Wow, so much has happened here at Fraktiv HQ since the last blog update five months ago (whoops)!
I guess the biggest news has been our inability to tear ourselves away from our new in-house production arm - geebeebee media - and our fantastic Sony NEX-FS700 camera, which has kept us so busy that we’ve hugely neglected this blog! So, without going into huge amounts of detail, here’s the lowdown on geebeebee since our Canon 7D test project, shot at the Gravity Project in May:
- April 2012: Sony announced the NEX-FS700 at NAB, getting us quite excited, despite us just investing in a Canon 7D
- May 2012: we filmed a series of events at cycling venue, the Bull Track, on our trusty Canon 7D, with the released series of films achieving great reviews
- June 2012: we launched a marketing campaign across social media platforms and bike-specific websites and forums (full list below), to raise our profile
- June 2012: we planned a two week filming trip to Chatel, France, to test out camera equipment, in order to build material for a portfolio. We also shot a short test commercial for Canadian mountain bike brand, Cove Bikes
- June 2012: after lengthy discussions, Sony UK delivered to us one of only two European-spec prototype FS700 cameras in existence, allowing us to use the camera for 3 weeks for our trip to Chatel (even UK broadcast firms only got a day or two at a time), so we were incredibly fortunate
- July 2012: we commenced two weeks of mountain bike-related filming in the French Alps, based around the Chatel and Morzine areas. After a few days of acclimatising to the new camera, we filmed the annual FMB Chatel Mountain Style, filmed with a Scott Bikes freeride team and with a Transition Bikes professional rider over the course of a few days, as well as shooting test material for Sony UK
- August 2012: mostly editing...
- September 2012: we planned, shot and edited a doc/behind-the-scenes video in aid of a Help for Heroes fundraiser
- October 2012...so far: we’ve edited our final feature from our summer trip to France; a short film featuring professional Transition Bikes rider, Nick Simcik, in advance of his entry as a Red Bull Rampage 2012 competitor...and October has several projects in store for us still!
|Chatel Mountain Style 2012||Chatel Air Voltage with Endless Gap||Help for Heroes at The Bull Track|
|Chatel Black Shore with Nick Simcik|
In all, geebeebee has produced 20 short films in the 6½ months since we launched in April 2012, and across our social media outlets, we’re racked up over 125,000 views of our films. The rest of 2012 is continuing to look busy, as is 2013, so stay tuned for more, and if you haven’t followed us yet...where have you been?
Twitter: @gbb_farah and @fraktiv
What, no mention of Fraktiv? Oh yeah, we’ve been super busy here too, but I’ll save that for another post...
As mentioned in our last blog post, we're in the process of launching our own in-house filming production service, complete with new high-end cameras and facilities to add to our current DSLR setup, and this is very much still on course. We can't spill the beans yet on our new investments, the high-profile sports production we're hoping to film in early July, or the project backers, but what we can announce is the name of our production offshoot: geebeebee media.
By way of a warm-up, we've been filming what we know and love - freeride mountain biking - and have had the opportunity to shoot a couple of short test films, with a couple more in the pipeline. We recently had a half-day shoot at a local downhill/freeride mountain bike race (held at the Gravity Project in Hampshire, UK), and thanks to our links with Adobe, we decided to give our production skills and worklfow a good 'ol test by setting our sights on a 4 day turnaround, whilst using Adobe's new CS6 Master Collection content creation suite, which has just been released (filming and software review below the video)...and here's the fruits of our labours...
The race event was filmed on a Canon EOS 7D in 720p50 format, using the ProLost Flat camera profile, which we use interchangeably with the Technicolor CineStyle profile; we also used a GoPro HD Hero camera for some POV shots on a notoriously steep, off-camber hairpin, leading to some great comedy moments, though thankfully no injuries...scroll down for the 'corner cam' video. On the DSLR, we used a range of modern AF and antique manual lenses, including 14, 35, 50 and 100mm primes, with grip and monitoring equipment from Manfrotto, DSLR DEVICES and SmallHD.
Filming the event - consisting of an open practice session followed by three timed race runs per rider - proved pretty challenging, due to the typically British weather combined with slippery and remote quarry location, though thankfully once rolling, all went very well, and after an afternoon of filming, we had the shots we needed in the bag. In advance of being back at the studio, the DSLR footage was transferred to a Win x64 laptop running Adobe CS5.5 Master Collection (with an Adobe-approved nVidia card, with Mercury support), where footage was logged in Premiere Pro and the project set up, ready for transfer to our studio systems, running CS6 beta software. Once in CS6, specifically Premiere Pro (below), we ran the edit as we would do normally, and without a hitch; no crashes, bugs or hangs...just a totally responsive and seamless experience. Oh yes, our studio systems are slightly older generation MacPros, running Snow Leopard, with no Mercury-supported cards, and are SAN'ed in terms of storage, so the reality of there being no issues - even with these older machines - was both amazing and truly impressive! Long-gone seem to be the days where the latest software needed the latest hardware to even work - of course it always helps - but here, we had no issues at all, and glitch-less, smooth playback at full resolution and 50p frame-rate.
As editing neared completion, we started to think about the VFX shots we wanted to incorporate - including some camera/motion tracking and some basic plate clean-up - and both technical and final grading, a fair bit of which was going to be needed due to the open vs woodland nature of the venue and the variability of natural light during the day. Of course, thanks to the now well-established workflow offered by Adobe's Dynamic Link technology, the VFX side of things was again seamless, allowing us to process the various shots we needed in After Effects (below) without rendering. After establishing that Dynamic Link worked just as well now as it ever had done, we decided to give one of AE's new hero features a test...3D camera/motion tracking. There were two shots we wanted to 3D track in particular, both involving camera pan/jib moves with the desired insertion of some basic graphic elements, to indicate the practice and race stages of the event. Basically, at this point, all I can say is wow; the process is intuitive, quick, fairly flexible and amazingly accurate (considering the nature of the material and shooting conditions), and yielded results that were previously the domain of much higher-end tools. This is a tool I can see us using a lot!
Back in PPro, the 3D-tracked scenes dynamically linked into the timeline flawlessly (as ever, with no rendering), which again offers a workflow that really stands out as being a huge time-saver and extremely powerful! With the edit and VFX shots complete, we moved on to the technical grade, for which we decided to use Red Giant Software's Colorista Free and Magic Bullet Looks (v1.4), both of which installed easily (a little moving of the plugin files in directories was required, but this will of course be remedied in due course) and worked perfectly! Approaching the technical grade, we decided to use a very exciting and arguably very simple but powerful new feature within PPro: adjustment layers. As After Effects users know, adjustment layers allow for non-destructive application of effects and settings to clips, and now this power is available natively within PPro. To test out the new PPro version of this feature, we decided to apply the technical grade - via the plugins mentioned - to an adjustment layer above the main timeline (the 'broken' pink line in the screenshot below), which allowed us to grade shots from a baseline setting - applied by default to all the clips - and then refine it as and when needed, by cutting the clip as you would do any normal clip, and then changing the settings. This made for a powerful, quick and easy way to process a technical grade, especially when using the three-monitor view, as seen below. Finally, we applied a very basic Magic Bullet grade on another adjustment layer, which extended through the entire edit, serving to bring everything together.
For the final pass, we turned to Adobe's new flagship grading tool, SpeedGrade (below). Our Premiere Pro timeline was easily 'sent' to SpeedGrade via the new menu entry - working in a similar way to Dynamic Link - presenting the edits from our timeline in SpeedGrade, ready for further work. Given that our familiarity with SpeedGrade wasn't all that good, the application certainly felt very 'Adobe' and we quickly felt able to tackle some basics. For now, and given we were keen to complete the project within the time window we'd allocated (especially considering our day job!), we decided not to get too involved with SpeedGrade on this edit, but it's easy to see that one could very easily spend a lot of time in this very capable tool. Hopefully we'll get more comfortable with it soon and have opportunity to put in some hours to unlock its industry-renowned reputation!
Coming to final output, and considering the older generation of machine we were using, we were very impressed with the rendering speed, with the system almost maxing out all the processors, and seemingly outputting the finished 7GB QuickTime ProRes 422 HQ file in double-quick time. Final encoding to an H.264 720p25 Vimeo file was handled by Adobe Media Encoder (via a handy new built-in PAL-friendly preset, so no more amending/re-saving an NTSC one now!), which similarly seemed to fly through the 2-pass VBR encode.
Overall, with the release of CS6, Adobe have delivered us an awesomely powerful set of tools, with many useful, time-saving and creative features that far surpass what many other 'software suites' offer. The wheel has not been re-invented here, but the tyre's been upgraded, the rim strengthened and the alloy very much pimped! (Ed: please...no more metaphors!) Here at Fraktiv - and through our new venture at geebeebee media - we're already putting CS6 through its paces on several more edits, and you can of course check these out first on the Fraktiv blog and via twitter: @fraktiv.
It's been a busy 2012 so far here at Fraktiv, and it shows no signs of slowing down as we head into spring and summer.
'Culinary Travels with Varun Sharma' has been our main focus, and we're nearing completion of the first 12 episode TV series, which we began working on in January. The series takes in luxury food and wine experiences from top restaurants and locations around the globe, racking up quite a tally of Michelin stars! We're also just about to commence work on our third series of 'Inside Luxury Travel' (series 5) for Travel Channel, this time taking in the marvels of Perth, Toronto, Marrakesh, Buenos Aires, Munich, Cyprus and Johannesburg. Still in the luxury travel vein, we're also in the midst of work for both the Raffles and Four Seasons hotel groups...it's just a shame we never get time to visit them!
We've also just completed a series of motion graphics for Yahoo! & VisitBritain (produced by Media Ark), to promote the UK as a tourist destination during the Olympic year. We're looking forward to working with Media Ark again soon on some more high profile projects.
After a long gestation, 'For Zeta' (dir. Babak Gray, prod. Simona Hughes) - a long short film we've been working on for 2 years - is about to enter the festival circuit, having completed post production at Fraktiv and Technicolor. Shot on a combination of RED and Super 8, it's a complex but touching story, starring Colin Tierney (DCI Banks, Garrow's Law, Waterloo Road) and Farzana Dua Elahe (Silent Witness, EastEnders, Britz).
As we roll on into April, our slate of work is getting ever more divergent, taking in website development, consultation and builds for ITV, Hasbro and Inside Luxury Travel, corporate exhibition productions for the V&A Museum in London and a large pharmaceuticals firm and extensive beta testing for Adobe's recently announced CS6 suite of design and production software.
By early summer, we're also going to be developing our in-house filming production service, adding new cameras and facilities to our current DSLR setup, and we're hoping to be able to announce work on a high-profile sports production in early July...watch this space!
Phew...let Q2 commence!
Here are Fraktiv HQ, we've worked with some of the most well known and highly respected hairdressing, hairstyling and hair product companies in the world over the years, and TIGI (now part of Unilever), have been one of our longest running (10+ years) and most interesting clients, constantly pushing us to deliver bigger, better and ever more creative content.
We've dabbled in a range of styles with them, taking in everything from motion control and roto work on 'Concrete Box', a hairdressing-based 'Hot Fuzz' homage in the 'Urban Detailing' collection, a 3D popup-book...and some other stuff...approach for a Cancun show promo and a quasi-3D wall thing...umm, not sure how to describe it (you'd best watch it)...for 'Creative Academy'. We were also lucky enough to be asked to direct, grade and edit their updated 'Classics' collection in 2011, in which we also got to the opportunity to work with Ajay from Data Romance (of seminal mountain biking film 'LifeCycles' fame) on the music.
However, time moves on and whilst we could talk for hours about all the creative jobs we've done for TIGI over the years, one really stood out recently, which had a brief that was beyond our usual remit: 'multiple scanning electron microscope 3D views of strands of hair being damaged and in turn replenished by TIGI's new range of products, Hair Reborn' . Wow, ok, that's pretty niche!
After discussions with TIGI about creative style and approach, we started researching scanning electron microscope (SEM) views of hair, both healthy and damaged, and started to mock up some 3D scenes in 3dsmax to try to replicate the pattern of the microscopic damage as accurately as possible. This proved a pretty difficult task, but we eventually cracked it (and our CG hair's cuticle) and moved on with the other part of the project...to present 'sciency' representations of the damage at the molecular level. Again, after some discussions, we agreed upon a method to display this is a representative way...and a way we could show the repair of the hair after product usage.
The various elements were then brought together in Adobe After Effects with a little Magic Bullet to grade the elements together and push the CG SEM effect a bit more. The final elements (9 of them) where then handed over to TIGI to be included in their products' launch video. However, we've put them all together below in a little montage, complete with some descriptions to explain each visual's context.
London has been the base for Fraktiv since waaay back...ok, 12 years...and in that time we've worked with clients in and around London, across the UK, in the US and across Europe, carrying out editing, post work and all sorts of other filming and media related shenanigans. We're always pleased to work on projects that have a bit of soul and if they involve London, that's even better!
Last year we had the privileged of working with an old friend and film-maker, Sam Carrington, with whom we worked on a short film back in 1999, titled "The Banjo Account". It was a pretty ambitions short, following the life and death of a pet hamster that belonged to a house full of students, and was all shot POV - cue a Canon XL1 mounted in a hamster cage, and thrust into some rather interesting locations! The film was really well received - it probably exists on YouTube somewhere, not forgetting our hamster-powered credit roll - and so began a great relationship with a fabulous crew, many of whom I still work with today, including Sam, who 12 years on, had a new short on the cards...this time with no hamsters!
"Nan's Brixton" was Sam's pitch and was a complete contrast to the anarchic black comedy of "The Banjo Account", being a biopic about his grandmother, Edie, and her life-long experiences of living in Brixton, south London. Sam got in touch with us early in the pre-production with regard to getting involved in the filming and taking this right through to delivery. However, after a long gestation and some worries over his nan's health, we ended up losing touch a bit but then reunited to provide Sam with the online edit, finishing, graphics, grading and final delivery.
The film premiered in late Obtober 2011, rather appropriately at the Brixton Club House, and was tremendously well received. Sam has since gone on to do a fair few press interviews, culminating in an interview with BBC London radio. To find out more about the film, Sam and Edie and to hear the BBC radio interview, please check out the film's Facebook page. Sam has also set up a Just Giving page for the film, which has been supported by the British mental health charity, Mind, so far raising several hundred pounds, with all proceeds raised from donations going directly to Mind.
You'll be wanting to see the film then...well here it is...