Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Martin Dohrn tells HD magazine about the origins of Smalltalk Diaries

Excerpt from Hd Magazine: Issue 30
Tales from the HD Undergrowth

Smalltalk Diaries is a series of programmes that tells you that it’s OK to laugh at insects because really they are quite funny and giving them eyes and other facial expressions catches your attention and has a touch of ‘education-by-stealth’ about it.
The Bristol, UK-based production company Ammonite had an idea for this humanisation of insects as a basis for a programme a few years ago and it was only when producer Martin Dohrn talked it through with a CGI skilled friend that thing started taking shape.
“Initially it evolved from my own idea, I was interested in having a bit of a laugh and getting some humour in to wildlife filming. I was talking it through with a friend of mine, Rowan McCarthy, who has since gone back to Australia, and we developed it with the idea of silly faces.
“We put some eyes on a woodlouse and we made a little movie called Bug Wars. It was really more for grown-ups than children at that time. We experimented with different styles from good blends of facial features to magazine-like cut-outs – everybody said that they hated the crude cut-outs and loved the blended faces.
“So then another friend of mine Richard Higgs of Big Squid New Media who specialise in compositing and CGI and I got together and took it a step further”.

For full interview click link

Friday, June 6, 2008





Tuesday 18 Mar 2008

For CBBC's new series Smalltalk Diaries wildlife cameraman and producer Martin Dohrn used an innovative tiny HD camera and motion control rig to record close-up shots of insect life in high-definition.

Smalltalk Diaries was conceived, directed and filmed by Dohrn, who has been filming natural history for over 20 years for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, the BBC Natural History Unit and others. The 10-episode series from Dohrn's production company, Ammonite Ltd., is an exploration of the insect world via the fictional 'translation lens', which allows the creatures to communicate directly with viewers, and presents a unique twist on the genre.

Dohrn is the creator of several motion-control rigs, including the 'Antcam' used on the BBC's In Search of Killer Ants, and the Frankencam used for David Attenborough's Life in the Undergrowth. His latest rig was developed specifically for use with the Iconix HD-RH1F camera system in order to capture increasingly tiny and complex wildlife, and is the inspiration behind the Smalltalk Diaries translation lens.

"Being able to have very, very small lenses fit onto a very, very small camera helps to create a look and a feel that we hope no one has ever seen before," Dohrn observes. "We've captured some very extraordinary images with the Iconix that wouldn't have been possible with an ordinary camera, in particular the endoscope work. There's no other way to do that kind of image. There isn't another camera that can do what we are doing."

Dohrn notes that as the migration to high definition television continues, wildlife filmmaking is being redefined. "Because our subjects are so small, we had to develop a motion control device for the Toshiba T-48 we had been using. Making this series in HD, we wanted an HD camera that was comparable in size, and the Iconix fit our needs perfectly."

Featuring a camera head about the size of a golf ball, and weighing two ounces, the remote head system of the Iconix HD-RH1F can keep pace with larger HD video cameras, yet is versatile enough to offer 35 different format and frame rate combinations. According to Dohrn, the Iconix perfectly complements the Panasonic VariCam also used by the production.

"Because of the small chip size, the Iconix gives us an advantage with the absolute light levels needed to film light sensitive animals," he says. "Basically, we need two stops less light than we would with the VariCam. It's a huge advantage to us."