When the men on the chessboard

To make sure that every time I go through the Radiotherapy device I am correctly aligned and that the right bits get zapped I am now tattooed with tracking marks!

It feels like I’m now part of a VFX shoot.

Simple dots to make sure that I am correctly aligned to each morning, lasers beams making sure I’m at the right angle. Wiggle this way, wiggle that way, hold your breath

Of course that’s only half of it, the other half is the Chemo or drugs, more drugs than I’ve taken since the late 60’s!!


This is my stash for the rest of the month.

33 boxes of various varieties, which leads me to the title of the post. One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small…

No dreadful side effects yet but there’s plenty of time, apparently the pain will be at its worst 2 weeks after I finish Radiotherapy. Pass another patch!

Remember what the dormouse said

Nothing is ever as simple as you think it’s going to be

So, I turned up yesterday expecting to start Chemo but no, I’m starting pre-chemo.

They are testing the hell out of me and then building me up so that I’m in the best condition I can be before they start to F it all up!

Today I have a pre-radiation therapy meeting, that definitely does start next Monday and by then I’ll have had the transfusions that they think I’ll need and also any other chemical tweaks they think are needed.

The list of side effects is enormous, they should try saying what won’t happen, it would be simpler.

I’m also being switched to stronger pain killers, Fentanyl patches and also tablets. They have a refreshing approach to pain killers here, use them! they’ll worry about possible addiction problems later. Actually they said if they gradually increase and then decrease them it’s not an issue.

That’s a big difference form the UK approach of take a Paracetamol because anything stronger will turn you into a junky.

I’m all in favour of pain killers because what the online help & info sites don’t tell you is how much it will hurt.

Is it possible to use autofocus for an entire movie?

In my pre-occupation with other things in my life at the moment I’ve forgotten to publish the results here of trying to shoot an entire movie with autofocus.

Another movie with Dominic Brunt and he agreed to me using the Canon C300-2 with stills lenses for the entire film.

Although I had an AC he spent a lot of his time watching me try to focus pull using a Samsung Tablet!

I wanted to do it myself just to see how difficult it was and what the najor pitfalls were.

It was a hell of a learning experience but I’d do it again, maybe with a few small changes like taking my own router just for the camera WiFi, using frequency scanners more often and killing anyone who decided to use any form of wireless transmission without clearing it with the camera crew first!

The main lesson is that the newer a lens is the better it copes, well that’s a shock!

Seriously, in a lot of situations the lens just couldn’t focus fast enough, actors running at camera in very low light was a serious issue.

Anyway, lots more here… http://www.cinematography.net/Canon%20C300-2%20Digital%20Assisted%20Focus%20on%20a%20Movie%20%20.html


Some days are Diamonds, some days are stone

The words of Tom Petty strike a chord with me again.

“Rhino Skin” and “I won’t back down” have been my soundtrack.

I think I’m going to need this…

“Well, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down”

I got the results of a few weeks of tests yesterday, Ultrasound, X-rays, colonoscopy, MRI & CT scan.

The simple thing is that I have rectal cancer and start Chemo on Monday and Radiotherapy on Tuesday. That will be followed by a colostomy.

I’m not going to let it bring me down, I’m going to function as normally as I can.

I won’t be able to go to IBC on the weekdays because of my daily treatments but I will be able to go at the weekend and intend to try.

I’m also hoping that CineFest will agree to me doing my ACES presentation via a narrated PowerPoint and a video intro followed hopefully by a Q&A via Skype.

I’m going to blog my progress and hopefully this will help someone else.

If you’re worried about anything, get it checked and face up to it.

Lens Testing

The results of my lens testing have been fascinating.


I originally published them without identifying the individual lenses and received a number of emails from people saying how were they expected to evaluate them if they didn’t know what was what.

Err look at the pictures??

Interestingly there were a number of surprises here, the accepted “fact” that primes are always better than zooms was shown to be wrong when people didn’t know what they were looking at, the zooms did pretty well.

I don’t think that we’ve found a “best” lens, that was never the intention.

We have however managed to show which lenses shine in particular situations. As always choose what is appropriate for the job.


First reviews of The Taking are in…

Bait (AKA. The Taking) (2015) Review.

“The bleak cinematography captures a chilling tone with lingering shots that create extreme dread in the more distressing moments.”

That’s cool 🙂


I’ll not mention the one that compared the cinematography with Lars Von Triers work, why does that guy keep following me around? I used his studio for Lego commercials and the director of Wallander was a friend of his.

I can’t stand his films!

Improvements in Grading

It was fascinating looking at the differences between material shot in 1985 and 2014 and all points in between while I was making the 30 years reel.

The variations, particularly in black level  are huge.

The Pepsi commercial was shot on ’94 & ’95 and cut and printed in a very conventional film way, once we were happy with the film print we had a low contrast print made and telecined from that, it must have been a Cintel Mk3. There are huge variations in both the level and the colour of the blacks and the whites don’t match too well scene to scene either!

The Sega was once again printed before we telecined off the print but in this case it was done to get a kind of contrast and saturation that it just wasn’t possible to get directly off the neg at the time. I remember we tested different print stocks and then used a Fuji print stock to get maximum punch.

For the Cussons job we again printed, on the recce I shot stills on every motion picture stock I could get my hands on, at that time Kodak and Fuji wanted to help, Fuji said who? We contact printed onto every print stock and just looked at the results on a light box. The result was a hell of a surprise, we got the best result with Agfa 400 ISO stock heavily filtered down and then printed on Kodak.

The baby milk commercials was shot on ’94 and scanned directly from the neg, probably a good thing as it was the thinnest neg I had ever produced! I had to light done to the night lights, we couldn’t but brighter bulbs in them, we tried and they melted.

Everything else is directly from the neg, there was a huge change in image quality when the Spirit scanner arrived.

Finally the Ford job was 4 * Alexa and 1 * C500 all digital and a great grade from Seamus.

It was only after Pepsi and Sega that I started to get heavily involved in the post, up until then I’d pretty much left it to the film grader with a bit of guidance. Like the time I wanted a commercial to have a blue tint, I asked for it to have the feel of a faded denim shirt, ‘WTF is that” was the reply from the grader. I clipped off the corner of my shirt and stapled it to the neg report. It came back looking right 🙂


The Future of the BBC

I’m sure that I’ll regret this and get a lot of grief but I think it’s time that someone stood up and said that the outpouring of support that the BBC appears to be getting in the run up to potential change is strangely enough totally from parties with vested interests. Mostly tired old labour luvvies who couldn’t get hired in the real world.

Once upon a time there was only one TV channel in the UK and it was the BBC, then there was a commercial station and in 1964, if you lived in the south, or 1967 for the whole country there was BBC2 and colour!

Much later, the early 80’s saw Ch4, which I shot the launch for, and then Ch5.

There still wasn’t much choice and the reasons for the existence of the BBC were very clear.

Sky, which started in 1984 after a few years of tests, changed everything, we now have hundreds of TV channels producing material for all interests.

Where groundbreaking original drama was the preserve of the BBc in the past we now look to HBO and Netflix.

And of course there is the real growth and change, channels that function via the internet and don’t use “normal” transmission methods.

So, does the BBC have any reason for existence in the present conditions?

Well yes and no, there is absolutely no need for the huge amount of material it produces that can be got on many commercials channels to at least as high a standard or in many case much better. The days of the BBC as a bastion of quality are long gone, both technically and artistically.

I’m not going to list the programmes that are transmitted all day that should be on commercial stations because I will confuse those that are on the commercials channels and those that are on the BBC, Location Location Location, House in the Country, and so on.

We could close Radio 1, Radio 2 and BBC1 without any loss of quality programmes, OK there are a few BBC1 shows that I’d like to see survive but they could easily be moved to fill the holes made in the BBC2 schedule when you remove the stuff that shouldn’t be there.

The BBC should only be making programmes that nobody else would/will, they are not commercial, they don’t have to justify their existence to shareholders. Sometimes something like Strictly Ballroom will appear, it’s hugely popular but it’s also something that would not have been made elsewhere neither would Bake Off.

Do we need such a huge BBC web presence or is that strangling commercial startups at birth?

The BBC should certainly not be in the magazine publishing business.

Should people that make mind bogglingly stupid decisions like killing off the programme that is their most successful international sales platform be allowed to keep their jobs? And yes, Top Gear is a programme that the BBC should make, it’s safe from the pressures of the car companies and therefore should be able to make open and objective tests of cars.

It should have the freedom to offend a few people, that’s what allowed Monty Python to succeed.

And when it comes to offending people does the BBC have to be so absolutely PC? are a significant proportion of deaf people illiterate? if not why are repeats ruined for the majority of people with an overlay of a gurning madman waving their arms around, isn’t this what subtitles are for?

Also on the theme of PC, they are the BBC, that is the British BC, the presenters should reflect this and not the islington/Hampstead luvvies vision of equality. Lets look at percentages, in terms of presenters, aah what’s the point, I’ll just be called racist. Look at the 2011 census results for the country as a whole, not just London or other large cities, the people shown on the BBC are totally out of proportion to those figures. The BBC tries so hard to be PC that they screw over the majority of the population.

As for the people they employ and the money they are paid…

You could remove half of the staff and not notice the slightest difference, cull to a third of the present numbers and they may start to get more efficient.

Why on earth were they allowed to spend the billions on an ego project like the new broadcasting house in the heart of the most expensive area in London, what’s wrong with an industrial estate out near Heathrow. Ah no, that’ll be where a commercial enterprise that is knocking them out in terms of quality and originality is based.

I’m stopping now, I could compare shooting station idents for BBC2 and Sky but I’d start crying.




30 Years of high end Commercials

I decided to celebrate my birthday by making a reel of my favourite 10 commercials from the last 30 years, of course once I got down to 11 I couldn’t decide which to cull so my favourite 10 are actually 11!

I’d like to thank all the crew involved in these and all the commercials that I shot, some before 1985, most after.


Mick Vincent – Seamus O’Kane – Fergus MaCall – Adrain Seery – Max Horton –  Jean-Clement Soret – Gary Szabo – Giles Livesey – Corinne Bogdanovich


John Hammond – Andy Hebden – John Higgins –  Keith Osborne – Gary Varney – Rikki Butland – Otto Stenov – Viggo Grumme – Ossie Jung – Lenny Hoffman – Dan Lowe – Matt Giblin


Andrew Raysnley – Tony Jackson – Peter Turner – Martin Shepherd – Jason Bulley – Dan Lightening – Howard Smith – Chris McGuire – Picha Srisansanee – Gregg Smith


Tony Jackson – Martin Shepherd – John Baillie – Jason Bulley – Matt Wesson – Phil Forbes – Justin Pentecost – Steve Grainger – Dan Lightnening – Gregg Smith – Kenny Groom