Category Archives: Projects

Animating Lego – A Star Wars MicroFilm

Q: What do you do when you dig up a few old Lego Star Wars toys from the attic?

A: Immediately start story boarding a stop motion film, obviously.

For no other reason than to see if I could, I set myself the challenge of making a ‘Microfilm’ – A small but perfectly formed animation that was as filmic as I could manage. After a bit of testing and a few hours of shooting and editing this is the result.

If you’re wondering how this was made, here’s a shot to illustrate just how low tech the setup was. It’s all about cunning placement of cameras, macro lenses and very careful planning and measurements when it comes to tracking shots. IMG_2496

I used a Nikon D750 with a 35-70mm macro lens, a printed background of Liverpool docks and an assortment of paper clips and blu-tack to position the models. Whenever an object is thrown (or forced) in the film it has been shot with a paperclip support that is then painstakingly edited out of each frame. It’s a labour intensive task but I’m super happy with the results.

 

If you enjoyed this and want to see more then say hello! If you have any thoughts or suggestions leave a comment and follow jonhallphoto to see the next installment.

 

Filming a single shot fight scene – Stage to screen

Fact: Fighting is not cool.   Fact: Stage fighting is very, very cool. 

Recently I’ve had this recurring thought. A nagging idea about filming epic fight scenes that do all the things I want them to do in the movies. I used to choreograph fights for a touring theatre company in my distant past. Now I’m taking those skills and the pool of talented performers I know to make fight scenes like this one.

 

It all started with a promo video for Off The Ground’s – Musketeers. With no preparation I joined a rehearsal and watched a set of fights choreographed for stage before capturing the footage in the video below.

 

I’d recently bought a DJI phantom and the stabilized Gopro footage it provides proved way better than I could have hoped. After a little thought and some more equipment I’m now using a new rig (see below) light enough to get right into the action so after rounding up a couple of actor friends we set about choreographing the fight and camera at the same time.

Check out the equipment used to film this video

I knew I wanted everything to work as one shot so each hit must be positioned in terms of the camera and each move planned out. In reality, stage combat is much closer to dance than it is to fighting.

‘Fight Club #1’ is the result of about 3 hours of preparation, rehearsal and filming. The plan is to get together regularly, produce these mini scenes and with your feedback, improve and expand the project

Gopro stabilized footage – building a smooth fight scene rig

A while back I was called to film some fight scenes for a promo video. I love films like ‘Kingsman’ for the feeling of camera mobility during fight scenes and I wanted to recreate that feeling. Filming action with a DSLR is difficult because if you want to stabilize your footage it makes focus control very difficult. There are solutions available such as the DJI Ronin M but these add bulk and weight and are too expensive for a lot of amateur filmmakers. Instead I used the Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal attached to my Phantom drone to stabilize a Gopro solving two problems at once. Stable footage and no focus adjustment needed.

Using a drone is a great solution if you already own one but it has it’s disadvantages. It uses the precious battery power of the expensive DJI cells, offers no stabilization in the vertical plane and there’s nowhere to put a monitor if you want one.

Gopro Glidecam-1
Feiyu G4 on Gopro mounts

Instead I looked for a solution that would stabilize a Gopro like a drone gimbal does but mount easily to my Flycam 5000, a handled stabilizer for DSLR’s. After researching various possibilities involving ebay stabilizers and RC battery packs I bit the bullet and ordered the Feiyu G4 handheld electronic stabilizer for Gopro. The G4 does everything the drone did but is still susceptible to hand movement. It keeps the Gopro level but that’s it.

 

Fortunately, mounting it to a Flycam 5000 transforms the Gopro into a silky smooth cinema camera. The addition of the Boscam G20 transmitter allows a live feed for monitoring on the move and the remote control unit lets me control the pitch and follow mode on the G4. This really is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of it’s parts.

See the super stable results from this setup in the new fight video and Bikes and Boards promo:

The extra advantage of the Flycam kit is it’s ability to keep the camera level with minimal ground clearance. Lowering the head of the stabilizer allows you to film right from the floor up to about a foot higher than your reach, which is excellent.

A complete parts list for the kit is below:

  • Gopro Hero4
  • Boscam G20 Transmitter
  • Black Pearl diversity Monitor
  • Feiyu G4 3-axis stabilizer
  • Feiyu G4 remote and cable
  • Gopro flat surface mount
  • Gopro Handlebar mount

If you’re building this kit or maybe have a better one I want to hear about it. Leave a comment or follow JonHallPHoto to stay updated.

My 2015 in pictures. What I love shooting and why.

Last year I took 55,503 photos.

That’s an average of 152 photos per day or just over 7 photos per hour, which makes me only slightly less trigger happy than the average teenage girl. Considering that much of a photographer’s time is spent prepping, editing and delivering images I can say in all honesty, it’s been a busy year.

As I look back through my 2015 catalog there are some images that jump out at me immediately. Some for their pure form and impact, others because of how they take me right back to the moment they were captured.

This year JonHallPhoto has taken a distinct change in direction and I’ve moved away from weddings and more towards commercial images and video production. It’s a move I’m enjoying and leaves me looking forward to the year ahead.

So in no particular order here are a few of my favourite images and memories from the last year.

 

JonHallPHoto 2015-7
Andy and Annika – Liverpool Skyline

I love this shot of Andy and Annika at the end of the night. It’s just such a genuine moment. Shot from afar to give them as much privacy as possible, they didn’t disappoint.

 

 

JonHallPHoto 2015-18The first of two favourites from the incredible Sophia Carmen. A dancer from the Hammond School. As an ex dancer myself I’m amazed by the strength on show here.

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A more personal shot here as this is my little nephew Sam. This wasn’t a photo shoot but a family get together and those piercing eyes just found the lens.

JonHallPHoto 2015-12This is the moment a party of Groomsmen decided to attempt their version of The Beatles ‘Abbey Road’album cover. Unfortunately one groomsman just couldn’t march in time. As it turns out that one groomsmen just happens to be the only soldier in the group.

JonHallPHoto 2015-8Here’s a wedding party that knows how to have fun. I became tired with seeing guests queuing up for cramped, automated photo booths to be rewarded with low quality snaps they could have taken themselves. This is how a photo booth should be done. This was a fun night.

JonHallPHoto 2015-16The Little Black Dress shoot – iConquered. The brief was to show the clients of a personal trainer getting ‘Little Black Dress’ ready and these were empowered women at work, in one image. I think we nailed it.

JonHallPHoto 2015-11Another gorgeous image from Sophia, this time with partner Liam. The pure dance shapes they were producing were amazing but lacked an emotional element. After a little direction they pulled out this gem. I think it’s just wonderful.

JonHallPHoto 2015-15Ok so the image may not be all that special but it represents my move into commercial product photography. These ‘ghost’ images look simple but the difference it can make to a professional website is profound. And these are just the still versions…

JonHallPHoto 2015-10This family beach shoot produced a whole series of great images but I love this shot as the boy leads his little sister through the sand.

JonHallPHoto 2015-5I love this shot for the magic of lighting. This was a pretty dull day, windy and a little cold but with a little thought and strategic speedlight placement this sunny summer day was born. Nice.

 

 

How do you improve an already awesome sword fight? …Lightsabers.

You may remember the Musketeers stage combat trailer from my last post. That was a video completed in one editing session to try to get it selling tickets as quickly as possible so I thought “how could I improve this with a painstakingly long and tedious process that will shut me away from the outside world for nearly a week?”

The answer?   Lightsabers.

It turns out that adding a bit of Jedi flair to your videos is pretty labour intensive work, requiring you to individually animate every frame of your light sabers. It takes forever.

I won’t go into too much detail here. If you want to have a go yourself I’ve added some useful links to the bottom of this post.

The effect is achieved using Adobe After Effects. Each saber is created by animating a mask across a coloured solid. Once all of the movement is complete, clashes and sound effects are added.

If you want to try your own, take a look at these tutorials and post your work in the comments section.

Musketeers Fight Trailer – Sword fights and bending time with the Gopro Hero4.

If you’ve seen ‘Kingsman, The Secret Service’ you’ll know just how incredible those Matthew Vaughn fight scenes are. If you haven’t I recommend you stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now.

Done? Fantastic wasn’t it. After watching THAT scene (which I won’t spoil for any of you who didn’t see it) I desperately wanted to make my own. Fortunately Off The Ground Theatre were just gearing up for their summer tour of The Musketeers and had a whole set of elaborate sword and fist fights ready to go. The first show was in 2 days so the challenge was on. How good a fight trailer can I produce in 24 hours?

After watching the fights in rehearsal we worked the camera into the action rather than direct each shot separately. The result is as close as I could get to what I wanted with the 30 or 40 minutes of filming time available. Check out the results below and if you can’t wait to get to the best bits. The scrapping starts at 0:35s.

So how this was put together?..

Producing the Musketeers film ala Vaughn presented several challenges to overcome, not least of which was the total lack of preparation and planning. I knew they were rehearsing and I knew I was going to film something. I had no idea what to expect.

Well that’s not entirely true. I used to choreograph fights for the company myself and have been on twelve of their summer tours as an actor and producer before I was a photographer. Once I’d been shown the amazing fights they had prepared for the stage I could see the style I wanted straight away. The fights are fast and technical with details that shouldn’t be missed so I had to get in there and be part of the action. I didn’t want to make a typical film fight where every hit is a cut and you never see a landed blow. These fights flow and move and are a real spectacle on stage. I wanted to try to capture as much of that feeling as I could.

I shot everything using a Hero4 at 1080p, 120fps. Filming at such a high frame rate allows me to slow down the action to 20% speed and still have it look totally smooth at a nice cinematic 24fps. The ability to speed up and slow the footage is needed to keep the action exciting when shooting the fight in single takes. This was achieved in Premiere Pro then coloured using Adobe Speedgrade.

To smooth out the action the camera is mounted to a DJI Phantom 2 carrying a Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal. The gimbal keeps the Gopro smooth and level giving it that film glide cam look whilst the Phantom drone provides the power, and transmits a live feed to an external monitor so I can see what I’m filming. There is a smooth pan in there that was shot from the drone in flight too.

Some acrobatics were required and I didn’t escape without a good sword thwack to one hand (It was my fault for forgetting the moves) but I’m pleased with the results. Not bad for a days work.

Liverpool One Christmas time lapse – Gopro Hero 4 and DIY motorised slider

A little something I cooked up last year. I love the Gopro for it’s versatility and quality but I didn’t want to pay out for a motorised slider so I made my own.

Here’s the result. If there’s interest I’ll blog the build too so leave a comment if you want to make your own.