After many years of making do with on-line versions (and pondering paying a fortune on ebay for a third edition pack), Santa brought me my very own set of Schmidt and Eno “Oblique Strategies” cards. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, they are a set of over 100 cards that are used to get out of creative dead ends, developed by musical genius Brian Eno and a friend. Click the photo to be whisked off to Wikipedia’s longer and more detailed explanation, or head over to http://enoshop.co.uk to buy your own set.
This is the story of my most successful piece of graphic design, and how it all happened without me even knowing about it…
Back in 2004, I had a client who wanted some 3-D renders. Having invested in U&I Software’s quirky but almost infinitely powerful ArtMatic program, I produced a series of high-res images, a few of which the client liked and paid for, a there were a few that the client didn’t want. Normally I’d just file these away on a backup disc that would end up gathering dust in my off-side long term storage facility (also known as my parent’s loft). At the time, I was sharing office space with half a dozen professional photographers, and one of them was moaning about a new low cost stock photography site that was eating into his business. Intrigued, went on line and after jumping through a few hoops to prove my camera was high enough quality (unsurprisingly my 3-D rendering software proved not to have a cheap lens with chromatic aberrations or any dust on it’s CCD) I managed to get my unused renders up on the site for anyone to buy.
Here’s one of them, called “Explosion”.
Since then, I have received pleasant but mostly nominal amounts in US$ in my iStock account, which nicely offset my occasional need to purchase stock photographs for work… and that’s where the story might have ended. That image is my most popular ones, and has been downloaded over 1000 times, presumably because actual photos of explosions are fiendishly hard to take, and it pretty much has the market to itself.
Fast forward to late 2009, and I happen to glance at the top BBC 40 singles, and get quite a shock! Does this look familar to you?
So far, this song has achieved sales of over 3 million, and been a top 10 hit in Canada, Turkey and Japan, and number one in South Africa… and if I hadn’t looked at the charts that week I wouldn’t have known about it at all.
Sadly, worldwide success hasn’t paid off financially, I received a flat fee for the use of my image that would barely cover a round of drinks, let alone a rock and roll lifestyle.
Occasionally we all get assigned a brief that seems impossible. A client in the training industry needed to mock up a series of TV programmes, and my job was to provide 3 different broadcast quality title sequences, complete with music, with a budget that would barely pay for lunch at a big production company. I’ll blog about the video content later, once I’ve cleared it with the client, but for now I’ll go through the process of how I wrote, performed, produced and mixed a whole TV theme, with alternates, beds and underscores, all in under 2 hours.
Given the tight deadline, it was tempting to simply reach for a commercial music library, but in the interests of giving the client a bespoke solution (and keeping the profit in-house), I took a stab at this one myself…. Continue Reading
As a freelancer, simply getting impressive results isn’t the whole story. Deadlines, the need for the occasional hour of sleep and the desire to fit more than 24 billable hours into a single day mean there is always pressure to get great results fast. Buying software with your own money inevitably means weighing up not just the quality, but also the speed of the results you can obtain. Here’s a still from one of my motion graphics projects…
This is one of the first things I’ve done with Video Copilot’s Element 3D and Optical Flares plug ins for After Effects. Element 3D is a very interesting plug in, as it is designed to bridge the gap between high-end rendering software and video game graphics, using video game rendering techniques to shorten render times drastically, while not losing much of the quality that a ray traced render gives. This scene is fully 3D, with dozens of ‘brain cells’ rendered with fogging, and depth of field, but it updates in close to real time, allowing me to test camera movements without waiting hours for renders. This whole scene, from idea to final render, including adding the lens flares in post processing, took about 2 hours… and that’s because I’m not yet up to speed on the software and short cuts. I’m already using this software on live jobs, and turning out in hours the sort of work that used to take days, if not weeks.
One of the problems with tightly cutting video to music is that our ears are a lot better at timing than our eyes, and unless you are lucky and pick music where the beats fall perfectly on frame boundaries this can lead to less than perfect edits. Read on to learn more about these perfect beats per minute speeds for video editing, and how to tweak music so it can be cut to perfectly, every time. Continue Reading
Here’s a 10 minute version of “Slowdown” by LX Nen, the music from my last video. It’s a taster for an ambient album entirely generated from one recording of a toy music box, processed in Logic Audio using the amazing Valhalla suite of Audio Units.