Sblash o Olau (or ‘In a New Light’) screening

Back in July I did some stop-motion animation workshops with groups of young people at Ysgol Tryfan in Bangor and Galeri in Caernarfon for Sblash o Olau, a project culminating in an evening of moving 3D animation and shorts projected onto a 10 metre high wall of water on Victoria Dock, presented by Theatr Brycheiniog, Galeri and Fallon Films; check out the video of last year’s event below. Unfortunately I am unable to attend, but the screening is tonight at 6pm so if you’re in the area (or can get there in time) you should definitely check it out, admission is free!

Sblash o Olau animations from Emma Puente on Vimeo.


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20×20 Vision

Back in September I was one of the presenters at Birmingham Pecha Kucha‘s 10th event, a special edition of Dome Club at Thinktank (edit 16/11/2013 – Dome Club is now based at the Custard Factory). If you are unfamiliar with Pecha Kucha – Japanese for ‘chit-chat’ – it is a simple presentation format consisting of 20 images, each appearing for 20 seconds; the images advance automatically and you talk along to them. This method of presentation was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public (presumably to cut down time and unnecessary waffling)

As I had recently started to explore fisheye photography, when I was invited to take part it gave me an opportunity to really explore what scenes and subjects work best with the medium and also to try out some more animated sequences (I had shown a short fisheye animation of clouds moving over my parents’ garden at a previous Dome Club event). However what I didn’t have was a theme for my presentation, and I had been just about to go on a trip to the US… initially I was wracking my brains over what to photograph (landscapes? Food? Americana?), then one morning my other half pointed out some rather impressive cobwebs on the lawn in front of his mother’s house that were large, dense and illuminated by the dawn light and heavy dew (jet lag meant that we were up before the sun during much of the first week) and this got me started; I took a series of images focusing on different strands of the web and made them into an animation. From there I began to take photographs of whatever caught my eye (or occasionally the eye of my partner and his friend David, who deserve the credit for some of the subject ideas for images taken in the US) and I decided that the experimental nature of my image-hunting quest could be a theme in itself rather than anything more specific, dubbing the collection ‘Life Through a Fisheye Lens’.

Limbrick Wood, Coventry

Limbrick Wood, Coventry

I still needed a few images once I got back home, so I went on a mad dash around Coventry city centre days before the event, snapping some of the more aesthetically interesting buildings in the area, mainly the cathedral and the transport museum.

On the evening itself, thanks to a couple of relaxing pints with one of the other participants beforehand and several practice runs (pro tip: never attempt a Pecha Kucha without first making notes on what you plan to say, and timing yourself saying it) my presentation seemed to go well and I managed to (more or less) keep up with the image changes – I was really pleased with how my photographs looked on the dome and would definitely be interested in taking part again.

As some have asked me if the presentations were recorded/available to view online, I will look into it – they weren’t when I last checked, but at some point I’ll probably upload the rest of my content and the descriptions of the images so watch this space…

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PRO-crastination (not to be confused with procrastination)

PRO-crastination: Putting off some projects to work on others less urgent, but no less worthwhile. Hey, it’s still being productive!

On a day when I was home sick late last year I decided not to give into the temptation of lying around like a box all day, but to do something productive. As well as responding to a brief my friend Arron gave me with my first attempt at  flash fiction, I also shot a little animation on my desk which then proceeded to sit around on my hard drive for several months waiting for a soundtrack… then when perusing Jamendo today I found the perfect piece by artist Mark van den Borre. After much tweaking and fiddling and putting off the things I should really have been doing, it is done. Voila!

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ShropFilm48 cinema screening

Our short film Unfinished Business will be showing along with the other entries (all killer, no filler) into last month’s ShropFilm48 48-hour film challenge at the Old Market Hall cinema, Shrewsbury on Sunday 30th June, 2.30-3.15pm, you can just turn up or book tickets here.

What’s that you say? You’ve seen our movie and the other entries online already? Well that’s cool, but you haven’t really seen them until you experience them on a big screen in a 400-year old building with comfy seats and an excellent range of cakes and beverages have you? 🙂

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ShropFilm48 (or 24, for those who like to live on the edge)

This weekend I took part in Shropshire's first ever 48 hour film challenge, organised by the good folks at Shropshire Media Network & Appletree Theatre and Film Company. I heard about it from my good buddies Richard Foot and Arron Fowler and we decided we were long overdue to do some work together so entered as a team (imaginatively titled ‘R&A&E’ – hey, they never warned us we needed a team name!)

*NOTE* – if you’re just here to see the film, I’m going to be rambling on for a while here… scroll down to the bottom of this post to get the goods!

Anyway, back to ‘the making of’… On Friday night Richard and Arron headed down to the Ludlow Brewing Company visitor centre to collect the brief, which gave us a line of dialogue and a prop that had to be used in the film; the film could also be no more than 5 minutes long. Our line of dialogue was ‘could you please confirm your exact time of departure?’ and our prop was a map. We weren’t particularly inspired by either of these, envisaging Sunday’s screening to be an evening of films set in train stations and tube stops (although happily all the teams proved more imaginative than that), and Arron suggested that we try and subvert this rather vapid criteria. The first 24 hours involved meeting up at the Creative Studio in Shrewsbury (The base of operations for Richard and his textile whiz sister, Helen Foot – one of her scarves is featured in the film!) to bandy around ideas, followed by a rather indulgent trip back to my home in Coventry so that I could get the outfit I needed for my part (when it turned out my somewhat rusty acting skills were going to be needed), and we ended up having a lovely lunch that my other half Michael kindly put on for us. Hey there are 48 hours right? Plenty of time!

We had the beginnings of an idea when I mused upon the possibility of using the most final meaning of the word departure, liking the thought of portraying something mysterious and climactic that humanity has speculated over for millennia as just another banal, bureaucratic process… and asking whether the word ‘map’ meant anything in any other language. After Richard went to work on Google Translate we found that in Dutch, map meant ‘folder’ or ‘directory’. So there was that. After everyone tossed in some more thoughts and we nailed down our idea, I whipped up a script, Arron collected the props, Richard picked up his suit, and we were good to go.

After some discussion on where best to shoot – given the bonus of having a beautiful sunny day and long summer daylight hours to play with – we decided to keep it close and go for Lyth Hill, a beauty spot which we are fortunate to have just a few miles from the town and easy enough to get back to should we need to reshoot anything. At this point it was 6pm, so the entirety of our shooting and editing ended up taking place in the last 24 hours (or 23, since we needed an hour to get back to Ludlow for the screening). We laugh in the face of impending deadlines!

We had a hoot shooting the footage, since it turned out that Richard has an unexpectedly impressive repertoire of facial expressions; had he been born in another time, I’m sure he would have been a star of the silent comedy era. In a dramatic race against fading light and bitey insects, we managed to get all of our footage shot before the day was out, concluding with the last scene at Richard’s house (in which we spent a ridiculous amount of time and effort getting the perfect overhead shot of a microwave lasagne, but I think you’ll agree it was worth it). We got back to the studio, backed up the footage, and crawled home for some sleep; or in my case, crawled back to my parents house for a post-midnight dinner and a couple of hours of laughing at animals-doing-silly-things videos online with my mum instead of sensibly going straight to bed – happens to us all, right?

Sunday: by the time I had dragged myself into the studio Arron reported that the footage was all fine and no reshoots were needed – hurrah! Then we spent the day editing, with a bit of time devoted to mulling over fonts (so many pretty ones out there for free, you can spend hours…) We had a stroke of luck with the soundtrack, which could have potentially been very time-consuming if we’d had to compose something ourselves or enlist someone else to do it. Our friend Duncan Knowles gave Arron a couple of guitar instrumentals he had lying around that he thought might work, and brilliantly they were a perfect fit for the film. I’m not sure if Duncan has a website (if so I’ll post the link here later), but if anyone likes what they hear and want to know more I’m happy to put people in touch.

After a few issues with exporting we just about managed to rattle the film off in time (giving us the first hints of stress in what had been a remarkably stress-free weekend, in spite of the lack of sleep for all concerned), and pegged it down the A49 to Ludlow (experiencing the usual slow driver and sheep-in-road hold ups). Thankfully we all made it for the 6pm screening, and I was pleasantly surprised that all the films were really good and that the teams had all gone for very different takes on the brief – there wasn’t one of them I didn’t enjoy and I highly recommend checking them out.

So without further ado, here’s the film we busted our asses over – enjoy!

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Discovering Medieval Chester

Earlier this year I went down to Kings College London to produce some audio recordings for ‘Discover Medieval Chester: Place, Heritage and Identity’, a project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council under their Knowledge Transfer Fellowship Scheme celebrating Chester’s rich heritage and colourful history.

The scripts for the recordings were a collection of passages containing stories and information about different locations around the city, medieval poems and quotations, and profiles of local characters from that period. Members and collaborators of the project team recorded their sections over a couple of days which I then processed and sent across to the team to use as part of the tour materials on the project website.

If you visit the Discover Medieval Chester site you will be able to listen to the recordings in various places; for example, if you select ‘maps and tours’, explore the map and click on a red flag, you can select ‘learn more’ and you’ll see the option to access the audio and video content. There is also audio content in the ‘kids’ section of the website, as well as for each character page (‘learn more’ > ‘characters’).

It was a fun and efficient project, everyone involved was professional and delightful to work with and I even got to expand my knowledge of one of our fairest cities 🙂

Discover Medieval Chester map

Discover Medieval Chester map

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A mini-update…

It’s been a while since I checked in here, so just so you don’t think I’ve been hibernating…

I recently produced a set of audio recordings for Discover Medieval Chester, a project aiming to draw together “material, textual and visual culture and forging connections between the medieval past and the modern urban environment”. I recorded several speakers reading out historical information and anecdotes about various places of interest in Chester and these recordings will form part of the “city tour” feature on the website, which I will post the link to when it’s up and running. I now know more about Chester than I ever thought I would!

My next project will be an animated music video for a gent I know affectionately as ‘Hulkton’ (Benjamin Holton of My Autumn Empire and epic45 to you). I will be using drawn animation, new territory for me but I felt that the song demanded it… video coming soon(ish)

In the meantime, here’s a slice of My Autumn Empire for your listening pleasure:

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Deconstructed Metaverse v1.0 promo video

This is the latest promotional video I put together for Michael, for a rather lovely piece called Deconstructed Metaverse v.1.0 that he created with Drew Baker and Erik Fleming. Michael and I both took photographs of the work in situ at the Nottingham Playhouse, but the video is all my own (only I would torture myself trying to get those tilt shots)

Deconstructed Metaverse v1.0 is a virtual/physical artwork examining the underlying technological frameworks that comprise today’s shared virtual environments. This work is a 2012 commission by The Cutting Room project in partnership with Nottingham Playhouse with funds from National Lottery through Arts Council England and generous support from the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London and Type Creative, PLC.

To find out more about this artwork please visit this page on Michael’s website: Deconstructed Metaverse v1.0

More information about The Cutting Room and the exhibition in which this work was featured here

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No job too small…

I’m currently in Slovenia with my partner, who is slaving away as we speak installing his artwork in the Kibla gallery, Maribor (this year’s European Capital of Culture). As ever, I’ve come along because I always enjoy visiting a new place, meeting new people and having an opportunity to wear a nice dress/quaff free wine at an exhibition opening, but of course I am also naturally obligated to make myself useful by passing the duct tape, unpacking boxes and fetching the coffee as required.

Michael’s artwork is called ‘Visions of our Communal Dreams’, ‘a virtual/physical art installation exploring issues of hybridity, embodiment and collective creativity in the Avatar Age’, created in collaboration with Drew Baker, Erik Fleming and David Steele (more info here), and although the coding, 3D modelling etc involved in this opus is something I can be of little help with, I have been helping out here and there with various activities this week other than passing tools to people up ladders! The exhibition is being accompanied by three days of workshops run by Drew and Michael where local students are being given the opportunity and training to create their own avatars and 3D objects to add to the virtual space, so I am documenting these sessions so that Kibla has some video footage and photographs of them for their archives.

Also, I’ve just finished this teeny weeny graphics job:

VOOCD keypad vectors

These icons are for the buttons on the computer keypads that generate the items pictured in the virtual world – press the flower button, and flowers will appear (if only things were that easy in real life!)

VOOCD keypad

Icons for the keypad buttons which generated 3D birds, butterflies and flowers in the virtual world

Born Button Pusher

Born button pusher – Photo taken by Michael Takeo Magruder at Kibla, Maribor, Slovenia 2012

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Red Kite Flights

My partner and I recently got back from three weeks in the US visiting friends and family (I also did a bit of filming while I was out there, more on that soon), but my last project before we went was setting up a WordPress site for Red Kite Flights, a bespoke hot air ballooning service offering flights in a 4-person balloon (the titular Red Kite) piloted by our friend Peter.

Although WordPress has excellent support and tutorials for the novice user, the world of website creation can be a bit bamboozling for the non-technical amongst us and as he is a busy man and knew that I had a WordPress site myself, Peter asked if I would create a simple, easily navigable site to promote Red Kite Flights with a clean yet attractive design which would not visually bombard the viewer, but make the relevant information easily accessible.

Red Kite Flights is a trading name of The Ballooning Business Limited which has a range of balloons, many of which can carry much larger groups – the site promoting Red Kite specifically was to be a significant stylistic departure from the Ballooning Business’ site, and we decided that it shouldn’t need more than a maximum of four pages to provide all of the required information, and that the aesthetics should be simple yet modern; as you can see from the links above we went for a very different style to the original site!

A nice straightforward project, my favourite kind 🙂

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