Communication is critical during these social distanced times. With this in mind we have updated our 2016 “Guide on Filming with an iPhone” to include simple tips and tricks for capturing the best content while working remotely. The tips apply to whether you’re filming yourself, someone else or recording via Zoom or other conference call facilities.

  1. Choose a bright room with natural light for your filming location.
  2. Audio quality can be improved by using a small room with soft furnishings (carpet, curtains etc).
  3. Make sure your camera is at eye level and lock it off (use a tripod, desk or book etc). Do not film handheld.
  4. Face the window or your brightest light source and check your background. Clean simple backgrounds are usually best. Do not film towards the window.
  5. Film landscape. Ideally your eye line should be just above the centre of the frame. Do not film portrait.
  6. Give yourself a little head room, an inch or two between the top of the frame and your head.
  7. Make sure you are in focus by tapping the screen (on a phone).
  8. Do not stop and start. Film everything in one take.
  9. Speak slowly, loudly and clearly. Don’t shout!
  10. Back up your footage. Send it as an email to yourself or use WeTransfer for larger files.
  11. Turn the phone onto airplane mode to increase battery life and prevent calls from interrupting you whilst filming.

If you’re interested in producing content during lockdown, please get in touch.

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The importance of how a film sounds – through atmosphere, music, effects, and the marriage between these elements and the picture – is often underestimated by filmmakers and audiences alike.

Getting the ‘sound’ of a film right is ultimately as important as how it looks. The two senses don’t work without each working in harmony. And if the sound does succeed, then that success lies in the marriage of these elements. Images only really take on their full meaning when you can hear them as well – hence, the power of cinema.

In The Amber Light, with music and song being such an integral part of both the narrative and approach, the sound takes on even more prominence. There’s a bit of nostalgia, an eye looking back to songs and communities from centuries ago, but there’s very much a forward-looking gaze too. A look to the present, and maybe the future. So that’s reflected not just in the mix of songs we selected, but also in the modern score by Christoph Bauschinger, and the blend created between the two. This is then further built on by the work of Owen Pratt, who took ‘found sounds’ on location, providing samples for Christoph to blend into the score and for Owen himself to build into the architecture of the final audio mix.

To formulate our approach, we listened to a lot of music. The relationship between the past and the present is reflected in the mix of traditional and contemporary songs, of electronic and acoustic, musicians playing today and musicians from the past. Here’s a playlist to a small selection of the music – hope you enjoy listening!

We had a terrific time working with the musical contributors to The Amber Light, especially the folk ‘supergroup’ The Furrow Collective whose contemporary arrangements of centuries-old folk songs are enchanting (their three albums are full of wonderful playing and singing). We were therefore delighted when they asked us to produce a music video for their single False True Love; shot over the course of the day in the utterly charming folk club The Bowerhouse in Kent, we’re very pleased with how the video turned out, and hope you enjoy watching and listening as much as we enjoyed making it.

If you’re interested in investigating further the inter-relation between sound and picture in film, here’s a selection of iconic scores and soundtracks that we suggest digging into. Take a listen: how do they reflect and enhance the style, narrative and themes of the films?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – dir. Sergio Leone – Ennio Morricone
Aguirre, Wrath of God – dir. Werner Herzog – Popol Vuh
Sorcerer – dir. William Friedkin – Tangerine Dream
Blade Runner – dir. Ridley Scott – Vangelis
Reservoir Dogs – dir. Quentin Tarantino – Various Artists
Under the Skin – dir. Johnathan Glaser – Mica Levi

The success of the BBC’s Birmingham-set drama ‘Peaky Blinders’ has been remarkable: a modestly budgeted crime drama, set in a period and location unfamiliar to most viewers – particularly overseas – and with accents that are uniquely ‘regional’. But a success it has been, with budgets increasing season upon season, and awards flowing in as surely and steadily as the barges travel along the Grand Union Canal.

Britain’s second city is often overlooked in terms of visitors from overseas and as a cultural centre. But, thanks to the popularity of ‘Peaky Blinders’, the region has seen a huge uptick in visitors; what’s known as “screen tourism”. Locations from the film have received heavy foot traffic and the show’s creator, Steven Knight, has created a festival inspired by the series, featuring musicians and bands from the show, talks from the shows actors, creators and historians.

But what’s more interesting is the more indirect impacts that the production has made on the Midlands city. Knight himself is behind a £100-million pound studio that is projected to be ’the greenest in the UK’. The studio will have six sound stages for film and television, as well as post-production facilities. Knight wants to encourage a terrestrial television franchise to be based there, and the BBC is among those who are “very keen”, he said. “We’ve got a backlot which is basically the countryside, where people can build castles and shoot things. A local landowner is happy to have productions.”

At 52 Films we have had a sneak peak of these developments first hand. One of our film directors is based in neighbouring Leamington Spa and has experienced an increase in small independent film production projects around the Birmingham region over the last few years. We are actively pursuing freelancers from the area to supplement our (mainly London-based) production efforts as we are keen to explore this talented pool of creatives providing a competitive advantage through refreshing and cost-effective approaches to the filmmaking process. Talent is not the only new valuable source the region seems to foster as we are also finding new location options, camera and lighting suppliers offering up interesting opportunities.

Elsewhere, there are plans for other studios across the UK including the redevelopment of the former Littlewoods building in Liverpool, and major facilities near to the new Channel 4 HQ in Leeds. All this contributes to a welcome shift from the London-centric cultural bias, especially at a time when the political news agenda suggests that Britain is becoming ever more inward-looking.

For this 52 Focus, we wanted to talk about some of the exhibitions that we’ve seen over the last year or so. Recent blockbuster sell-out exhibitions not only showcase art and other curated items but also include audiovisual elements with video and film, sound installations, virtual reality etc. Whilst most of our team are lucky enough to live in London to make the most of these exhibitions, the wealth of AV material means that the exhibitions can live on after the physical exhibition has closed (via microsites and apps) and also ensures that those who can’t access the venue (for whatever reason) can still ‘see’ or ‘experience’ them in some form.

The trend towards exhibitions becoming more visual, with the creation of elaborate sets and props for visitors to engage with and use in their own photos, is clearly a mechanism for people to share content on social media to create lasting memories as well as help market the exhibitions.

So here’s our round-up of the most inspiring and thought-provoking exhibitions we’ve seen over the last 18 months:

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at the Design Museum currently at the Design Museum, London: There’s a rolodex on display at the Design Museum. It’s not particularly special at first glance – a familiar wooden frame, cards with uniform lines of coloured ink, structured with days and numbers. But upon closer inspection you realise exactly what it is: Stanley Kubrick, after years of research and reading every book about the man he could find, had plotted out each day of Napoleon’s life (for an unrealised project, Kubrick had it planned for his next film before his death in 1999). Down to the most minute detail: where he was, what he ate, who he met. It’s this commitment to detail that most staggers the mind, and it permeates across his entire body of work. Considering that he shot his later films in London to stand in for other places, including Manhattan and Saigon, it’s a rather humbling experience. Highlights include the lenses he borrowed from NASA to shoot in candlelight for Barry Lyndon (a super-fast Zeiss f0.7 55mm designed to shoot earth from space), the miniatures of set designs from Dr. Strangelove, Columbia Road in Hackney presented as a vast panorama of photographs, and his rather glorious storyboards from Paths of Glory and A Clockwork Orange. It’s a staggeringly inspiring experience for anybody involved in creating images.

Their Mortal Remains at the V&A, London: an incredible interactive Pink Floyd retrospective. The V&A are masters at the location-based audio guided exhibition which takes the viewer through a back catalogue of music and stories. Highlights from this exhibition included an interactive music room where sample tracks could be mixed and a concert space at the end where everyone could sit and listen to famous ‘live’ performances. The whole experience was set up in a way that encouraged every visitor to take photos and share on social media, enhancing the user experience.

From Life at the Royal Academy, London: A collection of past and present Academy works looking at the artistic process of life drawing with the final rooms exploring the use of virtual reality (HTC Vive and Tilt Brush, both technologies which 52 Films own and use regularly) as a tool for observing + representing bodies, pushing back on physical limitations.

Monochrome: Painting in Black and White at the National Gallery, London: A look at paintings in black, white and all shades of grey in between. This sounds as if it could have been dull (no colour?!) but it was fascinating to see just how many artists through the ages (from the late 14th century onwards) have consciously painted in black and white. The final room – Olafur Eliasson’s Room for One Colour – was particularly striking, an empty white room fitted with monofrequency lamps emitting yellow light which meant the viewer could see in yellow + black only, the feeling of being able to see colour again upon leaving the room was overwhelming.

David Bowie is is at the Brooklyn Museum, New York: Another curation from the V&A but one that we actually experienced at the Brooklyn Museum (having missed the original exhibition five years ago, we were delighted to find we could catch the final leg of the exhibition’s epic journey around the world when we happened to be in New York last year on a client shoot). We hotfooted it down to the Brooklyn Museum after we wrapped on a fine April day and spent an incredible couple of hours in this fully immersive groundbreaking experience which has paved the way for how exhibitions of this genre are curated. According to the NME, the exhibition is due to live on through an AR app (and a VR app at a later date).

Pierre Huyghe: UUmwelt at the Serpentine, Galleries London: A provocative (and slightly stressful) experience which lay somewhere between installation and performance. Large 1×1 LED panels with colourised MRI scans of a human brain displayed a range of different emotions, alongside 50,000 bluebottle flies, which were imprisoned for the duration of the exhibition’s run (indeed they were born in the gallery); some alive, some dead; topped off with the very strong smell of manufactured chemicals. This was art created through AI, one man’s brain activity captured on MRI as he imagined certain elements and then fed through AI into a deep neural network. The combination of the incessant buzzing with chaotic, fast moving, hard-to-decipher images whilst walking amongst very small corpses was certainly thought-provoking.

52 Films is very excited that our first feature-length documentary The Amber Light is currently in post-production. Making The Amber Light has been a wonderful experience for the team, taking them across the lowlands, highlands and islands of Scotland (and sampling more than a wee dram along the way). And while we’ve been busy with our own feature-length production, it seems that elsewhere there’s a must-see feature doc on the big or small screen every week. In honour of The Amber Light’s first-view screening in April here are five documentaries that we have recently enjoyed and recommend checking out:
  • RBG – an inspiring profile of the “Notorious RBG” aka Ruth Bader Ginsburg, gender-equality activist and 85 year-old US Supreme Court Justice (whilst her intelligence and quiet grace shines throughout, the footage of her working out in the gym with her trainer is awesome) – catch it on the big screen while it’s still out or stream online
  • Bros: After the Screaming Stops – a surprisingly touching look at the 80s/90s twin brother boy band sensation. The first half is cringingly funny (think Spinal Tap crossed with David Brent), the second half is a poignant portrait of two siblings reuniting – available for a few more weeks on BBC iPlayer
  • FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened – a fascinating expose of the story behind the infamous Fyre Festival available on Netflix  (NB this is currently one of two documentaries about the failed festival, the second is available on Hulu but controversially paid the fraudster Fyre founder Billy McFarland for an interview, a bit of background here)
  • Free Solo – you don’t have to be interested in climbing to enjoy this film which follows Alex Honnold as he attempts to free solo climb the 3,000ft El Capitan vertical rock face in Yosemite, California. Not only does it contain spectacular footage (watch out if you’ve got a touch of vertigo), it is a fascinating study into Honnold’s psychology as well as the physical and artistic challenge for the filmmakers. Catch it while you can at the cinema or watch at home
  • Wormwood – if anybody could be considered a master of documentary craft, it’s Errol Morris. In his latest work, a limited series for Netflix, he investigates shady goings on at the CIA through the use of dramatic reenactments to support his signature, individualistic style. Watch on Netflix.
And we’ve got one final recommendation for you – whilst it’s not a standalone film, we’re currently enjoying The Clinton Affair (available on More4). It’s a comprehensive look at the events leading up to the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 and seems decidedly timely with the ongoing debates around power and consent.