New Lens

Let’s talk about lenses. Well one in particular – and how it’s going to help achieve a cool look for my upcoming horror short.

I got a new lens for my Sony NEX-5 digital camera last week, it’s a 50mm 1.8f prime lens. I’m going to explain what that means, and why it’s cool.

Firstly, I should say something about the camera. My Sony NEX-5D is looking a bit dated now against the newest model in the range, the NEX-5T, but they are very similar. Sony, in my opinion, are the leaders in this new digital camera space that’s opened up in the last few years – something smaller than a DSLR, but still with interchangeable lenses. They’re called Mirrorless interchangable-lens cameras, and every camera company worth their weight in salt has their own product line. Check out that link for the full definition, but the bottom line for me is a compact camera I can realistically and casually carry around that takes superb photos and video. According to filmmaker Benedict Campbell, who’s worked with the likes of Harley-Davidson, it’s the next big thing for Hollywood.

One of the major benefits of these cameras is the fact you can buy additional lenses for different purposes, but until now I’ve only had two – the stock 18-55mm lens and a flat 16mm which was good for when I wanted to turn the camera into something no bigger than a compact camera. These lenses are great for a wide range of everyday shots, but they are limiting in some conditions. The 18-55mm zooms from a wide-angle (18mm) to something at the start of telephoto (55mm). Sony offer a zoom-ier lens in the 18-200mm, that gets a proper zoom going, but it is about twice the size. The 16mm lens is very-wide, edging on fish-eye territory. But neither offer a wide aperture…

Why is a wide aperture desirable? This is where you need to read my blog post about aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Essentially, aperture lets you control the depth-of-field within your photo – a shallow depth-of-field can give you a blurred background. I recently found a really good video explaining this, maybe that would clear up any confusion. I want a shallow depth-of-field look for some of the shots in my short film to accentuate the isolated-ness of the character, to pull the audience into his mindset and really focus our attention on certain details within the scene. This new lens lets me do that.

Let me explain in pictures… The pictures are captioned with more information.

Now I have this lens the next step is to experiment using it for video in the shooting locations to see what can be achieved. I’ll let you know how I get on with that!

Project Horror #3: 5 YouTube Inspirations

Off the back of my last post about idols and heroes, here are a few videos made by people that have inspired me to make this horror short.

1. The Tonmeister course at the University of Surrey is highly renowned in the professional audio industry for equipping students with the theory and practice of sound recording and audio engineering. Andy Land was such a student, and quite a success story after the video he produced above, a cover of Magnetic Man by Crossover, was loved by Radio 1 DJs and the band itself! The video features the University of Surrey Orchestra and is a great example of what Tonmeister graduates are capable of producing! It’s very inspiring to see one of the people who went to the same university as me at the same time producing something so brilliant. Also, we put things into space.

2. I first saw this after Bloody Cuts were interviewed on Film Riot a few months ago. Bloody Cuts are a small group of guys who have decided to produce 13 short horror films, all on a low budget. They’ve completed 9 so far, but Suckablood (number 5) was by far the most expensive one thanks do a generous donation from Stephen Fry! Their behind the scenes are really in depth too, I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the future!

3. Some of you may know that about a year ago I bought a ukulele. While I’m still not very good, I love playing it after a long day or a relaxing morning. It gives me time to think, time away from work and any distractions. A few of my workmates have recently got them too, and have found UkeJam, a ukulele troupe based in Guildford. But by far the best ukulele thing I’ve ever seen is this guy. I mean, the whole of Bohemian Rhapsody!? Crazy. I know, it’s not directly about making videos, but it’s a discipline that I find fascinating regardless.

4. This is a great little video about how to be a creative person, from someone who’s been doing it their whole life. So true. Another big inspiration for making this horror short – “If you want to do something, do it”. An interesting aside to this is this video about “free time“.

5. Charlie McDonnell comes across as a great guy. He know YouTube. He started out as a blogger, and last year reaches 1 million subscribers. Now he’s switching his ideas into short films. And for a first short film, this is brilliant! I know I won’t be able to achieve anything this good with mine, but it’s an inspiration nonetheless.

So there you have it. 5 videos that inspired me to get off my ass, stop just talking about doing something and actually do it. What are your 5?

Next time I should have my new lens to show you!

On Heroes and Idols

I will get back to my progress on the horror short, erm, shortly. Right now I’m in the process of getting a new lens for my camera which I want to show off to you guys, but it’s taking some time to get my grubby mitts on it.

This morning I watched this video on YouTube:

If you can spare a few minutes I think you’d enjoy it because it raises some good questions about how time warps our perception of historical figures and events, using Nikola Tesla (inventor of AC electricity amongst countless other things) as a prime example. This got me thinking…

Does history paint a rosy picture of the past? Hiding the less inspirational parts so the message of the story is not ruined?

The idea that history is written by the winners is not a new idea, but somehow this video painted it in a new light for me. Maybe because I have a huge fascination and respect for Nikola Tesla, to the point that I got very excited in Croatia when every town had a street named after him; but I’ve also been touting this train of thought for a while now. During my Blog Every Day In April fiasco, I wrote a couple of posts about how people want to be perceived, and how they perceive others. Paradox played with the idea that we cannot be put into a single box, knowing someone likes Games of Thrones or is a Whovian doesn’t give you the whole picture. The second post looked into the falseness of idolising people in the way Elphaba, in the theatrical show Wicked, makes the Wizard of Oz her role model, only to discover he is as human and insecure as her.

Elphaba idolises the Wizard in Wicked, despite his shortcomings. Do we forget that we’re all 3D and no-one is explained in a single sentence?

History does the same thing. It has a wonderful habit of remembering the good about people, such as Tesla’s amazing scientific discoveries, while burying the weird stuff like his obsession with a pigeon… and racism. But, as the video above, and Wicked, go to illustrate, maybe this is exactly what the human race needs. We garner motivation from achievement, don’t we? If history didn’t paint a rosy picture of civil uprising, of underdogs and morals winning the day, how would we believe that within ourselves is something that can change the world?

I don’t feel like I’m jumping the shark to suggest that religion offers just that. A rosy solution to the past that preaches how positive actions can make a difference. You could point to terrorist attacks and religiously motivated hate crimes and paint a different story, but that debate is for another time. Everyone following a faith sees it as a way to find meaning and purpose, to help them make the right choices in life. If nothing else, religion helps with the stress and pace of everyday life. And why shouldn’t history offer that too?

The 21st century has brought about an information age where the lives of everyone are more public that ever before. You could argue that this makes finding a 21st century hero harder. Olympic athletes who fail drug tests, Popstars who twerk, Presenters who do unspeakable things to kids, politicians who sleep with rent boys… the media would have you believe that these people are the devil. But does this really change all the good things they did? I know the controversial one here is Jimmy Savile. Once he was out-ed for his atrocities, tens of memorials to the BBC presenter were removed across the country. Now I’m not here to say if that was right or wrong, but it goes to show how history is only representative to a point. This BBC story explores how this case, and other damnatio memoriae (the damnation of the memory) stories in recent and ancient history ask the question: “Is there an ethical duty to preserve the truth of what happened, no matter how unpalatable it might be?” Ultimately, despite the answer, there is no overarching vehicle for preserving public affection or opinion, so history will always be written by a lot of small decisions by many people.

Nobody is perfect. And in the information age this can possibly be seen more than ever, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fair share of heroes, even if they are a little rough around the edges. We all have a chance to make a difference, take it. The little things count more than you think.

I know this post didn’t really answer anything, but I don’t think the answer is the important or interesting part to this. It’s about the debate, and how it shapes the way we live our lives. Until next time x