Meeting Report: Drones, Aerial Filming and Photography

Matt Nicholson of Hollywood Drones and his colleague Danny MacGreggor Gill brought drones to our May meeting at Film Oxford and talked about the applications and challenges of deploying drones for aerial filming and photography.

Surveying, search and rescue, 3D mapping, building inspection and parcel delivery are just a few of the uses to which drones are being applied today in addition to the more usual aerial photography and filming. Numerous members of the meeting’s audience have drones of various sizes and capabilities.

Matt’s professional background is in aviation which made it easier for him to gain Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) permission to fly an Small Unmanned Aircraft (UAS) for commercial purposes. This permission required that Matt attend a 2 day ground school, plus theory tests on air law, operation of the unmanned aircraft and a risk assessment of flying procedures. In addition he was required to set up an Operations Manual to show how he intended to operate the aircraft.

mattNicholsonAfter discussing the CAA legalities of flying where the pilot is flying within line-of-site up to 500 metres distance Matt showed us his DJI S900 drone. This aircraft requires two-man operation, a pilot to fly the aircraft and an operator to manipulate the camera during flight.

Weighing in at more than 7kg the aircraft carries a GH4 Lumix Olympus camera. The GH4 operates on a radio-controlled 3-axis gimbal and imagery is monitored in real time on a radio connected tablet. Satisfactory filming with a drone was said to take up to three times longer than a ground based cameraman.

To demonstrate the capabilities of the S900 Matt showed a short film he had shot of the new maths building at Oxford University for HobsonCurtis Films.

Matt pointed out that CAA permission is not required for social flying of smaller drones providing that “the aircraft will not be flown close to people or properties, and you will not get ‘valuable consideration’ (i.e. payment) from the flight”. [source]

Film Oxford and Hollywood Drones are planning to run courses on filming with drones in the near future

raffleWinnerMichaelDunningRaffle winner
At the end of the evening photographer Michael Dunning won the twice-yearly raffle. Michael now has a one-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. Congratulations Michael!

Drones – Aerial Filming and Photography

Everyone’s talking about Drones, come and find what the fuss is about!

Thursday May 21st, 7:30pm at Film Oxford.
Guest Speaker: Matthew Nicholson of Hollywood Drones.

Bring your business card to enter this quarter’s free raffle for a one-year’s subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.

Matthew will bring along his filming drone so you can get close up and see what it is all about. He will explain what is involved in setting up and running the business from a legal perspective, how to operate drones legally and demonstrate some of their more recent short films.

Hollywood Drones is an aerial filming company based in Oxford. Fully licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority they film up to Ultra 4K using the same equipment as used by major broadcasters such as the BBC and ITV. Since setting up in 2014 they have established work for Sky Sports the National Trust and Oxford University as well as other Oxfordshire companies.

(Photos Hollywood Drones)

Meeting Report: The Fantastic and the Invisible – Ken Turner on VFX

chopperKen Turner mesmerised our April meeting with his  show reel of 2D 3D generalist animation and composition work showing spaceships, aliens, angels, falling bombs, helicopters crashing into skyscrapers; all without anyone being hurt in the making of the film.

He was talking to a standing-room only audience about his career. Amongst his many accomplishments Ken supervised computer graphics on The Fades and picked up the RTS award for best effects digital along with Alexis Haggar and Dan Marbrook of Lexhag.

KenTurnerAn illustrator at heart Ken has spent the last 15 years leading teams in animation and visual effects mainly for drama on the BBC but also for computer games. His most recent success was creating composite scenes for the BBC production Poldark.

Using Fusion 7 from Black Magic Ken demonstrated how he used the product to add a non-existent roof to a Cornish mine. He also removed a number of people from the skyline whilst cast members walk in front of these added and removed parts of the scene.

poldark1The tin mine before composition

poldark2The final composited scene

Similarly Ken showed how he had been able to add buildings to a scene along with smoke from chimneys, making ground less green and more industrial, as well as adding a galleon sailing past the coastline, creating what he referred to as a ‘moving collage’.

In addition he displayed a sequence and explained how he used Fusion to create the illusion of a large crowd walking up a long coastal track. The actual scene was shot numerous times as a small group of actors walked up the track. Ken composed the final scene by merging numerous sections of the timeline together to give the illusion of large crowd of people walking up the track.

Ken pointed out that Fusion 7 is available free of charge by simply downloading from the Black Magic site. It runs incredibly quickly allowing for great productivity on the part of the animator. Currently only available for Windows PC a Mac version is being created by Black Magic.

“Most of my work starts with mood boards in Pinterest” said Ken whilst emphasising the critical need for research. “So far I’ve enjoyed a 15 year career in Computer Games and TV. Now with Digital Cinema production the next 15 years promises to be even more exciting.”

The Fantastic and the Invisible – Ken Turner on VFX

Our April meeting is The Fantastic and the Invisible – Ken Turner on VFX, at Film Oxford on Thursday 16th April, 7:30pm .

Ken is an award winning VFX supervisor and Animation Director with almost 20 years experience working in TV and Games. He is sometime CG supervisor at Lexhag in london and runs his own business DesignImage.

He will present a range of work from high budget TV BBC dramas to micro budget sci-fi shorts, using a variety of software.(he uses Photoshop almost every day!)

His talk  is a semi technical presentation with ‘how we did it’ VFX shot breakdowns (including the recent Poldark. and Bafta winning “the Fades” ). He will cover a range of techniques: matte painting, invisible mending, creatures, motion graphics, and more. Plus introduce Blackmagic’s (free) compositing software Fusion.

There will be time for questions including tips for you’re planning a  VFX or animation project.

Work done on current TV series –  Poldark

Also from the “The Paradise”


Joint meeting with Digital Film Editors Oxford

Meeting Report: Augmented Reality – Traak!

John Twycros and Eric White show of ar1 . Eric kicked off with the artistic concept behind the product which was influenced by Avant-garde artists in the early 20th century creating machines to create an artistic audio experience.

Traak uses a specially created app, and a hacked mobile, in an enclosed headset, with high quality headphones, to give a video overlay of reality (as the eyes would see), with superimposed 3d graphical explosions that are triggered by patterns printed on cubes.

ar2I would described it as like downing 10 espressos at once – or an endorphin stimulation device – Richard

Thank you Richard.

Augmented Reality – Traak!

augmentThis Thursday at Film Oxford (7:30pm) we look at the fusion of video production with wearable technology and will have a presentation of Traak! an augmented reality project produced by researchers from Oxford Brookes. Augmented Reality is a cutting edge technology popularised by Google Glass, and being explored by a range of tech companies.

The discussion will be relevant to anyone interested in audio visual production, design, animation and app development. This session will provide a hands on experience and discussion of this emerging future technology that allows great potential for creative digital production.

Traak! is a wearable device that allows users to ‘play’ an animated futurist sculpture and create the ‘future sounds’ of cities. In this interactive installation, participants can use Traak! to explore the possibilities of Augmented Reality (AR) and reconsider their relationship with art, technology, and the environment.

Meeting Report: February Meeting

This month we invited you to share your favourite websites, blogs, short videos and e-zines with the group. You shared with us these websites and short films:

Short Films:
Zoe Broughton
Keith Hoult

Resource websites:
Film Oxford Talent & Crew Skills Database
Shooting People crew recruiting
BBC Technology – test your broadband speed

Inspirational websites:
MUBI curated online cinema
BBC News in pictures
The Boston Globe ‘Big Picture’
Completing Barcelona’s ‘Sagrada Familia’ basilica temple

Industry event:
BVE broadcast and production technology event

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this evening of resources.

Prize Draw
FebruaryDuring the evening we ran one of our prize draws for a one-year free subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. The lucky winner, John Lewis, was presented his prize by Richard Duriez and Dariusz  Dziala. Congratulations John, enjoy your year of Creative Cloud free subscription!

February meeting

Thursday, February 19 – Film Oxford, 54 Catherine Street, Oxford OX4 3AH

This month we are inviting you to share your favourite websites, blogs, short videos and e-zines with the group. Just bring along the URLs and we will display the sites so that everyone can view them.

The sort of sites we are thinking of are technical resources for developers, film-makers, designers and editors; domestic resources; entertainment; news and current affairs; education. In fact without limit (but keep the party clean and the videos short!).

Prize draw
During the evening we shall be running one of our prize draws for a one-year free subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. Bring along your business card or fill in one of our blanks at the door. You have to be in it to win it!

We also have a number of t-shirts and other Adobe collateral to give away!

Meeting Report: January meeting

This month we had two very interesting talks and demos by members Sathya Vijayendran and Guy Henstock.


Creating a title sequence using After Effects and Photoshop by Sathya Vijayendran
Satya’s Vimeo Channel

Sathya Vijayendran Sathya showed the title sequence he created for his comedy web series, “Robby’s Guide To Picking Up Chicks”. The sequence, based on a bathroom wall heavily covered in graffiti, showed animated images and text for the title. He had created this using both Photoshop and After Effects. In particular exploiting the layers in Photoshop that transition as layers when imported into After Effects.

In his demonstration Sathya created a simple version of the sequence by first starting with an empty image large enough to move around in for Super HD. Filling this empty image with a light background colour as a base, Sathya then went on to add an image of texture using partial opacity to blend the texture with the background colour. He continued to add layers of different opacity introducing items of graffiti on the wall, finally adding an image of a toilet roll holder with a small degree of drop shadow to complete the background of a bathroom wall covered with graffiti.

Saving the image as a PSD with all layers available in Photoshop, Sathaya imported it into After Effects where he proceeded to add text, this he floated onto the stage with various animated settings, including the introduction of an image. Sathya made various adjustments to the positioning and time line, as well as moving some of the Photoshop created layers, to get the desired presentation on the screen for his title sequence.

A great demonstration of the capabilities of Photoshop and After Effects working in partnership. Thank you Sathya, great job!

See the original video Robby’s Guide To Picking Up Chicks – Episode 1, “You’re More Important Than Her!” with the full title sequence.


Becoming a Google Business View Photographer by Guy Henstock

Guy HenstockGuy  Henstock demonstrated how he had created the Business View of Film Oxford for Google Maps (view here by clicking on the front door).

He talked about how Business View is used by businesses to show visitors inside their premises using 3600 imagery. Google integrate Business Views into their Street View on Google maps.

Guy has become a Google Trusted Photographer working for Software Assistance. He talked about the extremely strict set of criteria that Google require him to follow when executing an assignment recording a client’s establishment. In particular Google require a very specific set of equipment to be used in a highly prescribed manner. He went on to point out that Google are working in partnership with photographers all over the world and obviously require consistency for their software and systems to work without issues.

He talked about how the images are taken using a fish-eye lens, shooting the first  image facing North, 10 feet away from the front door, with second image being 4 feet from the door, then 4 feet inside the front door. Images have to be submitted without editing, the process consisting of uploading to Google using Picasa. Google then perform an extreme quality control process, returning for re-shooting and submission, any sequence of images not matching standards.

This Business View service is new to Europe but very widely used in the USA. The inclusion of Business View sequences in Google Maps is thought to aid SEO rankings. Businesses also use the sequences in their own websites. To view Guy’s portfolio at Software Assistance  click here and scroll down the page.

Thank you Guy, yet another great talk and demonstration!

Media courses for 2015

Media courses that you may be interested in are now signing up for early 2015, Short and weekend courses; 1-week, 5-week, 8-week and 10-week courses. Click on the links in the listing headings to get full details of the course.

Short and weekend courses

Smart Styling for the Web
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and client-side scripts have transformed the look of the Web. This intermediate course in Web Design and Development takes visual form and actions to greater depth. It provides hands-on practical knowledge and experience of applying style to the latest standard CSS3 alongside HTML5 and the public JavaScript library jQuery. 24th – 25th January, 9am – 5pm.

Directing Drama for Film and TV
This course, focuses on the principles of directing drama, providing techniques for working with actors, capturing their performances and planning the most sympathetic coverage.
Sat/Sun, 24th-25th January, 10am – 6pm

DSLR Cinematography
This is very much a hands-on interactive workshop, with real-time filming using multiple DSLRs and equipment, with an emphasis on making your footage look ‘cinematic’.
Sat, 31st January, 10.00 am-5.30pm

Festival Screening Course – new*
Don’t get left on the shelf, get your films shown! Aimed at those with a short production ready to submit to festivals. Sunday 1st February, 10-4:30pm

Adobe Premiere Editing
Learn practical editing skills using this leading software package, (suitable for PC and Mac users). Sat/Sun, 7th-8th February, 10am-4:30pm

Introduction to Photoshop
This course introduces digital imaging concepts and techniques using Adobe Photoshop. Sat/Sun, 14th-15th February, 10am – 4pm

Adobe After Effects
This course is a great introduction to leading industry special effects and compositing program. Sat/Sun, 21st-22nd February, 10am – 5pm

Location Sound Workshop
Location Sound workshop focuses on both mixing and recording; it looks at a wide variety of microphones and techniques, and gives the theoretical background you need.
Sat/Sun, 21st-22nd February, 10am – 5pm

Introduction to Digital Video
This enjoyable taster course is a hands-on basic introduction to using digital video cameras and editing. Sat/Sun, 28th February – 1st March, 10:00 – 4:30pm.

Reel Women – Intro Video Production for Women
This course is designed for women wishing to make their first step into video production.
Tues 3rd – Thurs 5th March, 9:30am-2:45pm

HD Camera
A one-day workshop aimed at those who have some experience of semi-pro/pro camcorders, but want to create better images. Sat, 7th March, 10-5:30pm

Lighting Workshop
This course introduces students to the principles of lighting, giving you a better understanding and confidence to deal with different lighting situations. Sun, 8th March, 10-5:15pm

Creative VJ – Make Music for your Eyes!
At the crossroads between DJing, live cinema and the visual arts, VJing is a truly 21st century art form. Thurs/Fri 12th-13th March, 11am-6pm

Introduction to Screenwriting
For those wishing to write their first screenplay or touch up on writing skills.
Sat/Sun, 14th-15th March, 10am-4pm

Film Producing on a Microbudget
This course strips away the mystique of film making and explains in a very practical way how to make and then market your film. Sat/Sun, 21st-22nd March, 10-4:30pm

Stop Motion Animation
Create stop motion animations using different media and techniques, in this creative hands-on workshop. Sat/Sun, 11th – 12th April, 10am – 4pm.

Final Cut Pro X
FCP X can prepare footage for quick, automatic fixes of defects such as camera shake, rolling shutter and colour balance. Sat/Sun, 14th – 15th March, 10am-4.30pm

Responsive Web Design for the mobile web
Responsive Web Design creates websites for visitors equally from the smallest smartphone to the large desktop, without multiple versions of the site. We explore the issues and create websites that adapt to their environment by using fluid, proportion-based grids, flexible images and media queries. In addition we look at displaying only essential content when the viewing environment is limited on a small screen smartphone. 11 – 12 April, 9am – 5pm.

3 Day Video Production Course
This new intro covers the whole process of video production from start to finish; over the 3 days you will produce an advert for a community group. Mon, Tue, Wed, 13th, 14th, 15th April, 9:30 – 2:45pm.

Advanced Javascript
This course takes your knowledge beyond the fundamentals of Javascript and jQuery.
Advanced topics such as closure, scope, module patterns, hoisting, and working with a prototypal language, are introduced. We discuss strategies for managing scope and introduce encapsulation, namespaces, module patterns and closure. Saturday 20th June, 10am – 5pm.

1-week courses

Shooting Break
This introduction to video-making covers the whole process of video production from the initial idea through to a finished film. 1 Week Course, starts 23rd March, 10am- 4.30pm

5-week courses

Shooting Documentaries
In this practical hands-on course students are taught the main principles of Documentary Production before going on to research, develop, schedule and plan a short documentary.
5 week course: 16th February -16th March, 7pm-9:30pm

8-week courses

New Screenwriting Workshop
A bespoke discussion-based follow-up to the Introduction to Screenwriting Course in which more individual attention is given to developing each participant’s project from concept to finished script. 8 weeks course, starts 18th January -15th March 2015, 6:15pm-8:15pm

Shooting Video
Film Oxford’s flagship beginner’s course is designed for those wishing to make their first step into video production. 8 Weeks Evenings and 2 Weekends, starts 3rd February, 7-10pm

10-week courses

Intermediate Web Design and Development
Cascading Style Sheets and client-side scripts have transformed the look of the Web, giving designers and developers outstanding control of website presentation and behaviour. This course follows on from our Introduction to Web Design and Development Course and provides hands-on practical knowledge and direct experience in applying the styling specified in CSS3 alongside HTML5 and the public JavaScript library jQuery.
19 January – 23 March, 5:30pm – 8pm.

Going Further with Javascript
This is a second course on web programming and shows how JavaScript, PHP and MySQL may be used to build attractive, dynamically populated websites. The course reviews key ideas of basic JavaScript and extends knowledge of the language. It ccontinues by introducing PHP and command-line MySQL. The course finishes with an introduction to dynamic window and data exchange – key technologies in the modern Web. 19 January – 23 March, 7pm – 9pm.

Introduction to Dynamic Websites
This introductory course enables students to supplement their skills and experience of website design, offering hands-on practical knowledge of PHP and MySQL and providing experience of designing and building a Content Management System for a website, using a visual artist’s online gallery as the example. 21 January – 25 March, 5:30pm – 8pm.