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Friday 24 November 2006

Bargain Hunters: Big Brother Special

This episode has a Big Brother theme (Channel 4 not Tony Blair via George Orwell).

We filmed it on 1st June. Hilariously, considering the theme, during the making of this we were told that filming in Piccadilly Station is no longer allowed as it’s a ‘terror threat’.

(more…)


Filed under: Food & cookery,Fun,Manchester — GS @ 2:44 pm
Wednesday 23 August 2006

Rushes: bluescreen test – mailbag

UPDATE (October 2008): this video has ‘retired’ into the archives. I’ve left the production notes below.

Posts that begin with the word ‘rushes’ contain unedited footage, tests, bloopers and experiments.

I mess around with a lot of stuff which, up to now, has never seen the light of day. Also I’m a bit of a perfectionist and can easily spend twelve hours editing a four-minute video.

But, in recent months the tapes of master footage have been piling up, with not enough time to edit them.

I’m not sure how this will work or where I’m going with it. Some edits always have to be made for privacy and copyright reasons. But at least this way you get to see something. I think it can be fun to see what does and doesn’t work.

Either you can take a look at the rough stuff or ignore the posts marked ‘rushes’ and wait for the polished final products :-)

I wanted some practice at building a sequence using a bluescreen effect. It’s fairly simple if you stick with one wide shot only. But what happens when you cut in for closer shots? You need extra backgrounds from a narrower angle, possibly blurred to give that ‘zoomed in close-up’ effect.

We were thinking of including a mailbag section in our Bargain Hunters show, where we would read some of the email we receive. I shot still pics for the backgrounds (video would be nicer) and we ad-libbed this. The ‘indoor’ sound quality is a dead giveaway (as it was a test we relied on the camera mic).

It’s also a bit more experience of what lighting works best. I used an amber filter on a backlight. This warm rimlight is meant to help the separation between the subject and blue background to give a cleaner ‘keying’ effect. Strangely the backlight seems to work best at head height, even though that isn’t very naturalistic. Though in theory it could be from the sun setting I suppose.


Filed under: Rushes — GS @ 2:34 am
Thursday 6 July 2006

Rocketbust: the question the articles never asked about Rocketboom

Andrew Baron, the creator and producer of the videoblog show Rocketboom, and Amanda Congdon its star, have parted company according to reports.

In all the hype that surrounded Rocketboom in its first year online, there was one question that always went unanswered.

Print articles and TV reports were in awe of the show. Breathlessly, they told us how it was produced in an ordinary living room, had a quarter of a million viewers each day and yet cost just $20-$50 to make. Some even suggested that the main expense was photographic light-bulbs.

Andrew, the creator and producer of Rocketboom, was quoted as saying he spent some 8-14 hours making each five-minute episode. Which will be no surprise to anyone who has been involved in the time-consuming business of making television programmes or video.

But, as they predicted a rash of ‘user-generated’ Rocketboom-style programmes coming to a website near you, what none of these ‘anyone can do it’ reports ever asked, was how did the people behind Rocketboom pay the rent and buy food?

It was clear that making Rocketboom was a full-time job. After a year, I began to wonder. Did Rocketboom have a financial backer who had given them start-up cash? Was Andrew a rich-kid who didn’t have to worry about earning a living? Were they all on welfare?

Of course money isn’t everything, but eventually it became clear they did want to earn an income from the show.

As a video blog, Rocketboom has been a spectacular success. A phenomenon and I wholeheartedly congratulate Andrew and Amanda on what they did. But, as a business, it represents a missed opportunity of quite staggering proportions. I read they made about $80,000 from the one ad they had so far.

To be running for eighteen months, with 300,000 viewers per day, five days per week, and make only that, is just mind-boggling. With Google ads you can make $500 a year from a website that only gets 50 visitors a day…

History is littered with the tales of people who had great ideas or creativity, but failed to do what was necessary to turn those into an income. Rocketboom gave away its product under a creative commons licence. Its website and show usually carried no ads. It seems to me that the only valuable asset is the ‘brand’ and Amanda Congdon is a huge part of that.

Now the bubble has burst. Occasionally Rocketboom was brilliant (Amanda dancing in Russia), but often it was a bit too off-the-wall and left us scratching our heads in bemusement. Andrew was an expert on the RSS distribution side of things, with the result that Rocketboom was the first to make it big. It was a novelty and highly popular for that reason. That iconic combination of Amanda and the map… They captured a moment in time and I fear that moment is now over.

If I was Amanda, I would start making a new online show right now while she is so much in the public eye. If I was Andrew, I would sell the Rocketboom show, archives (which don’t have a lot of value because they are so topical) and domain name and split the money with Amanda, while they still have the chance to make some money from this. Otherwise Rocketboom is going to begin a slow fade into history without making either of them rich.

The worst thing would be to get tied up in a legal case for several years, by which time there will be nothing left to carve up. Time is of the essence for both of them…


Filed under: Net & technology — GS @ 11:17 am
Tuesday 16 May 2006

Bargain Hunters: baps

Bargain Hunters: baps

UPDATE (October 2008): this video has ‘retired’ into the archives. I’ve left the production notes below.

Bargain Hunters is our reality shopping programme. Can we get some good last-minute deals at the local grocery stores? It’s a race against the clock!

This one was filmed at Easter but I only just got it edited. I think it turned out great — especially considering we had a few issues.

Five minutes into filming it started to rain (April was just SO wet here). Rain has to be extremely heavy to show up much on screen, but even light drizzle isn’t too good for the camcorder. Then my voice recorder seemed to stop working, so we abandoned one thing we had planned (it turned out later I had hit a ‘helpful’ switch which prevents recording and which I’d forgotten was there).

As usual, here are my thoughts on this episode and some of the ideas behind it…

I’m going to scream if I see another lazy PR person, estate agent or journalist refer to ‘vibrant Manchester city centre‘. It’s become a cliche and we need an organised campaign to take the piss out of the unimaginative people who do it. Even churches and the Arndale Centre (with its tacky new catchphrase ‘come together’) are ‘vibrant’ supposedly.

Big Brother starts here this coming Thursday. It was, of course, Big Brother contestant Michelle who famously offered Stuart the chance to squeeze her ‘baps’. As usual I expect to watch the start of the 13 weeks, get bored and stop tuning in, and then return for the last few days to see how it ends.

One of the things I love about editing video is the way all the different elements — picture, live sound and music — sometimes combine to create something unexpected. As I filmed Chris in the lift, in the background there was the sound of a rather emotional woman talking in a loud voice. During editing, when I added the music, I found it became almost like some weird operatic version of our regular theme music. Bizarre.

Chris makes me laugh an awful lot, with his enthusiasm and that slightly-eccentric British thing he has going on. Like a Kenneth Williams or Frankie Howerd, he can make the most innocent remark sound suggestive.

Memo to self: remember not to film broccoli or salad in front of a green screen.


Filed under: Food & cookery,Fun,Manchester,Shopping — GS @ 3:51 pm
Monday 1 May 2006

Bargain Hunters: cakes

UPDATE (October 2008): this video has ‘retired’ into the archives. I’ve left the production notes below.

It was Marie Antoinette who supposedly said ‘let them eat cake.’ We found that Sainsburys in Manchester takes a different line…

Bargain Hunters: cakes

STORY LINKS: Polari on Wikipedia, Polari, Julian & Sandy (audio clip in ogg format) from BBC Round the Horne, Spar, Sainsburys, Manchester sun & rainfall.

Bargain Hunters is our reality shopping programme. Can we get some good last-minute deals at the local grocery stores? It’s a race against the clock!

Amusing to see the two signs as Chris walks into the second shop: ‘hello’ and ‘play here’. I think you’ll get me when you watch the video… We were both suffering when we made this one. I had a cold and could hardly speak and Chris had just given up smoking.

ABOUT THE SHOW

Chris and I have been going shopping together for a long time now. It’s always a laugh and, recently, we decided to see if the fun would come across on video. Making the videos has added a whole new aspect to it for us.

We’re very genuine and honest about the whole experience, though we wouldn’t want anyone to think we take it too seriously. Being alpha-males, I guess we both enjoy the thrill of the chase ;-D

Oh and Chris doesn’t want you to think he is a cheapskate who lives entirely on 50p bargains!

FRIENDSHIPS

I’ve known Chris since 2001, when he was 18 and moved in next door to me. We’ve been friends ever since, though he no longer lives next door. Yes I’m old enough to be his dad — and I’m sure we’re both glad I’m not!

He keeps me up-to-date with the things that twenty-somethings are interested in and sometimes I can help him because I’ve had a bit more experience of life. Plus we have some cross-over in interests.

It can be tough being young and gay and I believe that older men have a responsibility to help the younger ones stay out of trouble. And, for the cynical people out there, often there is no sexual side to these friendships.

RICHARD

When I was with my partner of almost nine years, and both aged in our 20’s, one of our friends, Richard, was in his 60’s. We used to visit him every Sunday. We valued his friendship and I’m sure he felt the same. He had some marvellous stories to tell, like the one about him being allowed to take home a German prisoner of war for Christmas!

Down the years there were probably always these old ‘aunties’ who took younger men under their wing. I hope it continues today, though I’m not confident it does so much. I see a lot of ageism now: guys who won’t talk to any gay man who is over 30. They are missing out…

Maybe this is another sign of the breakdown of the gay community, which seems to have happened over the last 15 years. I’ll be returning to this subject soon…

CAMP NAMES

It was a tradition for these old aunties to give you a ‘camp’ name. Which was a hark-back to the days when gay men referred to each other using female names. Like Polari, the ‘gay language’ of the 1950’s and 1960’s, camp names allowed gay men to talk about each other openly in public without raising suspicion: ‘did you hear what happened to Myrtle? She was seeing this guy…’ etc.

This was not connected with how effeminate the men were. Often, even the roughest, toughest gay man would have a camp name and probably would answer to it! Which all added to the fun, as you would see some tattooed ex-convict called Terence, with a face like a pitt-bull, answering to the name ‘Tess’. As Oscar Wilde said: ‘the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’…

My camp name was Linda and my partner’s was Angie. I was named after Linda Lewis — a woman journalist on BBC North-West Tonight — and my partner after Angie Watts from Eastenders!

Camp names are a part of British gay culture that appears to have been throttled by the political-correctness of the 1980’s and ’90’s…

Actually, Chris has a camp name: Marigold, which came about because he helped someone clean his house and he wore rubber gloves to do it: ‘Marigold’ brand.


Filed under: Food & cookery,Fun,Manchester,Shopping — GS @ 6:05 pm
Monday 3 April 2006

A special video for the start of Videoblogging Week

Our contribution pokes fun at the fact that no one seems to be making any money from videoblogging, despite some having hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Story links:
Rocketboom

Last Thursday evening we were standing in an underpass next to the motorway, during a thunderstorm, filming for this. That was just the start… We had a load of fun and there are some very amusing out-takes.

EDITING
The editing took a l-o-n-g time. Even though I’m quite organised, it’s still not enough. I ended up rendering the same effects several times as I made a couple of different versions (and needlessly so, as the effects were unchanged). It can take hours to produce a minute of special effects. So, I need to rethink my workflow: work on the effects separately and then include those prerendered versions on the main timeline in Vegas Video.

HUFFYUV CODEC
I use the free HuffyUV video codec to render archive versions of finished productions to store on disc. The video is uncompressed but HuffyUV gives a smaller file size.

That way I avoid DV compression artifacts on graphics and effects. So, I could also use HuffyUV to render the effects and then drop them into the timeline. Finally, I make DV, MPG2 and online versions from the HuffyUV master.There’s more information about the various tools I use on my favourite software page.

Though overall I’m really delighted with the Sony camcorder, its performance in low-light isn’t too hot. We used my old Canon Hi8 for the shots walking towards the subway and the colour balance and brightness are much better than from the Sony under the same conditions.

We shot a lot of different stuff last week. I have three other things ‘in the can’ to edit, not including the out-takes.

UPDATE (September 2012): a slightly re-edited version of this video was put back online.


Filed under: Fun — GS @ 12:31 pm
 
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