About Me

Welcome to a blog about a film-maker, one who could be described as a story teller with an experimental approach to technology.

Hello, my name is James Tomkinson and this is my microscopic slice of the world wide web which should give an idea of what I do.

I think we can agree that people make films in a number of different genres. Mine is drama, a human story of either fact or fiction recreated in a gripping performance. Although that isn’t a dictionary definition it is what I write and capture either ‘in camera’ or on-stage.

An interest in building things has stayed with me throughout my younger years. I have to admit my DIY skills could use a little polishing yet that didn’t stop me from designing and refining the designs for my stereoscopic 3D rig since 2010 the results of which are on my YouTube channel.

Feel free to have a look around.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Film Shoot #1 - Courtroom Zombie


Film Shoot #1 - Courtroom Zombie

Broadening Horizons. Believing in Better. And Blood. Read on if you dare!

Recently I and my fellow filmmakers shot our first short film as T233 Productions and what a day we had.

The people at the courthouse in Stafford, which is now an art museum, were very kind and let us use one of their courtrooms for the day to shoot a zombie apocalypse survival film. Now this might sound like a bunch of students with vivid imaginations, mucking about with some cameras, but don’t be fooled. We strived to make this as accurate to a real film shoot as possible starting with a risk assessment of the courtroom to ensure the health and safety of our cast and crew, as well as ensuring we didn’t damage the grade one listed building by introducing any equipment that was unsuitable.

Ashley and Andy worked on the script which looked into the battle between gut instinct and human compassion that our main characters are faced with when they hear someone knocking on the door from outside their hideout.
This was a multi-camera shoot, filmed with two Sony A1E’s and a Sony NEX 5N. The A1E’s were set to manual, exposure, white balance and focus so that we could get used to operating more complex cameras and also to think about how a shot is composed instead of the point and shoot method.

Not only was the project a good way for us to get some experience working as a team it also allowed people to further their skills by practically carrying out tasks or using equipment that they hadn’t used before. For example I operated one of the A1E’s and was primarily responsible for the jib crane shots. Now I hadn’t had any hands on experience of operating a jib crane prior to this project so it was a quite a learning curve for me. There’s more to it than you might think.

 Me (extreme right) working with Laurence (centre) to set up the jib crane. Behind us (left) are the actors receiving their character makeup from Ashley.

(above photo taken by: Oliver) 

For a start, the jib crane is quite heavy so on the one hand you have to be quite firm with your movements, whilst at the same time, not causing jerky motion by being over forceful. Plus the extension of the crane arm amplifies any slight shake that your hands may introduce. Mixing steadiness with an ample amount of force is tougher than it sounds.

Setting up the jib crane. For the health and safety record, the parts that make up the jib crane are quite heavy and unwieldy so I didn't set them up on my own!

(above photo taken by: Ashley)

This piece of equipment also adds an extra level of difficulty to shot framing. Most jib cranes have a monitor mounted near the operator so that they can easily see what the camera is seeing but we didn’t have this which meant that the shot had to be framed by peering at a 2.5inch that was 8ft away.

Operating the jib crane

(above photo taken by: Oliver)

As with any first activity there were a couple things that I felt that, as a group, we could work to improve on for the next time we are out on location, which would streamline our workflow.

Firstly we had come up with a script that we could follow so that we had a coherent story and our location recce had given us some ideas as to where we could place cameras but we hadn’t created a storyboard or a shot list. This cost us valuable time in deciding what camera angles we wanted after every take. 

Secondly, all of us knew what everyone’s jobs were and we all knew what each other’s jobs were but there wasn’t much communication between the roles as to how these jobs should work together. This cost us a few minutes here and there throughout the day that collectively slowed us down.

In summary a better understanding of the equipment and better preparation before the shoot would make better use of the time that we have to film a scene and this is something we can improve upon for either our next shoot or if we decide to re-shoot this project.

The final edit is in the process of being made so we will soon see the fruits of our work.

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