Thursday, 12 June 2014

"ANNIVERSARY"

The Making of Another Short Film
 

Well, it was time to bite the bullet and take the first tentative steps in creating the next motion picture epic from GM Productions, entitled, "ANNIVERSARY", the story of a little girl who travels to Mars to visit her grandfather. As an homage to Derek Meddings, Gerry Anderson and Stanley Kubrick, I'm hoping to make something extra special that others can enjoy. The storyboards are done, albeit with some major revisions, a couple of the necessary filming models have been created, although certainly not all of them by any stretch of the imagination and I had been delaying the initial 'first day filming' for as long as possible, due to a hesitation in committing myself to some seriously difficult problem solving over the next few months. However, as Fate would have it, a filming window appeared in the shape of a few friends who were more than willing to help me out if I could take the first step and organise 'the day'.

This is the first in many entries on the filming of "Anniversary", over a many month period, so please excuse me if delays occur in posting them. I still have models to build, full-sized sets to construct (yes, there are live actors in this one!) and I'm working to pay for all of this, so it's going to take me a while before it's completed. I'm hoping that this effort will eclipse the work done in "Dogfight!" and be good enough to perhaps enter in a short film competition. More on that much later.

A special thanks goes to three friends who volunteered their time for the first day to achieve about ten usable shots for the opening of the film. They are Derek Romans from my local model club, Colin Woodfall who also helped out with "Dogfight!" and loved it and Chris Coxon, a very good friend from Brisbane who pushed me to make a start. Thanks guys. Without you all, this wouldn't have worked out at all.


Thursday 11 June 2014

Filming began on "Anniversary" at about 9:30 in the morning, with a couple of opening shots of the Aurora ETM Shuttle launching from its base and carrying a six year old girl on the first leg of her journey to Mars. The day before, Chris and I had spent nearly two hours attaching a pair of small pulleys onto the ceiling of the 'studio' so that 40lb fishing line could pass through them and be used to launch the shuttle. Another two fishing lines were attached to the ceiling and threaded through brass tubes on either side of the model in order to steady it as much as possible when lifted off the pad. A smoke machine had been positioned beneath the two tables to provide the majority of the rocket exhaust, while Colin had provided a very bright LED lamp for the engine glow of the rockets themselves. It was stuck to the bottom of the model with Blu-Tac, all very high-tech stuff here! A number of takes were committed to video and, after about six hours, I had about ten good shots that should be used in the film itself. With the exception of the initial pullback from the shuttle, all the other shots were filmed at 100 frames per second, four times normal speed, so as to smooth out the movements of the model as it was being raised into the air. With two fans blowing the smoke in manageable directions, banks of 500W tungsten lights and the flurry of human activity, it was quite a sight! Here are a couple of photos of what went on today...
 


Fans, lights, smoke machine, fishing line and two filming tables with sky background - all this just to achieve a couple of shots of the Aurora Shuttle liftoff.

Colin operating the smoke machine. A minimum of three people was needed to achieve just one simple shot.


It took over an hour just to set the fans in the correct position to push the smoke to where we wanted it to go. Sometimes we got a little too much!

The Director above the setup trying to achieve a downward view of the launch. Friend Chris is adjusting the lighting.

Wednesday 25 June
Another good friend from down south, Ashley Greenslade, turned up yesterday and was interested enough to help out with the second day's shooting. Colin Woodfall also assisted, once again, to get just two more shots after the initial launch sequence was completed last week. The three of us set the tables up with pillow stuffing for clouds, just below where the Aurora Shuttle was still hanging from the previous shoot. The idea was to achieve a shot looking down on the shuttle as it flies up from the cloudbank and past the camera. Colin operated the pulley system for raising the model, Ashley was on smoke machine duties and I perched atop a step ladder which was positioned on the table so that I was high enough above the shuttle as it flew past. After a dozen or so attempts, most of which were quite successful, I felt we had enough takes of this so we moved on to the second shot.
This involved separating the two filming tables, with enough space to pass the shuttle through, then covering both areas with "clouds" and getting a shot of the model rising up through the clouds and into the sky, tracking with the camera as it went. These two shots were filmed in reverse order, the second shot being shown first in the finished film, immediately followed by this second one. After another dozen or so tries, we achieved some excellent footage and retired for the day. It's a hard life!


Setting up for the second shot of the day. Plenty of light was needed to illuminate both the model and cloudscape on both tables, as well as the sky background.
The smoke machine was positioned on boxes directly below the model, with the nozzle pointed up so the smoke would follow the shuttle as it rose.
Ashley on smoke machine duties. The camera filmed from the far left of this shot, tracking the shuttle as it rose up through the "clouds".
Thursday 26 June
Just before Ashley left for the Deep North, I managed to capture a couple of shots of the Aurora Shuttle, filmed yesterday, as it will appear in the finished movie, shooting upwards through the clouds on its way to orbit.   
 
 

Ashley enjoyed operating the smoke machine for these simple still shots so much that he wants one for himself! Thanks mate, for all the help.
Tuesday 1 July
Both Colin and Derek joined me for the morning's shoot, however Fate had other, more frustrating plans in store for us. The idea was to get a couple of hand-held shots of the Aurora Shuttle against the rolling sky, the appearance of which would simulate footage of the real shuttle or Saturn V that I had seen on TV. I hoped that, with Derek on cordless drill duties, powering the rolling sky, Colin on smoke duties and myself on hand-held camera, that these shots would be "in the can" in a matter of half an hour. Not so! The rolling sky, constructed for the previous epic, "Dogfight!", had decided not to co-operate at all and it was constantly losing the cloth "sky" off the rollers, or, even worse, losing one of the rollers itself from the bearings they revolved on. What a pain! We did manage to get one or two reasonable shots that may be usable, but that decision will be made later on.
After effecting numerous repairs on the rolling sky, we positioned it on the table behind the suspended shuttle. the cordless drill at the lower right of the rolling frame powers the revolution of the "sky".
I had to film the shuttle upside down against the sky to allow the smoke at the bottom of the photo to be blown up and past the model.
I had drilled a small hole in the tail of the model to allow it to be suspended by fishing line in front of the rolling sky. With me in the foreground, Colin and Derek attempt yet another repair to the framework supporting the sky.

 
















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