If I've been quiet these last few weeks and months, this is why. This is the is the latest, and last, in my series of Calvin & Hobbes kites, and it's taken me near on six months, on and off.
At times I felt my spirits flagging, thinking I'd taken on too complex a design on too small a kite. I had this design in mind from the very start, way back when I was building the kite featured in my first kite making film ( vimeo.com/6889604 ) but the complexity was daunting and I didn't feel able to tackle it back then. I'm glad I waited.
The inspiration for making this film was seeing Sean Stiegemeier's wonderful "Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull" film ( vimeo.com/11673745 ). I thought that some of his techniques would work beautifully for the kite making film I had planned. Being on a budget I had to build my own motorised dolly for the time lapse parts of the film. It worked reasonably well, although I've since improved it and will be heading out again soon with another film in mind.
The rig is a 2 metre alloy box section with channels on all four sides that are big enough for bearings to sit in. Around that sits a larger box section that houses the bearings and effectively clamps the outer box section to the inner one, whilst allowing the bearings to run freely up and down the alloy section. Attached to that is a cable that runs the length of the alloy section, through a pulley at one end, then around a very high torque/low rpm 12v motor: the torque is so high that it'll pull a 4 kg camera rig vertically, and hold it in position when it's not moving.
Whilst this movie isn't 100% time lapse, I do use it in various places from start to finish.
I learned a lot making those earlier Calvin & Hobbes kites; filming and writing about the process helped too - and so, back at the start of 2010 I started work on this one. Strictly speaking it's not a Calvin & Hobbes kite, as Hobbes doesn't appear, and Calvin's appearance is a brief daydream.
In typical Calvin fashion he's ignoring his teacher whilst sitting as his school desk; instead of the tedious business of learning he's off traveling the galaxy as his alter ego, Spaceman Spiff.
I've tried to tell a story with this kite. In much the same way as Bill Watterson used to in the original comic strip, this kite has a distinct narrative; the three sections following on from each other. Foil kites can't be seen in the round when flying. The back presents one side or the other, depending on the direction of flight, effectively separating imagery into two distinct halves; you never get to see both. Whereas the front foreshortens images into one complete whole.
So with this one, Calvin daydreams his way through the school day on the first half of the back, and takes to his flying saucer as Spaceman Spiff on the other. The front features the inevitable conclusion of his space-faring: being shot down by aliens (which usually coincides with a rude awakening by his teacher).
The making of this kite fell into to two phases; prompted by the popularity of my first kite making film. There was the process of making the kite itself, and that of documenting it. I decided very early on that I would make a special effort to improve on that first film.
I'd done the informative "this is how I do it" film, and written a very detailed blog of the process from start to finish. So this film takes a different tack. I doubt very much that you'll be any the wiser about the how exactly I go about making these kites after you've seen it. I hope instead you'll begin to understand how it makes me feel, making and flying my own kites, and knowing that each one is unique (that's code for "heavy on drama, light on information").
One of the other reasons this kite, and film, has taken much longer than I'd at first hoped, was that I switched from Final Cut Express to Pro, and invested Adobe After Effects, meaning that I faced an unpleasantly steep learning curve. It was worth it though. I finally feel like I know exactly how to get the result I want; rather than trying to cobble together the footage I happen to have shot that day, I now know what I want before the camera comes out of the bag. The downside? Well, I could always do with a better camera...
Please take a look at my new project:
I am now able to offer Arri Amira hire at significantly reduced rates for projects where I can accompany the camera and either assist or shadow an experienced Director of Photography. Please don't hesitate to contact if you have an interesting project for which you need equipment.