Silent demonstrations

Last week a quiet demonstration took place in the Spanish embassy. A group of Catalans asked, yet again, to be allowed to vote in a referendum about the independence of Catalonia from Spain. I was meant to be a very quiet demonstration. Silent, in fact. A few posters, a voting ballot inside a cage… and a single violinist at the end.

So it had to be a very sober film. Uncomplicated. Plain.  Only diegetic sound (ambiance and the violin). Let the action take over. This is how I film actuality. Some would say it’s a pretty fast edit, but I say that videos thought for online consumption must be brief and direct.

The Colours of Thailand

Recently, the Thai embassy organised a weekend event in Westfield shopping centre, London. Under the title of “The Colours of Thailand” visitors could enjoy the shows of Thai music, dance, martial arts, gastronomy and fashion.

I made a video for Bodhi Tea, a company that produces Thai herbal teas and showed them off in this festival. I used the documentary style to present this family company, as the founder gave samples to the visitors and explained about his product. The goal was to create a nice and brief presentation card about Bodhi Tea.

Music selection was an issue. It’s a Thai festival and a Thai company, so should it be Thai music? The fact that it all happens in London made me think of the target audience, which is western, so I abandoned the idea of oriental sounds.

Let me know what you think about it all.

V for Video

I’ve just directed a film that was shot all around the world, without moving from London. I’ve received more than 10 hours of raw footage in 100Gb of data.

The film “La V al món” (The V around the world) shows how thousands of Catalans make public demonstrations in dozens of countries. It’s the prelude to the huge human V that’s going to take place on 11 September in Barcelona, where more than a million people are expected for the Catalan National Day. They claim to be allowed to vote about their independence in a referendum.

SHOOTING

Every local Catalan Assembly was filming their event. It was my job to coordinate the teams, give them guidelines, be in touch with them and ask them to send me the raw footage promptly so that I could start logging, selecting and labelling the good shots.

STRUCTURE

I had outlined how I wanted the story to be told, but it was a mystery what kind of footage I would receive. I know there were a number of film professionals taking care of the shooting in some locations, but my crew was mainly amateurs. So the shape of the story wouldn’t be certain until I had logged all the 10 hours of footage I got. After this, I had in my Final Cut Pro X project organised in 18 keyword collections. It was time to start building the timeline.

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PARALLEL EDITING

I’m good making good ideas look awesome. I knew I had to show the emotional dimension about the issue, so I had a pretty clear idea of the editing structure. I wanted to show it as a common story, which it is. The same event happening in 100 different cities in 5 continents, at different times. I would alternate all the scenes for the audience to perceive it as a common story happening simultaneously.

I achieved this by alternating the resources I had: interviews, B-roll, aerial shots, stills… First we show where we are. Then we say where we are. We show people arriving. Then some interviews explain the reason of these demonstrations, show the atmosphere, some more interviews of non-Catalan people to show the support of the world, then people preparing, taking positions. And finally the actual human Vs, shown of course in an uplifting sequence. First the stills, the small Vs, the quiet ones, slowly growing up in movement and cheers and then the spectacular drone shots, the massive ones.

And to end the film, what I call the final fireworks. A last succession of the best images we’ve seen, plus some tiny interviews that serve as a brief, and the last super-fast arrangement of the finest shots combined with the animation and the music at its peak, leading to the final logo and slogan, staying there for a while after the big climax. And credits roll.

MUSIC

Music is very important in my films. It is paramount in order achieve the emotional response I look for. I was very lucky that I bumped into Jordi Guillem. He composed some very powerful songs for the Catalan Assembly and kindly gave them to me. He insisted that I should use his sung version as well as the instrumentals bits. I wasn’t too keen, but it ended up being a key part of the montage.

For the final chapter of the film, the one where the culmination of the Vs, I needed a powerful music. Again, I used Jordi’s outstanding song “Ara és l’hora”, specially composed for the Catalan cause. I needed a longer piece, though. So he kindly sent me every single track so I could make my own mix. And it worked great.

Although music is part of my life, I hadn’t mixed music for a long time. I had a great time experimenting with the tracks, the balance, the effects, and putting them together to make it sound good. No melody when we hear someone speaking in the video, a bit more drums here, louder pad, lower guitar… It’s been a privilege to be able to adapt an awesome song and put it in sync with the video exactly the way I needed.

COLLABORATIVE PROJECT

This is a massive project. 8,000 people attended the events around the globe. 86 people are credited as camera operators but many many more contributed to make it. From the beginning I wanted to make it collaborative as well in the edition stage. I set up a Dropbox folder to share the library files and the original media, so that other filmmakers using Final Cut Pro X could help me sort out and catalogue the raw footage. Finally it didn’t work out as I intended, so I ended up doing most of the work myself. Not all of it, though.

I have to thank Ona Estapé for the gorgeous colour correction and transcription of the interviews. And David Fiz for the motion graphics. And of course Jordi Guillem for the music. I think I like it even more than my beloved Josh Woodward. And of course my friend Alex.

DISTRIBUTION

We published the film on Monday afternoon. Its purpose is to lift the spirits just 3 days before the huge V takes place in Barcelona on Thursday, where it’s going to be screened. So far “La V al món” has over 28,000 views in the first 48 hours.

Cameo and collaborative video

Last weekend I used Cameo to create a video that got 3000 views in 24 hours. On Saturday a public demonstration took place in Greenwich, London. Lots of Catalans formed a huge human V asking for democracy, to show that they want to vote to be independent from Spain.

This was a great opportunity to use Cameo for the first time. I love Vimeo, and wanted to try this for a long time. But since I don’t make home videos I couldn’t find an excuse.

3 people made this video together. I like the collaborative dimension Cameo gives to instant video creation. The cons are that you’ve got to have a good internet connection in your smartphone. When you record a shot (of up to 6 seconds) it is instantly uploaded, so any further editing is done at the server.

I’m busy with another project and I didn’t have time to edit at my studio, so I chose the “pre-made” option. Cameo lets you choose a title, a song and a theme. You only have to shoot, put the clips in the right order (yours and those your contributors filmed) and tap “share”. Your phone is your studio.

With that, we had a nice video a few minutes after the event ended. The result is not bad. What do you think?

Hyperlapsing Vines

Last Tuesday Instagram released Hyperlapse, the app to record hand-held time-lapses. The good thing is that it stabilises the shots very well, so that when you play it at 12x speed any camera movements look smooth. The bad thing is that to do so, of course, the area of the image used is reduced. Since smartphones don’t have optical stabilisation systems, the app has to use software to get rid of the jitter.

That means that the already narrow angle of the iPhone camera is even more tight when you use Hyperlapse, because it needs spare space in the edges of the original frame in order to move the final frame. Definition is also sacrificed. The good thing is that when you record, the screen already shows you the cut, final frame. Actually, if Hyperlapse uses an algorithm similar to the one Microsoft explains in this video, it is much much more complex than that.

Since I don’t use Instagram, I filmed some hyperlapses and pretended to publish them in Vine. Hyperlapse doesn’t encourage you to film in landscape, and since Vine has a square aspect ratio, I decided to film in portrait. It seems that holding your iPhone vertically you can keep it more stable. Big mistake! When I wanted to import those hyperlapses in Vine, they didn’t play.

Vine can’t work with vertical videos generated by Hyperlapse. So I downloaded Lumify, a very nice video editor for iOS. I had to compile my Vine video in Lumify, taking care of zooming each vertical video, so that when imported to Vine and therefore cut into 1:1 aspect ratio, no letterbox would be seen. Then imported it and published it. On the other hand, landscape videos are rendered fine in Vine.

The result? A speed up video inside a frame in a frame in a frame. My eyes are now bleeding.

The Alps through the lens

Summit of Mont Blanc, in the Alps

I am a climber. Last week I climbed the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. And me being a filmmaker, of course, I  wondered if I should film it. I don’t find compatible living or shooting an event. I’m either enjoying it o filming it. The approach is completely different.

The days previous to my trip I planned to get a GoPro and atatch it to my climbing helmet. But that would add some weight, and I had to think of safety first. Then I thought of using my beloved Lumix TZ10, the compact camera I use to take pictures in my mountaineering escapes. I would take it with me, of course, so I could use it to film 720p video.

But then I visualised myself filming the adventure, and it wasn’t as fun as living it. It was an exciting challenge, but I already had one huge challenge: climbing to the summit of Mont Blanc though the Italian fairly-difficult route.

So, dispite uniting these two passions of mine, filming and climbing, I chose to focus on the latter. I know how much of a perfectionist I am when I’m working, and I didn’t want that Albert to interfere in the fun and safety of the trip.

I still want to properly film an alpinist activity, but it has to be one where I’m sure I’m not putting myself in risk.  So much to learn from people like Phil Coates.

Let’s work together

imageOne of my professional goals is to build a team that I can trust. Meeting new people is something I enjoy a lot, and I find that a team works better when you’re not only colleagues, but friends.

Last Saturday I had the chance to work for the first time with Hèctor Solé, an outstanding and insultingly young cameraman based in London. We already knew each other, so you could say we were already friends. But we had never actually worked in a shared project. This time we did. And it was a pleasure.

As soon as he arrived at the Tate Modern with his massive Panasonic P2 camera and backpack we started calibrating it with my smaller Panasonic cam. Hèctor is a lover of the image, he loves the technical side and he knows perfectly how to set it up in order to get the most beautiful image. He knows the details, and I knew instantly I could trust him with it all.

When it comes to directing, I usually have a very clear idea of the final product, and I know instantly when new ideas fit into this goal I have already produced in my head. Putting it in plain word, sometimes I can be a bit bossy. But during the event my admired cameraman was absolutely flexible and happy with my idea of the documentary video we were filming.

When two professionals get along this well, it’s a shame not to take advantage. Let’s work together, I say!

Hi world! I’m a filmmaker

Hi there! I’m Albert Bonet and today is my Londonversary. Exactly one year ago I moved from Barcelona to London, searching for experiences. I’m a freelance filmmaker, and I want to use this special day to start something I should have started the day I set foot in London: writing in English. I do this for me.

So, not much more to say for now, but you can expect loquacity from me. I’m going to build the website of my company, Productions on demand, and I am going to use this space to write about my professional journey. I am passionate about what I do, and I’m sure I will enjoy it a lot sharing it with you.

This is my way of saying, after one year of being a Londonder, “Hi world! I’m a filmmaker”. There is no design yet on the site, as you can see, but as wise people say, “you’ll never be fully prepared, so go for it”. For now, you can browse my projects.

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Productions on demand