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Cinesite Beans: The Making Of

Following an overwhelming number of views for Cinesite's spoof baked beans ad – now over 2.3m in only five days – the company has now released a making of film.

The short, written and directed by Alvise Avati, follows a space monster launching a devastating attack on a group of astronauts, as they plant a territorial flag on the moon, resulting in the irresistibly immature ending.

“We are passionate about animation,” says Eamonn Butler, Producer of Beans and Animation Director at Cinesite. “So we have been overwhelmed by the positive response from clients, ad agencies, visual effects artists, the press and the general public.  Their support has been very inspiring to everyone who worked on it.”

Here is the making of:

Posted 20 December 2013 by Jake Bickerton

First 4K footage from Blackmagic Production Camera

A bit more Blackmagic news for you...If you fancy having a look at what the delayed Blackmagic Production Camera 4K is capable of shooting, some full-res ProRes clips are now available to download, courtesy of CEO Grant Petty. The camera, which was originally going to be available by now, has been delayed while the company is "working hard on redesigning part of the camera due to differences in the production sensors to what we experienced in the early camera builds, however that work is completed now and we are in final testing."

So, while in final testing, Petty took the liberty of shooting some footage himself and he's now made this available to download - the link is below.

"The Blackmagic Production Camera 4K is very different to our other cameras, but I personally think it's quite filmy in its look, even though it's not really a digital film camera but more of a general production camera," says Petty. However, he adds: "This camera is not a low light camera – I have included some clips at night so you can see that."

It's a fair point, as the low light clips are very grainy and not a patch on the stunning looking images he's captured in the daytime outdoors. Grant explains he "spent a few weeks wandering around with the camera taking some different types of shots. One shot of the jetty has some clipping in the sky to see the affect of clipping. All the shots are ProRes as I did not shoot RAW. I did notice that later when the guys did some more tests on the camera and lens that it was not shimmed correctly so I think the results could be better than this. Some of the shots have different shutter angles and I used standard still camera lenses."

"I know you might want to colour grade these shots so I allowed some clips to be longer at up to 10 seconds for some of them. I think when working in higher resolution, being able to see the movement in the distance in these shots is quite interesting. I will be excited to see if anyone colour grades these shots up nice because I am a terrible colourist," admits Petty.

The download is available here. It's a whopping 10GB file though, so be prepared for a bit of a wait before you can get your hands on the clips.

Posted 19 December 2013 by Jake Bickerton

Shane Meadows on Blackmagic's cameras

Shane Meadows directed the latest pop promo for Jake Bugg on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. It’s a faux-comedy, Benny Hill style film for the track Slumville Sunrise. Obviously wanting to capitalise on the Blackmagic link, Blackmagic did an email Q&A with Shane Meadows and asked if I wanted to do anything with it.

Whilst I wouldn’t usually post something where the motivation for the interview is to market a company or product, the interview with Meadows is interesting, informative for anyone considering using Blackmagic cameras, and well worth a read. Here are the highlights:

What led to you directing this video? How do you and Jake know each other? I first met Jake at a Stone Roses gig in London, he was supporting them and I’d heard his music and loved it. Following that I saw him a few times in Nottingham and knew we had to collaborate on something.
How did the concept of the video come about? Having spoken to Jake, I knew he was interested in doing a bit of acting so I had that in my mind. The video idea itself came from images brought up listening to the song; it’s really catchy and has a great rhythm, so it came together through that. Until I had a story and shape for the video I wanted, I didn’t run it past Jake. Luckily when he heard the idea he really liked it. The Slumville Sunrise lyrics and meanings helped shape the locations, costume, feel and effects of the video.
Which scenes were shot with the Cinema Camera and which were with the Pocket?
The Cinema Camera was used as the main camera with the two pocket cameras picking out details or different angles, to bring something a little different with the images they capture. The pocket was the one we could literally throw anywhere and we even sellotaped it to a motorised wheelchair. We were often restricted by small spaces and lots of action, so the pockets came in mega handy, although we did need some very wide glass to get round the small sensor size. The 16-mm sensors gave a documentary look to the project, which matched Jake’s costume and the low-key locations, furthering the organic feeling of the video as a whole. At the same time the pocket cameras were of a quality that could stand up to the micro four-thirds sensor of the Cinema Camera.
Why did you choose these cameras? They’re all small, light, very accessible to users – it meant we could be very quick and ad hoc during the shoot, which is great when the time scale is so tight. This also complemented the fun nature of the shoot as we could chop and change, or grab anything interesting as we went along without worrying about long setups. We shot a lot of the backgrounds separately from the main body of the shoot. We did a lot of it just by shooting the two Pocket cameras and Cinema Camera out of the windows of a car. The sensitivity and latitude of the cameras allowed us to largely shoot with only incidental lighting, or daylight, making them incredibly versatile on location. In the studio, the camera can of course be treated as any professional camera and adapted to the various environments. The cameras have great adaptability, latitude and quality - at times too good for this video so we actually pulled down some of the quality of the images to give to look we wanted.

Posted 19 December 2013 by Jake Bickerton

Cinesite spoof ad becomes huge viral hit

A 30-second fake commercial for baked beans, made by vfx house Cinesite, which is probably the most finely polished take on the age-old fart gag you're ever likely to see, has become a viral hit, receiving over half a million views in less than a week.

The short, which takes the familiar footage of the moon landing, throws in a huge scary space monster and the aforementioned fart gag, has been in development for months as a pet project to show Cinesite's production credentials on its showreel.

"Six or seven people did the bulk of the work and additional artists drifted in and out when they had the time," says Eamonn Butler, animation director. "It's been seven months in development. We wanted it to be very creative, and develop a real creative culture internally. We're going to be doing a similar thing ever year from now on."

"It's all cg, using heavy photographic references of astronauts. The background is the real moon, while the foreground is a cg version of the moon. It has the fixed depth of field you see on moon footage," he adds.

"Beans is a short, cheeky film with an unexpected ending. Written and directed by animator Alvise Avati, it was completed by the London-based team at Cinesite, who were behind the vfx on World War Z, Skyfall, Iron Man 3 and many other major productions. Creating our own animated short has given us a chance to show off Cinesite’s creature skills and the talents of our creative team, who also had a great deal of fun making it," says the company.

The cinematic sound on the spot was created by Molinare, which also graded the fake commercial.

The full Cinesite credit list is as follows:

Written and Directed
Alvise Avati

Eamonn Butler

VFX Supervisor
Richard Clarke

Art Direction
Jean-David Solon

Concept Art
Andrea de Martis

Modelling and Rigging
Grahame Curtis
Royston Willcocks
Richard Boyle

Alvise Avati
Eamonn Butler
Peter Clayton
Tom O'Flaherty
Adam Bailey

Texture Artists

Nicolette Newman
Gary Newman

FX Animation
Andreas Vrhovsek
Luke Wilde

Lighting and Compositing
Zave Jackson
Nikos Gatos
Jonathan Vuillemin
Dan Harrod
Joel Bodin

William Marshall-Wilkinson
Christopher Learmonth

Posted 18 December 2013 by Jake Bickerton

Another great Christmas video - this time from Rushes

Another great Christmas video, this time from Rushes, which follows a deer as it leaves the safety of its field for a trip into London.

Once in the Smoke, it roams the streets before ending up in Soho, where, after a visit to the pub, the deer leaves, now donning a red nose, and eventually stumbles into the sanctuary of Rushes.

It's a really well executed piece of work, which in all honestly is worthy of far more than a throwaway Christmas video. Check it out below.

Director: Martin Goodwin & Andy Nicholas
Senior Executive Producer: Norra Abdul Rahim
CG: Craig Travis, Chris Hutchison, Andy Hargreaves, Liam Hoflay, David Drese
Nuke: Noel Harmes, Eleanor Rogers & Sarah Breakwell
Flame: Martin Goodwin, Richie White, Glenn Cone, Andy Barnard
Colourist: Simone Grattarola

Merry Christmas From Rushes from Rushes on Vimeo.

Posted 17 December 2013 by Jake Bickerton

Clever Christmas Rube Goldberg video

I'm not a huge fan of corporate Christmas videos - who is? - but definitely make an exception for this one. DMI Productions spent 10 days creating a fantastic Rube Goldberg machine using vintage and retro toys to "spread a little festive cheer this Christmas." It worked.

The filming of DMI's Christmas video, where the machine was finally given its ultimate test of a complete run through, was recorded over "one very long night". DMI insists it "really is done in one take, with a cast of two and a crew of seven." It does admit there were an "awful lot of takes" but says there were four successful complete run throughts in the end.

Ironically, Mousetrap was the most unreliable of all the toys taking part in the great experiment.

Amazing machine made with retro toys from DMI Productions on Vimeo.

Posted 12 December 2013 by Jake Bickerton

How to set up a cost effective post house

Coffee and TV’s co-founder Derek Moore recently got in touch to explain the thinking behind the setting up of his new boutique vfx-focused post house. "The big traditional post model isn’t working. Kit, rent and staff are expensive, and clients don’t have the budgets to pay for it all," he says. Here he details how his new type of post house, built around inexpensive kit, low overheads and partnerships, is the way forward.

While an employee of a very big post house, I spent a good deal of time thinking about how to strip out the overheads of a business to just leave the talent, without compromising the creativity for some time. Like all staff, you think you can do it better yourself.

Smoke on the Mac
Around the time I was thinking about how to create such a business, a press release came out the blue from Autodesk, where they announced a new version of Smoke for the Mac that had the best bits of Smoke and Flame, and all for £3k, which is £117k cheaper than a traditional suite.

At which point I phoned Truss [co-founder John Trussler] and said, ‘You know all that stuff we were talking about – being able to afford to do it on our own? Well, this is our ticket to being able to do that.’ We were both Smoke operators who had moved over to Flame and there aren’t many people in town that can do both.

Low overheads
At this point Phil [co-founder Phil Hurrell] also becomes available. He’s the best cg guy I’ve ever worked with, so you kind of go, right, if we can add cg to our Smoke/Flame offering we can do just about any type of job. Maybe we don’t need an office and we can all just work from home remotely and collaborate on the internet and try and build some sort of virtual company which might work around that with no overheads on cheap but good kit.

But then we started talking to Chris [co-founder Chris Chard] about how we were going to do this and was he interested. He’s the best producer I’ve ever worked with and he also saw the writing on the wall for the days of the big post houses and got quite excited about what we could do.

When we got a decent producer on board, that gave us a sense of scale which requires a presence in Soho and a meeting room and a presentation suite and that kind of thing. So, that’s how we kind of structured the size of the company.

Getting up and running
And then it was really a case of testing the Smoke and Flame stuff worked as it was supposed to do. It does, and, in fact, there were a lot of complaints from existing Flame users at the time about why Smoke on the Mac is two to three times faster than their £120k box. Knowing what we know, I wouldn't touch a Flame at the current price; Smoke on the Mac is better, faster and cheaper.

We added a 12TB server on a Thunderbolt cable with an iMac connected to it, and that was pretty much it, we were ready to go.

And then it’s all about trying to phone everyone up and tell them what we’re doing and building things up slowly. It was exciting. I thought when we started this we could probably limp along on Smoke on the Mac for a few months – get in some money and do some jobs – we didn’t expect to be doing high-end difficult stuff; just the run of the mill Smoke jobs.

Becoming established
Now we’re in a position such that April 2014 to April 2015 should be nicely profitable. We’ve done our cap-ex, now it would be good to have 12 months of solid earnings so we have money in the bank. When the lease is up on our current office, we can then take a view on how big we can or should go and whether we need to raise some more money.

Although the internal structure of the company changes frequently, I don’t want the size we are to change very much. I want to know all of our clients myself to offer that personal service, otherwise we just become another big post house and there’s just no point in that because we know that doesn’t work well any more.

So we’re sort of limited by our physical footprint but that’s a good thing because it stops us from messing it up.

A virtual footprint
The next year will be about how we can build up an even bigger virtual footprint than we currently have, although we’re already as far reaching as Nepal, where we have a rotoscoping team working on a big job at the moment. The fact we can offer services through outsourcing to other companies allows us to offer the kind of scale the big guys have, but without the overheads.

We now plan to build on that sort of model and extend our teams of decent Flame and Smoke ops virtually – we know the best guys in town and they now have the kit themselves, they can work remotely from home, feed stuff in and come in as and when they need to.

We can then just build a kind of network of people we can call upon so our clients get specifically the best talent for their particular part of the job, rather than just an employee who happens to be free that day.

PICTURE: Final Fantasy XIV promo, vfx by Coffee and TV

Posted 10 December 2013 by Jake Bickerton
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