“My Angel” poster fun

My short film i’m making, My Angel, has been a lot of fun, and i’ve learned sooo much. And to facilitate learning, I’ve taken on most of the post production responsibilities within my abilities, in order to learn as much as possible.  This at times ends up feeling like i’m doing more “busy work” and less “art” as time goes on, but this is in itself a lesson.

I was feeling like i needed to up the creativity for a bit and recharge my inspiration, and the task of poster design came along.

I realised i’d err’d on the day of the shoot, and not gotten “poster” shots, which is a rookie mistake.

There was one Behind the Scenes shot taken by our Stills Photographer William Denniss that i thought on the day “cool poster shot”, but it gave away the end (it was an alternate angle on the last shot).  But it was a fucking cool photo – more a “remember this moment” re-release poster than the initial marketing one to get interest. The difference between these springs to mind :

Left : Cinematic release. Right : 6 months after initial release

So I ended up finding the single still in the film that sold the “peril” side (ok it was 2 shots combined), mixed it around with a photo of my Black Belt, did some photoshop blurring to make a cool bottom third, did some font research, summarized the theme of the film for the tagline, and voila :

Inline image 2

Hopefully it makes you wonder what it all means.

Then in typical fashion my girlfriend fiancee insisted on a revised version :

Inline image 1

Bless. Um, no.  Now I understand why my Aikido Dojo didn’t want this as my teachers profile photo. Actually I don’t – that is one sexy pose.

I did have one other stab at it, but felt like the first attempt said more.  And this one is more ambiguous… One friend said “looks like it could be a superhero-style movie”.

Inline image 1

And there you have it – a half-day of creativity results in, imo, a decent poster that sums up the hook (she’s attacked), implies the direction (a black belt), and summarizes the theme (“who would save you”), but keeping the way it plays out entirely ambiguous.

Fun with Drones – Take 2

For my short film My Angel I had a scene where the female protagonist is grabbed by a gang off the street and run into an alley, isolating her from the world so she is then in extreme peril.

Putting on my directors cap, I wanted to sell this in preferably one shot, with the shot saying “isolation”.  My first plan was the camera across the street from the grab, zoomed in on her being run into the alley away form the camera.  Then we zoom out and we can still see her in the distance, but very small, and the hustle and bustle of the street then takes your attention (not to mention the sound design emphasizes the street sounds).  This idea would work well, but then I thought about using a Drone for it.

I tried to buy a Drone (the Parrot AR 2.0) for the shoot (had planned to get one anyway) but it didn’t arrive in time; fortunately my friend Rob Peters has a Phantom Vision he was looking to fly on a film set :

The Phantom in action on the day of the shoot

So we organised Rob for the day we were shooting the pivotal moments, and I dreamed up my 2 shots :

  1. She gets grabbed with the main camera in the alley, and she gets run past the camera.  We then cut to a tracking shot from above as the camera tracks her being run all the way into the alley, to the point where all the action then happens. This covers about 40 meters and ends with her hitting a wall – isolated.
  2. The other shot was for when she (without giving too much away) has dealt with the problem and she walks out of the alley, wounded but alive.

We did about 5 takes of shot 1, and 4 of take 2.  Then while we were shooting a final fight sequence, Rob flew the camera over the set and managed to catch a good moment that showed the space between the fight participants.  A bit of cropping and zooming, and we have a shot that informs the geography of the fight.  With luck the drone was at the time moving in the direction of the action, so it looks seamless (of course that could be faked by a digital pan, but this wasn’t necessary) and intended.

Actors Matt and Leanda prepare for Take 4 while Operator Rob, Director Paul, and crew watch on.

Then in editing, for shot 1 we had one perfect take, but I found I could cut 2 of the others together and it had more impact – the movement of the camera at a critical point felt visceral and violent, which worked really well for the buildup of the sequence.

Matt and Leanda : Drone Actors.

The camera on the Drone was a Gopro Hero 3, so in Premiere I just had to use the Lens Distortion plugin to unsquash it to the point where it didn’t look like a fisheye lens.  This worked well for everything but shot 2, where we hadn’t thought about that and the camera was a little lower, so it couldn’t be unsquashed as much as the others.

Operator Rob prepares for shot 2 while Director Paul watches in envy.

As a result of this little tale, 4 of the 100 or so shots of My Angel are Aerial, and if i do say so myself, are integrated naturally and say something more than static, handheld/stick shots could.

In screenings i’ve noticed people really take note of the aerial shots, because they’re somewhat atypical.  There will come a day though where aerial shots are commonplace in amateur/short films since the barrier to entry is so low now, and they’re quite easy to operate.

But the real test of the filmmaker will be how they use those shots to inform story and character, and not just do the pretty stuff.  For that we have this guy.

Fun with Drones – Take 1

I’ve had an AR Drone 2.0 for a few months now and have had limited flying time, due to it arriving broken, and then issues of strong winds on the days we got away to nice open areas.  I mostly practiced indoors, and a few trips to a local park at lunch.

But on a recent trip to the Southern Highlands recently, I got some good play on a friends property.  I tried the “slow pullback” shot that ends many movies, and due to the limited range (wifi) never quite got to the reveal that we’re on a mountain ridge.

Here is is stabilized in AfterEffects :

And the original without stabilisation :

And the comparison of the two :

The stabilisation is from the built in Warp Stabiliser plugin that now comes with After Effects CC (and from CS6 as well iirc).

I love how this shows how low the barrier to entry is for some of these sorts of shots now – this with a $500AU drone with fixed camera, and stabilisation.  Looking forward to my Phantom 2 Vision drone arriving!

Useful SQL for refactoring sprocs

Sql migration/refactoring is a bitch, especially when working with logic in Sprocs.  This is now better in a VS environment with Database Projects with Schema refactoring tools, but when you’re working on a legacy system you still need to find what sprocs touch the thing you’re changing.  This is where this comes in :

FROM sys.procedures

Find sprocs that contain a string, like all procs that touch a table in the example above.

Reasons to leave your Software Engineering job

So you’ve been working as a software engineer/developer/analyst/architect/whatevs in the “real world” for a while now, and you start feeling uneasy somehow in the organisation you work for. It happens to all of us from time to time. It’s fact.

Most times we engineer types (and those that are I’s and T’s on the Myers Briggs personality scale) tend to focus on the thinking and less on the environment – the environment is a distraction from the good work we’re doing.

But, sometimes the environment is what gets you, and if you’d paid some more attention, you could navigate the waters a little more effectively, and perhaps escaped before the gauntlet dropped.

The following list was inspired by stories from associates and friends who ended up being in these situations, either involved or as mute witnesses. It’s written for humour, but like most anecdotes there’s a grain of truth in each.

The boss of your software product company refers to R&D as the most expensive department.

If you’re in a company where the income streams are directly derived from software produced, this is a sign the boss has lost touch of vision and become a bean counter.

Honestly, R&D produces your only product – be nice bitch! How do you like the sight of my most-expensive back?

The free fruit disappears

Fruit is cheap, when it goes, people are not far behind. You should go, on your terms.

You’re in a startup-like environment – that’s why you joined – and the emails from the top keep getting more corporatey and removed.

They’re on track to be “like a real business”, and this is the beginning of the end to the startup culture you were attracted to in the first place.

Some organisations, notably government, promote people to their level of incompetence.

If you’re stuck under that guy and he stops moving up, try to transfer departments, or jobs.

You get asked to work at half pay for “a few months” until VC funding is injected

The end is near.

The company has ‘volunteered’ staff for depositions, to show they are co-operating with the discovery process

No one ‘volunteers’ staff for legal exercises. Time to go.

You ask what the company policy is with regard to salary reviews and get told your office is on a shoestring budget

This is code for we won’t have money for anything else, either. Time to move on.

One day you turn up to work and no senior managers can be found.. and this continues for more than three days

The rats jump ship first. Make sure you strip your workstation of memory and CPUs on the way out.

You turn up to work and police have locked the doors closed with thick chains

Too late. (But on the plus side, if the chains were forged in the heart of a dying star, look for a big blue police box.)

You get tasked to go to a client site to analyse a XYZ migration when you have no meaningful experience in that technology

..and get told to read one of those ‘teach yourself XYZ in 24 hours’ books on the flight down.

Staff require company resources to build software

..and you are told that staff are compensated (part of the salary) to provide their own hardware.

You ask for professional development

..and are told it can’t cost the company any money – or be done during normal business hours.

The main feedback from your technical lead is “code smell”, but you never get more details. It all “just smells”.

Sure great programmers are half engineers,half artists – on the slip side of this half the time they should be able to articulate engineering concepts when talking shop. This is one of those times.

Management asks for weekend work to meet a critical demo deadline. You do it; then they later let slip there was no demo

They lied. To your face. No.

This last one was related to a friend doing a management course, and he mentioned it for group discussion in a class. The lecturer was dumbfounded at how this shows a complete lack of respect from management for the workers, and commented it was danger sign. Unbeknownst to him a month after this incident half the company was made redundant, and the senior engineers had all left within the following six months. All departures were connected with discontent sown on that weekend.