Personal blog

I’m going to Grand Rapids

Sorry to break the silence with news of someone else’s work, but this has just been tweeted by Mike Butcher of TechCrunch Europe, and it’s the best thing I’ve seen in blummin’ ages.

According to The Daily What, Newsweek recently declared Grand Rapids, Michigan, one of USA’s ‘Dying Cities’. Understandably the good people of Grand Rapids weren’t overly happy with that so they decided to do something about it. Something positive. What resulted was this astonishing video. Now I’m no fan of lip synching videos; I think they’re one rung below cats playing the piano, but they clearly do it for some people. But this is a lip synch with a difference. Watch this, marvel at the preparation involved and then imagine trying to get your town to do the same. Then imagine the pressure of filming it, and the discipline involved.

Go on, watch it to the end of the song; you’ll thank me for it.

PS I’ve been taking another break from the site because of my involvement with GoalMouth but I’m back on it now so more to follow shortly…

Sky Sports 3D behind the scenes, voiceover stars, Soccer AM’s Steve and Jonty

I love a good behind the scenes video. Yes I pick up a lot of work making them (really wish I could have done this one) but watching them brings out the geek in me; I really want to know how things are done. So when I saw @cinescopophilia tweet this today I had to check it out…it’s a pretty in-depth overview of how Sky Sports put together a 3D sports OB:

A few points I noted in particular which may or may not be of interest…firstly it’s always music to my ears hearing the great Bruce Hammal on a voiceover. Now that certain people have…ahem…departed Isleworth, there’s certainly an argument to be had that he should be crowned King of Sky Sports for his long and distinguished service. I had already been a fan, having watched TransWorld Sport for years, so when we started using him for voiceovers on Soccer AM it was an honour. Robbie had the good fortune to be producing him on his sessions and I don’t think he ever got used to hearing that voice behind everyday conversation…so you’re thinking “THE TITLE DECIDER….TWO GIANTS GO HEAD TO HEAD…MANCHESTER UNITED VERSUS CHELSEA, LIVE, ON SKY SPORTS 1 AND HD 1″ and you’re getting “Ah, Robbie, feeling a little worse for wear this morning?” There’s a half decent sketch about living with a voiceover guy – this one the equally great Peter Dickson – here actually:

Sorry, I digress. My second point about the 3D video is that an accusation often thrown at technology is that it cuts jobs; 3D has done the opposite. In this case, Sky Sports now have two separate teams broadcasting two different feeds, and completely new roles have even had to be created; it’s someone’s job to calculate the perceived depth on any particular shot, for example. On a slight tangent, the video explains why the shots chosen on the 3D feed are often very different to those on the standard feed…

…which brings me onto my final point. Soccer Am viewers should notice another familiar voice, if not face, from the piece. If you didn’t, go back and listen to it again when they’re at the OB…

The match director wearing the specs is Steve Smith…of Steve and Jonty fame. We’re going back a long, long time, and I only joined the team towards the end of the Steve and Jonty run, but it has gone down as one of the most fondly remembered items. Top blokes who went on to become two of the most senior football producers and directors in Sky Sports. Anyway, if you fancy a dip in nostalgic waters…

The Badgers v Williams F1…I’d forgotten they used Colonel and Ginger as mascots because we weren’t good enough to play for them. Seem to remember having a decent day out though; had a random love note posted on my car (planted I’m sure by someone on the team), met Dean Whitehead who then was just a young pup making his name at the mighty Oxford United, and then, as always with Badgers matches, had a few drinks with the boys. I do seem to remember this one ending very abruptly when a few local lads turned up to cause trouble but that’s another story, mainly because I can’t remember what happened.

I think I started this talking about 3D technology and ended up talking about a ruck in Didcot but that’s my career for you.

Edit: It almost completely slipped my mind to mention Mr Lovejoy’s hair, more accurately Steve and Jonty’s description of it looking ‘like an onion’, and that penalty miss…think it marked the very start of the ‘Lovejoy’ penalty cry we would hear often over the next few years…

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

DSC_8295

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.)

DSC_8142

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!

Martha laughing

Babies laughing seem to do pretty brisk business on YouTube.  They’re what it was made for; them and cats playing the piano and chemistry with fizzy drinks and mints.

We didn’t set this up, however; this is Katie (Mrs Square) swatting away a fly and Martha (Square Jr) enjoying it:

Hello

Hello!

Thanks for stopping by.  After months of saying I was going to get around to doing this, I’ve finally done it.  It’s by no means finished; I’ve got to get a showreel up and more example videos, plenty more links and then there’s the blog to think about, but it’s a start.  As I’ve said on the ‘Resolution Who?‘ page, what I’m trying to do with this is have a half-portfolio, half blog site thing going.  So hopefully I’ll be able to pick up new work from it but I’ll also come up with interesting stuff to blog about.  I think I’ll start with splitting the blog into pesonal/random stuff and more digital media/social media-based topics but I’ll see how that goes.  I’m pretty new to blogging so if you’re not and you’ve got any tips for me it would be great if you could comment or send me an email and of course bookmark/RSS me.  I’ve already lined up a few people I want to talk about and I’ll stick something up every time I do something of interest on a job (one to follow shortly) and of course I’ll post stuff I find on Twitter or elsewhere.

To those of you who know me from Channelbee, I’ll be sticking up what videos I rescued before I left, certainly the ones I had a hand in, on my YouTube channel.  Gradually.  We may have a music issue but I’ll keep my fingers crossed on that.

I’m going to crack on but should be posting again shortly.

Neil