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Posted on 9:15am Thursday 7th Mar 2013
How commerce effects art and re-exploring the analogue world as a positive influence upon the digital
I'm a self-labelled 'creative' who earns a living predominantly in the corporate and TV worlds. Has it ever occurred to me that I've 'sold out' or that my artistic vision is compromised? No, to be honest or I wouldn't have put myself into the position I'm in as Director of TV Commercials and corporate video company. There are easier ways to earn from our commercial system. Recently, however, I've been examining how I approach work both creatively and more relevantly technically.
My good friend and photographer Toby Deveson (http://www.tobydeveson.com/) recently pointed out this article about 'staying on the bus',(http://t.co/ZMjcP25nVX) keeping in the same direction if you want to get there. This led me to re-examine media I was working in when I first started out, to see how far I'd come, or deviated.
These days, laptop editing systems, FCP, Premier pro etc, are relatively easy for the novice to come by. When I was starting out I couldn't afford a steenbeck (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steenbeck for those who don't know), and so would practice editing by pausing and restarting two VHS players. Although never the most accurate process technically, it led me to really focus on what shots were required in the first place as well as producing some interesting edit points by 'mistake' which I could then learn from.
I also used to take a lot of 'print' photography on an old 35mm SLR. Not being able to see the results until they were printed, often weeks later, was not only exciting, it taught how you had to get the technical stuff right at the time of shooting. You couldn't just check back what you'd shot, re-adjust for exposure for example and take a hundred more pictures to be safe. That's the other thing, 35mm was either in rolls of 24 or 36 exposures. I also loved the surprises you might get when printing as well. The contrast was often extreme, especially in natural light, when these days I'm often shooting video for a 'flat look', but more of that later.
Thinking about this led me to dig out my old SLR. It's not pretty, an old Pentax thing, that needed an hour of cleaning after not having been used for over 8 years or so. But it did get me excited about shooting some film this weekend. I even managed to buy some good stock and posting the above led to a fair few comments and likes on Facebook, definitely sparking interest. I'll post the results, once developing and printing process has gone through.
Photography, though, has always been a hobby for me. I am first and foremost a video/moving image/film/tv director/shooter/artist – call it what you will. And I started to think about what the images my SLR might produce and looking at Toby's lovely photographs began wondering if I could use my Sony FS-100 video camera in the same way as an old school SLR.
I'd played around with picture profile settings a far bit before, following the likes of Philip Bloom in hunting for good settings for different lighting set-ups, or for getting the most out of the camera once the footage was imported into the post production work flow. Now, however I had a particular artistic image that I wanted to create. And not only image, I'm thinking of raising the shutter speed to make the video stutter more and give a whole 'photographic feel'. I used online crop factor conversion tables to work out I needed to set my lens at around 33mm if I wanted to give a look of a SLR 50mm lens. I played and played with the Picture Profile settings until I had something that looked right. Then I shot some test footage.
Then I imported it into FCP, played with the 3-way colour corrector and produced this image
Then I compared it to the original straight out of the camera shot that I had spent the time creating. I realised I liked the out of the camera look better and that what I had been doing was falling back on my corporate habits of trying to 'flatten' the image which was what this whole process was about avoiding. Let me know which you prefer.
I like the picture I've got now, but will continue to experiment. As the 'stay on the bus' article mentions it's important to find your own voice. However, doing corporate work isn't 'selling out' its using our skills to manipulate moving image to achieve what we want. Or what someone else wants. We use technical processes to provide that voice, whether it is our own or not. Creating a 'flat look' for the talking head of a company MD is voicing someone else's message but its an understanding of the variations within the creative process that enable us to be able to do it. We just shouldn't forget the old school artistic moments of expression that this medium opens us up to.
Posted on 11:19am Wednesday 25th Jul 2012
The imminent start of the Olympics has brought into sharp focus the issues surrounding copyright for many organisations. The Olympic ring symbol is the most recognised copyrighted image in the world, with a 93% global recognition factor. Companies around the world who are deemed to be using the words surrounding the Olympics and the image are receiving rather annoyed “cease and desist” letters with alarming ferocity.
For our part, we recently worked with Aecom, who provided the entire infrastructure for the London games, including Stadia, parks, transportation hubs and the legacy after the fun has ended. We were initially cautious about even mentioning the fact that our Aecom “Mega Projects” video even featured the Olympics, even when at least 80% of the videos we are finalising now talk about London and the future Rio 2016.
Copyright in general is a contentious issue for any and all corporate video clients. The use of copyrighted images is dangerous territory, which can be extremely expensive if not given due consideration. Understandably, many marketing managers and others who commission video don’t have the knowledge base to circumnavigate the issues, so getting a video production company that understands how careful you need to be is vital. You would be amazed how many don’t!
The IOC is notorious for being very tribal about their logos and imagery of course, so it’s sensible for the corporate video client to consider them to be a bench mark to concentrate on for their own copyright considerations. Every photo that is reproduced online is owned by someone and that someone has every right to protect their creative work. The only exceptions to this rule are photos that are offered by the copyright holder who allow the photos to be reproduced through creative common licensing.
If you reproduce ANY image you might find on Google images (for example) you run the risk of being in breach of copyright and are exposed to being sued by the owner. As it happens *most* people online are guilty of this – however is it worth exposing your organisation to an unnecessary law suit for the sake of a pretty image?
We have a client (who will remain nameless) who had a video made with a number of copyrighted images that were used in conferences around the world. We spent a long time in discussion with the client about alternatives using common licence images but the client was quite insistent. Eventually we agreed to the requests – but amended our contract to indicate where the blame would lie if any copyright holders objected. We weren’t too happy with this (although the video looked great) and we would suggest to clients to give this a wide berth.
Music is the other biggie in terms of copyright issues for corporate video. Music is copyrighted in the same way as images are, there is rights free music – but the quality is frequently not at the same standard as a copyrighted piece.
The likes of YouTube has really changed the field as far as copyright protection is concerned thanks to their incredible music detection software, which, with alarming accuracy can stamp information of the composer and performer of a piece of music in a video. Remarkably this can be whittled down to the orchestra that has performed a common piece of classical music. Then a box will appear next to the video showing where you can buy this music – the only way to take this off is to prove to YouTube that you have the proper rights access to the piece.
This is clearly quite a contentious topic, because fantastic imagery and sound can really enhance a corporate video. Equally this kind of “reflected glory” from others copyrighted creative work is the reason that copyright exists in the first place.
Posted on 1:47pm Sunday 13th May 2012
Not the usual chat about corporate video today...
The folks at Uni-versal Extras have got in touch about the casting of extras in a new Marvel film (my bet is that it's Thor 2) If you fit the criteria get in touch with them
We are looking for males and females with athletic and muscular body frames from any ethnic background.
-you must have a Muscular or athletic body frame.
We are looking for BLOND haired males and females with athletic and muscular body frames.
-You must be blond or fair haired.
-you must have a Muscular or athletic body frame.
If you are not fully registered with Uni-versalEXTRAS please only send emails for the roles that state you can apply for them as a non member.
Posted on 10:58am Tuesday 10th Jan 2012
One of the more straight forward ways of getting involved in the magic of the film industry involves getting up incredibly early, donning silly clothing and standing in a field in the cold all day doing practically nothing.
Now this might sound like a daft idea, but for anyone as in love with the medium as we are here at Butchers Hook – it’s a set of sacrifices we’re willing to make (occasionally)
Film extras (or background) are a fundamental component of most feature film productions, it’s essential to have movement going on in the background of shot to give some depth to proceedings (let’s not get into an argument about 3D). So fundamental that the role of 3rd Assistant Director is usually tethered to herding background artists around – keeping them warm and feed, and making sure they don’t do anything too silly when anywhere near the expensive cameras.
There’s no big secret about how to become an extra. It’s not a big “who you know” secret society to get into like the rest of the industry is. What is important is to sign up with one of the big established extra agencies – and to avoid any others at all costs.
Here are some good ones.
The one I would personally recommend are Casting Collective. We’ve been on both sides of the fence with them, me from having a rip roaring few weeks as an agent of HYDRA for the recent Captain America film – and because we have used them to cast for video productions we have produced in the past.
The big agencies produce books of talent yearly and open their doors for the latest intake usually for only one day a year. It’s obviously important to find out when the agencies are preparing to do this to get involved!
An important urban legend to dispel is the impression you get from Ricky Gravis’ series Extras. In the first season of Extras Ricky’s character quite happily socialises with the A List stars (even taking the piss out of them). Now it shouldn’t be a surprise to many people to realise that this doesn’t happen AT ALL. The dribbling masses are kept as far away from the stars of the feature as possible.
A recent face-palming example of when the wheels fall off was during the production of 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves. An extra somehow managed to evade all the usual fail safes and get INTO Keanu’s trailer and ask Keanu to record a video message for a friend’s birthday. Keanu duly obliged and the extra left. Only to be sacked, along with the 3rd Assistant Director – who now faces black balling in the industry by her peers for incompetence! Nice!
The reality for most of the time is much more prosaic, but a lot of fun can be had – in the next post I’ll write about meeting Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on Shawn of the Dead – and being in the middle of a massive laser/explosion battle with tanks and Chris Evans (not that one) in Captain America.
Posted on 2:12pm Monday 19th Dec 2011
As the cold set in on England - Butchers Hook's own creative director Evan Pugh managed to blag a swift exit to the land of Wallabies to direct on ITV's goo-tastic reality TV show - I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.)
Evan this year took our lovely Sony FS100 camera (usually reserved for our corporate video productions) to record some interesting going's on at work and play whilst in Coolangatta, Queensland, Australia
As well as using our main camera - the "at work" elements were shot using Evan's iPhone 4 in the Reality Gallery of the show (literally a Nissan hut in the middle of the jungle.) In addition to that - the underwater was shot on a fellow director's GoPro camera - quite a versatile piece of kit!
The sequence in the car park ingeniously uses a camera mounted on a skateboard for the "dolly" like movement.
You can see more work directed and/or shot by Evan in his more usual capacity in the projects pages of our site!
Posted on 1:32pm Wednesday 30th Nov 2011
During a normal working week here at Butchers Hook, I’ve come to expect at least a dozen CV’s of young people interested in breaking into the film business in the UK.
Now it is widely known that getting a break in the business is difficult, so in this article I’ll attempt to address this and offer some tips I’ve picked up along my career from lowly runner to corporate video producer working with Fortune 500 companies.
The reason the film business is based on the “who you know” principle is simple – people senior to you (technicians/producers etc) need to be sure they know and can trust people in their employ – because mistakes can reflect badly on them.
In extreme cases – it can have a seriously detrimental effect on a career – as the business is relatively small and bad news travels fast. But equally – building a good reputation means your good name travels fast.
One of the most common pitfalls I see when I receive CVs of young people is a total lack of experience in the business. Now, this may not seem too unreasonable – as the CV comes from a person who has just left school or University with a newly minted academic qualification.
Now having the qualification is a big plus – but it will need to be supplemented with some real world experience. Thus the chicken and the egg scenario, fortunately there are some relatively straight forward ways to gain the necessary experience.
The very first step on the journey into the industry is to decide what specialism you want to take. If you want to break into a technical specialism (i.e. camera, sound, make up etc) the first essential is to have a good deal of experience with the equipment. For the auteur and post production people, the best method is to get creating and make a decent show reel as an absolute priority. For people interested in the production side of the business, a solid grasp of figures and the ability to network and schmooze is ideal!
After this – the next step is to get involved with as many free projects as possible in your local area. This can help people who haven’t decided what area they want to specialise in and give vital experience to everyone else. Aside from experience, the other major benefit of freebies is networking. The importance of networking to those in the industry (from producer down) can’t be too emphatically emphasised. If you happen to be working as camera assistant (for example) for a DoP on a free shoot and do a great job – the chances are you will be remembered when the DoP is working on a paid job next time.
A great resource for finding jobs on low budget films in your local area is Shooting People
After a number of freebies – you’ll have a great deal more experience and your CV will look like the kind of CV that producers want to see!
When you progress to paid shoots – here are a few minimum expectations I have for people in my employ. You need to have boundless energy and enthusiasm and stay 100% positive! A strong grasp of the technical aspects of your specialism sounds like a total given but again, need to be emphasised.
One of main ways people get into production is through the time honoured route of being a runner. Now this isn’t a pretty route - they are also the most put upon and badly paid people in the business - I found it akin to slave labour! However runners are the work horses of the industry and are vital – and pay your dues (and work bloody hard!) and it pays off.
To conclude – entry to the film and corporate video industry is tough – but very rewarding if you work hard and know how to play the game properly!
Posted on 11:09am Friday 26th Aug 2011
Finally - a trailer for Hunter Thompson's odyssey through Puerto Rico in the late 50's... Appears (a bit) less insane than Fear and Loathing - but as it's directed by Bruce "Withnail & I" Robinson - it could be the piss up equivalent!
Posted on 2:03pm Thursday 9th Jun 2011
*Our main term is that your referral recommends or hires us to produce a video with the minimum market value of £1000+VAT. (This equates to a one day shoot with post production - generally our minimum rate)
The Kindle will be eligible after full payment on the production to Butchers Hook Video Ltd
**Subject to availability
We will get in contact initially with the referrer to find out the best way of establishing contact with the referee.
*** Amazon Kindle is a registered trademark of Amazon inc, all rights reserved.
Posted on 2:24pm Thursday 2nd Jun 2011
Over the last couple of years, a massive revolution has occurred in high definition video production. This sea change started in late 2008 with the release of the Nikon D90, the world’s first DSLR with HD video. Now anyone who could afford it could shoot excellent HD video without having to spend five figures on a shoulder mounted camera.
Now of course with all of such things, there are downsides as well as up. Over this article and a second to be following shortly – I’ll look to cover some of the pitfalls as well as advantages
The first big advantage for the average video maker is price. Whether for the SME video production company or the average man on the street – HD video of the standard of Canon 5D (which we happen to use quite a lot) allows a professional result which defies the amount of investment. The 5D current retails at about £2000+VAT – a fraction of the cost of an equivalent shoulder mounted professional camera. The results however, are frequently difficult to see.
Another big benefit of DSLR’s versus more traditional camera is the large sensors. A DSLR’s sensor is full frame (35mm) – much bigger than any broadcast camera sensor. The biggest advantage of this is the ability to put 35mm still lenses on the camera – allowing alarming depth of fields (DoF) on the HD video. This can create moving imagery unlike any seen before a few years ago - traditional video cameras that have a tiny depth of field due to restrictive sensors.
Further to this – you can put pretty much any lense you like easily onto the DSLR giving new lease of life to older, more interesting lenses that you may have tucked into the back of the cupboard.
So these are some of the brilliant advantages of a DSLR over a shoulder mount professional video camera. In the next article (which I’ll post next week) I’ll touch on the disadvantages of the DSLR – and how to overcome them.
Posted on 10:57am Friday 27th May 2011
In 2011 it is vital for companies, both big and small – to invest a good amount of their marketing budget on a well constructed corporate video.
Whilst returns on traditional means of marketing – print, television etc have been squeezed for some time – video is bucking the trend – both on and offline. Social media, the search engines and viral sharing of content are all factors in this, but before being able to take advantage of the marketing benefits of video – your video needs to be produced!
First – it is vitally important to ensure that the video produced looks totally professional. The draw backs of sending a less than brilliant corporate video out to the world are obvious and can do serious damage to your brand.
Indeed, the draw backs can be disastrous if the video is laughably bad – it has the potential to go viral, spread amongst people online across the world and do profound harm.
You should hire a professional video production company with a good track record in corporate video. Unfortunately there are many companies of varying repute that will offer you a “good deal” – but in video production, as with so many other areas of life – you get what you pay for!
Another aspect to consider is using a company that has its roots outside of the corporate video world. It is widely acknowledged within the industry that corporate videos lack the dynamism of television, advertising and feature films. This is because many producers have worked their entire careers in corporate, which frequently gives them a more limited skill set creatively – although there are of course exceptions to that rule.
If you decide to use your staff in the corporate video, I would suggest having them interviewed by the production team – rather than being given scripted dialogue to work from. I’ve seen some quite frightening results when team members talk from a script straight to camera.
Good graphics are important – the internet is completely littered with perfectly well shot corporate videos that have been totally undermined by horrendously cheap graphics. These graphics can date a video by years and give your company brand a serious bashing.
To conclude, with the proper amount of consideration, care and good judgement; a corporate video can do wonders. Remember - If website is your shop front – you need something in the window to bring people into your shop – and people won’t be attracted by a badly produced shop window display – or out of date goods!