|Blur the Line is an acting and filmmaking workshop that punches way beyond its weight until lines between this and a real production are blurred. We help to gather talented people together in a friendly, experimental environment to learn from each other and to produce hopefully great quality film scenes.We use a plethora of some of the best cinematic equipment and try to film at locations that suit and raise production values. Then once filming is over, the clips are edited, sound designed and graded. It’s a thrill when you get to see it back. It’s then available for your showreel or for educational purposes etc. Plus credits are available. Email The workshops are free. There is a suggested donation of £5 to attend if you are an actor or director. All proceeds go to Alzheimer’s Society. Free for crew.3rd July 2016
|It’s amazing with such a small crew that last week we managed to
capture, I think, some cool shots and performances.This is a shout out for crew this Sunday. Director of photography, camera operators, camera asistants, gaffer, grip, set designer, runners
Free food and drinks provided during the workshops.
Interested in taking part for free? Email to receive script, storyboard, location details etc.
5th March 2016
No need for actors to imagine where they are, to be constructed later in CGI. In true Blur the Line fashion we were at the location that was great for the scene.
Could definitely feel the chill of a ghostly presence. Admiral how fast we moved through some quite complicated set-ups. Clever use of lights to enable coverage of the dungeon area. A great scene I’m sure.
7th February 2016
On set photo at Blur the Line, filming a scene of a man awoken from a coma. Mainly slow dollie shots on tracks for this one, combined with shots from a shoulder rig. Time was taken to shape the lights falling on to the scene.
An ungraded screenshot from The Offering, featuring The Fed. In this scene we learn that its these private bankers who own the US monetary system, and are more powerful than the President of the United States. But have they met their match when they take on a man of pure evil?
This scene from the workshop, has been edited and currently going through post production.
Nothing like a police raid to get the pulses racing. We like to the Blur the Line workshops to give big movies a run for their money. It’s amazing how much you learn when everything is as good as you can get. What’s behind the door? Find out when this scene is screened at the next Showcase Live.
20th October 2015
Adding some postproduction to a scene that was shot at Blur the Line. The story required the protogonist to be standing in front of the biggest gold horde in history. This shows some of the finer details added to a composited shot to help sell it to the audience.
The source composite. Subject looking at my own personal stash of course.
Then in Davince Resolve, a foreground alpha matte is added twice and then a key mixer. Blurred the background. [Open image in new window to see enlarged full res]
In the key mixer, the second alpha matte is inverted and then the final alpha output is inverted.
This gave me the blurry edge taken from the background, to layer over.
The result, the golden light from background appearing to strike around the edge of the subject.
From here further enhancements can be made to blur the background or the foreground more to help create depth of field. To really do this properly, a 3D package could be used to create a cylinder and flat surfaces to roughly replicate the background and then render to a depth map. This depth map can then be used in a camera lens depth of field plugin to create a more realistic effect.
Sunday 4th October 2015
We were very fortunate to combine the use of kino flo lights (middle) with the ECO Punch Plus (light on the right) giving it some great atmosphere. Also very glad to have a set designer kitting out a rather bland empty room with all things to make it look like a worked in office needed for the scene. A thoroughly fun workshop.
Tuesday 22nd September 2015
What is grading? Well, it’s something that requires time in the post-production to your film. With a camera such as the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, the images get recorded in something called log mode. Just means that the camera records the image in such a way that more information is recorded in the shadows and in the highlights, so the colours in the middle come out looking flat.
Like this, a clip from a scene shot from a Blur the Line workshop.
Applying a simple REC209 LUT to it, can think of this as an auto-correction to the colours, gets this. No where near what I’d like. This is actually pretty close to how we shot it on set; lots of red/orange gels over the lights.
So the hard work begins. First of all you need to get hold of some grading software. I use Davinci Resolve, a full featured industry grading package, used to cost ££££ but now there is a free version available. The scene is called “In the blue corner” (violent fight scene in a basement) and appropriately enough, using the software, I pushed all the background to blue. This wasn’t enough as the skin tones for the actor started to look like the aliens from Avatar, so I isolated the skin using a colour picker tool in Resolve and then pushed the colour towards orange giving everyone a nice orange tan. Quite often its not that simple and I had to draw boxes around the face and hands to help better isolate the regions affected by this. And being a fight scene these boxes had to track some fast movements per frame.
Anyway adding contrast and some other tweaks, you end up something closer to the tone and feel of the scene.
So that was the process called “grading” log footage, to put colour back into a flat looking image from the camera and to give it a look that suited the mood of the scene.
Monday 17th August 2015
The next scene from The Offering, is definitely one of my favourites if not the favourite. Based partly from a true story, the movie is a mockumentary after all. I told the story of the whole sequence to someone and they were shocked and tears welled-up. Yes, pay too much attention and it will make you cry!
Here’s the first page from the storyboard.
In essence, the upcoming scene will tell the story of why Silvia, the reporter character, is so driven and motivated, despite all the dangers. But it also makes a poignant statement about our world at large.
Thursday 30th July 2015
We screened an edited version of the scene “In the blue corner” from The Offering at my new event Showcase Live. Really fun event, at least eighty people turned up.
In this scene a group of protesters are locked into a room with some finance guys who screwed them over. A mysterious announcer tells them they have to battle to the death.
Saturday 27th June 2015
Tuesday 31st May 2015
Here are some early visual effects tests added in post to the workshop footage.
This shot required a fire explosion starting from the back of a lecture hall, blowing forwards to engulf reporters. To achieve this, I rotoscoped (cut out each frame) all of the characters sitting down behind benches, then I could make each reporter become engulfed by the flames one by one.
In this shot (not colour corrected), I wanted for it to appear that the character was burning alive. So After Effects is used to track the shoulder/arm and chest movements to attach the flames to. So as the actor moves, the fire and embers moved with his movements.
Tuesday 12th May 2015
For this Blur the Line scene, we had some cool SFX make-up and we played around with the lighting. Using coloured gels and patterned gels through a diffused glass to make it seem that this character was emanating some sort of otherworldy power.
Monday 11th May 2015
It’s been a privilege, in my biased opinion, to be involved in such a cool, innovative project and working with so many cool people along the way.
Thursday 26th March, 2015
This was great experience, working with a fight choreographer, actors that all had stage combat training to workshop a very entertaining scene. In this scene five characters have an almighty scrap. To get there though required two days of rehearsal so that the moves became ingrained.
On set we used the gimbal DJI Ronin mounted with a Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Everything was wireless, including the follow focus and SDI, so the operator could move freely and follow the fight action, and the focus puller and remote operator could see on an external monitor set up on the other side of the room.
Saturday 28th February, 2015
A really fun workshop this one. With all the new equipment, took a little while to get going. Once we did, the actors looked like they were having a blast. The script really helped to ensure all the characters were distinct from each other. We used the X-RITE colorchecker to help the grading process. We did have some SFX make-up and the twist and turns in the scene led up to this surprising ending.
Wednesday 18th February, 2015
We’ve upgraded our kit for Blur the Line and have gone wireless! Introducing wireless SDI monitoring…
The photo above was taken on set for our workshop from yesterday evening. Attached below the monitor s is a Cam-Wave IDX CW-3. This is a budget entry system for wireless SDI, and worked fine in an environment yesterday with a lot of possible wifi interference. But we didn’t get a chance to test its range. The whole set-up appears to have a two frame delay, from hearing the words on set to seeing the actors speaking the dialogue through the field monitor. The field monitor is made by Flanders, and can load LUTs and focus peaking. It comes with built in LUTs, very handy as the Blackmagic Cinema Camera can only output film mode (unsaturated log) through SDI when recording in that mode.
We’ve gone wireless with focus pulling too! I was lucky enough to help fund a kickstarter campaign by Motion Dogs. Got one of the first of their finished models. This one being a ‘Lenzhound cine gears wireless follow focus system.’ Really affordable compared to what you would usually expect, at least a quarter of the price.
The Lenzhound I found to be quite responsive and quick. The lens on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera in the photo above is a Nikon 70-200mm zoom, so quite a big stills lens. The Lenzhound worked admirably. It is set by default out of the box on maximum power setting which can be quite noisy, but setting the dip switches to the medium power setting, the noise levels were perfectly acceptable. Calibration is very easy to do too using the remote. Plus you can easily set up to four focus settings for pull-focus on the remote, though it would have been nice for a quick way to make fine adjustments once these have been set. Didn’t really test battery life but it did last the half day shoot. Nor wireless range, just too busy shooting. Verdit, will be using the Lenzhound wireless follow focus system for all my shoots so I hope it lasts.
Tuesday 9th December: From storyboard to film set
Proving why Blur the Line is one of the most innovative of workshops and why storyboards are a great idea. It easily communicated the tone of the scene that drove us to find a location to match; a hotel along the docklands riverside with that beautiful view. We had a full crew, including stylist and make-up artist. There were plenty of beautiful shots inside the hotel suite too. You just know it will turnout great when you have everything covered.
Want to take part in Blur the Line? Send an email to the workshop address above.
Wednesday 29th October, as always, if we are going to do a medical scene for a Blur the Line workshop, we’re going to set up the film set so it looks just like that. As can be seen in the scene we shot below
It’s of course a lot more real for the actors and the final footage when edited and graded looks totally usable for whatever. It was great fun again.
Saturday 18th October, workshop was for a whole day. Well done to everyone, who did go the extra mile.
In this scene, the character is sleeping rough out on the street, and rudely awoken by a loud booming sound. Then the scene ventures into strange, dystopian territory. Shot this with the help of a DJI Ronin, a 3-axis gimbal stabiliser, following the character rising to her feet and wondering out.
As in true Blur the Line style, we went on location to shoot and the make-up job did a lovely job to make the actress look like they’d been sleeping rough.
The 28th August, the use of steadicam
to follow a character in a scene, walking, suspicious yet happy, but sadly to her death. Here is a previz of end of the scene.
The 19th August, always intriguing to work and develop a new character, especially one that isn’t human.
I’ll leave you to judge what she is. Green screen is not always the answer when some visual effects are needed, in this case rotoscoping can be a great technique to use. We had the camera on a jib and shot quite a few gliding shots. To help track the camera movement, tracking markers were placed liberally which have to be removed in post.
On the 30th July, it was time for some special effects. This scene required a baby so we got a realistic looking reborn baby, and attached a balloon and pump and voila, the baby’s alive!
On the 2nd July, we are filming a scene (see part of the storyboard below) that involves virtual camera tacking. In this scene, the heroine meets a computerised holographic librarian, that can seemingly materialise graphics in thin air. If you have experience or learning motion graphics and wish to help applying some to this scene, then do get in contact.
More details of any VFX that takes your fancy here.
We got used to working fast, thinking fast, an excellent way to improve on set skills fast. We also shot on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera MFT in RAW2.5K (uncompressed). This records to SSD. The footage does take up a lot of storage but for backup, a good size hard drive is getting cheaper.
To cap it all off, we went somewhere local afterwards, and ate and drank to full.
“Blur the Line” on 15th April was certainly a busy evening. With three scenes being workshopped all at the same time. The first of which was an american sitcom style romantic comedy. This was rehearsed with the actors and with a director and writer on set, before being shot on Panasonic HVX200 camera in DVCProHD.
The second a scene involving a heated debate between the UK Prime Minister and a representation from an international bank. We shot test shots on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera in RAW that involved dopplegangers, green screen and motion tracking of markers for matching the dolly shots. These workshops are great because we are free to experiment and push the boundary.
The third involved an improv session where the actors, writer/director started worked together towards a finished scene.
“Blur the Line” on 19th March was just great. We took over a venue that gave us a taste of a big budget shoot with its cavernous space and computerised lighting.
Filled the place up with haze and let the acting and light effects rip. We didn’t have much time but we all pulled together to get as much done as possible with some beautiful shots. The scene itself was grandiose in scope. A great fun day.
“Blur the Line” on the 19th February was another fabulous opportunity to film. We were outside this time, and it didn’t rain.
Operating entirely on batteries and throwing in some smoke pellets for atmosphere, we were able to get some really cool images. Whilst back inside at our usual workshop venue, there was another group workshopping a scene excerpt from a future feature project. What a great evening!
The next “Blur the Line” is on the evening on the 19th Feburary 2014. Email to reserve your place.
On the 11th February, cast and crew had a great time. Shooting in Central London does have its transport problems. Once we got started, there was no stopping us. Teamwork can truly produce more than the sum of each individual parts. There was tremendous care and attention to detail in the acting and the cinematography.
The next “Blur the Line” is on the evening on the 11th Feburary 2014. We’ll be workshopping a scene from “The Offering” – a horror thriller story. Below is the scene storyboard:
For the rest of the storyboard…
If anyone is up for a challenge, read on…
This Wednesday 27th at 7pm (Central London) we are holding a “Blur the Line” workshop with a difference. We did try in a previous workshop to shoot a scene that required a character to cast a spell whilst chanting on top of a rooftop of a sky scraper overlooking the City of London skyline. Unfortunately getting such a prime location seems beyond the means of a workshop. But I never say never. So instead a solution is to shoot the scene in green screen.
Below are some rough 3D modelling rendered out from Octane Render that I did. There is texture warping here, will be fixed later. Once I’ve added some weathering in textures too, then it will also start to look more real. This environment can move in 360 degrees which is what we need.
So the idea is to use markers placed on a green screen and then track them to get the camera movement that allows the 3D model and background to match the camera movement, and hence the actor.
The actor (playing The Prince of Demons) will be standing on the gravel to the right of the silos. The actual scene to shoot is a minute long approx.
Click on an image to see larger
Here is a link to placing markers on green screen www.hollywoodcamerawork.us/greenscreenplates.htmlSo many films nowadays use match moving to do certain shots, so I think this workshop will be a very useful experience.This Wednesday evening, we also have a wind machine and the actor will be wearing a long coat (ala the Matrix) to help get that windy demon spirit effect. And in post, lightning and storm visual effects will be added.So if anyone would like to help, currently there is no crew yet (I guess ’cause I haven’t asked anyone). There are positions for DP, cameraman, lighting, sound. If you know a bit about VFX on set then certainly come down. We will be using a Blackmagic Cinema Camera, dollies and tracks, 5x studio lights and loads more for this one. Also if you want to just watch (especially if you can help do some runner things on set) then email also.To reserve a place, please email For further info on what “Blur the Line” workshops are about, continue reading
“Blur the Line” (an acting/directing workshop for cinema) focuses on read throughs and rehearsals, allowing actors and directors to get deep into evolving the characters before shooting.
If you are a writer and want to try out a scene then email below. We will also be practising with produced scripts. If you are an actor/actress or wish to direct then get in contact too. If you are crew then come down and play with our toys, or bring your own. Spaces are limited so email giving your name and what you want to do, to reserve a place as soon as possible.
This is a free event, note that donations are expected with all proceeds going to charity (Prostate Cancer UK). A great way to top up your contribution for a good cause too.
Email to get on the mailing list, to find out when the next “Blur the Line” workshops are so you can book your place.
Want to know what typically happens? Read the summaries of some of the workshops below…
On the 7th November,
The Halloween spirit lived on for another week, as we workshopped a scene from a horror thriller script. As with Blur the Line, we went one step further with costume and props. The scene was experimental but the actors gave 100% and it all turned out fantastic.
On the 10th September,
We filmed some green screen shots as part of a scene from an original script involving a road accident, and the aftermath using make-up fx for cuts and bruises.
We also filmed a scene from a produced script, a scene on a stairs. Required quite subtle acting.
On the 5th September,
we filmed an intense scene in a meeting room, a story between two powerful people at the top of their game at odds with each other.
Needless to say, the negotiations didn’t go well. Again we used an actual business meeting room and real props whenever possible.
On the 29th August, we had some great fun filming. And we moved up a few notches in practising shooting cinematic scenes by moving the workshop outdoors. You could say that we are blurring the line between shooting a workshop and a film production, a great way to strive to be better faster.
The shoot involved a crowd scene, shooting in a car and at night. We used a couple of cameras; the BMCC as the main cam and a Canon 5D Mark II to capture a live blog feel. Portable lights ensured that the images we captured were clear of noise and sharp with plenty of colour information for the grading.
A quick summary of what we did at the workshop on the 21st August. We workshopped and shot a scene from The Offering (a horror, thriller, drama feature) using the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. The scene called for a cafeteria, so we got a cafeteria to shoot in. We used dolly and tracks to instantly raise production values and studio lights with softboxes; so the light was gentle on the actors and of course lovely for filmic flesh tones.
The scenes are sometimes edited and graded in DaVinci Resolve (a software packaged used by professional colourists for feature films). Grading is an important step in the process of learning how to produce cinema quality footage.