Bank Holiday and Fawlty Towers

Well it’s been quite a busy weekend – on Friday I was over in Liverpool shooting a live music video for thebandwithnoname and LZ7. They’ve done a joint track and need some kind of promo video to go with it, so I organised a 9 camera set-up at the monthly ‘Space’ event. I dragged Dave Bateman and Bruce from The Message along to operate cameras, and then used a few guys from the event itself, so I’m going to have a lot of footage to go through! The only downside of it really was that the stage was tiny, and it was really cramped with effectively 2 bands on there at the same time, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Then on Sunday, I went over to Rob’s in Ramsbottom (because he’d lent me some cameras for Friday’s shoot and I had to return them) and we ended up having a bit of an impromptu barbeque which was pretty cool.

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We tried to get Rob’s reclaimed gas barbeque working, but even though we could hear gas coming out from somewhere, it just wouldn’t light. Eventually we gave up, thus averting an explosive disaster(!), and used some disposable ones instead! Clare made burgers from fresh minced beef and onions, which I’ve never done before, and they tasted really good. Next time I have a barbeque, I think I’ll give the frozen ones a miss and make my own!

I got home late Sunday night and watched the season finale of ‘Fringe’ on Sky+, and wow… it was excellent! A pretty major plot twist, and quite an unexpected ending! Won’t say much more if people haven’t seen it yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to the next series!

On to Monday, and with it being yet another Bank Holiday, a group of us headed over to Formby beach again.

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The weather wasn’t too bad – we had a few spits of rain later on, but the rest of the time was okay, and I even caught the sun a little bit! We did the usual beach volleyball, which again was really very funny! And there were also a couple of excellent sand sculptures produced by Tom and Chris which had to be seen to be believed!

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There are some photos of all our beach shenanigans here.

Then in the evening, we went back to Phil’s because Ralph was house-sitting there, and after a false start with a slightly inappropriate film starring Russell Brand(!), we ended up watching a quirky little film called ‘Son of Rambow‘ which I thought was really good, and was something I probably wouldn’t have watched otherwise.

fawlty-towersOther news – I mentioned last month about doing the graphics for 2 documentaries about Fawlty Towers, and they’ve both now gone out on G.O.L.D. The pre-publicity for the programmes generated a lot of interest in the press, There’s a video on the BBC News website which shows the amount of press at the launch!

For the first of the shows – ‘Fawlty Towers Re-Opened’ – we produced the opening titles, but for the second 2-hour show on the 17th – ‘Fawlty Exclusive: Basil’s Best Bits’ we provided opening titles, episode guides, interview backgrounds, as well as other in-programme graphics.

I thought they were really well put together shows, and had some great behind-the-scenes stuff as well as obviously a load of hilarious clips. And on top of that, they were voiced by none other than Stephen Fry!

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Star Trek rebooted

Went to see the new Star Trek film this afternoon on the IMAX in town, and I thought it was awesome! Visually, it’s stunning, and the casting is spot on (and after a minute or so, I forgot about Sylar and just saw Zac Quinto as Spock!) And watching it on such a big screen was just amazing.

It’s a very clever re-boot from JJ Abrams, there are lots of nods to the original TV show, but it’s very much a mainstream-type movie, rather than being a total geek-fest! As well as great characterisation and effects, I thought there were some clever twists in the plot.

One thing I really liked was the cinematography, and the way that they made such use of lens flares throughout the film. I originally thought that it was post-production thing, but apparently, unless it was a CG scene they were all done in camera by shining lights straight down the lens! I guess some people will have really disliked them, and I’ll admit that maybe they went a bit over the top occasionally, but generally I thought it was a very clever device to give the film a very distinctive look.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen it yet, I’d definitely recommend it, and I can’t wait for the sequel!

Soul Shutter… and bridge nutter

Just got back from a nice meal at Jamie’s and I have to say that tonight I’ve seen probably the worst film ever! Well, 51 minutes of it because that’s all we could take!! It was Miami Vice, with Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, and it was dire! Bad script, bad dialogue, no character development… basically just shots of fast cars and speedboats!! Total rubbish – that’s time I’m never going to get back!! Apart from that though, it was really nice spending the evening with Jamie and Dean, and we ended up watching a DVD of Victoria Wood instead!!

Anyway, all this weekend I’ve been over at some mills in Compstall on the set of a short film called ‘Soul Shutter’, starring Georgia Taylor (who used to be in Coronation Street and has done some other big dramas since). It’s being produced by Hamish and Rob, and they’ve managed to rope in a load of people to give their skills for free to get it made. Somehow, I’ve been persuaded to do all the computer graphics stuff for it, and having been there all weekend directing the CG sequences, I’ve realised that it’s going to be a lot more work than I’d originally been led to believe!!

There’s a lot of action that takes place within photographs, so a lot of it was shot on a totally white set, and I’m going to have to key in loads of effects, as well as also doing moving images in photos on a wall, a bit like you see in the Harry Potter films… only with the budget being a few million quid lower!! Was a really good experience though, and I hope I can make it look expensive! I’ve got a load of photos from my phone of the shoot here.

On Friday evening I got a call from Jamie seeing if I was up to anything because there was a group heading off to do some bridgeswinging! I went with them a few years ago so I knew that there was no way I’d do it, but I said I could bring my Z1 and film them throwing themselves off the side of the incredibly high bridge! It was really cool and I got some nice shots of people leaping, though obviously because it was dark and my light can only really illuminate short distances you don’ really get a feel of the whole action. I’ll probably try and cut something together and maybe stick it up on Youtube or something.

I kind of wish I could summon up the courage to do it, but the thought of jumping into darkness really doesn’t appeal to me! Not convinced either that it would make the slightest bit of difference if I was able to see where I was jumping but maybe I should add it to my list of things to do before I die… just as long as I don’t die doing it!

Merry Christmas!

Helen and AliToday’s blog entry is being brought to you from Bristol! I’m down at Ali’s for the weekend because she had a party last night which I came to… it was kind of to celebrate Christmas, to welcome her two new housemates Kate and Julie, and to be a get-together before she heads off to do some volunteer work in a Christian school in Lebanon in the new year (obviously the situation isn’t the greatest out in the Middle East at the moment, but apparently where she’s supposed to be going is quite a way from Beirut, off in the mountains!)

I got here about 5.30, and because I was a couple of hours early, I had the pleasure of helping to set everything up! We put up 2 gazebos in the garden, and decorated them with fairy lights and genuine Egyptian lanterns! I made a slight effort to look Christmassy… I had planned to wear a santa hat, but I couldn’t find the one I used to have, so just attached some tinsel to my jeans and shoes!

The only other person I knew here was Helen who was at uni a the same time as me and Ali, and she was here with her boyfriend Pete (boyfriend/girlfriend seem such odd words to use when you’re our age!) and he was a really nice guy. Spent a lot of the night chatting to both of them which was cool, and then they popped in this morning before heading off to Cornwall for a week’s holiday. I’m not jealous that they’ve got a relaxing week ahead of them!!

I’ve been out pretty much every night this week! After the Cannonball night on Tuesday, Wednesday night saw me head up just north of Bolton to watch a DVD with John Cieszynski, and it was a nice chilled out night. We grabbed some chips and just vegged out in front of Mission Impossible III, which I’d seen at the cinema but had kind of forgotten exactly what happened in it!

A film though that I have seen twice in the last couple of weeks (so therefore could remember most of the plot!) is Casino Royale. I went to see it the other week with Jamie, Sean and Selina, but Sarah hadn’t been to see it, and since everyone else already had, I said I’d go with her and watch it again!

Sa with the cinema essentials!We went to the Odeon in town, and I’d suggested we try out the posh seats in ‘The Gallery’ – which I’d never tried before but was keen to give it a go… and it was really cool!! You get up there and you’re welcomed into a bar where you can have free popcorn, nachos, chocolates and soft drinks (though technically you’ve paid for it with your more expensive tickets! ) There was even a little grand piano in there(!), and you can also buy drinks at the bar and take them in with you when you watch the film – which I didn’t do because I was driving, but it meant Sa could get herself a nice glass of red wine!

And then into the cinema itself… basically it’s like a balcony over the main cinema, with just four rows of seats – but these aren’t your normal cinema-style seats. They’re kind of blocked off into pairs, with a little arm-rest table either side, and they’re much bigger and more comfortable than regular ones, so we could just kick off our shoes and slouch in the seats with our feet up on the ones in front (which we probably weren’t supposed to do, but hey! ) And I didn’t mind watching the film again because it is really good, and it was nice to spend the evening with such good company!

So, it was a really good experience and one I’d definitely like to do again – just need to find another good film!

I’ve gone to the dark side!

Well I’m in bed typing this post on my new MacBook Pro. I finally succumbed to the world of Apple and ordered the newly released Mac laptop and it finally arrived this morning! I’m trying to get used to using the keyboard and trackpad… it’s quite different to my desktop and I keep hitting extra keys and it makes me look like I can’t spell anything!

Anyway, my other computer is currently rendering the grading for the Cannonball documentary and when all that’s done I can re-import it and then put it onto tape to send off to ITV. It’s really cool working on something that’s going out to such a wide audience. It’s on ITV1 next Tuesday at 11pm, and then will be repeated endlessly on Men & Motors – though to be honest I’m more excited about the national ITV showing!

Other stuff – went to see ‘Casino Royale’ on Saturday night with Jamie, Sean and Selina, and it was really good. It’s only the second Bond film I’ve seen, the other being ‘Die Another Day’, and this was a really good action film, but I think I preferred some of the tongue-in-cheekness of Brosnan’s Bond. Beforehand we went round the Christmas markets in Albert Square, and had a hot pork roll from a stall with a whole cooked pig on the counter! Was a really fun night, and I know I need to do more stuff like this, otherwise I’m going to end up turning into a total recluse who just works all the time!

It’s not all work, work, work…

…although it certainly feels like it! I’m basically spending most of my time at present editing the Cannonball 8000 documentary which is on ITV1 at the end of the month. Very long days, but it’s looking really good, and hopefully people will really like it.

Anyway, I have managed to do a couple of sociable things this week as well. On Sunday afternoon I went up to Middleton to do a bit of babysitting with Sarah… she was looking after Grace (who’s one next week) whilst Colin & Caroline took Olivia to see a kids musical, so I went along probably more to keep Sa company that be much use otherise! Grace was asleep when I arrived so we watched a bit of TV (the Top 20 Boy-Bands(!)… worryingly I did know most of them, but at least I wasn’t the one who knew all the words to the songs… hehe) and then when Grace woke up I helped keep her entertained with a toy shark and a beaker of water! It was good fun actually – I managed to steer well clear of the nappy changing… I don’t know how I’d ever manage to do that, but maybe if I have my own kids it would be a lot easier!

Then when I got back home, I got a call from Jamie asking if I wanted to go to the cinema – but they were already in the queue, and the film was starting in 15 minutes, so I had to move quickly to get there in time! Anyway, I managed to get there with a couple of minutes to spare, and found Jamie who was with Dean and Sean, and we went in to see ‘The Prestige‘ – a film about two rival magicians… I hadn’t heard anything about it beforehand, but I thought it was pretty good, although you had to suspend your disbelief to get over a pretty major part of the plot!

Sean, Jamie, Sarah and CeliaThen on Tuesday night, I went round for a meal at Jamie’s house. I had expected that we were going to go out and grab something to eat in town, but it was a really nice surprise to find he’d cooked, and that we were also being joined by Sean, Celia and Sarah. My fussy eating kind of made an appearance – Jamie had done rice with the chicken, but he suddenly remembered that I’m a nightmare to cook for, and I told him I didn’t mind just having it without, but he rustled up some mustard mash for me instead! And the main part was something I wouldn’t normally have had – he’d done the chicken in a slightly curried crème fraîche sauce, and although I did pull a bit of a face when I took the first mouthful, I did actually quite like it! Maybe this is another small step on the road to eating the same food as everyone else!!

It’s snowing!

Woo! It’s snowing!

Got up this morning to see a thin layer of snow on the ground, but in the last half hour it’s started snowing properly!

Not sure how long it will last ‘cos the BBC’s weather website reckons we’ve got rain forecast for the rest of the week, but it was cool to see out first proper snow this winter!

Other stuff… took myself off to see the new Harry Potter film at the cinema on Saturday night, and I thought it was really good – although I know that people who’ve read the book are disappointed that apparently a lot had to be cut out to get it to fit in one film. The first time I saw Harry Potter was this time last year… I’ve kind of watched them in a funny order… episode 3, then episode 1, now the fourth one… and the second film is on TV this Saturday so I’ll watch that then!! I know there’s been quite a lot of debate over Harry Potter, and whether it’s a bad influence and all that, but from watching the films, I can’t see that much of a difference in subject matter to say that of Lord of the Rings, or the Chronicles of Narnia. They’re all basically stories of good against evil – maybe the books are different – I don’t know, not having read them, but there was nothing in the film that made me think they’re bad.

Portsmouth

I’m feeling really tired, but I’ve got loads that I need to get done this weekend…

Mo and PeteWith work this week, I had to go down to Portsmouth to give a presentation to some call centre staff who are handling a telemarketing campain for us. I’ve never had to do anything like that before, so was quite aprehensive… and the reason I was having to do it was because Pete Searle who would normally do that sort of thing is off on his honeymoon (photos from his wedding are here). You’d have thought he could have put off his wedding to Mo by a week or so to help me out…

Anyway, the presentation was to take place at 11.30am on Thursday morning, so I was at Manchester Airport for half seven to catch an 0845 flight to Southampton. But whilst I was waiting in the departure lounge, I noticed the screens changed to show that the flight would be delayed by just over half an hour, which meant I’d be pushing it for time at the other end. So I waited until 9.20, when we were then told that there were technical problems and we’d be getting more information at half ten. Obviously this caused me slight problems since it was going to take me half an hour to get to Portsmouth from the airport, and the earliest I was going to get to Southampton looked to be 11.30 – the same time as the presentation!

We actually got our update at quarter past eleven, and we were told that a new plane would be arriving at noon, but there was really no point with me getting on it – but apparently if you remove yourself from a massively delayed flight, you don’t get your money back… they only do that if it’s cancelled! Anyway, what eventually happened is that I rearranged to travel on the same flight on Friday morning, with the return flight first thing yesterday morning because the guys I needed to meet wouldn’t be around until 6pm!

HMS Victory at Portsmouth HarbourFriday’s journey went a lot smoother, and since the presentation wasn’t until the evening, I had a few hours to look around bits of Portsmouth, and went to take a look at HMS Victory, and also around Gunwharf Quays which is where I was staying overnight at a Holiday Inn. The talk went okay I guess… it was a bit awkward because firstly it was someone else’s presentation, and I didn’t have Powerpoint or our DVD to use because it was rescheduled last minute!

Later on that evening, I went to the cinema (which handily was right next to the hotel!) to watch ‘Cinderella Man‘ – Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger’s new film, and it was excellent. Quite violent in parts I guess because it’s about boxing, but it all took place within the ring, so the context allowed for it. I’ll be really surprised if it doesn’t pick up a few Oscars next time round.

Then yesterday, I had to get up at 4.30am to get to Southampton for my flight back up to Manchester… so that’s 3 early mornings in a row. I feel wrecked now! I’m not a morning person at all!

Mission Completed!

After 10K AND 4 flights of stairs!Well, it’s Monday morning, and I’m aching a bit!

I completed the run yesterday with a time of 1hr15m39s – just 1m15s slower than last year… which is kind of good because I felt pretty rubbish in the run up to this one, but then I wonder whether I could have caught up that time and have beaten last year’s? What I do know though is that if it hadn’t been for Jamie pushing me this last week, I’d never have managed to do it in this time… so major thanks are definitely due to him! Chees mate!

Anyway, I got into town for about 8.45am and went to the office to get changed and meet with Mike and his dad who were running as well. The lift still hadn’t been fixed, so walking up all the stairs was a nice treat to start with…

We headed down to the start to meet up with the 20,000 strong crowd that was waiting to run. Our particular section kicked off at 10.23am, and I managed to do the first 3km of it without slowing down, which took me from the city centre, around back of Granada and the Science Museum, and up to the main stretch of dual carriageway that leads to Old Trafford. I then decided to walk the next 1km – by now my calf muscles had gone rock hard and were hurting ever so slightly(!) – and then carried on running for the majority of it… I reckon I ran about 7½km in all, walking the other 2½km at a pretty reasonable pace.

Jamie, Oli and Rosie came down to see me at the finish line, but they totally managed to miss me actually crossing it! I bumped into them as I was heading back to get changed, so they came into the office until I got sorted (which brought the unwelcome return of the stair climb!)

We then headed into town to grab lunch (not sure a KFC was the best meal to have straight after running 10K!), and then me, Jamie and Oli went to see the new Star Wars film – Revenge Of The Sith and I really liked it. Definitely think it’s the best out of the three new ones.

I’m pretty glad the whole run thing is over now – just have to go and collect the sponsor money (you can still sponsor me if you want!)

I don’t really know if I’d do it again next year. I guess if I’m honest, when I signed up for last year’s, I was kind of doing it to with the intention of trying to impress a certain person, which probably wasn’t the best reason for taking part (‘cos it obviously really worked! ) – and this year I ended up applying for it without really thinking. So with next year’s, I’d have to really think about it before signing up again, because I really would need to put a lot more effort in.

Oh, and apparently I came in 14,377th position. I don’t think I’m going to brag too much about that one!

‘Trick Of The Mind’?

Just been watching Derren Brown’s Trick Of The Mind on Channel 4 – seriously weird! I don’t quite get the guy… I find it fascinating, but there’s something just freaky about the stuff he does! He just apparently put someone into a hypnotic trance whilst they were playing an arcade game in a pub, then they transported him to a real version of the game, and then brought him back round to see zombies trying to attack him, and he went on a killing spree! Then they put him back under and took him back to the pub and stuck him back in front of the arcade game! I expect to see a few complaints made about this one!

Anyway, went to the gym for the first time since I stormed out the other week. The 10K is just two weeks away now, and I so can’t be bothered with it. The only reason I’m still doing it is because I’ve been sponsored, although tonight I’ve been thinking that that’s maybe not enough to make me turn up on the day. The pack with my number and chip arrived in the post this morning, and I guess I really need to make a decision soon. I only managed to run about a mile tonight before I felf exhausted which doesn’t bode well! I also did 15 minutes on a bike just to try and help with my fitness, but I can’t see how I’ll be able to to 6½ miles in two weeks time!

The only other thing of note from the last 2 weeks is that I went to see ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy‘ on Monday night, after working the whole of the Bank Holiday. I thought it was alright, although I have vague memories of watching the tv version when I was a kid, so was aware that they’d changed bits, and also seemed to have cut a heck of a lot out of it!

Removal men

I was over in Sheffield yesterday and last night giving Jamie a hand collecting some furniture for his new house that he’s in the process of buying. He was given it by James’ grandparents who are moving to a smaller house (apparently the person who’s bought their current one is the manager of Sheffield Wednesday, Paul Sturrock!), and they’ve given him a couple of beds, plus a table and chairs. So we strapped each of the beds onto the roof of each car, and filled up the backs with other bits and pieces!

Then later on the afternoon, I helped him by giving him a hand with repairing a chair of Darren’s, which was hand-made by his sister, that which had split in half across the seat. When I say I was ‘helping’, it was more a case of holding bits of wood, and supporting clamps! I think he did a really good job, and when we took all the clamps off this morning, the glue and dowels appeared to have done their job because Jamie was able to sit on it without it falling apart again!

Then last night we stayed over at his mum and dad’s house, so decided to rent and watch ‘I, Robot‘ – and I thought it was a really good film… when it came out I didn’t bother going to see it because I thought it might be a bit rubbish, but it actually had quite a good story to it.

Other stuff… my car failed its MOT on Wednesday. I’ve left it with my brother to do some work on it, so have borrowed mum’s Peugeot 205 which is quite different to my trusty Fiesta! It’s taking a bit of getting used to driving a car that doesn’t have a fifth gear, has a manual choke, and rattles when it does above 60mph!

Easter weekend

I’ve had the whole Easter weekend off work, and it seem like absolutely ages! Probably because I’ve managed to get a lot done with the house. Jamie came round on Friday and Saturday to help with doing some DIY stuff, and I’d have got nowhere near as much done if he hadn’t been here! We basically did some work on my dining room, and bricked in the old fireplace, boxed in all the pipes, moved the ceiling light so it’s now over the table, installed some spotlights, and added some extra plug sockets in there! The only hiccup was when we added the extra mains sockets – it looked like there was an old spur cable of the socket we wanted to link from – and we checked all over to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere, so we just cut that and used it for the new one. Brilliant… until the next morning when I went to run some hot water for a wash… and no hot water! The realisation soon kicked in that that cable that seemed to make no difference whether connected or not was actually powering the boiler for my central heating!! I left it until the this morning to fix because I went for lunch yesterday with Jamie and Ryan, and didn’t get home until pretty late. So I got the boiler working again this afternoon, and have now also built a new bottom step for my stairs, after taking out the old one because it was far too big, and the wood on it had split anyway. So I got loads done on the room, and it’s not too far off getting someone in to plaster it all… then it’s just the finishing touches!

The only other thing I’ve done this weekend is that I went to see The Passion Of The Christ yesterday morning. I know it’s been out for a while, but it been the first chance I’ve had to see it. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect because of all the hype around it – but I wanted to make up my own mind about the film. I guess was suprised at how much the fact it was subtitled throughout didn’t bother me at all, and visually it was stunning. There were one or two bits that I thought weren’t quite right, but have made me think about stuff. And the portrayal of the violence wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I guess that’s more of a reflection of how we become desensitized to things nowadays, but I think it was more that the violent stuff was pretty much never-ending, so I guess the shock is the amount of it rather than the level of it as far as I was concerned. But all in all, I thought it was a really good film.

Lord Of The Rings

Went over to Jamie’s in Sheffield yesterday to watch the final Lord of The Rings film – and it’s excellent! At three and a half hours, it’s quite a long time to sit in the cinema – the advantage of the DVD versions are that you can take a bit of a break when you change the discs over! But it was really good, and I was surprised that the the cinema was packed, considering it was Boxing Day!

It’s been great having a few days off work, and I’ve still got tomorrow before I go back… it’s been ages since I’ve had a few days off together! Hopefully I’ll be able to get all my work finished on Monday and Tuesday, so I can take New Year’s Eve off to pack for our skiing trip which starts the next day! I can’t believe that this time next week I’ll be in Switzerland!!