about $8. Make a run to the hardware store and grab a can of sprayglue, a sheet of styrofoam and a razorblade knife. Finally you’ll need a sleepingpad and some cloth.
Set of three second hand aluminum cases ($15) – Sprayglue ($7) – Styrofoam ($2) – Sleeping pad ($6) – Razorblade knife ($1) & an old black T-shirt.
2. Cut out a few pieces from the sleepingpad to fit your case. If you’re using a suitcase, you might want to start with some styrofoam in the bottom the gain some hight quicker (suitcases are usually quite deep but it all depends on what you’re planning to store in your case.) After this: trace around your objects with a marker.
For my smaller gear (audio-stuff and ND-filters + fieldmonitor) I just used three layers from the sleepingpad, for my shoulder-rig I went with styrofoam. The nice things about working with layers is that you can customize the shapes to really fit your stuff. It takes some planning since you want your gear to lock in and stay put between lid and bottom.
3. Start cutting. You can use your first cutout as a stencil for the upcoming layers. Remember to customize each layer; you might need to make each shape smaller as you go, it all depends on your objects and if they’re flat or rounded.
Don’t worry if your edges get a bit jagged and uneven. This will all be covered up with cloth later.
4. Before adding glue, make sure everything fits the way you want it too. It might be a good idea to check how much space you got when your lid closes. Remember, you need to fill the top of your case to lock everything in. I made my bottom pretty deep so I didn’t really need the space in the lid. To save time and effort, I filled the lid with styrofoam.
If you’re doing a lot of work with styrofoam and you need it to look clean – get a special knife for cutting styrofoam. I wrapped everything in cloth so I just went with the razor and ended up with fake snow all over the place.
5. Use the same shapes as before when cutting the top layer from the sleepingpad. Just think twice before putting it on with glue. Think vertical flip, mirror, the up-side-down and make sure it all aligns. The next to steps cover the shoulder-rig case so if you’re in a rush, skip steps 6 and 7.
Sprayglue is very sticky so think twice before you put everything together. You don’t want to end up cutting new squares just because your brain wasn’t all there.
6. For big objects (which go deep), you might want to work with styrofoam entirely. I did this with my shoulder-rig and it saved me about ten layers of sleepingpad. It’s a bit more time-consuming to trace everything and you need to sculpt it a bit more, but just think of all that money you’re saving. And the fun you’re having creating something on your own.
Here i wished I had that special electrical heated styro-knife, but if you’re careful a razorblade-knife does the job as well. More snow.
7. Keep cutting, adjusting, fitting, cutting. There’s a lot of in and out of the case when working like this, but the end result is satisfying enough, so keep going.
8. Once you have all your pieces, made sure it all fits so that your gear is all snuggled up and locked in, sprayglue each layer together (build it up layer by layer in the case to make sure it all fits). After this, add another coat of glue and cover it with cloth. I used a T-shirt here but technically you could go out and get some furry material or go wild and cover it in, papier-mâché perhaps? I’m thinking of going wild with some vintage comics I’ve got, and if I decide to do so, I’ll post the result here later.
End result. Three aluminum cases. One for the rig, one for the fieldmonitor and my ND-filters, and one for mics and the Zoom-recorder. All for under $35.
Was this helpful? Hit me up if you’ve got some questions or ideas for improvement. And thanks for checking in.
This interview was made for the municipality of Helsingborg and their streetart festival “ArtstreetHBG”.
Jimmy Skize is a graffiti-veteran who fell in love with graffiti in when the documentary Style Wars came out. He’s been involved in the art form ever since. This means he was painting when I still walked around in nappies. The interview is in Swedish and sadly I never got around to subtitle it. I’ve got four more interviews like this coming up and three of them will be in English.
So how did I set this up?
- Canon 700D
- Canon compact video camera
- Redhead 800W Cinelight
- RØDE videomic pro
- Vintage construction-light
- DIY cameraslider
I had one camera on each side of my subject; one close up and one a bit further away. I positioned myself in the middle of these to make sure the subject wasn’t looking into any of the cameras. I used the construction-light behind my subject to separate him from the background a bit, and then I went for a Rembrandt-lighting with my 800w (45 degree angles from the subject X, Y, Z until the little triangle appears under the eye of the shaded half of the face).
I kept the interview kind of loose, like a conversation, but where I mainly nodded and smiled a lot instead of answering (since I cut my part of the chat out completely). I knew I was going to do these interviews, so during the festival I made sure I had some footage of each artist to edit into the interview. Also, I usually try to cut between cameras when I edit as my subject blinks. The closer camera is good to use for a bit of impact when it gets a bit more emotional or personal.
Since there would be a difference in picture quality using two different cameras, I planned to make the footage of the lesser camera black and white and add a vintage feel to it. That’s why I brought my old Super-8 camera to the studio and created a little intro for these interviews. It motivates the black and white, cropped, vintage footage a bit more. I used my slider and stabilized the footage with Premieres Warp Stabilizer and quite easily masked the lens where the text appears.
The Super-8 camera (a RICOH SUPER-8) was never used for anything else than looking fly in the intro and to justify the look of the Canon compact videocamera.
Finally I took some portraits with my DSLR before letting my subject go since I had everything set up. These photos where later used as cover images for the videos, and for the bio-page of each artist.
Each interview went on for 25 minutes and was edited down to about 4 minutes. The intro was used in every interview and all I had to do was to change the name in the end for each artist.
Coming up during next week are: Ilse Weisfelt, Tim Timmey, Levi Jacobs and Spidertag.