We upped our game a bit for this year’s Halloween Trick-or-Treaters. We put a canopy over the whole front garden which allowed us to create a spookier atmosphere with some new lighting and projection effects, added a load of new props and Dad parked the car on a Zombie.
 
People seemed to be really getting into it this year with packs of kids roaming the streets all in great costumes and lots of other houses in the neighbourhood putting on little haunts and effects. It actually felt like that scene from E.T. that I always wanted Halloween to feel like.
 
By counting the sweets mum gave out, we must have seen 340 kids, and at least 3 of them left in tears… our work here is done.

hvp_header
 

A few years ago, me and 2 other dudes (Martin Rose and Tom Hartshorn) had an idea that went a bit like this: “Hey, let’s run Back to the Future live on Twitter”.

 
It’s 2 years later and we’ve done it – www.theHillValleyProject.com.

 
We registered 50 separate twitter accounts for all the characters (and some of the objects) in the film, and starting on October 25th at 7.45am (the exact time and date the film starts), they all started telling the story of the film in real time. It takes 6 days for the whole story to play out.

 
Here’s a few choice tweets:

 

 
We took it all a bit further with things like setting up foursquare locations and having characters check in…

 
…and giving Lorraine an obsession with instagram selfies and hashtags:

 

#love #calvin #kiss #brother #vodka #selfie #parking #18 #enchantmentunderthesea #parked #nervous #square”

 
We even gave Biff a match.com account:

 
One of the many reason we did this (most of them were around the theme of Back to the Future being awesome) was to raise awareness and encourage donations to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. They’re trying to speed up the time it takes to get newly developed drugs to market by concentrating on one specific part of the process and helping to provide support and access to research when and where it’s needed.

 
So, how did we do it? Well, Tom had already done a very similar project a few years back running Home Alone on twitter over Christmas, so we had a rough idea, but working out the times all for the tweets was a massive task. There’s lots of times in the story you just have to hit, like the time the car first time travels, or the lighting strike on the clock tower, so we had those as starting points. The rest we worked out by events like the school day starting, or looking at the position of the sun and working that out for California at that time of year.

 
We then had to re-write the entire film in tweets, adding in any screen shots that looked like they could be Twitpics, links to YouTube videos for the soundtrack and just making the tweets sound like tweets with the odd #LOL, ;-), and the occasional #FML. We ended up with 1211 tweets, all hand written and all cross references each other with @replies.

 
We gave each account it’s own biography, background image, profile image and cover image.

 
profiles

 
We then entered the whole lot into a social media management system that was logged in to all the accounts and set each tweet to send at the desired time.

 
The system only went wrong once when I noticed we’d entered in all the dates a day out of sync when Marty wakes up on the first day before he goes to meet doc in the car park in 1985. I fixed this by using a technique of utter blind panic, and switching to manually tweeting all accounts for a couple of hours in the early hours of Saturday morning – I managed to get far enough ahead in the end to re-arrange and re-import the rest of the tweets. I felt a bit like this moment:

 

 
It all went down very well with Gizmodo calling us Brilliant Wackos.

 
giz

 
Questlove Jenkins become a bit of a super fan tweeting about the project and then re-tweeting some of the characters:

 

 
OK Go liked it as well, which was nice:

 

 
And I was interviewed on *THE* Back to the Future Pod-cast, the Flux Capaci-Cast.

 
Even though it’s all played out now, you can still witness it in all it’s glory here: www.theHillValleyProject.com

 
We got a Pizza oven! …and this time-lapse film of us building the stand for it is made using a little dolly unit I built for our GoPro. We’ve always wanted to have a simple small unit to plonk on a table during breakfast and slowly trundle forward, but such a device simple doesn’t seem to exist. So making one seems to be the only option.
 
Here’s a few prototypes:
 

 
First I tried building a little winch with a super geared down motor, and a trolley for the GoPro made of Lego. It worked, but it was cumbersome, and tricky to set-up.
 
Then I put the winch on the trolley and used it to power the wheels. Much better, but it was too fast and a bit noisy.
 
For the final design (although I’m sure I’ll tweak it again), I rebuilt the motor and gears using an old Lego motor and all the cogs I could find in our Lego box that’s sat in the cupboard since we were kids. Now it’s super slow, and the Lego motor runs almost silent. Oh Lego, is there nothing you can’t do?
 
I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking “But what does it look like if you strap an infrared filter to the GoPro and set it off on it’s jolly way down the garden path?”. Well it looks a bit like this:
 

 
Here’s the brave little soldier in action:
 

 
While we were in San Diego recently, we visited our pal Nat’s mum for a BBQ. Nat’s mum has an awesome view of San Diego Airport’s runway from her balcony, so we strapped a few cameras up there and proceeded to enjoy the most intimidating pieces of meat we’ve ever had plonked down in front of us. A good time was had by all, even the jets.

 

Our pal Dom is an excellent cook and generally a passionate foodie. Also, a top bloke. So when he asked us to help him brand his new restaurant we were delighted to lend a hand. We came up with the name ‘Knife & Pork’ – witty and meaty. The ever talented Cookie came up with the amazing logo and we built a little shadow puppet show to sit in the restaurant to entertain the diners. Cookie illustrated the pigs, Dom got them laser cut for us whilst we built the turntable and shadow box. We turned up for the opening night, set the pigs dancing and sat down for a smashing evening of posh food and great company. Go book a table!
 


 

Does what it says on the tin really. I’ve popped a mobile friendly version up on Vimeo, in case you need it.

 


 

UPDATE: I’ve been asked how I put this video together. Well, prepare to witness my geekness…

 

I love little photo projects people do. Martin Parr (a hero of mine) has many collections, including parking spaces, people on mobile phones, or even the simple self portrait. His sense of humour tickles me.

 

martin-parr-empty-space03martin-parr-empty-space02martin-parr-empty-space01martin-parr-mobile-phonet02martin-parr-mobile-phonet01martin-parr-mobile-phonet03martin-parr-self-portrait02martin-parr-self-portrait01martin-parr-self-portrait03

 

I’ve never found what I wanted to collect, at the end of each year I regret not having set myself a witty brief at the beginning of the year. So this year I thought what if I’ve sub-consciously collected everything? Which I have, on my phone. Just as a silly experiment, I wanted to see what would happen if I dumped all the photos I’ve taken in a year into an image sequence, no editing or cutting bits out. Would it be a mess? Would it be kinda OK, I think it’s… kinda OK. It helps that I tend to take many photos of the same thing, so the object is allowed to hang for a fraction of a second over a few frames. I was inspired by this excellent time-lapse of a road trip… I’ll be ripping this idea off soon.

 

 

To do this, first off, I have an app called DropSnap installed on my Android Phone. It automatically backs up every photo I take to Dropbox. You can do this using the official Dropbox app (on iPhone too) but DropSnap gives me some more filtering options, which means I can sync more than just the regular camera roll (Instagram, Snapseed, etc). So that’s been busy stuffing photos up into the clouds like a weird hoarder’s heaven. This made it easy to find every photo I took in 2012 and dump them in one big folder.

 

The tricky bit was preparing them for the video. All the landscape and portrait photos needed to sit central and have the extra black space on the top and bottom or the sides (depending on their orientation) to make up the space in the video. In steps the work horse that is Photoshop Image Processor! After a bit of head scratching and swearing I created a workflow that did the job. First, I made an action that puts any image into the middle of a black 1080p sized canvas. You can download mine here if you like. Then I ran the Image Processor to resize everything, combined with my action to centre them on the black background. The settings should look like this:

 

image-processor

 

Then I opened my old friend After Effects. To create an image sequence you just drag the image folder directly into the project window. I dumped the sequence into a 1080p composition, added some Tom Waits and Bob’s your Mother’s brother! I hope that’s of some help if you want to try it out yourself. It’s a nice collecting project you can do without having to even think about it. Which is good for me as I’m very poor at thinking.

 

We tried a new approach to Hack Day at Poke this year. Rather than building something digital, we wanted something a little more hands on. So the brief was set to “build a board game”. Everyone was given a box, some dice, counters etc, and 24 hours to build a complete game. There would be no judges, and no opportunity to pitch your game. Instead every team plays every game and scores them on a how fun there are, how well the instructions are written and how good does it look.

 


 

My team created “Watch Out! Willy!”. All set in Will’s very opulent manor. You play the part of some thugs trying to rob the place, and at the same time, you control Will roaming the hall in his glowing hot pants trying to catch you all. If you’re caught in the beam of light, you’re in for a punishment.

 

 

Gav’s team made “The Hand Job”. I think he may win the ‘most double entendre in a game’ award. Players take on the guise of a bank robber trying to nick as much loot as they can, both from the bank and each other. The tricky bit is they all have to physically ‘walk’ around the board wearing their cardboard characters on their knuckles.

 

More photos here.

 

This Christmas, we built built an animating fireplace in Poke’s lobby. Using the excellent Pixel Fireplace software by Ted Martins, the fire is a living pixely thing, that needs feeding with logs, and can do many things like roast pixel marshmallows or pixel hot-dogs. The pleasant sound of a crackling pixel wood fire echoed around the lobby all of December.

 

A few more photos here.

 

 

We entered this year’s 48 Hour Film Project competition, which, as the name suggests, means you have 48 hours to make a film. To make sure there’s no head-starts we’re all given a strict briefing on the Friday night at the Prince Charles Cinema before we deliver our final films on the Sunday night. This years brief said that we needed to include the following in the film:

 

- a character named named Charlie Cipriani who is a minor celebrity
- some sort of cream
- a line of dialogue”Let me tell you a secret”
- a randomly assigned genre, we got Romance

 

We worked with Eze Asnaghi, so this is an official Bingo Pictures production! It was a very hectic 48 hours and I don’t think we’d ever have attempted a film like this without the strict brief, but we’re all really pleased with what we got. We even won an award; Best Ensemble Acting! Which is due to our great actors Gavin Lennon and Caroline Roussel-Barucco (Caroline hadn’t even met any of us until the day of the shoot, what a trooper). Lot’s more people to thank, but you’ll have to watch the film to see their names in the end credits ;-)

Our chum Tom Hostler was organising his mate’s stag do as a boat trip along the Thames and he asked us to put on a little surprise for the party. While they were all merrily floating along the river somewhere, me, Jas and Chris can-do Meachin built a surprise cinema and pub on the bank of the river down near Henley. When the boats arrived all was set, the playlist started with Rambo, Cannonball Run and American Werewolf in London, the pub tent (complete with antique pub sign and working optics from Tom) was flowing, and many fine steaks gave their lives gladly on the BBQ. A good (and astonishingly cold) time was had by all.