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DIY directing makes budding film-makers of us all


A new ‘how to’ guide lifts the lid on filmmaking, offering tips and tricks for creating a blockbuster on a budget.

Cinehack’ – which, among other things, shows you how to get the perfect moving shot using a piece of guttering and a roll of gaffer tape – is the creation of PhD students Tom Bartindale, David Green and Guy Schofield.

All experts in digital interaction, the trio show how even the most amateur director can reproduce some of the more technical and complex aspects of filmmaking – and at a fraction of the price.

“This is about filmmaking for the digital age,” explains Guy.  “The traditional big-budget model is taking a back-seat and a new generation of films are emerging which use improvised locations and smaller crews and passers-by as extras.

“Access to camera equipment and online software means we can all have a go at being Steven Spielberg if we want to but what’s missing for many people are the skills and understanding to put together a film that’s of a certain quality.  Cinehack fills that gap.”

As well as moving shots, the website shows the budding filmmaker how to get steady aerial shots using a remote-controlled helicopter and “10 things you can’t do without”.

Cinehack is just one aspect of the team’s work which is focussed around user-generated content and the future of digital broadcasting.

David Green, a filmmaker with ten years experience of documentary filmmaking, is working with community groups including red squirrel conservationists from the North of England and a London-based, co-operative opera production company, Co-Opera Co. to research community-driven production methods.

“This is an example of where the Cinehack tools and techniques are being used to equip members of these communities with the tools needed to make documentary films about their own stories,” he says.

“Participatory production methods are already gaining momentum, with successful films such as Life in a Day and The Man with a Movie Camera remake using user-generated content within a professionally-designed structure. What we are interested in doing is enabling users to produce materials which can be used to generate stories outside of this existing structure.

“This presents several challenges, such as finding ways to support collaboration across different roles, and supporting the more advanced visual and narrative techniques that can make professional documentary films so compelling to watch.”

While Cinehack focuses primarily on filmmaking, Tom says the basic principles are the same across all broadcast media and the ultimate goal is to raise the quality of contributed video.

“The shift towards user-generated content is already happening,” he explains.  “During the floods in Newcastle last year, much of the live footage broadcast during the storm was recorded by members of the public posting pictures and videos on Facebook and Twitter.

“One of the aims of our work is to look at how we can drive up the quality of submitted material so that it can be more widely used.”

As well as looking at how the public might have a role in creating the media of the future, the Newcastle team are also looking at the final outcomes and audience experience.

“The aim is to explore how audiences could engage with new types of content in the future and how we can better make it available to them,” explains Tom.

“We are already working on a project where the viewer decides their own ending to the programme – a bit like the adventure books where you turn to a different page depending on your answer.”

Coinciding with an announcement today of a new research partnership involving Newcastle University’s Culture Lab and the BBC, the aim is to use research to drive the development of broadcast and online media and, ultimately, change what we watch and how we watch it.

The BBC User Experience Research Partnership is a long-term collaboration project between BBC Research and Development (BBC R&D) and leading universities in the fields of User Experience and Human Computer Interaction research.

Through large scale pilots and prototypes, the partnership will explore the potential of new forms of content and interaction in a multi-platform world, alongside new ways of producing media that will help make content more accessible to all audiences. The research outcomes will be shared with the industry to encourage wider audience-focused innovation, help define open standards and support the creative industries in producing engaging content in the future.

Professor Patrick Olivier, Newcastle lead on the new BBC Research and Development collaboration, added: “This is about stimulating innovation that benefits the wider industry.

“This partnership is a genuinely unique opportunity for the UK and is exactly what we need in order to both understand and have a real impact on the future of broadcast media production and consumption.”

For tips on how to get the perfect aerial shot using a remote-controlled helicopter, 10 things you can’t do without to be a filmmaker and other top tips go to

published on: 18 July 2013