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I took a photograph yesterday.

I took a photograph yesterday.

I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately.

Water Into Wine - Bruce Cockburn

Goodness me that wall is green.

Domestic anarchy.
I greatly disliked the ‘Fuck Tony Abbott’ t-shirt campaign so I decided to protest the peaceful (and adorable) way.

Domestic anarchy.

I greatly disliked the ‘Fuck Tony Abbott’ t-shirt campaign so I decided to protest the peaceful (and adorable) way.

Fences - Kaki King (cover)

Clones and guitar and ridiculous capos. I’d love your ears for three minutes.


Lost in Translation

(Source: mashamorevna)

The Art Of Tea - a visual typographic doodle

I made this whilst on holiday in Tasmania on a bored, sunny Thursday afternoon. I’d been enchanted by the wooden benches in the kitchen of this house for our whole visit, and wanted to feature them in a film somehow. Additionally, I’d recently found my grandfather’s old 55mm Nikon macro lens and wanted to see how far I could push it on my little dSLR. This is the result of that experiment.



Pre-Production and Shooting

It started off with the idea of a simple story. I’m frankly rather bored of art films. I’ve made several myself, you know the type: landscape shots to slow music, maybe people skating or walking around. Sunsets. Indie grade. I had a need of doing something that wasn’t purely aesthetic. There was a need for a plot, no matter how simple.

It came as a eureka moment, a being struck with a sudden flash of an idea as I glanced across at our teapot (the one featured in the film). The whole film appeared in my mind and I spent the morning storyboarding and the afternoon shooting. It really was that quick, more of a quick sketch of a film than something planned and thought out.


As many projects do, it started with notes and sketches. Little scribbles putting the process of making a cup of tea into order, numbering the steps and penning ways of representing them visually. I started off with a simple list, every step involved in a cup of tea, from ingredients to the most basic of steps. Whilst there was planning from the beginning for there to be instructional text in the video, I wanted it to be incredibly simplistic: single words, mostly verbs, providing a textual compliment to the process on screen, as well as taking the shots that had a less clear intention and explaining what was occuring.

I would have listened to the audio track ‘Le Cygne’ a good dozen times throughout the morning, figuring out the pacing. The film had to be driven by the music, and many of the edits and shifts in imagery are driven by the rises and falls of the orchestra. Shooting took approximately 90 minutes, including the time it took to brew several cups of tea in preparation for each shot. The overhead ‘pour’ shot (#22) took 7 tries alone, including starting off with a new cup of tea each time.

I really hadn’t quite anticipated just how much tea I would use in the filming of this short, as it amounted to being a total of 12 pots, or 27 cups of tea.



A typical window from my After Effects process.

While shooting this piece was a breeze, the post work was not.

It was likely from the outset that almost every shot would have some form of visual effects, and that proved true with only 6 out of the 24 not having some form of effect. I use an Adobe CS5.5 workflow, including Premiere and After Effects, and the dynamic link feature between them. I pushed everything into a 24p timeline and edited well into the black of night, now fuelled by steady doses of coffee. By mid morning the next day, I had a slick edit with rough text slapped on top, denoting shots and effects-to-be.

Some examples of hand-drawn ideas.

After exporting each shot into After Effects, I proceeded to start playing around with ways of presenting the text. Initially I wanted it to have a hand-sketched nature to it, and tried scanning in a series of text and diagrams to place directly into the film. As shown in the image above, I played with writing directly on the images at first, with few results, but it wasn’t really an idea I had much faith in.

From very early on in the process I had had my eye on the font ‘Futura’, and was highly interested in that being the only font used. Still wanting to explore hand-drawn avenues, I printed out words in the font and traced them, before rescanning those and trying to implement them directly onto the images. This method found quite a rustic charm, but made the piece feel a little too homespun, and so I took that as a sign to ditch this road and start working more digitally.


The natural progression then was to move into the digital realm. I was still interested in a hand-made, almost cutout style of writing text, and so experimented with that. As a part of that, I experimented with having the letters suspended by strings, possibly even moving in a breeze, or dropping into place with realistic gravity. I played with a series of ideas that revolved around cut out cardboard or paper, a couple of which are shown above, but I always came back to that first frame, with that simple white text superimposed on the image.

Ditching the strings idea, I started playing with the concept of that plain, crisp text being involved in the physical space of the film. Playing with the ideas of depth of field, that is, artificially blurring parts of the digital image in accordance with the plane of focus in the original shots. Exploring concepts of slight grain, out of focus edges and text that feels natural within the filmed space, I settled upon this as the look of the film. Crisp and professional, but within the real world, as if at any point I could have reached out whilst filming and scooped up the letters.


Most of the text and graphics were designed in Photoshop, as layers above video stills, and then imported into After Effects as comps. This allowed complete creative control over text and graphics layers, which would provide invaluable for motion tracking, depth of field and animation of the assets. Some of the assets that weren’t created in Photoshop included the ‘pie chart’ above the sweetened cup of tea (#20), and all of the roto or tracking work.

There was also a lot of experimentation with After Effects’ limited 3D ability to project shadows onto the surfaces. I knew from the get-go that the digital elements in frame wouldn’t have any realism if they didn’t act like objects in the real world, ie: casting shadows, having weight and blur, and being not quite perfect. The shadows took a lot of experimentation, as did the artificial depth of field (shots #5 and #20 in particular). It really was a case of judging by eye, and if it didn’t look right, trying something new until it did. As I like to call it, accidental physics.

As you can see in the video above, I employed several different techniques in completing the effects. As mentioned above, this technique of ‘accidental physics’ really comes into play. Trying to instill real-world physical values in these little graphics and digital pieces of text and graphics took a lot of experimentation.


After about a week and a half, once all the effects were completed, I exported every single one in Quicktime lossless resolution. These were then re-imported into Premiere and a new timeline was created for them. If space were an issue, I would have been able to simply use the old timeline and the dynamic link feature, but the render times would make the next step, grading, far slower.

At this point in time I graded solely with Red Giant Software’s Colorista ii. I’m not a skilled gradist by any means, but luckily for this film I knew exactly what I wanted and had shot to assist this, so the grade was easy. By pushing a lot of yellow into the highlights, and just a smidge of orange into the mids I warmed up the tone from the wood of the counter to the whites in the china. Pushing the darks into a cyan/blue, but not so far as to fall into the ‘Orange/Cyan’ grading cliché. It was simply a matter of rendering it out and proofing the final from that point.



There are two things I don’t often do:

  1. Reblog things
  2. Enjoy instruments that have been painted/decorated.

Today is a day where I do both of those.

(via incipient)

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