Lolly Sticks

Another day, another video of a rather lame mock uploaded to YouTube. We’re back to 4:3 again, and a short video a did to teach myself how to use Adobe Premiere Elements:

Before I bought Premiere Elements in early 2008 I’d never done any video editing before, so it was all very new to me. I did huge a number of videos to experiment and work out a good workflow to transfer my material from Flash or Fireworks to video. I recorded my work over and over again onto the same DVD-RW and then scuttled downstairs to the television to see how the results looked on a CRT television rather than an LCD monitor. As you can see from this video, I hadn’t yet worked out things like interlacing or how to age transparencies properly.

Although the first BBC 1 globe symbol I remember from my childhood was the black and cyan version with the italic “COLOUR” lettering, the first BBC 2 symbol I remember was the striped cylindrical 2. I saw this countless times waiting for Play School on weekday mornings or Play Away – the strange oasis that appeared between boring black and white films – on Saturdays. BBC 1 and ITV were showing wall to wall sport at the time due to their regulatory obligation to provide programming for the hard of thinking. Channel Four didn’t even exist. Play School mornings were usually accompanied by a cup of Mellow Birds made with milk. Despite being Julie Steven’s favourite beverage, it never seemed to dissolve properly back then, so you’d get little brown bits on the top…

When the computer generated ==2== symbol replaced the cylinder on BBC 2, I never really took to it. The cylinder’s animation was far more interesting, so I often wondered what would have happened if the stripey cylindrical 2 had been kept but updated. The end result, my “lolly sticks” symbol was created in Swift 3D. The animation does a very similar thing to the cylinder – the coloured stripes rotate in opposite directions – but to make it more interesting the camera does a 270 degree trip around the stripes as they do so.

Swift 3D – click to enlarge

One interesting thing about the lolly sticks symbol is that I created it at 400 x 300 in Swift 3D. As I was exporting it in vector format as a .swf it didn’t matter what size it was so long as the aspect ratio was 4:3. Vector 3D is something that Swift 3D really excels at, although it’s very good at raster 3D as well. After more experimentation I’d later scrub this approach in favour of working at 720 x 576 and correcting in advance in Swift 3D itself for non-square PAL pixels.

Thin hairline 2 in Flash

To get the striped 2 into Swift 3D in the first place, I drew it in Macromedia Flash 8. I drew it as a series of hairlines, and then turned the hairlines into thick rounded strokes.

 Exactly the same graphic, stroked in Inkscape

After doing this, I turned the strokes into fills, and exported the resulting graphic as an Adobe Illustrator file for importing into Swift 3D.

GNAT Flash – Click to Enlarge

The clock is my Macromedia Flash 8 version of BBC Engineer Richard Russell’s computer originated GNAT (Generator, Network Analogue Time) clocks. The GNATs were used by BBC 1 and BBC 2 throughout the 1980s. There was even a rather nice yellow and blue Open University version for a few years. You can download a screensaver created using the final version of the GNAT software from Richard’s site. Richard has also written an article that discusses the history of the GNAT.

Teacher’s discipline problem #5435 – POW!!!!!!!!

The schools dots is again another one of my Flash 8 concoctions. This is the second version, where I finally got the font right! This, along with the clock, is the sort of animation that’s very easy to do in Actionscript, but a real pain to produce a version you can export to use in video projects.

Henry Woolf was even better with Charlie than with Pinter

The slide was based on a BBC1 version I did around ten years ago now for the sadly soon to be defunct BBC Cult website. I simply traced a screen capture in Flash that the BBC supplied to me from the opening titles of the programme “Words and Pictures”.

My treatment of the slide was very unsatisfactory – both in terms of the fading and blurring I used and the very bad banding that appears on the image. It looks very fake indeed, and one day I must get round to writing a post about how I would have gone about doing that job properly.

Just a note about the font – when I’m doing 70s stuff that requires Helvetica I tend to use URW++ Nimbus Sans these days. I’ll explain why in a post about Thames Television some other time.

The music is from one of my favourite programmes – 4Square – and was composed by Ian McKim. The music was designed as a tension bed underneath a computer generated (Acorn Archimedes) maze game and made for a very exciting minute of television.

Anyway, technically a rather unaccomplished little video of another lame mock. But it brings back lot of memories and I enjoy watching it from time to time.

Happy St George’s Day

As I’m English, I thought I’d celebrate today with a video of my choice – my daughter speaking very good English even though she hasn’t been there since she was eighteen months old:

But I suspect people reading this blog will be more interested in the first part of the video.

I’ve been playing with doing more work in widescreen in the past couple of years. The reason is simply that watching pillar boxed stuff annoys me. I always used to hate those letterboxed films they showed on BBC2 for film buffs with magnifying glasses when I was a kid. So as 4:3 televisions are becoming harder and harder to find and I have a 16:9 monitor I’ve been animating everything in 16:9 for the past couple of years – perversely I’ve got DVD’s full of 16:9 presentation I’ve done in Flash from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Flashy house building – Click to Enlarge

I animated the Playschool house animation from scratch in Macromedia Flash 8 and the BBC 1 South West globe in Swift 3D v5.0 – both at 720 x 576 for use as anamorphic 16:9 in Adobe Premiere Elements. The video was filmised in VirtualDub using the MSU Old Cinema plug in. I hope to have an example Flash animation of some kind filmised using OpenShot on GNU/Linux (I’ll probably be on Fedora 13 by then) to compare this against soon – the options for filmising your work on this look very promising indeed.

The Whole Wide World in Swift 3D version 5

The BBC1 South West globe was animated at 50 frames per second, and I used that to create an interlaced 50 fields per second file in VirtualDub. The colour was keyed on in Adobe Premiere Elements. The announcement is actually Peter Macann (former Tomorrow’s World presenter) and was from BBC1 South in Southampton.

The BBC1 caption was traced in Macromedia Flash 8 from a scan of the original BBC1 globe caption from BBC Graphic Designer Bob Richardson.

The Playschool music (the definitive Paul Reade version) has a voice over from the magical Brian Cant and the day is given to us by Australia’s finest singer, Don Spencer.

You Have Been Watching…

As you probably know if you come here often, recently I’ve been helping out my friend Rory Clark by doing some graphical odds and ends for three documentaries he was making for the “Bob’s Full House” Kaleidoscope event at BAFTA.

One of the things Rory asked me over the phone was whether I could knock him up an endcap for the documentaries that would credit his company “Farcical Films”. Rory was quite firm over the phone that he wanted something very, very simple and didn’t want any animation.

I was equally firm that I wanted him to have some animation as I thought he was being far too modest and thought he needed to blow his own trumpet a bit more.

So what I came up with was a bit of a compromise – I would do him a little silent animation in muted BBC Co-Production endboard style.

In actual fact I already had an animated ident for Farcical Films that goes back many years that never actually got used for anything and I thought it was about time it got dusted off and used.

In the distant past I was living in the village of Mélykút on the Hungarian/Serbian border and watched an awful lot of Croatian (HRT) and Serbian (RTS) television. This was because they showed many English programmes with subtitles whereas in Hungary they dub everything – badly. I got quite familiar with their presentation, and one of the RTS idents back then started off with EBU colour bars and resolved into the RTS logo. As a television presentation fan I thought this was fantastic idea, and definitely worth pinching.

So I created a “Farcical Films” ident using this idea for Rory. It was also an learning exercise for me in Swift 3D, which I had just started using for the first time. Swift 3D is an incredible program that creates vector 3D, and can export in .swf format. It also features a number of nice features to make very small 3D images which are excellent for web work, and also a number of options for “cartoony” 3D for 2D animation use. I used it for many jobs over the years and if you’ve never used a 3D program before it’s an excellent one to start with due to its ease of use and high quality of its documentation.

I started with what looked like colour bars, but were the Farcical Films letters arranged in a line end on.

I then animated the letters into place, whilst making them white.

I finally faded on the word “FILMS” to produce the Farcical Films logo.

As Rory obviously wanted something more muted, and so that Kaleidoscope got their credit too, I created something a bit more BBC.

K logo starts formed, Farcical films logo starts as bars.

The bars animate.

And the logo is revealed.

I speeded the ident to double speed so it would run at 50fps. This meant that both the animation was short and sweet (under 3 secs) and that Rory could interlace the animation to get smoother movement, which is something he is always keen to do when possible.