Visual Effects

Third RTS Win for Production Craft Skills

By | Animation, Awards, Broadcast, RTS, sony, Visual Effects | No Comments

This November we picked up the Royal Television Society Award for ‘Best Production Craft Skills’. The award was given for Animation and Visual Effects for a clutch of projects produced for Sony Pictures Television earlier in 2017. The body of work included seasonal idents for the Moviemix channel, and a 6-day time lapse using motion control. We’re proud to say that it’s the third time the studio has won this category. It was a pleasure to receive the award from The Gadget Show’s own John Bentley. Thanks RTS! 

Trick or Treat!

By | Behind The Scenes, Funnies, Modelmaking, Photography, Press, Promotions, Special Projects, Uncategorized, Visual Effects | No Comments

Our Halloween Homage to Harryhausen

This summer we made a brilliant new creative friendship in the form of Ian Davies, photographer par excellence. Ian is in the process of collating a 100 strong collection of portraits of people who work in the creative industries in Birmingham, only with a slight twist. The plan is to capture people in their natural creative environs in a slightly tongue in cheek way. For the denizens of a stop-motion studio, Ian came up with idea of compositing subjects in amongst some of their own miniature sets and puppets. What better source of inspiration for this than the skeleton army in Jason and The Argonauts?

Outnumbered. Still from Jason and The Argonauts.

This classic adventure film is known to all stop-motion animators for the handiwork of the late, great Ray Harryhausen (all kneel). What Harryhausen achieved using back projection techniques and film cameras was truly groundbreaking and still stands the test of time as an iconic piece of filmmaking. We had tremendous fun coming up with the designs and building the scene of 8″ skeletons on a volcanic looking mountain. Kudos has to go to Tristan Pritchard (sporting the fetching mail armour mid-left) and Amanda Haas (the badass drill queen mid-right) for getting stuck in with much of the model making work, including custom branded shields.

We borrowed some re-enactment armour from studio pal David Checkley (and some household appliances), and took off to Ian’s studio to shoot the additional plates. Stir in some photoshop and hey-presto: a battle scene with the undead.

Meet the Bone Gang

About The Project

Of his ongoing project, Ian had this to say: “My Brum Creatives portrait project came about when I was assisting in London. I got the hump over so many people mocking Brum – the city and the accent. I had the chance to shoot Michelin starred chef, Glynn Purnell and Mick Scully, a local crime writer, then realised there was a potential project in shooting creative professionals from Birmingham. I shot 30 odd portraits over 18 months while I was still living in London and exhibited here in 2015. I had some time off and restarted in 2016.
It’s a great way for me to meet so many interesting people, people I may not meet otherwise. It’s also a great way to build my folio, try out new techniques and I get to see and work in some really interesting locations within the city. It’s a no brainer for me and something I’ll continue with for the foreseeable future.  Essentially it’s celebration of the amazing talent that we have in Brum and a chance for me to do what I love without constrains of a client brief. I absolutely love working on it.”

We’re really privileged to be part of a project which features so many of our own local heroes. Thanks, Ian. Big grins.

Double RTS Nomination for Sony Projects

By | Awards, Motion Control, Nominations, RTS, sony, stop-motion, Visual Effects | No Comments

We’re proud to announce that we’ve received two nominations in this year’s Royal Television Society Midlands Awards. Our broadcast promotion for ‘Women That Kill,’ a documentary special on Sony’s True Crime channel was picked for the Best Promotional Programme category whilst the studio’s recent Animation and Visual Effects work was nominated for Best Production Craft Skills. This body of work includes two other projects for Sony; the stop-motion Christmas ident for the Moviemix channel from 2016 and a Valentine’s stunt for ‘Till Death Do, Us Part,’ involving a 6-day time lapse and one continuous camera move.

(L-R) The Moviemix channel ident, ‘Till Death Do, Us Part’ time-lapse and ‘Women That Kill’ promotional films.

All three projects feature use of the studio’s own Manta Motion Control Rig, which recently won the studio a place in the ‘Innovation 50’ list of most forward-thinking companies in the region. This is the fourth time Second Home has been nominated for the RTS awards and we’re no less proud to be recognised by the society once again!

Building Passchendaele in 360

By | 360, Compositing, Virtual Reality, Visual Effects | No Comments

‘Months without music…’

This summer the Royal British Legion commissioned a series of 8 films to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele. We were privileged to be asked to create one such film portraying life behind the lines. As the film reveals, soldiers created their own entertainment to escape the drudgery of life in the trenches, putting on shows and concerts as a means of keeping up morale. Considering what soldiers in WWI had to endure, it was fascinating to learn about the methods they used to entertain themselves. Music featured heavily in alleviating the awful depression suffered by so many soldiers. One interview makes for poignant listening as the veteran describes hearing one song as ‘the most beautiful thing he’d heard in his life’ having gone months without hearing any music at all.

‘Creeping paint’ transitions were used to introduce archive shots as pop-up images.

Recreating a Forgotten Battleground

Using archive footage, interviews and photographs, the brief required us to create an immersive experience for 360-degree viewing. This presented its own unique set of challenges given that, for obvious reasons, no footage or stills captured between 1914-18 is VR-ready. The nature of the piece, narrated by Dan Snow for Ballista Media, was forgiving enough to adopt a photo-montage, scrapbook-type feel. The master backgrounds were artworked from multiple photographic references in order to stretch to the equirectangular space, necessary for compositing.

An equirectangular interpretation of the WWI battlefield.

The other challenge is having no guarantee that your viewer won’t be looking in the opposite direction to an important piece of archive material. To get around this we tried to make archive material appear and disappear sequentially from left-to-right and back again to steer the viewer. Not always easy when different bits of footage start and stop at different times. Following the lead of Louis Hudson from Dice Productions, who created the template film, the project was turned around within 3 days. Producer Joe Bell has also written a great piece with some tips about creating content for 360.

(Inset) Theatre and cabaret behind the lines: both makeshift and and outlandish.

(Inset) Gambling was frowned upon, but was hard to enforce.

This was a truly fascinating project and such a rare opportunity to apply ourselves in commemorating the sacrifice made by so many people a century ago. It was humbling to know that the films were being viewed both by young cadets and veterans of WWI on the date of the commemoration: 31st July 2017.

(Left) Chelsea Pensioners viewing the 360 films. (Right) A young cadet looks ‘skywards’