Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Shooting Theatre (on the cheap... ish)

My purchase of a shiny new video camera at the start of the year happened to co-inside with the start of rehearsals  for this year's production of my amateur dramatics group's show.

As I have worked with our producer to film and produce DVDs of the last few shows, I naturally decided that this would make a good first project to familiarise myself with the equipment and to get a, hopefully, better quality of video this year.

I soon realised that shooting theatre, especially the amateur kind, is very different from shooting for video. When shooting for film you can set up your shots as you want them and shoot in an efficient order. With theatre, you have to work with what you've got. You start at the beginning and continue to film until the end.

I'm learning as I go along, but here is a workflow I am currently using.

Record the Rehearsals
As I am appearing in the show as an actor, I have employed a cameraman to help out (I say employed, there is no money involved, just a willing volunteer). By watching the rehearsals and making notes, the cameraman gets to know the show and knows what should be happening when. Having watched some of the previous footage we have shot, the constant zooming and panning to catch entrances can be nauseating and is caused by the camera operator not being prepared for an event and rushing to catch up.
Review the Recordings
Obvious really, but having recorded the rehearsals take the time to review the footage and note where various camera moves can be made. Also note where close-ups would be nice to have, you may not be able to use them, but it is better to have shots you can't use than to miss those you can.
Take Time Setting Up
It won't be practical, or possible, to change things once the show has started so make sure you take the time to set things up right before it begins. Work with the sound and lighting guys, or gals, to get the everything as it will be during the show. Ideally, do this for the first time during a technical rehearsal so that you have time to iron out any bugs in the system.
Record Close-Ups Beforehand
Take the opportunity to record close-ups and other, non-standard shots, during the dress and technical rehearsals when there is no audience to restrict placement of the camera. This should give you material you can drop into the video during editing to improve the composition.
Record Every Performance
Always plan on recording all performances, these are the only times you will get to record audience reactions. Besides, things can go wrong, and if you only shoot the last show, that is the performance you are stuck with. Remember also, that the more material you shoot, the more you have to work with when editing.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Creating a Bothan in Poser

As I have mentioned in a previous post, the latest RPG I am running is a Star Wars campaign with multimedia support, known as Fade to Black. I have now run the first session and will be posting some of the details of the preparation.
In the first of these posts I'll discuss the creation of a 3D character for a Bothan, a species in the Star Wars universe that one of my players is using.
The picture to the right shows what a Bothan should look like and what I am aiming for. As all except the head is basically the same as a human, I started with the basic Michael 4 figure from DAZ in poser.
The first step is to create a snout-like shape for the mouth and nose of the figure, I do this by creating a magnet with it's base located toward the front of the jaw as shown below. If you look closely, you can see the size and position of the magnet's area of effect in the image below, but you will want to configure this to your own taste.
Pull the magnet away from the head to stretch the lower face into a shape that you think is the right size for your Bothan. Once you have a shape you are happy with, you can spawn a new morph target and delete the magnet. Setting the new morph target to "1" should morph the head to show the snout.
While the basic shape is there, it doesn't look like the mouth and nose of a Bothan, but I'll come back to that later. The next thing to do is the simple task of changing the ears to the long and pointy style the Bothan has. Fortunately, the Michael 4 figure, and a number of others, comes with morphs for Elf ears, experiment with these until you find something that works for you.
OK, back to the face and here is where I cheat slightly. I bought a copy of the cat world bundle and applied the face morph to my Bothan, giving feline features to the nose and mouth.
Now that the facial features are more "Bothan-y", I need to make a few adjustments to the shape of the lower face. I created another magnet on the face and pulled the mouth down and slightly forward, one more magnet allowed me to flatten the mouth and nose as they had become pointed during the stretching.
At the penultimate step, I added some long hair. There are loads of hair props out there you can use, just find one that fits the model and suits your Bothan.
Finally, I replaced the skin texture with one of the textures from the cat world bundle and changed the colour of the texture to a more neutral tan shade. To complete the effect I also changed the colour of the eyes to a yellow-green to better suit the character.
Say hello to Teruft Tarvish, a Bothan scout and a member of Unit : Black.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Embedding Images in a Wave

OK, I'm sure this has been done before.
But after looking for a robot to automagically embed linked images into a wave, I decided to create my own.

It's pretty basic, just looks for URLs starting "http:" and ending with a known image extension. But after a quick test it seems to work OK.

If anyone wants to give it a go, just invite to your wave and type in some image URLs.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Star Wars: Fade to Black

I have been working for some time now on a new Star Wars RPG campaign named "Fade to Black".

This time around I am hoping to make it a multimedia experience and have been working away on character images, video, software and a number of other items to make the most of today's technology to enhance the role-play. Much of it is still being kept secret from the players, but once the first session is completed on Saturday, I will be looking to provide details on what I did and how well it worked (or not).