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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Field

Why / How I Put a Dinosaur in the Thames

I've worked with former students at the Central Saint Martins art school before and, to be honest with you, I've often found the process 'challenging'. I'm not an artist, yes there's an art to fillmmaking but it's not the same thing at all!

Generally the differences are in the use of language and terminology or getting the artist to commit to a style or an idea well enough in advance to do enough pre-production to be able to execute the concept, it's historically been a feeling of nailing jelly to a wall.

Dennis Da Silva is a former student at Central Saint Martins who I worked with before while making his commercial with Beth Tweddle for The Dairy Council. He approached me earlier this year to work on 3 part video installation for art fayre with him as Co-Producer and VFX co-ordinator.

He's a good egg and talented artist and DJ, I trust the relationship I have with him and always feel that he appreciates honesty, this was paramount to my decision to me agreeing to move ahead with the project. There's no nailing jelly here...

The premise was to create a film that looked at the history of the Thames and simultaneously the impact mankind has had on the surrounding environment. The Thames would be it's own character, represented by a seahorse named Sammy and through him we would witness man's ever changing environment and growing impact. #Plastic We had to get a trailer for this installation out to the organisers within 14 days. #EasyRight

Dennis was very motivated by certain aesthetics, he gave me a great deal of inspirational videos that impacted his vision for the piece.

Some, like the one on the right, were dismissed and some like the below were heavily utilised.

Shots Dennis wanted included a severed head floating past the camera underwater, roman coins & bullets dropping to the river bed, and a lamprey eel swallowing the camera. He also wanted a holographic seahorse in a tree

The budget for this was low, we contemplated using projectors and holographic projection equipment (like I'd used before [LEFT - but not my animation]) to create some effects but in the end we decided to shoot as much in camera as possible and then superimpose everything in post.

First step was to break the shotlist down from Dennis' script so that the D.O.P (Ash Connaughton) could get a feel for the workload and we could estimate timelines for filming days. All the underwater shots were to be filming in a green screen studio shooting through a large glass tank with a Panasonic GH5 at 4k 50fps and then matched to the shots we already had available of the Thames river bed in order for them to be composited together in post.

Not the greatest working shotlist but I was short on time

The aim was to shoot over two days. Day 1 was a night shoot by the Albert Bridge and Day 2 was at Camberwell Studios

Unfortunately we couldn't get Camberwell Studios on Day 2 so we had to shoot it all in one day.

9 hours of actual filming, which starts at 1pm breaks at 5pm, waits for sunset and begins again.

Estimated wrap time 02.45am (and then drive home.) That's 13 hours in total without accounting for driving to and from London.

The day went well, with a couple of minor hiccoughs (like the fact the severed head wouldn't sink in the water and the bullets we had ordered were a *little* smaller than we anticipated...

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It was then time to get into the edit.

Dennis gave me his initial picture edit via an EDL file using #Premiere, which is my editing software of choice as it allows me to work in After Effects pretty seamlessly, not perfectly but nearly, and then it was my turn.

Dennis gave me run down of what he was looking to acheive, which was exceptionally useful (remember how this process is normally like 'Nailing Jelly to a Wall') and then he trusted me to realise 'his vision', which wasn't a phrase he used but it's essentially right.

So here's a gallery of what I laid out as a starting point.

The edit progressed quickly into After Effects where much of the detail was created.

This process took around 3 days to complete and worked with Dennis' updated sound file.

The finished video can be found below. If you'd be interested in working with me then do drop me a message using the chat options (they link straight to my phone)

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