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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Day 214: Get into the groove

Eek! I thought the last lost weekend was long but this one has been quite a jump. I've been busy working pre production for the music on a big budget fantasy movie and also consulting on a low budget feature for Vertigo which looks like it will be great. I can't say too much as the marketing plan includes viral web promotion which is linked to the story, but I can reveal that I supplied a specially modified daylight infra red camera for the night scenes, which has captured some amazing footage.

With the six month half birthday over our shoulders, Oscar is moving on quickly. His new mode of transport is bottom shuffling while sitting on the potty!
In the last few days he has learned a new trick. Whenever he hears music or singing, he goes into 'dancing' mode. Dancing for Oscar mean wobbling your head with a stylee not unlike those dancing flowers from the 80's. Very cute.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Day 152: Flying

Today I found out that Oscar really likes to fly! When I say fly I mean hold him out like superman or above me when I lay down. He also likes to carpet bomb with drool as he flies around so a muzzy is essential equipment for this game.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Day 149: Hi tech Fuji W3, Highchair.

I shot some photos today with the soon-to-be-released Fuji W3 3D camera.

Fuji have kindly loaned me one as I am test shooting for a 3D movie. This is predominantly a stills camera, but it also features 720P 3D video. It's true 720p, recording two independent 1280x720 video streams which can be demuxed for 3D editing (no side by side compression). It has a wonderful parallax barrier (i.e. glasses free) 3D screen which amazes everyone who sees it. I'll post more about this camera later in a proper review.

Today we did a grandparents marathon!

First up was lunch with Mum and Dad, where Oscar has his first time in a high chair! He took to it marvellously, really enjoying looking around and watching us all eating. We made sure he had his milk before we began our meal.
I've noticed that he is copying my chewing movements whenever I'm eating, he must be getting ready. We read a lot, and a lot of people are recommending holding off on solids until six months to make sure his digestive system is all ready for it. He seems happy enough on milk so that's what we are going to do.

It was nice to see my brother Paul and his girlfriend Michelle. He's been working away so hasn't seen Oscar that much. He usually looks better in photos...

I wanted to post the group shot as it shows the slightly hyper 3D depth from the Fuji, which has a stereo base of 75mm. (My Lumix pair is even wider, but they have wider angle lenses which alters the depth perception. It's a complicated business)

I've posted the 'numbers' shot twice, once with the Lumix pair and again with the W3. Not entirely scientific as the web upload is compressed, and the anaglyph format is not very forgiving. Also the stereo window was set differently on the two setups, so Oscar is standing out more in the W3 shot.

Second meal of the day was at Tasha's Mum Judy's. Here, Uncle Matt, fresh back from IBC in Amsterdam where all the new 3D tech was on display, did his best to stifle his language as Arsenal played Sunderland and nearly lost (!)
Bebi was there too with cousin Molly. The babies both went down to sleep without any crying.

Penny, the stray cat we have rescued, seems to be recovering well. In a move surely designed to curry favour, she caught the mouse that's been living under our cooker for weeks. Our resident cats had ignored the task...did I detect a slight hint of smugness when she saw them?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Day 148: The lost weekend

Eeek! Has it really been that long? I knew I had let the blog slip but woah the time has run away with me.

Oscar has reached a few milestones, he's now in his own room, sleeping right through from 7pm to 6-7am with a brief dream feed at 11 ish from me.
He's just about sitting up, though we like to put pillows around as he does flop over eventually!
About a week ago he held on to the bottle and supported it for about 30 luck repeating that trick but I'm sure he'll get the hang of it.

Maybe soon he'll also be able to sterilise the bottles...

I've been busy as a stereo consultant on a new movie for Vertigo...which is now going to be made in 2D!, product testing for several manufacturers with exciting new 3D products, and getting ready to score a big budget movie with a full orchestra.

Oh and we all had a nasty cold from Oscar's cousin Molly which knocked the whole family (and my mum and dad!) out for over a week.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Day 113: She has no machine

Oscar's first time in his new cot for a sleep in the day and he took to it beautifully.

Mummy is not *quite* ready to put him in his own room for a whole night though. She didn't mind me going in there when I had tonsillitis, what's going on in the world?

We visited Tracy and James from the NCT group who are several weeks behind us with baby Florence. I hope we reassured them that it gets easier!

Day 112: Long and winding road

I was at Abbey Road studios again for a 3D day with Paul Carrack. The Royal Philharmonic orchestra once again were superb. A loooooooooooooooong day. How come train tickets cost a million pounds if you want to get anywhere before 11 am?

Oscar had a mummy day and kept her occupied!

Did I mention it was a long day?

Day 111: Builder Centre

Built Oscar's new cot today. It's a Mothercare one. Despite the expense, it felt very much like Ikea to build. Looks nice though and the mattress is quite soft and comfy.

Dave from WRAS (Wildlife Rescue Ambulance Service) came to help build an extension to our chicken run. WRAS are releasing some fox cubs nearby and we have decided to keep the chooks in for a few weeks until they have dispersed.

Day 110: Tennis?

Having trouble tracking down the market seller who sells the wooden numbers we use for these photos. Mum picked them up a while back and we need another one in the next 9 days or it will be impossible to continue!

Day 109:

Oscar had a go sitting up in a bumbo chair. He liked it for about 4o seconds then told us in pretty clearly he'd rather be somewhere else.

I had to pass on an acting role in the web series 'down time' by superteam films. We were due to shoot this morning but my tonsilitus is still hanging around. I didn't think it was fair to risk infecting the cast and crew.

Day 108:

You know those films you see where lava is spewing into the sea deep underground forming sausage shapes and bubbling gas? Oscar has a poo in the bath today. It's basically the same thing.

Day 107: The owl's about that then?

Starting to recover.

Oscar seems to recognise the word 'up'. When we say UP! e lifts his head back and moves his shoulders ready to be pulled up into a sitting position. Marvellous. He is the ultimate interactive...activity.

We are hearing another owl in the field, seemly calling to plop, the rescue owl in one of the WRAS avaries. At least we hope it is calling and not shouting "oi! get out of my field!"

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Day 106: Recovery mode

Legs feel stronger. I'm going to venture to the stairs. If the guards don't see me I might feel the sun on my face this day.

Day 105: Cooped up, souped up.

Still banished to Oscar's room, lest my spores be spread amongst the clean. Those fine people should not have to look upon me, my with my fat neck and four day growth.

Thankfully the wifi is strong here.

Every other time I had tonsillitis it seems I really had 'a sore throat'.

I'd never felt like this. Today I was looking at glass of water but I was not able to get up for it. A few hours later I could walk OK. Later on there I was on my back knocked out again. Weird.With any luck the penicillin will do it's job.

I made the mistake of googling the illness to find that it can lead to rheumatic fever and heart problems if not treated quickly enough.

By mid afternoon the healing powers of chicken soup are with me! Dad dropped off soup and 20mins later I felt like a different person.

Once again Mummy had to do everything. All I could do was watch (from a distance)*. I can pick him up again from 2.42pm on Friday. Exactly 48hrs from when I started taking the penicillin I will no longer be contagious. Whether Mummy will let me back in our room again is another matter. She's started talking about how well she slept and how it would be nice to redecorate, "to make it a bit more girly"

Good new today though, the Komodo Dragon shoot is postponed to September so it's back on!

*baby monitor!

Day 104: How not film your Dragon, in 3D

Day one of my incarceration. I have contagious tonsilitus and have been banished to the spare room with its bare walls, tiny barred window and stainless steel toilet.*

I must have no contact with my wife and son, so drinks are occasionally pushed around
the door, when I may gaze upon another human's skin for a fleeting moment.

If someone could get word to my mother, perhaps salvation awaits.

I had to pass on a trip to film Komodo Dragons in 3D. Although having googled them and seen what they can do (and how FAST they are), perhaps the Panasonic AG3D-A1 doesn't have a long enough lens for safety.

Oscar had an enforced Mummy night and day, poor Mummy having to do all the feeds, nappies and sterilising...and look after me!

As an added bonus I was up most of the night vomiting. A really lovely feeling when your throat is like sandpaper. Nice combo.

*actually I'm in Oscar's room and it's rather nice. Still feeling grotty though.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Day 103: All's Swell

Mummy took Oscar off to guide camp today, so I got to catch up on this blog and finally get it up to date, sort of.

That was the plan anyhow. Part way through compiling the images I started to feel ill.

I'd had a rushing sensation in my right ear for the last couple of days and by the time Tasha got home I was pretty flakey.

Tonsilitus was upon me!

Mummy had to take the day's photo. Something was telling her there was a mistake somewhere, but she couldn't see it for a while. Took me a while to see too.

Day 102: Love Letters

BBQ for brother in law Matt's birthday. He works behind the camera for QVC at the moment. I'm sure I had some jokes prepared but forgot to use them.

We got Oscar's cousin Molly a set of M O L L Y letters to match the ones we have for Oscar. She seemed to like them. At least she made a lot of noise and waved her arms about!

Molly is a big girl, but Oscar is catching up fast.

Day 101: Let them eat cake. Sort of.

My nephew Toby's 3rd birthday party today so off we went for noisy toys and BBQ.

Later on, probably subconsciously inspired by the day, I had a crack at cake making. All the bits usually reserved for victoria sponge went in the bowl, but what came out was something else entirely. I think I was a little too cautious with the mixing as the result was a patchy mix of meringue, those little cakey biscuity things you use for trifles, caramelised sugar and a goey vanilla substance holding it all together. Drizzled in lemon juice and sugar it actually tasted OK. I called it Pudstrocity. Or Mooncake.

I actually prefer the pudding image if I put my glasses on backwards!

Day 100: Culture Club

Daddy's day today! Songs and stories in the morning, then off we went to see our friend Marie Stone ( at an exhibition of her photography. Marie travels the world shooting celebrities for Madame Tussaud's and takes landscapes, animals and all sorts of other images along the way.
I shot the photo for her new book's back cover, and you can buy it from Amazon if you don't get to visit the exhibition.

Oscar has been doing a lot of 'talking'. We do that thing of replying and saying, "really?, then what happened?" at which point he usually continues. It's like we're having a conversation in two entirely unrelated languages. A bit like what we do with the cats.

Day 99: Flakey

Not a great night last night, Oscar woke up a lot more than usual, as did Mummy.

We put it down to the jabs making him feel a little bit under the weather.

Day 98: Quick jab to the left, quick jab to the right

Ouch! Is there anything more painful than watching someone make your baby cry? Worse still, you have to sit in the waiting room knowing what is to come, and that you are (partly) responsible.

Still, it beats a slow agonising death from the black plague or whatever those immunisations are for.

Oscar didn't like it at all, but two minutes later he was happy again and it was as if it never happened.

Took us a little bit longer to get over it.

Day 97: Section 44

Today I was nearly arrested for being a terrorist while filming Buckingham Palace with the prototype Panasonic AG-3DA1 3D camcorder .
Apparently the Queen is not too impressed by having an ominous black twin lensed possibly-a-rocket-launcher-on-a-tripod pointed at her house.
My customary wit and banter deserted me in the face of two armed police and a squad car, so I said "fair cop", and moved on.
More quizzically I was also asked to leave the surroundings of the London Eye. The camera looked 'too professional', I was told. (It does have a little 3D Professional badge on the side!). Professional people have to pay to film the wheel it seems.
I didn't think I looked all that professional in my shorts and star wars T-shirt, but I'd already got most of what I wanted by the time the rent-a-cops arrived, so again, I moved on without too much hassle.

Panasonic took over Trafalgar Square to mark '2 years until olympics' day, and I met up with Nigel and John who gave me the camera to rush off all over London getting stock footage for their promo.

Oscar had another Mummy day. We're having Daddy day soon.

Day 96: Three months and a baby

Three months have flown by, but on the other hand, I find it increasingly difficult to remember what it was like before we had Oscar.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Day 95: Once more unto the beach with friends (once more)

Today we ventured true Brit style onto Eastbourne beach despite the patchy sun and wind. We met up with an assortment of chums and had a picnic. Phil spent most of the day building a Canute inspired network of sand based walls in a vain effort to contain the sea.

It didn't really work, but then I'm pretty sure the journey was the destination.

Day 94: It's getting better every day

Tash thought Oscar slept from 9.30 until 7am. I guess Mummy didn't wake up when Daddy fed Oscar at midnight. Still 12-7 is good!

Day 93: Blur day

Neither of us can remember what we did today!

Day 92: But that I am forbid To tell the secrets... 22nd July 2010

Today I was asked if I wanted to visit Panasonic to see a new product they were excited about.

Hmm... would I be at all interested in getting my hands on what I had a big suspicion was going to be a 3D camcorder?


As soon as I got there I had to sign an NDA, so for today that story is over.

After playing with the new toy I was asked to pop up to Paul Carrack's studio to shoot an interview about his new album with Peter Van Hook. It was pretty late in the day but PC still delivered a great interview and even bought me dinner!
This time I shot with the AG-3DA1 recording to a pair of P2 card recorders. They capture a 100mb/s data stream, far less compressed than recording to internal SDHC cards.

Oscar had another Mummy day.

*I'm a bit behind (about 10 days) with these entries so my review of the SDT750 has actually already been published here.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Day 91: Silent filming on hallowed ground. 21 July

Today I was shooting the Royal Philharmonic at Abbey Road studios along with singer Paul Carrack.

It's funny going to work and having to push trough a crowd of people to get in. It feels a bit like running a picket line.

My AG3DA1 ( had a few software glitches (the others were fine of course) but that's what you get for playing with prototypes. Any way you slice it, it's an awful lot easier that lugging a twin camera / mirror rig around. So quick to set up you almost forget you're shooting 3D. Almost!

Once again I found standing in the middle of the orchestra in full flow a moving experience. Something about the reality of being right there, especially in that studio, where Star Wars, LOTR etc. were recorded. It's magical.

Oscar had another Mummy day!

Day 90: Meerly filming. Tuesday 20th July

I spent the day out and about with the 3D camera, ending up at Drusilla's zoo where I got to film the meercats courtesy of my sister in law Sue. They tried to eat my shoelaces.

Tasha was going to come along with Oscar, but he decided he was hungry, as we were about to leave, and would rather stay behind for milk. We'll take him on his first zoo trip soon I'm sure!

Day 89: Prototype casting. Monday 19th July.

Today I was invited to Panasonic to see a prototype of their new AG-3DA1 3D camcorder. We'll be using three of the only four in the UK to film the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road studios on Wednesday.

I got to take it home to learn how to use it ahead of the shoot. A real full HD 3D camera. Could I *be* any more excited? I got home as quick as I could and went off to catch the sunset on Eastbourne beach. Unfortunately the sun just sort of fizzled out in that murky grey British way. I got lots of cliche seaside town shots in the half light.

Oscar had a Mummy day as I was away for most of it. Apparently while I was off 'playing', Tasha performed works of Shakespear for him, read books, recited poems, taught him Latin and French, baked, cooked, cleaned, sewed, and did some charity work.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

World's first hands on review of Panasonic HDC-SDT750

This is a little rushed, as I have to take Oscar for his jabs today!

Today Panasonic announced their new consumer 3D camcorder.

Sometimes, when the wind is right, I get to try out pre production prototypes before the likes of Philip Bloom or Vincent Laforet get their hands on them. I got to play with one of these last week.

Two things come to mind.

1. It's fantastic
2. I hate it.*

I've been shooting 3D since buying my first Bolex 16mm with stereo lens in 1989. It's a fun and challenging pastime. 3D has always been a fairly complicated affair. It takes a lot of specialist equipment, time to calculate inter axial distances, planning for stereo window violations, convergence, depth budgets, camera sync etc. All this means that simply put, not many people know how to do it properly.

Now along come Panasonic with this point and shoot camera that delivers stunning 3D images with no need for any special 3D knowledge. Suddenly it becomes difficult to persuade clients that there is a dark art to 3D.**

Ok, so this £1300 camcorder is not about to replace a dual Red system or Arri Alexia, but for weddings, babies, parties, holidays and low budget film makers, 3D is now a very viable option.

How it works.

3D is accomplished by a newly designed lens system that attaches to the front of the camera along with some nifty processing within the camera body. There are two locating pins on the lens which tell the camera to switch into 3D mode.
The attachment actually houses two separate auto focus lenses that resolve left and right images side by side onto the sensor as two 16:9 images. This means both 'eyes' are captured at exactly the same moment so it is possible to film fast action without trouble.

It's not technically capturing 1080p in 3D mode as only half the resolution from each side of the sensor is used for each eye. This is not as bad at it might sound - all the 3D broadcasts from Sky etc. use this method to squeeze two images into one for 3D. A 3D capable TV will recognize the image as 3D and stretch each eye back to 1920x1080.

Something I've noticed from digital 3D editing is that when the brain is delivered two images it somehow averages out any noise or picture artefacts. Although the image produced by the HDC-SDT750 has technically been upsampled to give 1080p, the perceived image quality is much better than you might expect and far better than a 2D image would be if upsampled to the same degree.

Up close and personal

The distance between the lenses (Inter axial distance) is around 20mm which means it is possible to film objects as close as 1m, a feat that would otherwise require a hugely complicated and expensive mirror rig. Even the professional $21,000 AG3DA1 3D camcorder cannot shoot as close as this. In my experiments I found you could actually get as close as 40cms as long as your close subject didn't cover the edges of the picture. This results in negative parallax, or the 'things poking out of the screen at you' effect.

Other features

Aside from 3D, the camera body is pretty much state of the art. I won't go into these in detail but I will give you a somewhat lazy list.
Optical image stabilisation, touch screen control, leica lens, time lapse recording, manual control ring for focus/exposure, 1080p@50fps (first of it's kind to offer this), pre rec (camera can be set to always be recording, so if you miss a goal then hit record it will 'backdate' the start by 3 seconds and you get your shot!)

What can you do with the footage?
As it's AVCHD you can burn it straight to bluray and it will playback in 3D on a 3D TV. Panasonic also include software to edit and make standard DVDs.
You can also shoot best in class 2D video by simply removing the 3D lens.

I was allowed to shoot some 3D test footage and I will post a link to this in youtube's 3D format as soon as I have permission.

Disclaimer. I get to play with kit from Panasonic as I know some folks there, they don't pay me to do this or let me keep the gear :(
Also the camera I used was a one off hand built prototype, so things may change (read get better) by the time it hits production.
I regularly use Lumix cameras, but I also use Canon and Sony.

EDIT 31/07/10: A friend of mine (Ian from Superteam films pointed out that I didn't mention that this new camcorder does not use the anaglyph red/green system that my images on the blog are created with. What you get is full colour 3D like you see at the cinema.

* Not really.
** There is! There is! It's really hard to do.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Day 88: Three of clubs

Today we met up with cousin Molly at Mother in law's house. My other brother in law, Matt, was also there and waiting for the photo op of holding both his nephew and niece together.
Matt, knowing my 'love' for football, once stuffed Oscar into a baby grow two sizes too small just to get a photo of him in an Arsenal outfit.
As he got ready for the once in a lifetime shot somehow a piece of paper saying "I love Chelsea" fell on to the chair behind him. No one noticed until they looked at the pictures later by which time it was too late. Shame.

Last time the two cousins got together, Molly in her excitement banged heads with Oscar. This time he kept his distance. You can tell he's not used to sharing the lens.

In the evening I went with chum Phil to the Apollo to see US magicians Penn & Teller. Tasha choose to forsake her ticket to get some sleep.

A few years ago, when I was working on the first Postman Pat album (Still at Amazon/iTunes folks!), I looked in to getting Penn Jillette to play bass on a couple of the more jazzy songs. Plans were made to hook up in Vegas (how cool does this sound?) but Penn's baby arrived, schedules fell apart and then it was too late.

After the show (excellent) I met up with his new manager, and Penn was gracious to remember me and our little British TV show. We talked about the upcoming 3D Postman Pat movie and I watched as he waded through the crowds of fans outside, stopping for every one who asked to sign something or pose for a photo. The guy is all class. UK 'celebrities' could learn much about long term career from the way he treats his fans.
With any luck, I will get to record him for the movie soundtrack.

Day 87: Guys and dolls

Today we met up with the seven couples we met at the NCT classes. We missed the last session (breastfeeding) as Oscar was early. Ironically this was the one area where we had trouble.

So eight babies, four of each. Some trials along the way as you might expect statistically, but thankfully all doing well now. Interesting that several parents shared our poor experience at the special care baby unit. I don't think the paediatricians spend much time in bedside manner classes.

Don't forget, the top image is 'universal freeview'. If you go cross-eyed and concentrate you can see full colour 3D without glasses.