Gemini (2002)

I designed this fluoro flyer for a small trance party in Edinburgh in February 2002. The flying ‘logo’ and spiral were built and rendered in 3D Studio Max.

 

Elements (1995)

Elements was a piece of eye candy software I wrote way back when I was in university, in around 1995. The sole point of eye candy programs is to produce trippy imagery. Usually you’d watch them while listening to music. The imagery was often generated using simple mathematical formulae chosen to produce spirals and infinitely receding perspective effects.

Many of these kinds of programs used what was called colour cycling. Computer displays at the time were often palette-based, meaning that the pixel values contained in the image were only 8-bit values and, instead of containing actual colours, were just indexes into a look-up table, or palette. The palette could contain any colours you liked, but was of limited size. Colour-cycling exploited this by cycling the palette: shifting all the entries one place to the left or right in each animation step, with wrap-around.

In the case of Elements, I didn’t actually cycle the palette directly. Instead I would blit in a completely new palette in each frame, which I would cycle manually myself. This allowed me to blend between two different palettes, cycled in opposite directions — something that strict colour cycling didn’t allow. The palette was blended over time between successive palettes picked at random from a pre-defined set chosen for their pleasing colours. The blending between different palettes cycled in opposite directions helped to hide the use of colour cycling and resulted in new blended colours that weren’t in any of the predefined palettes. Usually, this was a good thing.

As well as colour-cycling, Elements also used a few more sophisticated tricks. While the palette was cycled and blended, the image on the screen blended slowly between successive pairs of key frames. A third key frame would be generated line-by-line in the background while blending between the current pair in the foreground, so that the next key frame was ready when the current blend was complete.

The equations that generated the key frames were structured carefully using a small number of well-defined parameters controlling the number of axes of symmetry, the spacing between concentric rings, and so on. The parameters of successive key frames were kept consistent (with only occasional random changes) to ensure that the structures of successive key frames were similar. This helped ensure that successive pairs of key frame images ‘fitted’ together. You can see the results in the video above.

Elements was quite well received in what were the early days of the web. I used to show it at parties where I mixed visuals with a mate, under the name Psynaptics. I also have fond memories of seeing Elements played at parties where I wasn’t doing the graphics, or walking into clubs to find it playing on a big screen above the dancefloor.

Sunday Morning, Richmond Bridge

In the summer of 2017 I spent a few weekends hanging around Richmond with a video camera. This short film is the result. It’s mainly an exercise in film-making, nevertheless I’m quite proud of it. It was shot on a Black Magic Micro Cinema Camera, which is a miniature cinema camera about the size of a tennis ball. At least, it’s the size of a tennis ball until you add a lens, monitor, mount, tripod, HDMI cable, batteries, and so on. Nice camera though.

The Mural

In February 2017 I shot this short film about a street mural that became a memorial in a back street of Brixton. I had stumbled upon the mural by chance the day before, when I shot some basic footage. Editing that initial footage, I realized it looked like a short, simple story with some of the bits missing. So I went back the next day with something approximating a plan.

Some of the shots involved unwitting ‘actors’ so I needed to watch people and use what I found. That’s a skill I’ve practised a lot during years of shooting street photography. It’s no coincidence that my short films so far have a documentary, street photography style. Luckily everything kind of worked out.

Cappuccino Blues

This is a short film I shot in my kitchen in the summer of 2017. I made it mainly as practice in film-making, and in that regard it was quite useful since it made me plan the shots and string together some kind of simple narrative.

Yet the biggest challenge actually turned out to be colour correction: getting the right balance between warm and cold tones. Unlike my previous camera, which was a camcorder, this camera doesn’t have auto white balance. All you can do is set the colour temperature in the settings, as a guessed value in Kelvin. After that it’s down to correcting the balance manually by tweaking sliders in post.

I quickly decided to shoot with only available light (daylight from a window) because I knew the mixture of different hues from daylight and overhead lights would be extra tricky. Even then, it was pretty tough, and I still don’t feel I got it completely right. I learnt a lot in the process though, and in particular I found out that the ‘standard’ colour settings on my monitor were hopelessly out – leading me initially to produce results that looked way off on other screens.

Brook Road

I had the opportunity to photograph an electrician at work for a website I was developing. The shoot was the first of a couple we did of a Victorian side-return extension in St Margarets.

I learnt that trained electricians move fast. This one can trim and strip three wires in about five seconds flat. I had my tripod, flash and reflector with me, but I soon decided to shoot handheld with available light, which was the only way to keep up.

The scene was lit by a series of Velux windows and a builder’s lamp, which had very different color temperatures. As Carter moved about the lighting would often change dramatically. As a result a lot of the exposures were guesswork.

I pretty much always shoot manual, with manual exposure settings and manual focus. Partly this is a matter of habit and partly it’s good practice because it means I know what compromises are being made. It’s also pretty much essential to use manual focus in situations like this where the depth-of-field is shallow and the ‘right’ focal point usually isn’t the closest object.

The flipside of shooting manual is that sometimes I get it completely wrong where the camera would have muddled through okay in auto mode. Fortunately Capture One, which I used to post-process the shots, does a great job of salvaging shots with dodgy exposure or color-casts.