Monday Morning Mini Movie: The Plot Device

This is my first post in quite a while but then I've been busy taking my local government to court and working at the university.  I'll update you with the specifics later this week...

The Monday Morning Mini Movie is nother awesome video made using relatively cheep tools and software.  It's amazing what effects can be recreated when the director has a clear vision and a great team to make  it happen.  Enjoy!

For more info about the film and to watch the "making off" video check out the Red Giant website over here:

If you have any video or films you want featured as a future Monday Morning Mini Movie send them to




"Lift" Award Winning Hitchhiking Documentary Now Online

Welcome back after the assorted Solstice Hollidays and New Year!

It's been a while since I mentioned my documentary Lift as it hasn't been submitted or accepted into any new film festivals since Cornwall in November last year.  I've decided that the film has done well enough on the festival circet and it's now time to begin it's new life under a Creative Commons License on the internet.  


The motivation for this film comes from my fascination with the majority of people who (mostly unthinkingly) refuse to give away things for free, like a spare seat, even though there are many benefits.  On the other hand a smaller group will go out of their way, with some cost, to help complete strangers.  So what is the main difference between the two groups?  I'm still not sure but making this film brought me closer to the answer...


Even though Lift is 18 months old I'd still love to hear your feedback or comments so please leave your thoughts below.  There's more info about Lift's awards and screenings over here.  If you like the film please share this blog post using this short link:

Also, you can rate it on it's Internet Movie Data Base page.


Creative Commons License
Lift by Nathan Rae is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.


Robots + Astronauts + Cameras = Awesome

I was going to post this following video as yesterday's Monday Morning Mini Movie but it turns out it is an advert.  That aside, you can't get much better than cameras mounted on repurposed 6 axis industrial robots filming Sally Ride and Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell with some archive footage of Appollo thrown in for good measure.


Although these robotic rigs are great for smooth panning shots but where the will really excel is recreating pre programmed "hand held" shots.  Remember Derren Brown's lottery prediction stunt?  That was probably filmed on a pre programmed rig which only had two axis so the the camera only moves on two dimensions.  If he had used these babies he could have had the camera moving all over the place.

Anyway, if any one has a spare robot laying around, I have a couple of ideas about how to use one in a really creative way...

Here's the explanation vid of the lottery stunt:

Three Big Events

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be:

… at the Glasgow Film Festival.

My documentary Lift is being show on Sunday 21st February 4.30pm as part of the Leave A Trail competition.

I think that if I win here I actually get a cash prize, which would be nice.  I’ll be tweeting alot this weekend so keep an eye on my twitter feed for the latest updates, views and comments on all I get up to.


… at the Film Insiders Talent Festival, Barrow-In-Furness.

On Friday 5th March I am going to be doing a Q and A session with Matt Lloyd about why and how I made Lift and why it has been successful.  Lift will also be screened as part of the “Best Of Glasgow” event.

This looks like it will be a great few days of film making workshops, master classes, networking and parties! If you are a filmmaker in the North West you should really check it out. I’m really looking forward to it.


… at the International Woman’s Day, Gorton Monastery, Manchester.

I’m going to be filming a “Viral Video” with a Monestry full of 500 Women. Naomi Sumner from All The Skills will be teaching them a dance which we will then film a couple of times in an interest way.  Hopefully it will capture the imagination of enough people to spread around a bit.  More details coming soon.

For now though, if you are a woman, check out the website and consider coming along for some pampering, networking, thought provoking, self developing and enjoyable activities in an amazing venue.

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 25/52 - Charis Reviews...

Last night Charis and I shot this short review of iPod applications made for children.

Youtube link.

The apps we review this week are MyPaint Free, I Hear Ewe and Peek-A-Boo!
I know this isn’t very experimental in itself but I do have a reason to try out this camera and lighting set up.  It also completes the set of "Never work with children or animals" experiments.  I think this should really be "Never work with children or animals when filming live or using long unedited shots..."

Shona made me add the titles about not letting Seren play for hours because she doesn’t; I just muddled my words up.  The Isaac Asimov reference you'll have to work out yourself.

Lessons Learnt:

1.  Don't get out the iPod while Seren is still in the room, as she will want to play as well.

2.  Don't preplan which apps to review, just do the ones Charis wants to play with.

3.  Get a mic closer to the action (or buy a tie mic)!

4.  Always use really cute and very bright kids when filming!  I have an advantage here obviously...


Feedback welcome!


Lift is selected for EXPOSURES Film Festival!

Exposures Film Festival is "The UK's leading student film and moving image festival" and runs from 17th- 19th November 2009.  It is a national festival and competition accepting Drama, Documentary and Film Art submissions from college, degree and masters students.

I'm only telling you this because my degree film "Lift" (click to watch) has been selected to be show in the Documentary Film category!  This news has really made my day and has given me the confidence to enter the film into other festivals which charge for entry.

As Lift has been selected it is eligible to win Best Documentary (and Best Of Fest I suppose) though I'm not sure if it is awarded by panel of judges or decided at the screening by the audience.  I'll keep you updated.  I'm not expecting to win any awards but it would be nice, wouldn't it?

I had to submit a few production stills to the organisers but as I didn't have any from the real shoot, Shona and I went out and recreated some moments from my travels.  I shouldn't have been surprised, but even with me holding up a "Lift" sign and Shona taking photos, a guy stopped to pick us up!  It was a bit embarrassing waving to him " Thanks, but we don't actually want a lift!"

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...