T is for Tokophobia

DSC_2154So here’s a short flick from the diseased minds of James Pearcey and Russ Would of Ne’er Do Well Films, the guys behind To My Mother and Father.

I swear I didn’t come up with the idea for this, however whenever James wants to abuse a foetus I’m the guy he comes to.  In fact this was quite an attractive project as it gave me the opportunity to not only make a small rubber puppet (pictured to the left) but also to work on some After Effects shots.

The foetus/embryo/whatever it is was sculpted in chavant oil clay and I then made a small plaster mold.  It was cast in TinSil from Mouldlife and painted with their silicon pigments.

The After Effects shots weren’t too demanding luckily – they wanted to start on an extreme close up of a pregnancy test and then pull back to a wide shot at the beginning of the film and then zoom back in at the end of the film.  The zoom in was initially going to be to a piece of thread but was later changed to a puddle of blood.

I motion tracked the pregnancy test and added a red solid onto the pregnancy test within After Effects.  I then used a virtual camera to zoom in and out.  The end shot was stationary so that was very simple zoom in, again with a 3D camera.

Halfway through it turned out we were going to be shooting on 16mm and Stephen Murphy (who also worked on To My Mother and Father) would be the DP which was exciting as it’s given the film a very professional look.  It also meant I got the opportunity to work with some .dpx files which are a series of still frames taken from a digital scan of the film print rather than simple DV.  This is something I’ve not worked with before so it was a good experience and After Effects handled everything perfectly which was great although file sizes can get abit humongous.

So here’s the film.  I should warn you it’s pretty strong stuff (Tokophobia is a fear of becoming pregnant), but bare in mind it’s designed to push your buttons and freak you out.  To give it some context, this has been entered into the ABC’s of Death film competition so you’re not going to get a rom com and please do give it a vote here.

The Wicked Mr Danior

I’ve just finished a small model of a steampunk dentist’s chair for a forthcoming steampunk film The Wicked Mr Danior.  The film’s about a mad dentist who is perhaps a little too enthusiastic about his craft.

This is just a piece of concept art basically with a view to building a full size one as and when the film actually happens.  The large protrusions on the back are clamps that spring forward and trap the occupant in the chair.

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The Asylum Steampunk Convention, Lincoln

Photo by Ivor Robinson
Photo by Ivor Robinson

So I spent the weekend in Lincoln for the Weekend at The Asylum which is the UK’s largest Steampunk Convention.  The event takes place in and around Lincoln castle which is a fantastic venue.  The event itself takes it’s name from the victorian prison which is housed in the grounds of the castle.

We’d not been before but I had a great time – there are some amazing costumes out there, some of which are pictured in the Flickr gallery below.  Steampunk’s great because it has something for everyone, so while alot of people are into the costumes and dress (which I’m not so much) there are also some crazy gadgets for prop makers such as myself and well as a decent smattering of filmmakers and musicians in there.

I’ve already spoken to someone about doing some effects for a web series and there’s also been some chatter about doing a Steampunks vs Zombies short which sounds fun!  I offered to do some effects if it happens.

299696_10150278095941237_622316236_8198126_1626164104_nThe gauntlet went down well and I had loads of people coming up and asking about it and taking pics which was nice.  It does mean I’ll have to come up with new gadgets for next year.  I have an idea knocking about for a steampunk predator shoulder cannon.  Might be interesting.  I’m also going to be playing bass for my brother so we can do some gigs.  We’ll have to see if they’ll let us play at next years event.

I also got interviewed by a few people, one who was making a documentary on the Asylum and again by The Geek Show so it’ll be interesting to hear how that has come out.

The event itself was a mixture of costume competitions, book launches, races (!), dances and gigs.  I rather enjoyed The Men that will not be Blamed for Nothing, a steampunk band,  Pocketwatch,  a banjo/guitar/cello threepiece and Thomas Truax a solo performer who used his own crazy contraptions to create music which was pretty spectacular.

Here’s a Flickr gallery.

Summoning the Kraken

Just returned from Windemere where, other than holidaying, I was filming some establishing shots for the Beast of the Air video I’m working on (and very close to finishing).

Here’s a still of the view, which was quite pleasant.  I’ve used some video of this scene for the opening shot.

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I know what you’re thinking – what a nice view, but what it really needs is a giant steampunk tower in the background.  Well look no further, here’s the model I’m currently working on which will finally grace the forested hill on the left.

The idea is that the tower has been ‘steampunked’ itself and so it’s broken areas have been clad in brass panelling.  The airship will be docked at the platform that sticks out the side.

The chorus of the songs says that ‘the beast of the air wails a sing, wails a song to keep us dreaming’, so I figured that a sky kraken hunter might attract the beast by playing it’s song back at it, to summon it from the heavens, hence the rather large megaphone attached to the top.  This’ll be attached to some rather large steam engines I think to generate enough power to summon the kraken!

Or something.

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Tentaclé

I’ve been working on the Beast of the Air vid.  Feels like there’s tons to do but I’ve actually done quite a few shots now.  One thing I need to do is film some more  tentacle elements.  I’ve been making do with a few shots that we filmed a while back however I’ve started using the puppet tool in After Effects to give them some different movement. It basically lets you put in ‘pins’ to various points of a piece of video to a still and then puppeteer it by keyframing those points.  Turns out you can actually do some pretty cool stuff with it so I may not need to film so much after all!

I’m also beginning to turn my attention to the next section which will involve the airship from my previous video Spinning the Compass.  Although we used it in that video I wasn’t really happy with the shots I got for it, mostly because I didn’t have After Effects then so didn’t have access to any motion tracking or even a decent colour key tool.

I’ve been resisting the urge to stick any video on youtube just yet but can’t resist sharing a frame grab of Tom dodging tentacles ;0)

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Beast of the Air shoot

So I was off to Hainault forest on saturday to shoot the first section of my new video for my brother’s song Beast of the Air.  In this section Tom explores the forest and is stalked by a sky kraken which creeps about behind him before attacking en force.  I’d initially intended to simply have one small flying kraken which we would initially see only it’s tentacles, however that’s now morphed into a giant set of tentacles emerging from the ground and attacking as well!

Things went pretty well – the ground was pretty wet but at least the rain held off.  I was hoping for sunshine but it was fairly overcast however I’m beginning to think that’s actually the best way to have it.  Having a washed out white sky make it much easier to key it out and add something abit more interesting in (in this case black smoke, tentacles, and an eerie green sun).

Turns out pretty much every shot we did has turned into an FX shot.  I hadn’t intended to do it that way but I’ve found myself tweaking pretty much everything, either adding in tentacles or a more dramatic sky.

Here’s Tom in costume with one of our tracking dots.  I screwed up slightly as I used the stand for most shots and that’s let to a fair bit of tricky rig removal.  I should’ve just used a few tennis balls stuck on the floor.  I’ve also found that Mocha (a motion tracking programme that comes with after effects) is so good at tracking that you don’t really need to use tracking dots at all!  Still, lesson learnt.

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So Tom’s album is now out.  We put together an interview where-in Tom offers rubbish excuses as to why he’s made a new album, convincing no-one. You can listen to Beast of the Air as well as the rest of the album here .