An Opportunity to Rock Out

An Opportunity to Rock Out

Over the last few months I have been lucky enough to work on a production of the Queen musical, We Will Rock You at Clevedon School.

Because I’ve been helping with an increasing amount of video work since the first COVID lockdown, the Drama department came to me to ask if I could work on some graphics for the “big screens” they had planned to echo the West End version of the show.

Of course I said yes as it sounded like a fun opportunity… and that was before I realised how big “big” actually meant. Almost floor-to-ceiling; about 16 feet tall!

After chatting with FineLine Lighting, the company supplying the gear, I knew the layout and resolution of the screens and that I could feed them all from a single video file, which made things a lot easier!

My initial thought was that I’d need to create something pretty high resolution for such a big output, but it turns out the screens are actually quite low res, in the same way billboards are printed at much lower DPI than a standard photo.

After reading the script, I knew three types of video were needed:

  1. Static backdrops to compliment the physical set pieces
  2. Animations to back the musical numbers
  3. A couple of “video calls” where characters on stage interact with recordings playing back on the screens.

They all started the same way in Premier Pro, with a sequence created at 960 x 756 – the resolution off all 4 screen at their tallest and widest points. I used this image at the starting point for each, not just to quickly set the sequence size by simply dragging it straight to the timeline but to act as a layout guide by making it the top video layer at a low opacity. By creating guides in Premier to mark out each screen I could easy have different images on each screen by cropping or masking to those guides.

When it came to gathering assets, StoryBlocks was my go-to. I created a folder in my account for each scene in the production and added all relevant content to match the desired feel. For instance, I chose a literal approach for “Radio Ga Ga,” the opening number, with plenty of knobs, dials, and headphones.

Pre-production was only part of the equation. We ran the show for 7 performances using Resolume, a program I hadn’t used before. It was powerful, though I only used it to manage a playlist of videos. I couldn’t figure out how to crossfade between clips, so I used my Black Magic ATEM Mini Pro to fade to black when transitioning to the next clip.

During each performance, I found something else that could be improved. Sometimes it was adding sound effects to the main timeline, or re-exporting videos with cross-fades built in. But the biggest changes were related to timing.

I designed all the motion graphics to fit the backing tracks, but I knew the songs would be played live on the night, so I left some slack in case the band played slower. However, there were a couple of songs with a definite end point that needed to land every time. A good example is “One Vision”, which ends with the words “Fried Chicken”. To ensure this moment was not missed, I broke out that section of the video into its own piece. This way, I could skip to the “Fried Chicken” moment in Resolume, regardless of the tempo the band was playing.

Perhaps the most nerve wracking part of the whole performance was the Bohemian Rhapsody karaoke at the end. Again, with a live band, there was no way to pre-produce anything, but after a few rehearsals I dialled it in. I broke the song in to 25 separate videos and with the aid of a heavily marked up script I was able to keep the production values up and even include the iconic head banging scene from Waynes World.

Being part of such a big production, with so many talented students and staff was an absolute privilege and plans for next years show (with even bigger screens) are already underway. 

A Little Halloween Fun

A Little Halloween Fun

When your logo is a skull, you’re kind of obligated to make a bit of a fuss when Halloween rolls around.

This year at Airjacker, we decided to subtly improve a few classic horror movies. To maximise engagement, these went out as Instagram stories and Facebook posts asking followers to name the film – we had some great deliberately wrong guesses that spawned some extra content.

I took just the skull part of the logo and used a face animation app on my iPhone to lip sync along with lines from various films. I went for MugLife because the simpler apps are looking for a more traditional face to animate – MugLife lets you fine tune all the motion tracking points.

You feel like a fool when lip syncing to your phone but once done all that’s left is to edit your Oscar-winning performance in to the original footage.

I couldn’t get a file out of MugLife with a transparent background so I had to employ Premier Pro’s UltraKey effect to take out the back background from the skull animation.

Drag Ultra Key from the Effects panel onto your clip, then use the eye dropper tool the click the colour you want to key out.

And finally, it’s just a little keyframe animation to move the skull around a bit, mainly increasing the scale to make it appear to be coming towards the camera to highlight certain parts of the script.

A quick, easy and fun way to make some engaging content – even if you don’t like being in front of the camera!

Japfest 2015

Japfest 2015

Japfest is always one of my favourite meets of the year. It’s been going for over 10 years now, always has a fantastic turn out and it helps that its at my local circuit. Here are a few photos of the on track action and some of the gems hidden away on the club stands.



























Ooohh… Aahh!

Ooohh… Aahh!

Clifton Suspension Bridge turns 150

This month the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol saw its 150th Birthday. What better way to celebrate than trying to blow it up with a truck load of fireworks!?

Getting anywhere near the bridge was going to be impossible on the night because of the crowds and the obvious explodey things! Google Maps and a drive by the night before made the Bedminster Cricket Club ground, The Clanage) and a 70-200mm lens seem a good option.

Clifton Suspension Bridge #fireworks150

Clifton Suspension Bridge #fireworks150

The Setup

Not the clearest of photos but you can just make out the camera is locked down on a tripod as I was taking long exposure shots here to catch the trails of the fireworks. I was a long way out almost a mile according to Google Maps) but it was a clear night and with nobody around to nudge the tripod, I got some good sharp shots.