Blog

Words and pictures and stuff

Resolution Square on Vimeo and YouTube

As I intend to devote more of my time to the site this year I’ll hopefully be posting up more video content. Admittedly at the moment I’m only making content for other people so some of it may not be to everyone’s taste but I’m building up my Vimeo and YouTube channels where I’ll be hosting a lot of the vids I’m making (apart from the tv show; you’ll have to watch that on the old skool box in the first instance).

If you’re not familiar with Vimeo, I’d describe it as a more discerning YouTube. You won’t get as many cats playing the piano or fat blokes miming to Europop but it’s the film-makers’ choice mainly because it treats its source video with more respect; basically your videos look better after uploading. There’s also an option which lets subscribers offer their videos for download if they choose to which is handy for various reasons. As for YouTube…well it’s YouTube. I’m putting videos there because there’s always a chance that something will fly completely at random and any publicity is good publicity; my ‘No Trousers’ video from last week has already been viewed over 6000 times which is a bonus:

On my YouTube channel as well as uploading new videos I’m trying to locate some of my old work (especially from Channelbee) which has been uploaded to other people’s channels and these are in the Portfolio section in the right hand sidebar. If it’s there I’ve either shot, edited, directed or appeared in it; if you need to know which just drop me a line. There’s a varying quality because the videos span a few years and therefore (hopefully) a steady improvement, but if you’re a prospective client I’d suggest checking out my Vimeo channel instead which is more relevant to you.

I’m not obsessed by subscriber numbers, likes or comments but do get involved if you feel the need; I’d be grateful (assuming your feedback is positive).

Channelbee viewers…I did save quite a few things before we left the building so I may upload some of them in the coming weeks. For obvious reasons I’m still debating as to whether to upload the never before seen shoot where I took salvia on camera as an experiment!

I’m not overly set on the YouTube design at the moment but again it’s something I’m sure I’ll tinker with in due course. Hopefully if I start picking up enough hits I’ll unlock more flexibility in the design options.

So take a look around and drop me a line if you have any questions!

My still slightly secret new project…

I think I’m able to give a bit more information about why things have been a bit quiet from my end recently but I think I still need to be a bit cagey with information so excuse me if this is a little vague!

In the summer I was approached by a production company to help them put together a pilot for a new football show. Naturally it was an honour to be asked in the first place, but also a great opportunity to do some more ‘proper tv’ work which I’ve missed since we finished doing David Beckham’s Soccer USA back in 2007. I love working in digital and the fact that I get to do all manner of different shoots with PR and brands, but it was always my intention to work across all sections of production, whether made for box or laptop. In fact I’m firmly of the belief that nowadays, where your content is played out is much less vital than the content itself, and also that every tv show should now be produced with one eye very much on its digital appeal, but that’s for a longer article to be posted on here in the future. So anyway, whilst I believe I’m in the right place by working in digital, it certainly doesn’t harm to have another tv credit on my cv and this project was too appealing to turn down.

Over the summer and autumn we put together and eventually recorded a pilot for our new show, it ran well with research groups and after consideration by the broadcaster it has been commissioned! I really don’t want to say who it’s for until the broadcaster announces it themselves, but we’ll be producing a short series to air hopefully in May time. I think I can say it’s a football show, it will be fun, and I certainly think there’s a place for it in the schedule. For me, it’s my first series producer credit which is a personal milestone and I think I’ll also be doing some shooting on it as well which is a bonus.

We are hoping to incorporate user generated clips on the show so although you don’t know much about it, if you have anything funny and football related you want us to consider, do get in touch with me either via the site or on Twitter. Obviously the usual rules apply for this content; it has to be your own work, but we can sort out the details if we like the clips. Best at this stage not to send video files themselves, more a description of what you have or a link so we can see it as we are looking for some quite specific content.

As soon as it has formally been announced I’ll tell you about the finer details of the show. It’s not going to be made for everyone, but hopefully the target audience will love it!

As far as my work is concerned, I should be able to juggle working on this and continuing with my digital/brand work so do get in touch if you need any producing/shooting/editing done!

I shot: lots of people on the Underground with no pants

Happy New(ish) 2011. I don’t do resolutions as a general rule but this year I’ve promised myself I’ll keep this blog going properly. I’m not looking to become the next Perez Hilton or even Philip Bloom (check him out if you’re in any way a camera person or into your film-making, he has achieved God-like status amongst the DSLR world and camera geeks the world over go weak at the knees in his presence) but apart from anything else I want this to serve as a record of what I get up to because sometimes I find it hard explaining what I do nowadays!

So, onto my first shoot of 2011. I’ve been a fan of Improv Everywhere for a while now; they’re an American group who stage fun, brilliantly creative stunts, often on a huge scale. I haven’t by any stretch watched their entire output but amongst other things they’ve given a little league baseball game the full-on sports OB treatment:

they sent a fake Ben Folds on stage to pretend he was Ben Folds at a Ben Folds gig:

Ben Folds Fake

and they recreated a classic scene from Ghostbusters in the New York Public Library:

I imagine the brand itself is now big business, judging by the number of YouTube views, but at the heart of Improv Everywhere is a sense of fun and community. The success of most of their ‘experiments’ depends very much on the participation of its volunteer ‘agents’ and in many cases anyone is welcome to join in.

One of their most famous and successful stunts is the annual ‘No Pants’ Subway ride which started in New York in 2002 and now takes place in many cities around the world. The premise is simple; on a given day, as many volunteers as possible take to the world’s subways, take their trousers off and pretend that it’s perfectly natural. There’s no real point to it other than doing something fun and trying to raise a smile. The key for agents, however, is to keep a straight face and not to acknowledge the fact that others are doing the same thing.

New York’s ‘No Pants’ day now counts agents in their thousands; the scale of the London mission is somewhat smaller

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but by all accounts this year’s event (I estimated around 100 took part) saw around a 300% increase in numbers from 2010. So with nothing better to do with my Sunday afternoon I rigged up my camera and met the London organisers in a pub just north of Trafalgar Square and then proceeded to follow the mission up and down the Bakerloo line for the next hour and a half. (Rules officially stated that even members of the media were expected to disrobe but my backpack was full of camera gear and nobody needs to see my worn shreddies on God’s day of rest.)

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Reactions to carriages half-full of pasty Brits in their undercrackers were mixed; some laughed and clearly appreciated the silliness, others resolutely refused to accept that it was happening and apparently some were ever so slightly hostile. The mission was organised so that some agents got on at every stop along the line, adding to the confusion of those inside. All in all it was a welcome sight; London tube etiquette has it that you stare blankly into space so it was a refreshing change to be actively encouraged to look around and acknowledge your fellow passengers. And for those involved, I fully understand the sense of achievement they felt when the train rattled back into Charing Cross; it’s not up there with discovering penicillin or climbing Everest but making London Underground passengers smile is no mean feat.

Video-wise, shooting without a permit on the London Underground is a tricky one, especially given the current climate, but one of the benefits of shooting on my 7D (for the uninitiated, it’s a stills camera but they’re increasingly used to shoot video…won’t go into why right now) is that it doesn’t attract the attention the way a video camera does. The downside is that they’re notoriously hard to keep steady without a rig (more on that in a few days) and recording sound is a pain, but as I needed to keep a low profile I shot everything handheld, no rig, just attaching a mic for the (very noisy) interviews in the pub at the end. For the geeks amongst you I did have two lenses, my Sigma 30mm f1.4 and Tokina 11-16mm f2.8. I really could have done with my zoom but it’s still in lens hospital after Watford FC did this to it:

So here’s the vid, a bit rough and ready in places as it was shot very much on the hoof and edited quickly, but hopefully it tells the story. I’m certainly hooked, and although I don’t expect to be riding the Northern Line trouserless any day soon, my name’s going to be first on the list if there are any more Improv Everywhere style stunts planned over here.

If you like your videos with a smoother encode, I’ve also got it on my new Vimeo channel:

2011 London ‘No Trousers’ Underground Ride from Resolution Square (Neil Smythe) on Vimeo.

Video by me, photos courtesy of Idil Sukan, thanks to Improv Everywhere for their inspiration!

I shot: Rio Ferdinand

It’s been a while.  Far too long, but I’ve had a few months of solid work and haven’t had the energy to keep this up.  It’s a poor show and defeats the object of starting the site in the first place but I’ve had to forego forward planning in order to meet all my deadlines.  I will catch up though and will try to do a blog covering recent jobs but restarting where I mean to go on, this is what I was up to on Sunday.

The England captain took a trip back to his boyhood club, Eltham Town

Rio Ferdinand at Eltham Town FC

to promote e-on’s ‘Energy Fit’ campaign, in particular their ‘Club Makeover’ competition which is offering amateur football clubs the chance to get an energy saving makeover worth around £40k.  The e-on team decked out the club’s facilities with swanky stuff like solar panels, energy saving lights and even hot water, and Rio was given a tour before hitting the mud and coaching the young pups outside.

Rio Ferdinand and young players at Eltham Town FC

I have to say I didn’t know much about the club beforehand but I was really impressed with their setup, fancy lights or no fancy lights, and I couldn’t help thinking that the national game can’t be in that bad a state if there are clubs like Eltham Town around.

We then had a quick chat with Rio

Rio Ferdinand speaking to FATV at Eltham Town FC, Nov 2010

about the e-on project and the France game, where he revealed that he can’t contemplate losing because of the stick he’d get from Evra when he returned to training.  It was the second time I’ve interviewed him in 6 months and although he clearly didn’t remember me, Rio was professional as ever.  I’m a big fan of his because he’s clearly got more in his locker than booting a ball around and I genuinely believe he cares about the projects he gets involved with.

An unexpected bonus of the day was catching up with old Soccer AM and Channelbee mucker Fenners in his new capacity as tv personality, complete with showbiz scarf.  Always good to see him and I’m so happy he’s back in the Sky fold as on-screen talent.  I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t seen his new show Take It Like A Fan yet but I’ve only just signed up to Sky Sports again; must do that this week.

I’m editing the bits and pieces today so I’ll post a link when they’re up.

(Shot on Sony PMW EX1)

Slacker

So the idea of starting a blog is to keep it going.  You know, the odd musing here, a great link or video you find there.  Oops.  Must do better and will do better when I’ve got this pilot done.  Yeah I know, I never mentioned a pilot because I haven’t been keeping this going but I can’t really talk about it anyway.  I have been doing other stuff as well and I also went on holiday so…you know how it goes.

I’ll write something vaguely interesting soon, anyway.

Oh, and I did stop watching Seven Days after ep 1.

Seven Days

A few months ago when I was on my Hyper Island course, one of my fellow students told us about a show she had worked on when in development, a show which was apparently being touted as Channel 4′s replacement for Big Brother.  Coincidentally one of our visiting experts then gave us an exercise where we had to brainstorm ideas for the digital side of the same show (his company had pitched for the contract, I seem to remember).  So I’ve had longer than most to mull over the idea, in theory at least, and was particularly interested in last night’s launch, especially as I was led to believe that this could mark a new episode in interactive/social tv.

If you didn’t watch, the premise is that we’re following a series of residents of Notting Hill, docusoap style, with the unique selling point in this case being that it’s happening almost in real time.  In tv, you see, that’s considered groundbreaking because unless you’re live, it tends to take ages to do anything.  Unlike Big Brother, the participants are able to see the reaction to the show, and what’s more we as audience are being encouraged to interact with and help them decide how to lead their lives.

So far, so unoriginal.  It’s Paddington Green with bells and tweets on, but without Todd Carty and the weird wigmaker.  The initial irritant is the location the production team have chosen; Notting Hill.  I can see why they’ve done it (U.S. sales?)…but judging by Twitter reaction it’s a potentially fatal flaw.  We know what the rest of the country feels about London and London-centric media, and I’m sure that most Londoners have the same opinion of cliched Notting Hill-billies.  Play a game with me now; if you didn’t watch the show, guess who they’re featuring….

Blonde sloaney type who calls her mother ‘Mummy’…check

Gay hairdresser…check

Models…check

Property developer (ok he’s entertainingly bizarre; the frozen cat anecdote made last night worth watching)…check

Young black youths who hang out and do pull-ups in the street…check

Now unlike many of those on Twitter last night I’m not going to get involved with slating the participants.  It’s not what I do; what right have I to criticise other people’s personalities?  I just think that the casting is desperately cliched and therefore I’m not sure I want to get involved with their lives on the level Channel 4 expects of me.

So did it work as an hour of tv?  Not really.  I really didn’t learn much, cared even less, and the attempts to make the whole thing up to date were ham-fisted to say the least (radio bulletins, staged chats about the day’s headlines).

Did it work as an hour of interactive tv?  Potentially.  I found interacting with the Twitter feed (#sevendays) more entertaining than the show (the Channel 4 website crashed so can’t comment on that but it doesn’t look a patch on what we came up with at Hyper Island)…but maybe that is the point.  I suggested at one point that perhaps Channel 4 execs might be more interested in tweets than ratings, and certainly as the series progresses and we see the effects that ‘fame’ has on the participants, and potentially a two-way dialogue between them and us, there could be interesting consequences.  I do feel for them if they were following the Twitter feed, however; most people didn’t have the same attitude as me when it came to offering opinions on their personalities.

So will I watch it again?  Yes.  I’m genuinely interested in how the whole thing pans out but more from a professional than personal standpoint.  I do think that tv has to get more interactive and social if aspects of it are to survive, so I do hope that the series is a success in the long run.  But I do fear for a project which gets caned by Brian Belo from Big Brother (no I don’t follow him, I spotted his tweet in the timeline).

If you didn’t watch, here’s the link, although another irritant is that for a supposedly modern, interactive tv show, C4/4OD have uploaded the whole episode onto YouTube but have panicked and disabled embedding.  So here’s the link: Seven Days Ep 1

Twitter grows up

One of the ironies of Twitter has been that the more successful it has become, the more users have turned to third party applications (Tweetdeck, Ubertwitter etc) to run their Twitterverse, the general feeling being that although we love the micro-blogging concept, the host platform itself hasn’t offered us much to keep us there.

As they now look to make their millions (and deservedly so) from their efforts, Twitter Towers have clearly decided that one of the ways they’re going to do that is by encouraging us to spend more time on their site and not on others.  So the new Twitter started rolling out last night.  No idea how long it’s going to take to reach us all but when it arrives, it promises us a far more integrated experience.  We’ll be able to embed videos and images with ease (they’ve signed partnerships with many of the multimedia hosters such as Flickr, TwitPic, YouTube etc) and there’s the addition of a second ‘details’ pane which will offer either a user profile or additional info relating to a tweet (@ replies, geo-tagging, other tweets by the user etc).

It’s definitely a step forward but I’m unlikely to abandon TweetDeck because I find their column set-up perfect for following certain users and tags.  I want to know less about a particular tweet and more about tweets in a wider context.  But as my new mantra is ‘change is good’ I’ll give it a go when it finally reaches Carshalton.

Here’s Twitter’s official explanation of it all which seems pretty clear, and their explanatory video which doesn’t really explain much, least of all why they’ve edited it like this:

For another take on the new Twitter, check out Mashable

A modern fable

I may or may not make a habit of blogging great vids I’ve seen or have been sent but this is so good it had to go up.  Thanks to Sheephead for sending this through; I’m sure we all know someone like this (no names) or perhaps even recognise it in ourselves?

Google Instant Search

It’s official:  Google now knows what you want before you know you want it.  If that’s the sort of statement which gives you the cold sweats you had better steer clear of their ‘Instant’ search facility which launched yesterday.

If your browser supports it, you’re signed in to a Google account and you’re online in one of their chosen launch countries, instant search results now appear on your page as you are typing.  Not just suggestions in the search box, but full search results populating the page.

More knowledgeable techie types than me are suggesting that this could mark the beginning of the end for SEO, apparently because the constantly changing search results will make it harder to track search terms.  More obviously, this is a real stab to the heart of Microsoft, whose Bing search has been picking up market share but will surely now be seen as old hat compared to this lightning-fast service.

Here’s their explanatory vid:

Two things of interest there; firstly, I’ve learned a new word.  Zettabyte.  It’s equal to one sextillion bytes apparently, whatever that is.  But that’s two new words for the price of one so I’m not complaining.  Secondly, I would have thought they could have come up with a better selling point than ‘I didn’t have to press Enter’.  It’s hardly up there with ‘we’ve cured cancer’ or ‘we’ve sent a man to the moon’, but I’m being pedantic.  As far as I’m concerned, anything which speeds up my workload is a good thing even if it does give them one more step on the road to world domination.

For a rather more informed look at what Google Instant does, check out The Guardian