Scotland weekend

Last weekend I was up in Scotland with Ali for Steve & Tatiana’s wedding! The wedding was on the Friday, so I drove up on Thursday afternoon and then picked up Ali from the airport, who’d taken a flight from Bristol. However, as I was driving to the airport, I got a major warning light and message on my car saying ‘system fault’ which wasn’t ideal!

I get RAC membership with my car servicing, so called them up early evening, and an RAC man finally arrived quite late, and determined it was probably an issue with my battery not fully holding its charge and causing the error message. He reckoned it would be safe to drive over the weekend but that I’d need to arrange to get it checked soon at a Nissan garage.

Anyway, next day was the day of the wedding – I’d offered to live stream it for them, since a lot of Tatiana’s family weren’t able to make it over to the UK. We had breakfast and left first thing so that I’d have time to set up kit. I was only using a single camera with a BlackMagic Web Presenter plugged into my laptop. In hindsight, I wish I’d packed a 2nd camera to plug into it, but I think they were happy that there was any kind of broadcast!

You can still watch the live stream of the service on YouTube.

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Some non-work-related stuff!

We’ve been working incredibly hard recently, pulling in some all-nighters for a couple of our jobs, but instead of going on about that, I’m going to blog about some non-work stuff I’ve done over the last few weeks!

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Most recently, this weekend I’ve been down in Bristol visiting Ali, and Helen also came down so we could have a bit of a mini uni-get-together!

I was originally planning to drive down there on Saturday morning, but I’ve been doing such long hours at work, and on Friday afternoon I was totally knackered after having had just 3 hours sleep in 3 days(!), so at the last minute I booked a train ticket down there instead!

I got into Bristol around lunchtime, and walked the short distance from Temple Meads to Ali’s house.  It’s interesting to see how much the area has changed over the years. When I first visited Ali there back in the 90s, it was a pretty run-down area, but now a lot of it’s been replaced by riverside bars and restaurants, and hotels and posh apartments – and Ali’s estate is right next to it!

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The year so far…

It’s been a while, so here’s a bit of a catch up!
Yesterday I went to Liverpool Cathedral to hear Rob Bell talk about his new book – ‘Love Wins‘. I’d seen him do a Q&A at Greenbelt last year, so was quite interested to hear him in person talk about his new book which has already caused a bit of controversy within the church.

It was quite bizarre because quite a few influential people were highly critical of it via Twitter, even before the book had actually been released, so I decided I’d rather make my own mind up, rather than listen to emotional ramblings from people who can come across a bit arrogant at times!

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I went with Tom Green from Vinelife, and met up with Dave Bateman (who’s now living in Liverpool), and I also bumped into Tim Follin and his wife who were both there too. The place was pretty packed, and it was really interesting to hear his thoughts, but even though I think some of the stuff he said was quite though-provoking, I’m not totally sure I agree with all the points he put across.

After he did his main talk bit, he was ‘interviewed’ by the host of the evening, but he wasn’t really very good at it and asked pretty rubbish questions.  And then they invited people from the audience to ask questions, but again I thought there were a lot of missed opportunities, and Tom went forward to ask a question, but they wrapped up just before he got a chance to which was a bit annoying!

I bought the book afterwards, and I want to read it myself to see what I reckon – I certainly think it’s good that he’s causing people to ask questions about it.

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America – YEAH!

Well, I’ve just got back from an amazing two weeks in the USA!

I’d never been there before, so when I got an invite to Emma McNeil’s (now Patterson!) wedding to Gerald in North Carolina, I decided that it’d be really cool to be there for that, and also to discover a bit of America at the same time!

I flew out from Manchester Airport on Tuesday 7th, and got on the plane around lunchtime, but not before being selected for a security check as I was boarding!  I guess it was because I was travelling on my own, but it’s funny how you start to feel guilty when you’ve not actually got anything to hide!  About 8 hours later I made it into Newark Airport – and it was really weird being able to see such iconic views as the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we came in to land!  After a bit of a delay waiting for my next flight to Greensboro, I finally boarded what can only be described as a coach with wings!  It was a 50-seater, small 2-engine plane, that was incredibly narrow with just 3 seats across, and an aisle separating one of those!  It was a bit of a bumpy journey – I’m not the most experienced flier, so it doesn’t take too much to make me a bit nervous! But we eventually landed safely at Greensboro airport quite late, although my awareness of time was a bit screwy due to the time difference!

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After getting through the airport, I met up with Emma and her mum, as well as her brother and his family who’d also just flown in, before picking up the car I was hiring for my time in North Carolina. It was a little automatic Chevrolet, and I then had to follow them back to her apartment on the other side of the city – which considering I’d only driven on the right-hand side once before in 1997, and this time it was also dark, it was quite an experience! I was actually quite relieved it was an automatic because it meant I didn’t have to worry about changing gear with the wrong hand!

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A bit about April

The heading kind of gives away the content of this post!  It’s been a busy couple of weeks, with a weekend in Tamworth, a day at the beach, catching up with old friends, and a fancy dress party!

For Easter, I went down to Tamworth for the weekend, and it was nice to spend time with Brandon and Chloe again.  I was obviously down there a few weeks earlier for their birthday party, so I think they remembered me this time round!!

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I went with mum, Vikky and the twins to the Easter Service at ECC in Lichfield – it was weird going back there since the last time I was there was when I was 18 or 19 – nearly 20 years ago!  We got there pretty early because they were having a buffet breakfast before the service, and Brandon and Chloe managed to get quite a bit of the food down their smart clothes!  I guess that’s quite normal!  I said hello to a few people there who I remembered from when I was there years ago, and also chatted with Dave Bateman’s sister Helen who goes there, and actually works for them as a student worker!

Then on Easter Monday, I was back up north, and a group of us went over to Formby to spend the day at the beach!

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26 miles this week!

I’ve been cycling again this week – first off I did 10 miles at the gym, which took took me about 40 minutes, and although my legs were like jelly when I got off, I was pleased that later on, my legs weren’t aching at all.  Again, the only thing which I could feel was the negative effect of the saddle!

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Anyway, today we went back to the Upper Derwent Valley at the end of the Snake Pass, and did the same route as a couple of weeks ago.

I went with Dave again, and this time Rob came with us.  We started a lot earlier than last time because Rob needed to get back mid afternoon to travel down to a gig in Solihull, so we got to the visitors centre at Fairholmes at about 10.30am, and set off around the reservoirs just before 11 o’clock.

There was a lot less snow and ice this time round, although there were still a couple of places where a few small snow drifts are still hanging on in there.

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Back on my bike

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Yesterday I went to the Upper Derwent Valley in the Peak District with Dave for a bit of a bike ride around the three reservoirs there.

I’d not ridden my bike since my holiday in Anglesey last year, and the last time I did this route was back in 2007 when I did my first ride in 16 years with Jamie Hill.

Anyway, back to yesterday, and we arrived at about 1.15pm and parked up, and set our bikes up before changing into our riding gear.  It was pretty cold, so I’d gone for a layers approach with t-shirt, hoody and coat, and tracksuit bottoms over some cycling shorts.  Dave being the crazy man that he is opted for a Villa top and shorts!

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I was really out of practice, but soon got into it, although I do find hills quite difficult.  Obviously I need to build up my strength and stamina, and if I can get rid of some weight over the next year it will really help as well.

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New Year, and dM work on Five

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Tonight sees two programmes with titles and graphics done by doodledoMOTION on Five in prime time!  First off, ‘Paul Merton In Europe‘ started last Monday night at 9pm, and we did the title sequence for the show (which has had so much work and detail put into it!), as well as the maps which show Paul’s journey across Europe.  It’s the 3rd travel series of ‘Paul Merton In…’ that Tiger Aspect have done following on from his documentaries about China and India, and so far the reaction to this new series seems really positive.

And then the second show for Five we’ve been involved in is also a Tiger programme – ‘Celebrity Quitters‘.  It’s a ten-part reality series that’s going to be on every week-night for the next 2 weeks, and features Linda Robson, John Burton Race, Chloe Madeley, Paul Danan and Derek Acorah as they all try to give up smoking.  We’ve done the titles and graphics for the main show, as well as their online content.

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The programme starts at 7.30pm tonight, and to promote the show, Linda Robson, one of the Celebrity Quitters, appeared on BBC’s Breakfast this morning for an interview, where they showed some clips from the series.

It was a good promo for the show, but the best bit was that the main title graphic that we’ve produced appeared on the big screen behind them throughout the whole interview which is really cool!

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Back to the beginning of the month, and on New Year’s Day, I went for a walk over at Alderley Edge with a group of Reach guys.

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A busy Christmas week

It’s that funny time between Christmas and New Year when generally nothing really happens – so the ideal time to do a blog update!  And since I last posted a week and a half ago, I’ve actually done quite a lot of stuff in that time!

Last Wednesday night, I went over to Liverpool with John Roberts to see a production of ‘The 39 Steps‘ at the Liverpool Playhouse.  He runs a theatre reviews website called The Public Reviews, so we we got free tickets which was pretty cool!  It was actually a really good show – it’s a comedy and was performed by just 4 actors, who changed roles continuously throughout the play, which surprised me at how well it worked!

The show culminated in fake snow being showered on the audience, and then as we left the theatre, we discovered that there was real snow falling – and I’d have been really impressed if that was part of the show as well!  We’d already had a bit of snow in Manchester a couple of days earlier, but there was none in Liverpool when we arrived.

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We got back to the car, and within a few minutes we were driving through a pretty intense blizzard, and the snow really started to build up on the roads.

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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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Clare and Rob.

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!

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Whodunnit?

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Dave, Dan, Jimmy, Ralph, Jason and Chris.

Well, another bank holiday yesterday – it only seems a few weeks since the last one!!

I went for a walk in the afternoon with some guys from Reach – we drove over to the Peak District and parked up by Derwent Reservoir, just off the Snake Pass. It’s actually where I went with Jamie a couple of years ago for my first bike ride in 16 years(!), and I’ve realised it’s certainly a lot quicker to go round on 2 wheels rather than walking!

We only did about 4 miles – we got quite a bit round one side of the reservoir, but soon realised that it would take us ages to get round the next one and back down to the car! So after examining if there was anywhere else where we could cross, we turned around and walked back pretty much the way we came.

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Life’s a beach

Well it’s been a pretty busy few days… I was in the office for most of the Easter Weekend trying to get some graphics work finished for this show we’re doing for Tiger Aspect. It’s basically a couple of documentaries about Fawlty Towers for G.O.L.D. (very similar to ‘The Vicar of Dibley‘ and ‘Blackadder‘ ones we’ve worked on previously), and we’ve been working on titles, stings, episode guides and interview backgrounds.

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But I did manage to get a few hours off on Monday to go to the beach! I was in the office preparing another time-consuming render, when I got a text from Dave saying that a group was heading off to the beach for the afternoon, so I decided to go to that instead and carry on with the graphics later!

We set off to Formby in a few cars, and it was all fine until we actually got near our destination – it appeared that everyone else in the North West were heading there as well! Rather than spending the whole afternoon waiting to get into the car park, we eventually managed to park up on a housing estate and then took a short walk back towards the beach.

We eventually found a bit of the beach that wasn’t full of people, and also didn’t have bits of brick sticking out of the sand – not ideal for playing sports! I didn’t bother with the game of American Football, since I have no idea at all how the game works!!

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Phil, Dave, Ralph and Penny.

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Getting things sorted

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The doodledoMOTION office.

After six months of us moving into our office, we’ve finally (almost) finished sorting it! I say ‘almost’ because we’ve still got a few little jobs to sort with the edit suite like some internal skirting boards, and some shelves that need putting up, but now we’ve got some pictures up on the wall, it feels like a really nice place to work in.

Also, we’ve just launched the proper version of our website – www.doodledomotion.co.uk. There’d just been a single page there before now, but I think the new one looks great. Our biggest challenge with it is to make sure we find the time to update the blog, and keep our portfolio up-to-date! Also, due to some music and copyright restrictions, we can’t put examples of everything we do up there, but hopefully we’ll be able to get a good range of the kind of stuff we do.

Work’s been a little bit less hectic over the last few weeks, though there’s enough to keep us occupied. Drama Trails really took its toll – I ended up doing 63 days in a row which wasn’t ideal! Not had a chance yet to have a proper break, but it’s been nice to get my weekends back!

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George, Hazel, Jeff, Helen and Ali.

A couple of Sundays ago I went down to Reading to catch up with some old uni mates – Ali, George, Hazel, and Helen & her new blokey! It was really nice day (although the train journey down was a bit of a rubbish one – an hour late to start with, then decided to terminate at Birmingham rather than Reading!)

We went for a pub lunch, then for a nice walk alongside the canal, and it was a really sunny day which definitely helped! Then in the evening I went to Bristol to kip over at Ali’s house, then back up to Stockport on a very overcrowded train on the Monday. You can check out the photos from the day here.

Slippery slope…

Thought I’d better do an update for February considering it’s the last day of the month!

Anyway, I’ve been really busy with work, and a lot of my time has been taken up with working on ‘The Soul Shutter‘ (notice there’s a ‘The‘ there now… I only discovered that after doing the opening titles!) I think I’ve now finished with all the CG work – there’s a meeting that Hamish and Rob are going to on Thursday to get feedback, but to be honest, I don’t really have any more time to work on it, and I’ve already put hours more work into it than I originally thought I’d have to. It’s fine because it does look really good, but they’re getting a really good deal!

Went for another bike ride with Jamie on Sunday afternoon which was good. We rode along the Longdendale Trail which is a route that goes runs alongside 5 reservoirs and follows the old Manchester to Sheffield railway line, and in all we did 14 miles there and back! I really enjoy going out on the bike, though I need to get some proper cycling shorts to wear under my trackie bottoms because I got quite sore from the saddle! It’s cool spending time with Jamie as well ‘cos we don’t get to catch up that often.

At the beginning of February, me and James went down to London for a couple of days to attend this year’s Video Forum event which was really good. Got to go to a few good production seminars, and saw loads of kit I’d like to buy! Did actually spend a bit of cash buying a better head for my tripod and a remote zoom unit for my camera which should be useful.

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On yer bike

It was back in November 2005 that I blogged about buying myself a mountain bike… well I’m kind of embarrassed to say that today was the first time I’ve actually ridden it!!

I went with Jamie into the Peaks, and we did a ride around Ladybower, Derwent and Howden reservoirs. It was about 15 miles in all, which is quite intense when you’ve not been on a bike for 16 years! I was quite apprehensive to start with – the longer I’ve waited to do it, the more I’ve convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to ride any more!

We started off on a reasonably quiet road and I was soon able to ride without wobbling too much, and then quite soon we went onto a track around the valley which was pretty muddy and rocky in places, but generally wasn’t too much of a nightmare. It took me a while to get used to the gears again… it’s crazy because before I got a car, I used to cycle everywhere, but I suppose it was nearly half a lifetime ago!

Definitely plan to do it again soon, although I am starting to feel the after effects of it all now… my legs are aching and it’s painful when I sit down!