Archive for November, 2010

Making Get Well Soon – part 12.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by michaelwoodman

During mid-July, Ian arranged to meet again with Rory and Robin Freeman, (Ian’s band-mate in Hag). Robin is a chef – he supplied a number of ‘delicacies’ which were perfect for creating flash cuts of an unspecified surgical nightmare. I had plans to attend and make an ‘offal documentary’, but I thought better of it on the morning of the shoot. Hot lights + calf brains + dragon stout hangover = a short movie about vomit.

For those who are unhealthily interested, here’s some photos from the day.

We've run out of pancetta. This will have to do.

We've run out of pancetta. This will have to do.

Ian finished another cut; it had gotten longer due to all the extra meat. Previous cuts had been stark and uneasy, but now the film opened with a fair amount of gore. We spent a little time trying to get the balance right – finally settling on quick cuts here and there. Where there were longer shots, these were now close-ups on pulsing flesh, patterns and textures – perhaps a bit more abstract, and strangely beautiful.

This ‘final’ 12 minute cut was especially interesting when contrasted with our original mood reel; its atmosphere had certainly been influential.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

At this point, ‘The Bath’ became ‘Get Well Soon‘. We’d been fishing around for a title for ages. I was initially keen on a very metaphorical title; something that might prompt the viewer to research what we were alluding to, and thus gain fresh insight into the core meaning of the film. This was, of course, a terrible idea.

Most of the ideas I came up with at first would have alienated any potential audience. However, I liked ‘Get Well Soon’ because it was a familiar phrase, but also one that I hoped became unfamiliar in the context of the film. Not just a journey through physical sickness, but also the ‘wellness’ associated with mental health and emotionally unhealthy perceptions of reality. This was somehow appropriate, because by end August, I had developed my own unhealthy perception of reality. This was my first experience of working collaboratively on a film – I was probably a bit of a nightmare to be around by this point, but it was a good learning experience.

I’d driven myself totally spare. I was obsessed with my perceived mis-placement of a couple of shots in the supposedly locked ‘final cut’. In Ian’s dry terms, I ‘threatened him with violence’  if he wouldn’t make the changes which I felt were essential. It’s closer to the truth to say I threatened him with whining that must have made him feel violent. The point is that the changes to the cut weren’t a big deal to Ian, but I had worked myself into a frenzy over stuff that I’d either misunderstood or didn’t matter. It’s easy to do. Communicate consistently and openly. Stop to take pleasure in what you’ve achieved rather than turning it into an obsession. It is a hugely collaborative process, and that is practically always a positive thing.

Towards the end of September we’d settled on a trailer. Maybe it made ‘Get Well Soon‘ look like much more of a splatter movie than it actually is, but it was important for grabbing people’s attention. The sound design for the trailer was also by Ian’s friend Robin Freeman.  At the same time, Ian and Rory got together to test grade some shots – they were very happy with the results. Ian’s colleague Simon Bronson made us some wonky, distorted titles.

The next big step was getting the music done. We sent the locked picture through to Rael Jones, and pretty soon he came back with a first pass…

Thumpermonkey Lives! Piano-metal cover gig…

Posted in MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2010 by michaelwoodman

Thumpermonkey Lives! recently did a series of piano / triangle reductions of metal tracks for the Unicorn’s ‘British Wood’ night. All of them are shambolic, but quite funny.

Our Mastodon cover (with Kate Bush interlude) comes out as a clear winner.

For anybody unfamiliar with the original versions, we covered the following songs: Prison Song (System of a Down), Blood and Thunder (Mastodon), and New Millenium Cyanide Christ (Meshuggah).

Here are all our versions, (big thanks to Crikeymiles for recording these on the night):

Making “Get Well Soon” – Part 11

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by michaelwoodman

By early June, Ian’s son was home. Things had gradually returned to some sense of normalcy, and Ian had begun working on a shorter cut of the 30 minute assembly. Another 10 minutes of footage were shed. At that early stage, a part of me honestly thought that it couldn’t get any shorter.

This cut included additional macro footage Rory had filmed; water droplets splashing from taps, dripping on to aspirin, running over rust and startling high-definition textures. In a sense, I wanted the film to be the bleakest music video in the world. I had no perspective on the pacing, no perspective on the necessity to whittle down all the beautiful images to only what was necessary. I was so in awe of the way the footage looked that I didn’t want Ian to remove a thing.

Unsurprisingly, Gregory from BRAG felt that the 20 minute version still looked like an ‘assembly’ rather than a ‘cut’, so between mid and late June, the film went through another 6 cuts. The running time gradually shrank each time, leaving us with a 14 minute version. Gregory also felt it might be useful to screen what we had in front of some industry professionals in order to get an outside perspective.

We also began thinking about how the sound would be treated. There was a problem with the radio mics that we’d used on the first weekend of filming, as well as several shots where things happened in the distance. Gregory advised that we would want to consider a half/full day of ADR recording and a half day of Foley recording, (as well as some time back at Jack’s house recording silence so that any added noise could be placed in context).

There was also the matter of the trailer; it was difficult to know how to pitch the tone of this. The 14 minute version was neither quite a horror, or a thriller, or a sad love story, but a combination of all three. How could you pitch that tone in a 30 second trailer, and still make it digestible?

Around this time, Rory referred back to an earlier piece of film Ian had worked on called ‘Inside Out God’; this featured a rather abstract use of meat, (for want of a better description).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This clip had stayed with Rory, and he was keen to work on something similar to make ‘Get Well Soon’ a bit more nightmarish. So – Ian and Rory arranged to meet Ian’s friend and band-mate in Hag – a chef by trade, who could get his hands on some brains and lungs…

419 (Animated Music Video)

Posted in MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2010 by michaelwoodman

Around the time Thumpermonkey Lives! was recording We Break Our Bread Beneath Her Holy Fire, I was keen to get videos created for some of the tracks. It dawned on me that this might be a good opportunity to learn how to use Adobe After Effects. Cost was a factor, but I wanted to try to use the ‘no-budget’ constraint to generate some unusual ideas.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I’d already spent a few days learning how to use the basic functions of Adobe Premiere Pro by cutting a video for Whateley. The results, while amusing, were pretty lamentable. I ran out of enthusiasm half way through because the DV footage my ancient camera captured was pretty dire. I knew I’d have to approach this project somewhat differently, but I also didn’t want to spend loads of money on a new camera. I settled on the idea of constructing the whole thing out of photographs and found images.

I’d been loaned some ‘Learn After Effects’ DVDs, but I found that the online resources at Videocopilot were much more engaging and immediate. One drawback is that to anybody who has spent more than ten seconds on that site, it’s clear that a lot of the ‘plot’ points of my video (such as they are), are based on the technical exercises appearing therein. Having said this, it was great fun to make. Having a project to work on was helpful in creating mental links between the applications of different techniques,(rather than just working through the tutorials in a vacuum).

After working through Videocopilot’s basic tutorials, I moved on to some of the more specific exercises, in particular, the use of virtual cameras to make fake 3D spaces from still photographs.

A lot of the video was constructed by cutting out different levels of perspective from photographs, and then moving a ‘camera’ POV though these virtual dioramas. What is nice about this effect is that you can render in fake motion blur and depth of field. The distance that the ‘camera’ is from the layers of cut out perspective in 3D space can be utilised to achieve fake camera focus effects, all controlled by animated key-frames, (i.e. John Riley walking towards JSK Food and Wine at 3.48).

I storyboarded the whole thing in crayon, (this is practically true), and then gathered the photo resources I’d need. As well as using some photos I’d shot in Bosnia, Croatia and Yosemite National Park, many were shot in the equally exotic location of Mike Hutchinson’s house while he was on holiday. I took great delight in sneaking round his bedroom, leaving cans of Lech on his carpet, and arranging half eaten rustler burgers on his furniture. Thanks Mike!

I also found a lot of large usable images online; bits of the Codex Borbonicus for the intro, the spinning Mexica calendar wheel, a sinister looking sepulchre or two, and a gigantic rubber chicken which became a ritual altar. Finally, I spent a while dressing my friends up as monks, goblins, policemen etc, and taking photographs of them in compromising positions.

I used the storyboard to build about 100 background ‘scenes’, (each saved as an individual After Effects project), and then began animating the camera movement. I exported these ‘sets’ and loaded them into Premiere Pro in order to create the majority of a cut based purely on the environments. After checking these for pace and continuity, I started work on the characters and animated effects.

This meant spending a lot of time cutting out photos of my friends using masks in After Effects, and then applying deliberately rudimentary animation techniques. This was pretty much the digital equivalent of cutting arms and legs off of static photos, and then affixing them again with butterfly clips.

I knew from the start I wanted some video footage shot against a green-screen as well, and decided to build one in my bedroom. I thought the results would be appalling, and so was pleasantly surprised at how things turned out. After a bit of experimentation, I got the best results from £20 worth of green high-saturation cloth (from Ebay), a couple of halogen spots from Halfords, and a very understanding girlfriend who didn’t mind me turning our bedroom into an apple green Bedouin tent.

I reduced the captured footage in size so it looked halfway decent on a 16:9 SD template. Turning Rael into a series of tiny pixies informed the narrative as well. It seemed to make sense, (in my own fractured reality at least), to cast Rael as a manifestation of the Centzon Totochin; ‘400 rabbits’ the god of intoxication in Mexica mythology.

The Videocopilot lesson on motion tracking was helpful in creating the demon transformation effect. This effect is seen at 4.57 and also briefly be seen on my face at 4.21.

That tutorial covered the mapping of physical distortions and animated changes in hue to an ‘anchor’ on 2D moving footage, (in this case the eyes of a face). Normally this process is used to stabilise shaky footage, but this tutorial explains how you can get the coordinate data that the motion tracking process generates, negate the stabilitsation of the footage, and instead use it to ‘glue’ an effect on to the features of a face as it moves about the screen. It felt a bit cheap using this effect, because the Internet was already awash with clips by people who have used the tutorial to mutate various members of their families – but it made me laugh, so I included it anyway.

Another tutorial deals with particle systems – CG ‘objects’ that can be programmed to react to gravity and wind, (and take on the physical properties of  liquid, snow, dirt, leaves, etc). After Rael’s manifestation in the flat at 5.01, there’s a swirling energy field which is directly based on this videocopilot tutorial. This ‘energy vortex’ is made up of numerous different particle system elements, evolving 3D space.

I used elements of this for the subsequent appearances of the ‘Little Raels’ (from 5.08). Adding ‘dirt’ swirling around was a nice way of generating depth and space out of flat images.

Legacy of Darkness

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 2, 2010 by michaelwoodman

Too Many Funerals – Legacy of Darkness

Preview the album on itunes here, (my favourite one is Forsaken).

Legacy of Darkness

I had enormous fun adding extra guitars to this series of ‘horror trailer’ production tracks which Gresby Nash, (one of the lead actors in Get Well Soon), wrote for West One Music.

The brief was to make it sound like ‘Disturbed’ with anthemic string parts, or like the ‘Queen of the Damned‘ soundtrack.

As you can imagine, Gresby and I spent most of the recording session giggling like children.


Thumpermonkey Lives!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 by michaelwoodman


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Thumpermonkey Lives!

I have been the vocalist / guitarist in the heavy art-rock band,Thumpermonkey Lives! for 9 years. There are some great reviews of the latest album at Organ Magazine and Unpeeled, (for review links that have lapsed, full text appears here).

“…ideas way beyond their station: huge depth, big sound, immaculate arrangements, and a big, big voice.  It’s a lot of things, and greater than the sum of its parts: unashamed proper prog, lifted, by an avant sensibility, out of cheesy traps, yet swapping the harsher elements of experimental and avant rock for something more melodic, for refined guitars and real singing.”

Listen to / buy the new album here:

Earlier music is released through Tooting Bizarre: a netlabel / promotions coalition of musicians who play odd music in the south london area. The current album is released through Genin Records.

Here’s a selection of live video clips, and the music video I made for our song 419.

Other Music

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 2, 2010 by michaelwoodman