I Win 5 Rae Awards...

... but then again only my experimental films were eligible and I'm the only judge!

Background to the "Rae Awards"

This time last year Shona and I were discussing what we were going to do creatively in 2009.
Shona chose to take "A Photo A Day" for her blog and has done surprisingly well!  She only missed a few days in September and a few in December when she was in hospital. I'll present her with the "Rae Photo Awards" when she's finished the year.

I set myself the challenge of making An Experimental Film A Week For A Year but didn't do so well in keeping up. I know this sounds like a list of excuses but my university films took priority from April to June then life got in the way in September and work took over in November.  Over all I made 26 out of 52 (yes exactly half) by September but decided to call it a day as I'd achieved what set out to. The whole point was to keep my creative muscles exercised and not get so bogged down in the planning and preproduction of Lift that I'd never pick up my camera.

The Awards

Most Views Award

The winner is...

  The reason this got so many views is that I made it to appeal to the tech savvy internet dwelling video viewer.  After it was posted on a couple of Mac Forums it got a lot of views and a lot of feedback. As I mentioned in a recent post, people are still falling for it.

Cutest Film Award

Nominations: Juggling Babysitting and Filmmaking and Stills Only.

And the winner is...

Every one loves this one, mainly the cute Seren walking in and out of each shot.


Peoples Favorite Award

Nominations: Juggling for Nelson, Shelf Stacking and Backwards and Forwards.

And the winner is...

For some reason most people really like this one.  It may be it's most like a music video, cut to the beat of a catchy track, but a lot of people just like the shelves! Weird.

Best Concept

Nominations Rolling Juggling Balls, No Doors, Green Ball Magic and Cut, That Was Good!

And the winner is...

Some ideas I had for my films seemed great when they developed in my head but fell flat.  Others seemed a bit weak but turned out much better.  Cut, That Was Good was one idea which i thought was good but turned out even better than I expected.


The Nathan Rae Judges Choice Award

Nominations: Cut That Was Good, Rolling Juggling Balls, Juggling for Nelson and Green Ball Magic.

And the Winner is...

This is an obvious choice for me.  It was the most fun to film, I put a lot of thought and planning into it and it turned out better than I expected!

Shona and I are planning a new project for 2010 which we can do as a whole family but I wont say anything more until I have the website sorted.

Film 26/52 - Shelf Stacking

Youtube link.

Being number 26 of 52 this film means I'm now half way through my An Experimental Film A Week For A Year Project.  Unfortunately we are already three quarters of the way through the year.  Whoops.

I made this film after my father in law asked me how I designed and made the shelves for My Isaac Asimov Library as he wants to build some for his home. I got a bit inspired while taking pictures to email him and this film is the result.  I shot the film using Shona's Sony Alpha 200 dSLR.

This is one of the longest shoots (about 2 hours) but one of the shortest edits (about half an hour) so far this year.

Music: Making Me Nervous by Brad Sucks

Practically Perfect In Every Way? Or: How to make a Perfect Experimental Film.

No Experimental Film from me this week.  Instead, why don't we take a close look at someone else's.

When Mary Poppins measured herself we saw that she was "Practically perfect in every way!"  I don't think this was ever adequately explained.  Was she only perfect as a nanny?  Or as a cook also?  Or did she have a body perfect for old Van Dyke to get jiggy with?  A measure is no good unless you specify the units being used.

With this in mind I'll explain the units of measurement I use to judge experimental films.  I wont use one of my own because none come close to perfect.  Instead I'll use the experimental juggling video "Das Model" which I referred to in a recent tweet as being  "almost perfect in every way!"  Please take a moment to watch it as the rest of the post will make much more sense if you do...

Performed by Elena Shapoval.  Directed by Taras Pozdnyakov.

Obviously if you are just throwing around a few ideas or testing something out you won't go through all these steps in as much depth as I outline below.  But even giving them a little thought could improve your film or video a lot.  These Measuring Units appear in roughly the order you work on them when making a film.

Measuring Unit 1: The Concept

All experimental films start with a concept that is either original, combines two or more other concepts, or is exploring an existing concept in a new way.

In "Das Model" the concept is both the relatively unknown prop of the long poles and the way they are being manipulated; mostly balancing upright with some contact staff moves.  So far so simple, but this is where most juggling videos fall down before they are even made.  The juggler starts with a list of tricks, then tries to find a concept to tie them together.  That's ok for a practice or squash court video but not for juggling "film."

Measuring Unit 2:  Building of Themes and Ideas

This is where the concept is fleshed out into something more than the original idea.  The concept shown but is then developed in some way throughout the film, building as it goes, ending in a satisfying conclusion which ties together what has come before.

I think this is the strongest element in "Das Model."  The routine starts with a few moves which look quite simple but we "get" what is going on.  Elena then weaves the poles around each other and walks between them, etc.  Then she goes back to the starting pattern but this time is spinning the poles as she does.  Then she is  moving them apart, together again.  More spinning and stepping through.  Now using her legs to spin the poles. Now her feet.  Splits.  One pole continuous spinning.  End.

You can see how each element builds on what has already been shown with the ending subtly different enough to serve as a full stop (period), but not too different as to be disjointed.  (This is where "The Rings" by the same director falls down!  Here the juggler goes from performing inside a large ring with hoops side on to the audience but ends with a big numbers flash at the front of the stage with hoops juggled as normal rings.)

Almost perfect? 
As a stage act it could be a bit longer but for a video I think about 30 seconds could have been shaved off for pacing reasons.

Measuring Unit 3: Design

This is the part where each element that appears on screen is considered.  Costumes, sets, props, people, locations should be evaluated to see if they fit with the over all style and theme.  They are either found, made, remade, left in shot or removed.  Music or sound is also chosen at this point, not during the edit.

"Das Model"
is beautifully designed and it's simplicity is it's strength.  Set, location and distracting lighting have been removed so we are left with the performer, props and floor only.  The costume has colour and is sexy enough without being distracting.  Props look polished and clean.  Elena is made up well with hair pulled out the way of her face.  The music is great also.

Almost perfect? 
I think that the beam of light should make a circle on the floor, not the shadow of the carpet.  It should have been removed or trimmed so the edge lay perfectly flat.

Measuring Unit 4: Performance

Massively important for experimental juggling films.  Who are you performing to?  The camera?  Yourself?  An audience?  Ironically this is the area which most jugglers work on the least.

Elena is obviously very used to performing on stage but for the video she is only performing for the camera.  She makes eye contact, is alluring and confident.  More importantly she makes each movement count.  Each hand is moved and placed on each pole without wasting any time or energy flapping around or trying too hard.  The ending is perfect!  Just as you think she is going to connect with the viewer one last time for some kind of bow or applause, she just turns away.

Almost perfect?  Yep.

Measuring Unit 5: Shooting, Editing and Post Production.

There's a reason why I lumped together all these three areas; they are the least important.  What I mean is that although you can spoil a film with bad camera work, poor editing and inappropriate titles, etc. you can't make a good film without the creative preparation, pre-production and rehearsal.  Until you have worked through 1 to 4 there's not much point picking up a camera.

Taras has directed the camera very well using a range of camera positions, angles, close ups etc.  He has also lit Elena beautifully.  The editing is well paced with no distracting transitions, just cross fades.  The titles fit, are not too long and only give the information we need, not loads of waffle we don't care about.

Almost perfect?
  The one shot I would cut comes at 3:25 where the light source is shown and you can also see some of the rigging and what looks like another person up there.  This is the only shot like this and spoils the very clean black background somewhat.  I would have like a couple of shots where the camera tracked around Elena but no mater.


Yes, however you measure it, "Das Model" is almost perfect in every way.  Five Stars!

I know my next film wont be perfect, but thinking about some of the areas I've mentioned may get it a bit closer.  What about your next film? 

Film 24/52 - Juggling For Nelson (or Plinth Juggling Video)

Sorry everyone for taking so long to release this film.  I know a lot of people have been waiting for this one.

I Present:  Juggling For Nelson (or Plinth Juggling Video)

Youtube video link.

This film was shot during my hour on the One And Other Plinth in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 22nd August.
Obviously as I was up there alone the camera was on a tripod so all the camera "movement" you see in the video was created in the edit.  You can see the whole filming process by checking out my profile on the One And Other site.

Thanks to everyone who gave me advice, ideas and support!  I'd love to hear your comments and feedback so drop me an email or leave them below.

Please retweet video using: http://bit.ly/qA6yq


I do the Plinth! Juggling Workshop and video...

Next weekend, on the 22nd August from 5-6pm, I'm going to be on the Forth Plinth in Trafalgar Square as part of the One And Other art project.

The idea is that every hour, 24 hours a day, for 100 days without a break, a different person will make the Plinth their own doing something interesting, entertaining or thought provoking. Or not in some cases. See what's happening right now live.

Well with my hour I'm planning on shooting all the footage I need to make a juggling video recreating the third Experimental Film A Week For A Year that I made:

Although there is limited room on the plinth, I reckon that I can stand closer to the camera in some shots, right on the corner, sitting on the edge, facing the crowds, etc. With the footage I'm going to do a longer version of the film mentioned above, with a lot "movement" and pace, more panels of video and with many more layers on top of layers.

This filming should only take a few minutes so I'm planning to do something else as well:


A very large scale juggling workshop!

To pull this off I'm looking for some help in a couple of ways:

Firstly, where can I get enough cheep juggling balls/beanbags from so i can throw them into the square and teach people to juggle? Would anyone like to send me a bag full and "sponsor" a public juggling workshop? Anyone? (You probably wont get many of the balls back.)

Secondly, if you're not at the BJC or have anything else important to do, does anyone want to come along and be an assistanty helper people to help people juggle, take photos, cheer me on?

Lastly, check my slot out live at www.oneandother.co.uk website and click the like this bit tab a couple of times. Or show it at the BJC show on the big screens if you want.

Thanks for all the ideas people have given me already!  I'll probably have a couple more blogs about this project this week and you can follow my progress on twitter at www.twitter.com/nathanrae

Film 22/52 - I Do Weddings...


Youtube link.

I filmed a wedding last weekend and have been editing it since. According to my Experimental Film A Week For A Year rules I can only use footage from the last week for the film.  I haven't really shot anything else so this is it. This may remind you of Film 03/52.

Here's a photo of me working at the wedding...

Film 21/52 - Green Ball Magic

Youtube link.

This is my first experiment with a new special effects pack I bought for Final Cut Pro.  The film is made entirely of still photos which are then morphed together to produce the "movement" effect.  I had originally planned to make the ball reappear then transform into a juggling club, but had underestimated how long it would take to manually program each morph transition. 

I'm planning to do another video using this kind of effect in a juggling video but i'm not sure how.  Any suggestions?

Film 20/52 - It Passes The Time...

"Casper and Ian from Quirkus pass clubs for a minuet but get very mixed up as Casper is juggling in reverse..."

Youtube link.

We filmed this quickly on Monday night and got this shot after only three and a half takes.  The whole time we were filming Ian had no idea what we were acctualy doing and only worked it out when I showed him Film 18/52 - Backwards and Forwads in the pub.

Unfortunatly the lighting was non existant and my camera work was a bit shaky.  We had also planned to have both Caspre and Ian to "start" with all blue clubs and "end" with all pink ones, but we lost track of where we were up to on the one shot I used.  Whoops.

Music by Jimmy The Hideous Penguin.

So what do you think?  Leave comments below or drop me an email...