Safe At Last. In A Prison. Surrounded By Zombies

Posted Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 11:17 AM

In order to dig myself free of this hole I've found myself in, compromises have had to be made. I am in a temporary living arrangement of a boarding house. Only it's not really one at all.

The term "Boarding House" may conjure up images of a large facility with multiple bedrooms and a communal area filled with couches and armchairs and a ping pong table. Or perhaps a multi-storey house with a shared kitchen and big yard. But instead what I'm in is a crappy house, which would ordinarily be listed as "condemned", where the doors don't close properly, the windows don't open properly, the washing machine shakes the building off its foundations, the kitchen is so small it can only fit three people, an outside toilet, and a bathroom with poor drainage.

This is a three bedroom home which has had its living room artificially divided up into two bedrooms, so there is no communal area at all, and its an overcrowded space at the best of times. Each of the residents are equally as damaged and broken as I find myself to be, but in different and more unpredictable ways, which leads to constant confrontation. Nobody here is a listener, they all just talk over each other, and never seem to get anything done. Though I am a listener, I have to count myself just as guilty in the non-achievement ranks, so it's quite a mess here most of the time, both figuratively and literally.

But the part that worries me the most is that every time I step out of my room I see a new stranger, some new visitor or friend or even enemy of one of the other residents. Are they friendly? Are they trustworthy? Are they just as broken as the rest of us? Are they staying for a few days? Will they be wandering around the house randomly while I'm trying to make my lunch? It is utterly horrible, I feel unsafe and insecure, and I want out of this arrangement as quickly as I can.

I have to be here. I am trapped here by my own circumstance. Attempts to get money from Social Welfare (Centrelink) have been a ridiculous rigmarole, horribly stressful, and, because of one single obstacle of not having a particular ID card, so far completely fruitless. Centrelink won't give me any money until I have "100 points of ID" which they arbitrarily assign to various things. Being the person that I am, I only have a few kinds of ID. I don't drive, my name is not on the Rental Agreement of this crappy place nor do I pay any of its utility bills, etc. I do have my Passport, and I do have a Bank Card, but the last sticking point is my Medicare Card. Due to random bad luck, it had expired and I hadn't updated the address, so it got lost in the mail. Now I have had to order a new one, and it should have arrived in the mail last week, but it's now a whole week late and in the meantime I have no money to live on. In fact I have had no money for the past two months; if it wasn't for my family donating funds I would have starved.

It's not entirely doom and gloom. The rent here is really cheap, and I don't have to pay any other bills. I do have internet, though it's borrowed and, due to the age of the wiring, very slow. I am close to public transport and have multiple locations nearby, like parks or walking paths, I can escape to to be alone.

But those are small comfort.

It is ironic that, at a time when safety, security, peace of mind, and reliability is what I need the most in order for me to cope, I have none of them. I've found a safe haven, except it's a prison, and it's surrounded by zombies.

Muddling On Through

Posted Friday, November 15, 2013, 11:51 AM

An update for those that want to know.

I've found a temporary place to stay, and am working through some of my problems, both financial and personal, with the support of my mate Rob and my Mum who flew over to visit.

I'm past the darkest feelings, but my points of view and feelings about the world are still the same. I'm not happy (and never have been) about anything that's going on around me.

Anyway, I'll sort more stuff out, and then find a more permanent place to live, over the next few weeks. If any of you were still worried, you can relax a bit now.

I'm Okay

Posted Sunday, November 3, 2013, 1:06 PM

Rumours of my demise have been somewhat exaggerated. Mostly by me. I can't even manage to do that properly. What a loser.

I'm sorry if anybody panicked and were worried (if you even were - I've been out of communication), but I'm fine for now. I'm safe in emergency accommodation, and with luck have found some people who can guide me through everything I need to get myself back on track.But then again, I've thought that before.

Still don't have email or a phone, and won't for a while. Until then, know I'm working things out.

Sorry. Again.

Admitting Defeat

Posted Saturday, November 2, 2013, 12:00 AM

I don't fit in. I never have.

From my earliest memory as a child in PlayCentre where I often sat quietly alone in the corner doing my own thing, through Primary School where I was constantly bullied and treated differently because I was good at reading and maths, to High School where I was the funny-looking weird kid who wrote stories and drew cartoons, to adulthood where I have struggled to find a job and where women have never found me even slightly interesting. This world just doesn't seem to have a space for me.

Life just keeps changing its rules, tripping me up with its shifting expectations, and, just when I think I've got a handle on it, pulling the rug out from under me again and again.

I've always been one who thought he knew what he wanted out of life, but didn't know how to get it. I wasn't in the right part of the world, or didn't know the right people, or didn't know how to ingratiate myself in amongst the right crowd. I had humble expectations and simple dreams, really, things that everybody else seemed to be able to achieve without too much problem. Things like having a family, or getting a job, or buying a home. Most people manage those things without too much trouble. Sure they often came with pitfalls and hassles, but they at least got to experience them, work out those issues, and then settle into a reasonably comfortable, if compromised, groove. But I didn't even get that. I occasionally sat back smugly when I saw somebody's life go wrong, thinking I was well out of it, but really I think I was missing out on what makes life worth living. I had nothing to be smug about.

And what does make life worth living? If you were to list the things that make most people happy and that give their lives meaning, I'd say most people would regularly experience seven out of the top ten throughout their lives. Whereas I'd be lucky to experience even three. Things like love, sex, sport, health, family, friends, food and drink, pets, I don't get any pleasure out of those. My happiness only comes from entertainment like TV and movies, a couple of niche nerdy hobbies, and my own solitude. And what sort of life is that?

I don't like socialising, it makes me uncomfortable, be it with strangers, colleagues, or acquaintances. I have had very few friends at any one time, and none have been very close. The only family I have are siblings and my Mother, but I moved away from them long ago and barely communicate except for the very occasional phone call. I have never been in a real relationship, serious or otherwise, apart from a fling so brief it doesn't count (she never cared about me, and subsequently I didn't care much about her - though to be fair we knew that going in).

It's not that people dislike me (I hope), but that I have no charisma, a very quiet demeanour, a sense of humour that's haphazard and quirky at best, and contribute very little to social interaction. I have no discernible personality worth speaking of.

And I have low self-esteem, everything that has happened in my life has only reinforced that. The occasional hints of something potentially working out as a good direction to head, that would ordinarily encourage me to continue down the path to, hopefully, success, fizzles out disappointingly, and I just get more depressed and lost.

I am not clinically diagnosed with any kind of disorder, there's nothing chemically wrong, I just have no self-motivation. I'm someone who needs support and advice and guidance, but yet I choose to live a solitary lonely life. These two things contradict each other, to my eternal detriment, so it's no wonder I am such a mess.

I think I have talent. I think I have skills that make me decent enough to make a mark, however insignificant that mark may be in the grand scheme of things. But my life doesn't seem to reflect that. I don't seem to be quite good enough to get noticed, to be employed, to be taken seriously, so perhaps I'm wrong and I'm just not good enough after all. That's a heavy blow to my self-confidence, and lately it's just been blow after blow after blow.

And the Entertainment Industry has changed a lot in the last couple of years. Job opportunities are drying up at an alarming rate, money is spread thin, and projects are shutting down. The branch that I have always wanted to get involved in, post-production and visual effects, is in the worst state it has ever been. Entire companies are closing permanently, which means there are more very talented people and yet fewer jobs available. Amateurs like myself have no hope.

For a while it seemed like amateur productions would be the new Media, with cheap equipment and software giving everyone opportunities to create high quality entertainment, and the Internet providing a new form of distribution. But almost immediately the lack of funding opportunities has halted its progress. Crowdfunding sounds like a good idea, but unless you have a tangible product to sell, you'll have very little chance of success. Low profile film productions are not succeeding. If you don't have years of professional experience, name-recognised celebrity talent involved, and the luck of high-profile visibility, give up now. The money is all going to projects that can already afford it.

It is thoroughly depressing to see my only hope for having an enjoyable life dry up right before my eyes. People more experienced and talented than I am are struggling to pay their mortgages and feed their families. Their only alternatives are to find non-Industry jobs, but those are few and far between at the best of times. It's a disaster, and I find myself right in the midst of it, with nowhere to turn.

It doesn't help that my ability to find and keep a job seems to be based on luck rather than skill or talent, and even when I am employed I tend to be taken advantage of, by being exploited or marginalised. While others leap up the totem pole of success, I am always at the bottom getting nowhere, and then am eventually forgotten about.

Most often my problems, such as they are, come down to lack of finances. In fact I'm very good with handling money when I actually have any, I tend to use it carefully and frugally, and am quite happy to do so. I have no desire to be wealthy (as nice as that would be) I only wish I could have a reliable source of income, something that would lead to financial security. But that's a daydream at the best of times.

Most people can find a job very easily - they figure out the career they want, make some key decisions about how to gain skills or ingratiate themselves amongst the right people, then things start to tip their way, they find a decent employer, work their way up the ladder, establishing a reliable source of income, allowing them to plan their lives for years ahead, and, barring a few unexpected bumps, they manage to negotiate their lives with relative ease.

While I, on the other hand, struggle to find any employer who will take me seriously, who will pay me what I'm worth, or who will treat me with any respect. Instead I trudge along on the cusp of unemployment at every turn, make poor decisions that haunt me forever, and constantly find myself scraping the bottom of life's barrel, eking out a pathetic existence. Eventually random luck falls in my lap again and something keeps me going for a little while longer, but I can't rely on that.

And now luck has finally run out.

Why not try the Unemployment Benefit? Because I have been down that route twice before, and it is a horrible way to live. Both times I was stuck in a deep rut that required luck rather than effort to get out of, and now we have a new Government who are even less sympathetic to those in my position, making things even more difficult for those with low incomes. And I am sick of it.

It strips you of your dignity, it keeps you below the poverty level, it forces you to do things that are not in your best interests but instead what others insist are where you ought to be, putting you in your place. I do not want to be in that soul destroying position again. That is no life.

I seem to be without any capability of sorting my life out. Too many chances have been repeatedly squandered, and I have achieved nothing. Now I'm too old, apparently lack the talent that employers are looking for, and am too easily exploited. I am wasting my time, the world has no place for me.

I was feeling quite depressed as this crisis solidified. I froze, my brain clouded over, and I couldn't seem to get up and fix things. I had never felt so alone. Then my Mum visited and I started to feel a bit better. One of my close friends got out of his own funk and we had a good chat, and I cheered up and felt a bit more optimistic again. I started to think I could get myself out of this mess I had found myself in.

But now that a few more days have passed, and I can see things a bit clearer, I feel like I am looking at things somewhat more objectively. And when I assess my life, at what it could've been, what it actually was, and what it might be, I see no improvement in store. All I see is struggle and unhappiness.

The world is not a very pleasant place to be at the moment. It's full of hatred, abuse, greed, selfishness, and misery. I can't change it. I'm no better than anyone else in coping with it. I may even be part of the problem, with my lack of motivation. A horrible future is laid out ahead of me. It frightens and worries me.

So here I am, out of money, out of time, out of energy. And I just don't care anymore. I can't see that life has anything for me if all it will be is a constant struggle to keep my head above water. And what would I gain? A low paying job I'd hate? A lonely empty life of no reward? And then one day I'll die, alone and unloved? What sort of future is that?

So I can't afford to keep what I'm doing. But I can't afford to fix things either.

I'm sorry for all the promises unfulfilled and plans unfinished. I'm sorry for anything I've done that hurt or hindered anybody. I'm sorry I wasn't a better organised, more productive person.

Returning Doctors

Posted Saturday, August 24, 2013, 11:10 PM

It's the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who this year, it originally screened its first episode in 1963, and there are many celebrations planned. Two of particular note are a dramatic recreation of the origins of the show, called An Adventure in Space and Time, starring David Bradley in the role of William Hartnell, the First Doctor; and a special episode of the regular series with the Tenth Doctor, portrayed by David Tennant, returning to dash around with the Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith.

A few years back there was an episode specially created for Comic Relief, where the Fifth Doctor encounters the Tenth Doctor. It was called Time Crash, and also served as a mini-prequel to the Christmas episode, Voyage of the Damned. Peter Davison still had enough youth in him to get away with it, though they were pushing it. But it made me wonder what you would do if you wanted any of the original seven incarnations to return to the modern series.

You can't use the original actors anymore, some are deceased, and the rest are just too old for it to be convincing. The earliest Doctor you can get away with is possibly Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh, but I'd limit it to Paul McGann as the Eighth. That means if you did want to bring any of the earlier Doctors back you'd have to recast.

And that made me wonder just who could portray each of them convincingly. They'd have to resemble them physically, be approximately the same age as the original actors were during their run, and also have a touch of their personality, or at least be good enough actors to do a decent impression. Their voices may also have to be dubbed by impressionists (or by their original actors), though perhaps that's something that doesn't really matter in the end.

David Bradley seems to be ideally suited as William Hartnell. I look forward to seeing his performance in the Special. I am not too familiar with the First Doctor, though, so really you could play fast and loose and I wouldn't notice.

Jason Isaacs may seem an unusual choice for the Second Doctor, but his resemblance to a younger Patrick Troughton is undeniable, so I think if he pretended to be shorter and had a bowl-cut wig, he'd do a fantastic job.

Jon Pertwee is a hard actor to find a double for. The best I could find was Geoffrey Rush, and it's a bit tenuous, but I figure if he had the shock of white hair and frilly sleeved velvet jacket the resemblance would be enough. He has certainly established himself as a great mimic, so can portray Pertwee's mannerisms with aplomb.

Update: My friend Jet Simian suggested versatile Australian actor, and contemporary of Mr Rush, Richard Roxburgh as the Third Doctor, and, by the powers, he's right!

Now this is a very strange choice. Our memory of the Fourth Doctor is of a tall hulking man, with a rictus grin and crazy eyes, a huge fright wig of curly hair, a brimmed hat, and a long scarf. But Tom Baker was not as fat a man as he later became. Frank Woodley is quite a thin lanky man, but is equally tall, has a manic look, and something of a resemblance to Tom Baker. If he put on weight, or at least a muscle suit, the other accoutrements would be enough to paint a convincing similarity.

A youthful blonde cricketer is just about all you need to get a decent resemblance to the Fifth Doctor. All Dan Stevens needs is the floppy hair and I think it'd be a successful transformation.

I struggled with the Sixth Doctor. Colin Baker has a very square head, dominated by his curly blond locks and his garish costume, and there aren't too many actors around that have that face shape. Mark Gatiss, creator of the aforementioned 50th Anniversary Special, and also co-creator and actor in Sherlock, and a regular writer for the current series of Doctor Who itself, is I think a close enough match to work just fine.

Sylvester McCoy got his start as a Music Hall performer, a comedian first and an actor second, and it's still deeply a part of his real world character even now, so what you need is someone with a similar sense of self but with a bird-like face and mannerisms. Milton Jones has a reasonable physical resemblance, but more importantly has a similar character in his comedy performances which makes him a good choice.

In the only instance where recasting occurred (in the story The Five Doctors where Richard Hurndall played the First Doctor), they got away with that because most viewers had no familiarity with the First Doctor, he was from before their time. Despite ubiquitous access to early episodes on DVD, the current audience, especially non-UK and the under 20s, are also not very familiar with the early incarnations of the Doctor. I think that means maybe, just maybe, recasting might work after all.

Eleanor Xandler, Crowdfunded Detective

Posted Friday, August 9, 2013, 9:16 AM

I have been beavering away on Eleanor Xandler for almost a year, which is way longer than I had anticipated. But then, that's also typical of a personal project - we really can't estimate how long these things take when we don't apply a strict deadline, and we're experimenting with new ideas at every turn.

What I had not realised was how long it would take to render certain shots, and how long it would be before the work started to lose its lustre and be a chore. To be honest, it's not a chore yet, but I do wish it was over already.

Couple that with the fact that I am out of work, and have run short of money, I am a bit worried and stressed, which isn't the best environment to achieve high quality work. I spend my nights sleeplessly worrying about the next day and what my immediate future will bring.

So I have decided to experiment with crowdfunding. One of the biggest problems that my filmmaking mates and I face when we have an idea for a project is where the money will come from. Each one we do is more ambitious and expensive than the last, and we haven't found even one single source of outside money in all that time. We're trapped into the lowest of budgets, and we need to find a way out if we're going to get anywhere with this.

There are two main sites for crowdfunding that most people know about. Kickstarter is mostly American, and has some restrictions for international projects, but it is by far the more well known and more successful, in itself and for the projects it showcases, which include such diverse projects as manufacturing and charities. Whereas IndieGogo is international-friendly, and has a more of a small-time feel to it, with a particular emphasis on art projects like films.

I figure it's worth a try. If it succeeds, and I'm only starting relatively small at $5000, then not only will it encourage us for future projects, but it's a good one to hold up and say "look what we did, look what we want to do" and bring any funders from one along to our others. It could potentially be huge. More likely it will be mediocre. Fingers are crossed for either.

Plotting a Murder

Posted Sunday, May 12, 2013, 4:29 PM

I really like the new Channel TEN comedy/drama series Mr and Mrs Murder. I like the premise, of the crime scene clean-up crew noticing clues that were missed by the Police and figuring out who the killer was. I like the characters, a married couple (Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart as Charlie and Nicola Buchanan) who adore each other and have fun and silly conversations, and who drag their niece (Jess, played by Lucy Honigman) in to their schemes as their unwitting accomplice. I like the distinctive environments where each murder takes place.

But there is much that I don't like, and those things kind of ruin it for me. So much potential to be a really good original show, that would even work internationally, but they mess it up in too many places.

The biggest problem for me is that there's no sense of jeopardy. When you have two people who are overstepping their bounds in a criminal investigation, there really ought to be consequences. Admittedly the Detective, who has a soft spot for Nicola, and recognises their abilities as amateur sleuths, gives them free rein, carte blanche, all-access pass, but the suspects ought to be somewhat less forthcoming with spilling their guts to strangers who have no right to be where they are, doing what they're doing, questioning who they're talking to. There have been a couple of cursory scenes in two or three episodes where they've been lightly confronted, but they still get the answers they seek too easily.

The murderer has to be engineering it so that they cannot be fingered as the culprit; constructing lies, alibis, and misdirection that puts the Police off their scent, but such that an outsider with a fresh point of view would not be distracted and can see through their web of deceit. Instead we are presented with four suspects, and they just go about their business like nothing happened. They don't seem affected by the murder, don't seem to be afraid for their own lives when there's a killer on the loose, don't seem to be actively trying to deflect the investigation that would reveal their guilt, and instead are just sitting around under the bold assumption that nobody is going to ask them any questions.

Now what the hell are the Police doing while this is going on? They wander around in the background of the crime scene at the very start of each episode, if you're lucky, and they seem to be there to arrest the guilty party at the very end, but apart from that they seem to be completely absent, coming across as lazy, incompetent boobs who aren't doing any groundwork that real investigators do. They need to have some kind of interaction with Charlie and Nicola, an opportunity for them to pick up new clues, overhear conversations, swap information, just enough for it to look like the Police are actually doing some work. Having the Detective, Peter, occasionally appear to moon over Nicola and then tell them lists of stuff isn't enough, it's too cheap and easy an exposition tactic, and feels clumsy at best.

The pacing is all wrong. This is not the fault of the writing, I don't think, which is generally pretty decent, especially the dialogue. Instead I think it's something that can easily be fixed in Post Production, in the editing and the music. When you're dealing with a drama like this, there needs to be stakes. You have to feel that if the murderer isn't found they may strike again, they may even attack the investigators who are getting too close to the truth. The audience has to feel like there may be danger at any turn. You can do this with careful editing, that increases the urgency, builds up tension, shows facts that cause the audience to fear for the protagonists' lives as they go about their amateur investigating. Editing shots faster, lots of close ups not showing faces, shadows and footsteps, a sense of close pursuit, music that builds tension to a climax where they finally discover, and then directly confront, the murderer. Then a short denouement where they tie up the loose ends, explain some of the plot twists, and relax after a job well done.

Too often the pacing was on an even boring keel. No sense of adventure, excitement, or risk. No confrontation. Too often a line of dialogue was something like "I think I know who did it!" and then they cut to a shot of the bad guy being carted away in cuffs. No confronation, no demand for an explanation, no confession. Pathetic.

On an unrelated but equally annoying note, the opening titles really bother me. I like what they're going for, comic book style graphics, with nice plinky-plunk detective type music, but the images don't match to the rhythm of the music, and it really annoys me. All they needed was for title text and comic book frames to appear on the beats, for the animation of the images to be in actual perspective instead of randomly sliding around, and with a sense of storytelling (and maybe if the likenesses of the characters were slightly more accurate) I would be giving them high praise, but what they've actually got is just frustratingly inept and poorly directed.

Now I'm not an especially good writer, and have no real professional experience. And to be perfectly honest I don't think it's the writing that is at fault, it's clever, original, funny, and is expertly performed by the cast, so I can't blame that at all. I think it's a flaw in the directing of the pre- and post-production, establishing how the story should be played out, and how to achieve the best end result with what you've got in the can.

If there's a second series, I hope they pay attention to these factors. They're small, in the grand scheme of things, and easily addressable. And if they're looking for script doctors to help them out, I'm available.


And then the final episode of the season plays and it addresses almost all of my concerns, including pretty much everything I was after: Jeopardy for the main characters, Police involvement, ramping up the exciting pace to a climactic conclusion, and a satisfying denouement. Brilliant stuff! If there's a second series, just do more like that, please.

When I Have An Idea, I Stick To It

Posted Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 10:36 PM

There's a risk when you get onto your film set, that you adhere too closely to the ideas you have had churning in your head for so long. Once you've decided that you want, for example, a shot of the actor's feet, a pan up to their waist where they are holding an object, and then up to their head where they have a steely glint in their eye before they exit out of shot, you are determined that you will get that shot by hook or by crook. So you build a rig for your camera that can make the move, you position your actor in just the right angle, you wait for the sunlight to be perfect, your camera operator practices the shot over and over, until finally you film it... and it ends up looking a bit wobbly, out of focus, and you can't even see who it is and what's going on. The shot you thought was going to be so cool turns out to be crap, a waste of time that never makes the final cut.

You have to go onto set with alternative plans, an open mind, be prepared to change everything at the drop of a hat. An idea, perhaps suggested by the location, the time of day, or a whim that your first assistant makes up on the spot, could mean your entire morning is rearranged to accommodate for it. If it's a better idea, then be ready to drop everything and go for it.

A few days before going on set for my Steampunk short film, Eleanor Xandler: Temporal Detective, I drew up some storyboards of about half the shots I had planned. Each one also was intended to have a close up and a wide, and additional shots from the 'B' camera, but broadly the plan was for them to stay the same angle with the same action as I had boarded.

Here are some of the completed shots alongside their storyboard. It just goes to show, when I have a good idea, I stick to it.

Layer Upon Layer Upon Layer

Posted Sunday, January 13, 2013, 12:10 PM

I first saw Photoshop when it came free on a coverdisc on a magazine and my friend Dion installed it on his PC, back in the early 90s. He thought that I, as an artist, would find it useful to create some of the artwork required for our little projects. But after opening it up I was mightily confused. This was probably version 2.0, and it did not come with a manual (before the Internet, before PDFs, physical books were the only way manuals were provided). I was completely lost by the multitude of buttons, tools, menus, and icons. Where do I even begin? So for the first couple of times I scribbled colourful swirls and then just sat there. I couldn't figure out how to do straight lines, the mouse had no easy way to draw like a pen, and so clumsily I moved the pointer around a few times, achieving nothing.

It was about five years before I opened up Photoshop again. I had just been hired as a website designer for the first time, and I was completely new to the specifics of that job. I was hired solely on my artistic abilities and my familiarity with computers, but had no specific experience with HTML or Photoshop graphics. So I was allowed about two months just to familiarise myself with both those things.

Now I had a purpose for using Photoshop. I was given a Wacom drawing tablet, and with a goal in mind could go through all the steps to achieve an image. How do I create a box with round corners and highlighted edges? How do I create a drop shadow, a gradient, or coloured text? This was version 4.0 of Photoshop, so certain things did not exist yet - no multiple Undo, no auto dropshadow and glow (known as Layer Styles), no Batch Actions. But I had a manual, I had a few excellent quality guide books, and a mailing list of Professionals including some Adobe employees, all of whom were really helpful.

And the key to using Photoshop effectively is understanding layers. Unlike drawing or painting, where you're stuck with a single sheet of canvas or paper to just pile stuff on top of itself, with Photoshop you have individual layers which you can move, erase, recolour, distort, fade transparency; an infinite amount of adjustment, for each individual small part that you choose. It's a fantastic way to create.

Over the years I've learned a lot more about Photoshop, that there are multiple ways to achieve the same thing, that each subsequent version adds features that make some jobs a lot easier, it integrates better with Adobe's sister-products, and evolves and adapts to be useful for new technologies.

And one day I had to learn to use another of Adobe's products, called After Effects. When I first used it, I didn't understand just how powerful it could be. It seemed like a fewer-featured Photoshop. But in fact its role, to composite different video elements together for Visual Effects, requires such specific tools that comparing it with Photoshop is futile. After Effects is its own thing, and arguably even more powerful.

But one similarity, that it uses even more effectively than Photoshop, is its use of Layers.

I am slowly working my way through each shot for my Steampunk short film, "Eleanor Xandler: Temporal Detective," mostly in chronological order, and have just completed one of the most complicated shots of them all. And that's because it's a shot I didn't actually film on the shoot day. I realised, after looking at the rough edit, that there were a couple of shots that I really needed in order to transition from one shot to another effectively, and I had not thought ahead enough to have filmed those shots, so I wondered if I could make them up using what I could find amongst the clips I had.

One particular shot was from after I had called "Cut!" and the actress playing Eleanor, Sarah Breen, looked over to me to check if I was happy. That glance was all I needed to convey what was required, so I had now found my missing shot. Simple. But there was another shot I needed that was vastly more epic, and luckily this is where shooting on greenscreen, and having plenty of Behind-The-Scenes photography, each come in handy.

I wanted an Establishing Shot, one that shows the audience the location where the scene takes place, and orients them to where the characters are standing in relation to each other. I hadn't thought to film such a shot, because in my head I knew where everyone was. But that's not good enough, because of course I know, it's my story. I know plenty of things that the audience do not, it's my job to make sure all of those things are conveyed where necessary, be it through dialogue, performances, or editing. So now I had to create a shot that told everyone where my two characters were actually standing.

And where they're standing is in a huge dark smoky warehouse, filled with junk and decorated by 1880s style structural architecture. I had to create an over-the-shoulder shot of Eleanor entering through large doors, pointing her weapon at the Professor who was at the far end of the building, all while showing off how large and beautiful the warehouse was.

The warehouse 3D model had already been built, as an exterior and in preparation for all the interior shots that I was going to composite, but only in a limited fashion. Only build what you need, as anything more is just going to slow down the process. Well, now I had to expand on that, as this additional unplanned angle meant more of the warehouse would now be seen. I added in extra features, including a spiral staircase, an extra wall, a couple of piles of junk, and additional detail on the interior skylight roof.

During the shoot I had a B Camera, which is a second camera recording the shots from different angles and framing, giving me extra footage I can cut to should I need it. One of those shots was almost an over-the-shoulder of Eleanor, except from the wrong side, and that section of it was only 30 frames long. I needed 100 frames at least, but I clipped the shot out, flipped it to match the angle, and then stretched and reversed the shot a couple of times to extend its length. This can sometimes be glaringly obvious, I've seen reversed shots in feature films before and there's a few physics giveaways that you can spot sometimes (a turn or a blink in reverse looks slightly peculiar) so in order to hide the trick I made sure the part of the shot that was Eleanor would be completely out of focus with the depth of field.

In the far distance is the Professor. None of the shots I had of the Professor were full length, they all cut off at his knees or higher. Extremely luckily there was a single photo taken amongst the Behind-The-Scene images which included the Professor's legs, so I grabbed that, flipped and scaled them to match, and then animated them to match his movement, which wasn't much but still had to be done.

Unfortunately the angle of the Professor shot didn't match the perspective I needed, which was most obvious with the Console Panel he was standing at. So I had to replace the console with another BTS photo, which meant I had to cut around the Professor's arm (a technique called Rotoscoping) so that it looked like he was manipulating the controls accurately. The side of the console prop also has no surfacing, so I had to fill in that blank as well.

The warehouse is full of smoke, steam, and dust, because this is Steampunk and that's what the goggles are for, so I had to layer in not just multiple instances of atmosphere, just like if there had been a smoke machine on set, but I also had to include the shafts of sunlight that came through the door and skylight.

Couple all that stuff with the camera move, which is a pan down from skylight to Professor, that I had to track and match, it makes for a very complicated shot that should, in viewing it, go by quickly and seamlessly, and convey exactly what I wanted, that the space of the building is so big, and this where the characters are standing.