Category Archives: JOBS

Insomnia 48, Day 2

I woke up at 7.30 from my alarm, which is surprising because I usually miss my alarm at home. Maybe subconsciously I knew that I would have to be awake! We met at the bus stop at about 8.30, and literally there was so so much snow. I have never been away from home/uni when the snow has come down so heavily it’d be impossible to pack up and go home. The mini-bus shuttle service was better this morning though, I don’t know why this was, new driver? Less snow on the road? Well either way I didn’t feel like a crash was around every corner this time.

(Jack wearing just his t-shirt to go and get some camera equipment..)

Upon arrival me and Jack set too on eating. I had last nights left over pizza (this was left in the hot sweaty main hall all night). I forgot to mention in my last post I had a pizza. Basically we got given 3 food tokens as we were members of staff, 1 token got you a chicken wrap, 2 tokes was the equivalent of a 9″ pizza, and 3 could get you a 12″ pizza. I decided to spend all of my food tokens on the very first night, as you do! Which meant I had to buy everything else I wanted to eat. Needless to say I didn’t eat much for the rest of my stay. (it’s expensive ok!).

9am hit and we were back at the FIFA area, watching Dave and Aubs set up the fifa area. I sat down on the streaming PC and turned it on. Where I was met with error after error in relation to everything working. It was working fine yesterday what on earth has gone wrong today? Apparently everything. But that was mostly because everything had been turned off at the switch.. one of the HDMI cables was faulty, and because there was a last minute cable alteration by the technicians to change the video output going out of the speakers which made FIFA and the casting sound awful. But this was fixed (not by me mind).

Eventually there was a massive rush to get the Canon 600d’s working through the PC so we could engage in interviews off those cameras. I tried downloading the software for the 600’d so we could use them as a webcam (i’d done this at home so I knew it worked) but alas the pc didn’t want to know anything about it. Rubbish piece of equipment I say / would happily have it as it was worth twice as much as mine, but let’s just ignore that small irrelevancy ! So Jack told Dave the interview situation, that there would be no live broadcast of interviews through the ‘nice’ cameras, instead the solution was to take players to one side after a game and give them a cheeky interview, then let them get back on there way. Did I mention this was 30 minutes before the days event was supposed to start? No? well it happened 30 minutes before the tournament was kicking off. Dave probably hated me and Jack by now as mostly everything which could’ve gone wrong did go wrong, the whole reason why we were there was to make sure it was as smooth as possible. It was going about as smoothly as a hedgehog.

After all though, me and Jack said from the beginning we were there to do some filming, that’s all we had planned to do before we had gotten to the event, so in our defence we were always going to be useless at the rest of the stuff. The filming though. Yes finally!

Ok the filming didn’t go great.

Here is a list of reasons why the filming didn’t go as smoothly / as brilliantly as possible. I have done a bullet pointed list for your eyes so it reads easier.

  • The lighting was poor: You would’ve thought that with the whole area designated to us we would’ve thought about getting some additional lighting. Say like the StarCraft 2 area. They knew they were filming, so had some massive lights hanging from the ceiling, and some free standing lights. Something which benefits the camera greatly is strong lighting. Yes the players are probably going to be annoyed by it, and if you go to a TV studio and sit facing the lights you’re literally blinded by them. Alas we had poor lighting, and everything we shot was semi-grainy and lacking in full colours and good quality. This is not to be confused with unusable footage. That brings me on to my next bullet point nicely though.
  • Unusable footage e.g Interviews: We had this new RODE microphone which was awesome and the sound was so much better than the in built microphone. Bearing in mind we are in the worlds most echoey hall ever, you can literally hear all the sounds bounce off the walls, the p.a system constantly blasting out from other. The RODE microphone performed really well. That was when we turned it on. It spent half of it’s life turned off, which is annoying because it’s such an easy thing to remember, but when everything Is battery powered, and you are using something for the first time, that on top of having to be ready really quickly for something, both me and Jack missed out a few interviews by having a no sound recording. Useless I know, but it’s just one of those things! The interviews we did have were decent, although the microphone was attached to the camera, so we were reliant on the player speaking louder than usual (which for camera shy FIFA players isn’t likely)

Key ways around this for future:

Have more batteries so we can just leave the microphone in the setting ON.

Buy an extension cable so the microphone can be used as more of a handheld thing. You know, like proper interviews.

Remember that we are film makers and that we have an obligation to film things correctly.

  • Possibly try and get better cameras.
  • Have some order to the filming, we ended up just filming random shots of everything, some files were 6 seconds, some were 4 minutes. This makes for really difficult editing situations.
  • variety of shots limited, although this was due to un-invasive camera work.

So yeah, that’s what went not 100% to plan.

That being said we had great fun on the Saturday afternoon. Literally loads of fun, we were chatting with all of the players, following the live bracket, helping with the stream, helping with the administrative tasks set for us, helping choose which games should be shown live. Adjusting audio levels on the sound board, and for the stream. Literally think of a job and me and Jack helped with it.

We were finished by about 6pm and were able to go back to our seats, eat and do some editing. This sounds great, and an early night is surely to ensue you’d think! Well think again, this is Insomnia after all!

On our way to get some pizza some guy approached us wearing a big rucksack and carrying a keyboard. He looked me in the eye and started speaking to me. ‘Either of you two interesting in buying some gaming equipment?’ – Funnily enough I was, I hadn’t had a new keyboard since I started playing Counter Strike Source, and I got it for Christmas when I was 15. I thought at the time it was an average keyboard, but it had since lasted me ages and it was something I didn’t really want to part ways with, although for the last 2 years i’d been looking for something new, something which could take my many hours of gaming and many hours of typing! Everything was like £100+ though, and it was something I didn’t really feel comfortable buying for 3 figures. ‘Yes I am, i’m after a new keyboard though’, I replied. He took the keyboard(which was boxed so that’s why I didn’t realise it was a keyboard straight away) and held it out in front of me. ‘Here we go, it’s a brand new Razor one my team won, but want me to sell because they want the money, it’s worth £90 but i’m selling it for £60.’ Hmmmm what’s the catch I thought, who just sells a brand new keyboard, not faulty, with £30 off.. GEEKS OF COURSE! I instantly bought it and have not looked back since. It shines up all kinds of colours and looks wonderful. Right place at the right time!

We put all of the footage on to the computer, and used Jacks massive external hard-drive. I would’ve used my new (specifically bought for the event) portable 1TB hard-drive for everything which would’ve made everything so much easier, but I had left it at the University accommodation… Standard. But yeah, we uploaded everything off the SD cards, and proceeded to download all of the live stream footage from twitch.tv/sweetpatchtv using keepvid.com. We didn’t realise however that the footage would be saved as .flv files. Which, even though we were using Adobe software with the Premiere Pro, it apparently doesn’t recognise flash files. It doesn’t recognise it in media converter either which is useless. So that meant finding a .flv->mp4 (or a recognisable file type) converter, which appeared to take forever, and once everything had finally been converted it was 9pm. Then the editing was finally allowed to begin!

the editing itself was fun because it was nice to use in-game footage and interlace that with the footage we had done. It’s something i’d not really played about with before, using game footage before and I found it really interesting. Me and Jack switched positions regularly, deciding we would do a linear edit of the streamed games, inter-cut with funky cool shots throughout the day in the main gaming area. We used the cut tool on the EA sports logo throughout which we found to look extremely helpful between transitions.

By the time we had done it was 1am, we uploaded it to the SweetpatchTV Youtube channel and this is what the final result was.

For once I am extremely proud of this video. Not only was it an extremely fast turnaround the quality is great and it has increased my experience with Adobe Premiere. The more times you use something the better you get at it. Apparently if you spend over 10,000 hours doing something you become a master at it! I have not spent 10,000 hours using Premiere Pro.

We were unlucky with our timing waiting for the shuttle mini-bus this time and we were out in the cold at 2am for about 35 minutes before one arrived. Which meant less sleep, so when that 7.30 alarm sounds it will not be a welcome one at all !

Saturday was fantastic, and although i’m used to being a part of the massive pub quiz, gaming all the time and hanging around with my friends, it felt as though I was doing something just as fun. It was at this moment I realised that Insomnia is only possible for me to have such a great time when I attend thanks to the hard work and effort by the staff and volunteers at every stall which makes it such a fantastic event, and for me to be a part of that silent un-thanked group of people is satisfying enough in itself.

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Insomnia 48. Day 1

At Insomnia 47 I posted about entering the FIFA 1v1 Tournament. I won the 1v1 ‘fun’ tournament and came runners up in the 2v2 on following day. Although they were warm-up tournaments and don’t hold a lot of credibility, I still felt like it was an accomplishment in itself!

(Me shaking hands with Dave Witts upon winning the FIFA fun cup, I beat his son 2-1 in the final so he probably forced that smile. I will be working for /with him this event though!)

After the event me and Jack approached Dave Witts, the organiser of the event and the man who runs SweetpatchTV, offering our video making services. He was quick to reply and sound enthusiastic about our approach, which was extremely pleasing to say the least. We managed to work out a new plan for the FIFA tournament for i48 which involved a crowd seating area and a main casting desk with a PA system alongside what was the main gaming area for the rest of the tournament. In production value terms this in itself was already a massive step up to what insomnia 47 was like. Graphics were suggested, and conversations were passed back and forth between myself and Dave during the build up to i48, and in no time it was here.

It had given snow at midnight on the Thursday, meaning Friday driving would be terrible, so Jack decided he wanted to drive down late Thursday afternoon, we stay in a hotel overnight, then we are there ready for Friday morning with no snow worries whatsoever. Which proved a good thing because the snow became increasingly worse on our drive over, and after 2 hours of driving we found ourselves in a rather large amount of snow. Jack is an excellent driver though and handled the conditions well.

We stayed in the International Centre hotel for £65 between us for one night. Which in the circumstances was an excellent deal, and although we could’ve signed in to the uni accommodation, we didn’t actually know where that was.. And with it being so snowy by the time of arrival it was a journey too much and what we saw as unnecessary hassle. We put on the TV and went to sleep. Housekeeping came in at about 8 in the morning shouting housekeeping.. to which neither of us responded too, until Jack said, ‘Hello?’ but they didn’t reply, so we went back to sleep. Before our alarm call at 9, which meant the day was starting early!

When we first got there we were welcomed by the loud speaker system the main hall usually blasts out, and although it was only my 4th LAN event, it had that same sense of familiarity which I love. I recognised people from the last event, faces that is, it’s the same core group that seem to turn up every time, despite the weather! It makes me wonder what they do in their lives outside of LAN. Myself I try hard to create video content and be productive when time allows. Do they stay at home all the time? Do they have really good tech jobs? I think it’s the latter. People do have a misguided view on some geeks, that they stay at home in their mums basements and that is the end of it. When in reality there are some of the brightest people in the country attended these events. None more so than the Multiplay technicians, who blew me and Jack away with their intelligence and ability to think on the spot and get a problem sorted with the minimum amount of time, effort and fuss possible. Literally every problem, big or small (There were a lot of big problems, the main one being, how is it possible to have the Xbox hooked up to the tv, the pc and be projected on to another TV, whilst at the same time have the sound go through the large PA type speakers and be streamed live online which has the sounds from in game as well as the microphones. Literally I was clueless when this problem was posed to me. We needed help. Although now I can honestly say I respect what these guys do an incredible amount, because problem solving when technology is involved is a very difficult task. Inputs/Outputs, different cables, connecters, splitters. It’s all in my head ready for the next time I need it. And by I that I mean, I still have little idea as to what actually went on, but it was nice to look like I knew what I was doing for those short 5 or so hours whilst everything was being sorted out. There were literally always new problems coming up, if one camera was plugged in it would crash the pc. The Canon 600d’s would not connect to the PC without the correct software, which was impossible to get. The cameras themselves overheat so this is an extremely bad way to have a live picture. That being said we tried everything, but alas we couldn’t get it to work.

(The Streaming area, although full with cables was finally set up and looking good)

I was allowed to enter the 1v1 fun cup, which is what I won at the last event. As the reigning champion I thought I stood a good chance of doing well this time round as well, however the prize was £100 so that instantly attracted a better standard of player, and that coupled with my absence from playing for over 2 months, my 5-1 battering and elimination was humbling and just. That being said when I was at my best and playing well I don’t think I would’ve been able to beat the guy I lost too, he was really quite good, but didn’t make it to the final or anything, which again shows how good the competition was in the fun cup.

We then tried to do some interviews which failed again on the new pc. It was saying it had no audio, or it was extremely quiet. We thought it’d perhaps be the Rode microphone we had just bought, and we had turned the sound off. But we tried it on both of our pc’s (the windows and MAC) and it worked fine as both. We even exported the video as a .mp4 file instead of a .MOV to see if it would accept that but it didn’t seem to want to know. The technicians didn’t have an answer to this which was upsetting as this was our main reason for coming. To do interviews which could be streamed! Anyway, we went back to our desks scratching our heads, but it was about 7pm by this point and the long day had tired us both out. We sat and played 2 games of StarCraft, watched a little bit of Jerry Springer and decided we were way too tired to game, especially when our alarms were set for 7.30am. We had a bit of a treck to get back to the Uni Accommodation however as we had still never been. We went to the car to pick up our bags and saw outside. It was so snowy and cold, literally freezing. There was a van waiting outside the event hall who said he was going to the accommodation, although we knew it would be the slipperiest ride ever, and with that both me and Jack got in to the mini-bus. It was probably one of the most nervous I’ve been on the roads as every corners was a skid or a wheel spin, I gave a worried look to Jack about half way through, he looked pretty calm in fairness almost accepting his fate. Once we arrived, we thanked the driver who was a very nice man indeed and wished us a good time for the rest of our stay. You’d like to think that this is the end of what happened on this day, but no the story doesn’t quite end here!

So we go to check in at Wolverhampton Uni, Telford campus. We were given card keys as well as normal keys, My hands were bright pink and I was shaking pretty dramatically. It was frightfully cold. I stood for about 5 minutes in the cold trying to get my key to work but the door just kept turning red and wouldn’t let me in. By this point I couldn’t feel my fingers, I did call jack to see if he would come down and help me with my key, because I didn’t know whether I was doing it right or not or just being stupid because I was so tired. The security guard then came at about the same time as Jack appeared. He said laughing, ‘We’ve been watching you on the CCTV, you’re not supposed to do it like that, you’re supposed to just hold it until it turns green.’ He tried the door and it instantly failed. His laugh went as he confirmed the card was broken and it infact wasn’t my fault. But at least I got in to my room ok! It was really warm inside and I couldn’t wait to get in to bed. The next day surely must be better.. surely?

Olympic Dance Festival

Me and Jack have been very lucky in finding a contact called Steve. Katie (my girlfriend at the time) worked at Stafford Sports college, I didn’t really like to ask questions about her work, because as far as I was concerned I needed to concentrate on my University work, as well as doing the typical lad thing and not really asking any questions. Ever. That being said however, there was a particular conversation about a Dance performance they were all rehearsing for at the college, and Katie was going to be in charge with running a lot of the event at a theatre in the middle of town. She knew I did film at University (obviously) and asked would it be possible to film the event. I umm’d and arrr’d about it, before she told me the last person did it for £1000…. I immediately told her to sign me up! Although this figure is a rather un-accurate number, as I shall explain later. We were introduced to her office at Stafford Sports College, where we were introduced to Steve Glover for the first time, the head of the Stafford&Stone school sports partnership, which basically means he has to look after 6-7 colleges in terms of sport (and a lot of other stuff actually). We had a meeting and said the highest he would let us film it for was £750, but wanted us to do it for around £500. he wasn’t a great negotiator and so we did it for £750. Although that is not £750 profit, far from it. He wanted 100 DVD’s created, with us buying / designing / burning the entire collection. Which seemed like it would be easy at the time.. Ended up being very time consuming and boring.

Me Jack and Richard Cullen (Richard is a proper lad, go and look at ‘working with Richard Cullen’ just to see how much of a boss he is, who offered to help out and be camera man for us, but got literally the worst footage ever so we didn’t use it, but it was nice to have him there nevertheless) had a multi-camera set up, one camera at the front, one at the back, and one in the middle, out of the view of the audience. We felt like it went well on the night! although we were tired.. and tired of trying to conserve batteries on the Panasonic 151’s too.. we didn’t miss anything and put together some really good footage. The camera at the back was set up when the lights were different to the actual performance which meant there was a lot of ‘over exposure’ which was so bad, but we think it was a camera fault as when we tried it again everything we recorded seemed faulty. Which is unfortunate but with some post production magic, and a lot of cutting to the better camera the footage was saved and eventually looked good! We met a lot of nice people on the night and it was my first experience of recording a live event. Filming, organising.. you know.. the whole thing. But the work wasn’t over then!

I searched online for good prices on a number of different things. 3 class 10 32GB SD cards. 200 printable DVDs and 200DVD cases, (decided he wanted 200 eventually), printer ink for printing on the DVD’s themselves. I designed the cover (not my strongest suit but it turned out ok in the end after a lot of tweaking) and had that printed off by a 3rd party company, which turned out to be a great addition as they came out perfect and relatively cheap. Although by this point we were £300+ in to our profits, and this was before we had been paid, which is kind of terrible, but lucky we had our student loans in allowing us to do this.

Editing the footage literally took ages, and almost all of the credit for that goes to Jack has he was bossing it out before he went to bed, and as soon as he woke up. Which was incredible, I would re-watch it, and tweak it in places but the majority of this was done by him. The exporting and getting the footage on to the DVD fell on my shoulders, and that took a lot of work trying to get 3 hours of footage of good enough quality on to a DVD, and make sure the DVD menu was designed and working perfectly. It was in my opinion an equal balance of post production, but i’m sure Jack will disagree on that one!! After all was said and done we got everything finished and handed in just over 3 weeks after recording and we were paid via cheque accordingly, but not only that gave us valuable experience doing this kind of thing, and got us a fantastic contact in Steve, who promised us more work in the future. He kept to his promise.

 

Olympic Torch Carrying – Stoke-on-Trent

After a great day with Denise Lewis and editing the video until late me and Jack turned in for the night and set our alarms for 4.50am. . . 4.50am ?!?!!

I honestly didn’t think i would see this time of day in my life, as it falls under the too late for staying up and too early to wake up category. However, we managed it somehow and made our way on the 1 hour drive to Stoke. The weather was pretty nice considering the time, until it began to drizzle with rain,we hoped it wouldn’t get too heavy else the cameras would be pretty damp… I heard the cameras weren’t water-proof either…

I haven’t mentioned the cameras yet have i? Well we decided to do a 2 camera multi shoot on the Panasonic 151’s (again) but yes they are the best cameras for this kind of thing, the lens offers deep depths of field which allowed for focus to be easier. To film an Olympic torch bearer, it requires a lot of skill as it is incredibly difficult, required us both to move back up the pavement – as stepping in the road would cause us to be arrested (apparently) – with plenty of people in the way, this was because they all wanted to see the torch bearer too, which i guess was fair enough. Had i of had my way i would’ve been sat in the lorry which was ahead of the torch bearer getting a very steady shot from inside all sheltered in there from the rain, lucky git.

We eventually finished by about 7.20 drove home, and got back in to bed for a light snooze… until about 1. Since waking up i have looked through the footage… or lack of it because i didn’t press record! – Only joking, i pressed record. I then edited the footage in Adobe Premiere cs5, placing each cameras file on top of one another whilst syncronising them. The edit itself involved cutting out the bad shots and keeping the 5 minute walk running smoothly in one long sequence. I probably could’ve worded that better, but i’m not going to change it because i like walk and running next to each other as you don’t see it very often.

Once the edit was done I tested playing different songs over the top, some Olympic inspired songs and ended up with the perfect one ‘Olympic Anthem – Bugler’s Dream – composed by Leo Arnaud’

I have edited together 3 different versions for Steve (the client) one long version which shows the Olympic parade come through, as well as including little snippets of when people were taking pictures with him, followed by the eventual torch carrying (without music, just the crowd clapping). The second was just the torch carrying and the crowd clapping and cheering. The third was the torch carrying with the music over the top. All of which were rendered in .m2v (mpeg2 DVD) at a max bitrate of 9 and quality of 5, so it’s as good as can be for DVD. I’ve just got to design a DVD menu, once that’s done I can move on to burning the final DVD. Also included in the final hand in was an .mp4 (h.264) version of each render on a pen drive so there was always a different copy on the PC and not just the DVD.

All in all it was a great day, honestly didn’t think i would feel any emotion seeing the torch being carried, but it’s an excellent atmosphere created by everybody, and one which can only be understood once felt first hand.

31/5/2012

-Josh

Denise Lewis – Olympic talk at Stafford Sports College

Steve Glover hired me and Jack to make a 5 minute video compilation of Denise Lewis’ visit to Stafford Sports College in Stafford today.

We were up for 8.30, had a shower and got ready. We checked the camera’s, the battery life, the SD cards, the actual settings before we set off. As we arrived we realised we weren’t the only film crew there.

there were a few other cameramen, some with bigger cameras than others, ours was the best video camera on the Panasonic 151. I presume the rest were pictures, although it’s difficult to tell with DSLR cameras. Like i said, we did have the best camera, that was until Midlands Today turned up from the BBC. We didn’t realise we would be up against the big dogs in the area. In direct competition for the best shots with the BBC… Mmm i though, cannot wait to get my teeth in to this now (I spoke to Liz Copper later it turns out she is lovely).

After filming in the sports hall for 30 minutes, we went straight through to another hall where some running activities were taking place. There was some great footage to be filmed here, as there were hundreds of kids waving and smiling, and Denise did a bit of running and really got involved and took part, which was fun to watch and to film!

We finished in there and went outside where me and Jack got to interview Denise Lewis. We didn’t want to keep her time, as the radio had turned up as well, and needless to say we were last after watching her do interviews for about 40 minutes, so we didn’t want to keep her time. She was however a true professional and said it was fine, and we had a brief conversation whilst I set the camera up, (trying to hurry so she wasn’t waiting too long!) then Jack asked a couple of questions and we were done with that part of the video. Again, I can’t begin to explain how nice a woman Denise was, and such a professional!

We then interviewed a series of people for the video asking various Olympic and inspirational questions, again getting to meet some young talented people, and some Olympic torch bearers which was fantastic. Everyone we interviewed was nervous and shy, so we had a little talk with each one of them to put them at ease, asked them about their day, what they had planned for next week etc, so they felt comfortable around us and more importantly in front of the camera! Alas one of the girls we interviewed wasn’t filmed on the external mic, and on the internal mic picking up all of the noise from inside the sports hall which kind of ruined the footage. This was very disappointing to learn, as everything else on the day went right.

After the interviews and pulling in different members of the staff as well as the children, we went to the netball courts and filmed the kids doing different drills, as well as Denise getting involved in a few of them herself, and considering how hot it was, she did pretty well to keep her energy levels up, although you do expect it from an Olympic gold medalist!

Having got all of the shots together we said our goodbyes to everybody and told Steve we would have this edited as soon as possible for him, and we would see him at 7am the next morning to film him carrying the Olympic torch flame.

I had a great day filming, and i enjoyed every minute of it.

You can see the final video here –

30/5/2012 – Josh.

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