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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.

Day 86: Of mice and (Kiwi) Men.

While we were shopping today an old lady stopped to comment how cute Oscar was. As she got close his face screwed up and he screamed blue murder.
I think perhaps he's really recognising us now and suddenly new faces seem alien. Either that or he can read auras and the old lady was a witch.

I had one of those one sided conversations with the dentist as he repaired a filling. It must be weird talking to yourself all day, having only slight changes in facial muscles as a response. That and the sharp jerks/tears whenever he hits a nerve.

It was our Chum Rea's birthday. I don't know how old she is, rude to ask, but I made her a cake all the same. We had bought one (A Nestle party celebration cake covered in smarties, rolos etc) but looked at the ingredients when we got home and were shocked to find Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil! This is a nasty substance linked with all sorts of health problems including cancer. Very surprised that a major manufacturer is still using it. I think it's banned in the US. I saw a big poster in Tescos saying they have removed it from all their products now. Not so Sainsburys!

Other chum Laura had a go at a nappy change. She thought it was chicken korma.

We also found out today that Laura's man friend Nathan from New Zealand is afraid of rats. To the extent that when solo was outside eating a mouse he backed in to the corner of the room until the coast was clear. Nathan has arms like popeye.

Day 85: Fun with a fence-ive weapon.

Dad came to help me work on the chicken run, abandoned since I shot my hand.
I'd already had 2" of nail in me, which is as much as anyone ever really needs to have in their lifetime, so we developed a method of securing all the parts with stakes, both retiring behind the nailgun before pulling the trigger. A marvellous success with 100% less horrific nailgun injuries.

Day 84: Pigs in (our) Space. Again.

Today the pigs decided the grass was greener on the other side of their fence and broke out. In their defence, it is greener, as their grass has mostly been turned into a mudbath.

Oscar is perfecting his tongue movements. He will now stick it out in response to us doing it!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Day 83: Leaving Miss Hopkins

Today my primary school teacher retired. She must have been about 12 when she taught me!

Our neighbours' female turkey was taken by the big daytime fox. She left an egg as a parting gift. Her mate is looking gloomy.

Winston, our chicken who survived the fox attack, has become broody... so we put the turkey egg under her! Let's see what happens.

Day 82: Chicken Run

Oscar slept from 9.30pm to 4.30am! Marvellous news as Tasha is in single parent mode most of the time at the moment, my hand is still pretty useless.
I may not be able to master bottles (and I still can't lift him), but I can sit and play. Oscar took his buzzy bee toy from my hand and lifted it to his mouth. This is the first time we've seen him do this!

Our chums Chris and Rea came to help clean out the chickens and geese and while we were at it the chickens made a break for freedom. They shot to the cover of our apple trees and began furiously stuffing down grass as fast as they could.
To be fair, I was only half heartedly policing as a part of me was secretly yearning for them to be free again.
Despite the early morning sound of a shotgun over the last few days, 'The big daytime fox' is still on the prowl, taking chickens from our neighbours. With this in mind I became chickenman, fearless protector of fowl, ready to do battle with my one good hand.
I spent some time training the birds to come whenever I clap my hands, by treating them whenever I do this. It's a cunning plan that means I don't have to run around shouting to attract them. When it came time to get them back in I realised that I had found the one flaw in my system. You need a minimum of two hands to make an effective clap.

Day 81: Once more on to the beach, dear friends.

Today we met up with my brother in law Paul, his fiancee Bebi and Oscar's cousin Molly to walk along the seafront. On the way we talked about the Mum in America who is making cheese from her breastmilk.
Strange how we easily accept drinking milk from a cow, but people cheese seems wrong.
How come we don't drink pig milk?
We took the tourist trap 'dotto' train back as it was getting late and Molly needed feeding. This cost £8 and went about 50 meters along the seafront, turned left on to the main road, slowly joined the traffic where we were entertained by the fumes and noise for 5 minutes, then turned back to the seafront 50 meters from where we needed to get off.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Day 80: Second opinion

Yesterday I went to my GP as I was getting concerned about the swelling of my hand. He immediately called the hand specialist hospital at East Grinstead and made an appointment for me today with a plastic surgeon.
After she gave me the "you should not have pulled it out, you could have bled to death" lecture, she told me that the A&E doctor's advice was wrong!
So I went from "You must keep it still" to "keep moving it!". Just for good measure the DGH gave me the wrong antibiotics too.
Funny thing was the doctor who treated me was foreign and looked like Mel Gibson. He remarked after a while that in Lethal Weapon 3 the bad guy was killed with a nail gun.

Day 79: nothing worse

Nothing worse than having your son smile at you and put his arms up for a cuddle and not being able to pick him up.
Of course there are many things worse, but I'm feeling sorry for myself so there.

Day 78: Off to grandparents

Tasha was understandably exhausted this morning after doing everything as a single Mum. I couldn't pick up Oscar, as the A&E doctor had stipulated that I must not move the fingers in case of tendon damage.
Mum and Dad to the rescue! Off we went for the afternoon leaving T to get some sleep.
Mum introduced Oscar to the delights of the European supermarket advertising leaflets. Apparently my nephews were raised on these, as they are colourful and make a nice crinkly sound when scrunched up.
He couldn't believe the prices.

Day 77: Slight change of angle lead to disaster.

Some people will do anything to get out of night feeds or changing dirty nappies. I'm 99% certain that it was not this, but my sleep deprived state, that lead to me finding myself sitting with 2" of a 4" nail protruding from my left hand.
I was hurriedly constructing an extension to the chicken run, with them squawking away noisily in my ear about how cramped it is in their already huge (9mx4m) run.
Piece of wood slipped, nail gun moved, angle changed, shot was fired...oops.
I did three stupid things in total
1) Shoot 4" nail into my hand.
2) Pulled it straight out. Much more painful on the way out than the way in. Later the doctor and plastic surgeon would quite rightly berate me for this. If it had hit the artery I could have passed out and bled to death.
3) Didn't get a photo. Let me repeat that. I DID NOT GET A PHOTO. Not even a 2D one. How many times in your life do you find yourself wearing a 4" nail? Shocking. Missed opportunity.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Day 76: Thank you cards

Today we got down to writing thank you cards for the acres of gifts Oscar recieved. We told him many times we don't mind doing it now, but as soon as he's old enough, he will be doing his own. I imported special folding 3D viewers and got a nice 3D card made up with a message from Oscar on.

Chicken news: With Winston on antibiotics for the fox attack we have to waste eggs, so our egg supply is dwindling, especially as we donated 3 dozen to the school summer fair. We have gone from the people with the egg mountain to the land of the egg drought.

I worry they are becoming depressed, even though their run is 9 meters by 4. Tomorrow I plan to build an extension for them which will cover an area full of grass, plants and bugs to discover.

Day 75: Dare to dream

Oscar slept for over 5 hours... dare we dream he might go the whole night?

Monday, 5 July 2010

Day 74: Dayus horribilis

6am. CATFIGHT!@!!!

Lept out of bed, down the stairs in three loooong jumps, out the door... Gretel arrived with bite marks on her back - again!
Weeks ago the big white and black moggy that has been coming into our kitchen, stealing food and peeing everywhere bit her on the bum. I spent over a week bathing and tending to her wounds between nappy changes. Now the b@stard returns and does it again.

Who has an un-neutered tomcat these days? Crazy people.

2.30pm. !FOX@!!! Bright sunshine, chickens all free ranging as usual...Tasha screaming FOX!. I lept up (it was a day for leaping apparently) jumped out of the lounge window and over the flower pot to see Mr Fox with one of our brown hens in it's mouth. I shouted like a football hooligan and miraculously it was startled enough to drop her and run off, with me in hot pursuit. I was 99% sure it had nothing in it's mouth and it soon disappeared into the long grass.

Back at the house Tasha had got six hens in their run, with Ellie-Bolt (named by our God-daughter Ellie) standing dazed under a bush not keen on coming out and a mass of brown feathers on the grass. Eventually we got Ellie in, but that left our other brown hen Winston missing.

When we last had chicken drama it was a local dog chasing them. On that occasion they scattered and it took about 45 mins before they all came home. So we called and called. I paced the garden, filled the goose pool up a bit, watered plants, called, checked all the sheds, behind things, under things. I got a big scratch from brambles right in the middle of my forehead and a thorn in my finger, it was a great afternoon. Was she hurt? Hiding? Eaten?

Three hours later and we had resigned ourselves to the loss. I was kicking myself for not getting through the window quicker, and for even letting them roam so soon after yesterday's attack on our neighbours' flock.

Then we had one of those..miracles. Tasha went to the back door and their was little Winston. A bit shaken, with a few bald patches, but alive! A quick antibiotic jab later and she was back with the flock. We will have to chick the eggs for a few days until the antibiotics get through her system but that's a small price eh?

Oscar's Uncle Matt called on Skype but Oscar refused to smile or even look at the screen. I think it was Matt's Arsenal shirt.

So we didn't lose a chicken after all. We did lose Oscar's last milk spot though! The end of an era.

Day 73: School Fete

To the school fete at my old primary school. My teacher is retiring. Amazed she was still there, perhaps I'm younger than I think?

Met our chums Hannah and Andy with their two boys Max and Harry. A glimpse into the future?

Hoping Oscar will not look quite so Gene Simmons...

Our neighbour's children arrived looking worried, have we seen their brown chicken? Ten minutes searching later we found a pile of feathers. Mr Fox had visited in broad daylight and carried her off :(

Went straight home and put ours in their run.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Day 72: The young one(s)

Today Tash had styled Oscar's hair before I could save him. He ended up looking like a cross between David Beckham circa 2001 and Vivian from the Young Ones.

Day 71: Non competative sports

We went to my Nephew Jack's sports day today at the school I attended 30 years ago. Because they want to shield the children from the real world, to make it as painful as possible to grow up, they are not allowed to 'win' races any more. They have some sort of complicated team system which I find baffling.

Anyway, Jack might not have *won* his race, but he was the first kid to reach the end. So he was the winner in my book.

Day 70: Back to work for a day, sort of.

I took the train up to London to meet with Clare who is now the new head of live entertainment at Classic Media. We had Italian food for lunch and the last prawn she ate tasted funny. I hope it doesn't come back to haunt her! We talked about several of their exciting new projects, and I came away with a bag of Postman Pat goodies for Oscar :)

While I was in town I also popped in on the creative hub that is Felt music. In preparation I went across town to a Greggs bakers and borrowed a Greggs baseball cap. (I produced the music for the Greggs TV ad and Felt were the music supervision company). It took Toby nearly a minute to realise.

Oscar is down to two or three milk spots now. I used to looks for constellations in them when he had lots, soon they will be gone and that pasttime will be over. Until puberty of course.

Day 69: Sneeze ohh!

Today Tasha witnessed Oscar's double sneeze - "ohh!". So either we're both deluded or he is super talking child.

Tasha's cousin Victoria came today with her baby Archie, who is 4 weeks older than Oscar. He sleeps through the night. Grrr.

We took our 2nd Month photo at last..only about ten days late...

Day 68: Egyptian cotton? Through the night

Oscar weighs 6580g, or 14lbs 8oz in old money today. His chart looks like a big tick. He started at 9lbs, with a quick drop to 7lbs 8oz,. He's been shooting up and up every day since.

A visit today from Lucy with her son Jack who was born two days after Oscar at the same Hospital. He's sleeping through the night now. Grrr. No really, we're happy for her.


Day 67: Pigbreak

The pigs got out today! We had great fun chasing them around the garden before finally tempting them back in with apples. Pigs go well with apples.