Incredible Bioshock photoshoot

Little Sister and Big Daddy
Wonderful, wonderful photoshoot – a Big Daddy and Little Sister in an aquarium tunnel. Top notch costumes, great modelling and excellent photography. I’d have liked to see some shallower depth of field in there, but other than that I can’t fault it. Props to Harrison Krix, his fiancee and their photographer!

See the full gallery at Geekologie.

LEGO Indiana Jones 2 released today

This is the latest game that I worked on, in a limited capacity – I did some of the boss levels, which we haven’t done before in a LEGO game…not on this scale, anyway. This game is the first outing for our new split-screen tech, which I think is brilliant. It’s also got vastly improved vehicle physics, and a nifty level editor. One of the early reviews criticises the editor for not allowing you to make levels that look like the ones ingame, which made me laugh…and grind my teeth, metaphorically speaking. Some people still seem to think game development is a breeze and we spend all our time just playing around.

See what the press think overall at MetaCritic. Not many reviews up yet but that will change. The Guardian gave it 5 stars, so I hope that one gets included. I suspect we’ll get the usual mixture of “Meh” from the hardcore gamers and “Woot!” from the casual sector.

I’m certainly enjoying it, perhaps because I wasn’t on the project from the very beginning. There’s loads of levels I didn’t play myself during development, and the cutscenes keep making me laugh out loud. Definitely one to be proud of.

Joss talks about Horrible business

I’m a bit slow to repost this, but I didn’t have a blog back in February. Joss Whedon discusses the business model behind Dr. Horrible.

In a nutshell, it cost $400,000 to make (including cast and writer’s fees, which were deferred) and has at least broken even. Some sites claim it has raked in $2.5m. All Joss says is that iTunes was “a great boon”.

Neon Zoo – Darkest Dance

Darkest Dance was my first go at a music video. My wife and I met the band at a nightclub in Nottingham we used to frequent, some months before the launch of their first album.

We shot this on a Sunday afternoon in that same nightclub, which had conveniently black walls. I lit it with a couple of halogen work lights from ScrewFix – not very controllable but very cheap. I set up a monitor so the band could see themselves, which was a mixed blessing – it proved a bit distracting.

In the edit, I had two takes of each of the six band members (one wide, one close-up), plus a couple of extras for the lead singer. I created a half-second clip and pasted many, many copies of it so that I could just switch each clip to point at any one of takes below. It took many passes over the whole song to select the best combination of clips. Then there was some painting out of lens flares and reflections off the back wall.

The concept is deliberately simplistic, but it’s dramatic, shows off the distinctive personalities of the band members, and well-received at the “premiere” – after their gig at the Devonshire Fox in Camden. It was enormous fun to shoot the video and hang out with the band for a lot of their summer tour. Happy days 🙂

Motion tracking freeware: PatchMaker 1.0

A quick tip, because writing about Churchyard reminded me…

PatchMaker 1.0 is a simple 2D motion tracking tool for Windows. It does only two things but it does them well and simply. It will either stabilise footage, or apply the same camera motion to a patch image (it will also export the tracking metadata into After Effects if you need to do something elaborate).

Although it’s only 2D tracking, it’s subpixel-accurate and easily good enough for any shot short of a crane or steadicam move. I tested it on Churchyard to attach a replacement name and date to a gravestone, but the trial version would only do 1 second shots – so, cheapskate that I am, I tried to do it by hand. Ouch.

I’m glad I didn’t buy it though, because it’s now FREE!

So in Monsters, I stabilised a slightly wobbly 1080p dolly shot. We had done several takes on set until it was silky smooth – but of course during editing I particularly needed a bit from the imperfect tail end of take 2. It required a little experimentation to find the best tracking points, especially since actors were passing in front of the background I was trying to track, but the end result almost eliminated the wobble. I suspect it could have been perfect if I’d spent longer refining it.

Grab it while you can!


Ted Hope of TrulyFreeFilm has an interesting post on crowdsourcing for film funding – notably the idea that nowadays filmmakers should demonstrate they can build an audience before seeking funding, and have a marketing strategy and ecommerce solutions in place. He makes a good point – many filmmakers see funding as merely an obstacle to getting their film made and don’t have any expectation of recovering it – and will often blame this on the state of the market and latterly the ecomony. But ultimately, if you don’t plan how to make your film profitable, then it’s probably just a vanity project. So why would anyone give you money to make it?

This is particularly applicable to my latest project, which like Steve, I’ll call “Winter”. The crowdsourcing, that is – not the vanity project…

A little background…

So, what’s the point of this place? And why “Winterblood”?

Well, I’ve set this up as a place to share my thoughts on the subjects that interest me – the making of films and games. So here’s a little background to put my comments in context…

I love games, and I’ve been programming them since I was at school – I starting off typing BASIC listings into a CPC464 circa 1982. Went to university, got a degree in Computer Science, and got a job at the bottom on the ladder. 13 years later, I’ve worked my way up to Associate Lead Programmer at Traveller’s Tales, and have worked on a dozen different games. I’ve watched the industry develop from outside and inside, and I’m still excited by the possibilities and by by other developers’ creations.

At university I was introduced to tabletop and live role-playing, which opened up a whole new field of gaming to me – a form far less controllable, but so much richer for the participation of fellow players. I have a lot of ideas about how to bring the same depth of experience to video games, which I’ll elaborate on in future posts.

Turning to films, I have a similar passion for a good story skilfully told with beautiful visuals and sound – and a fascination with the mechanics of constructing that narrative, much of which can be applied to video games. However, unlike games where I started at the bottom and worked my way up, with filmmaking I simply decided “I want to direct!” and began developing my skills by working on progressively more ambitious projects. I’ll detail those experiences later, along with short articles on cinematic art, camera geekery and visual effects techniques.

And why Winterblood? It’s just a memorable and evocative conjunction that isn’t used much on the internet. To me it conjures bleak images of a snow-covered battlefeild…read into that what you will.

If you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll find something of interest in the posts to come. See you soon…