Friday 19 October 2018

Intercity 2018... from the lineside

With the stop-motion film having fallen by the wayside, the second string to this particular project became the lineside pics.  I liked the idea of these being a series of shots taken at night whilst waiting for a train in some cold, desolate city station.  Very reminiscent of late-night cheap travel to and from University, waiting in the freezing cold at Carlisle, or changing trains at Stafford with expresses whizzing through.

I quite liked how this one came out, the high contrast with the lights of the Lima diesel shunter in the foreground.

Two attempts at having an express train rushing through the station.

...and one with a train racing towards the camera (though I prefer the header image at the top of this post).

Another shot, this time taken as if from aboard the train.

Then a couple from a high point of view, as if from a bridge high up over the entrance to the station, with the girder bridge sides in the foreground too for effect.

The concept having worked with the City Station pics, I decided to do the same sorts of shots with the other set-ups too.

Another shot as if from aboard the train, for the diesel loco depot setup.  I quite like this as it actually shows the depot, which wouldn't have been visible in the normal shots, but would have been in the planned stop-motion film.

The oil terminal set, with the lower-level partially visible for much the same reason.

The girder bridge set, with the tin-foil water more clearly visible, but unfortunately also the bodged nature of the bridge and the chocks holding up the ex-bookframe used for the trackbed.

The final shot of the whole project; a panning shot as if tracking the train over the bridge, from a street running parallel to the river.

Overall, a bit of a mixed bag of a project; the whole 'stop motion film' concept just didn't work for a variety of technical reasons... perhaps if I had access to a studio (rather than a cellar) I could have made a better go of it, likewise with different kit.  But then again, the point of doing this shoot was an attempt to try the idea before buying anything else.

On a more positive note, I feel that the stills shoot went well and allowed me to achieve the sorts of shots I wanted to all along; re-doing the sorts of pics I tried with the practise shoots.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Intercity 2018... Along the Line

After shooting the pics of the station, I rebuilt the set to portray various other scenes, for the purpose of both getting a variety of still photographs, and a number of different scenes for the stop-motion film.  The plan for the film was actually drawn out with a plan for a journey through an imaginary landscape, with scenes inspired by real locations, and this was an opportunity to test out how that might work out in practise.

Two scenes from the earlier test shoot I wanted to re-work, a cutting through a vaguely suburban area...

...and a goods yard.

Setting it up; the effect of the railway being in the cutting was achieved by using the tall sides of a dismantled bookcase balanced on blocks along either side of the scene.

The containers were ex-Britannia Model Village, the cranes are (I think) Playmobil, I got them broken for a few quid from a charity shop.  The streetlights are reading lights from Poundland.

The two industrial diesel shunters, the one on the right is the Lima 4-wheeled shunter bought to propel the camera dolly, the one on the left is a cut-down Triang Big-Big shunter bought way back as a parts donor for the Jabberwock build.

Trying out the trick with the tunnel (card folded, wedged between yet more bits of bookshelf).

Another one to redo, the line running under girder bridges in a cutting.

I went for something a bit different this time around, adding a diesel locomotive depot and a junction line.  The bridges are the same though, Tomy Thomas the Tank Engine sides. 

One slight issue with running along the curves was this ghosting effect.

Yet another pic I wanted to retry, the idea of the railway running along a raised embankment or viaduct between tower blocks and skyscrapers, not unlike the stretch of railway through central Manchester.

Again, almost all of the plastic crates, and the railway running along a raised bed made from the sides of the bookshelf.  Those curved bridge sides are ancient, they were made somewhat laboriously from card for the Model Village shoot all the way back in 2006.

For the impression of cars on the road below, I used two strings of Christmas tree lights.

This is one where the original shoot had it slightly better, it needed the fake viaduct sides, but a trial using them meant you couldn't see down into the supposed road below.

Another pic; the oil terminal (loosely inspired by Rowley Regis station when I was a child catching trains in the West Midlands).

This time I used the crates to try and make something a bit more industrial on the left, with some old metal table legs for chimneys.  The tracks on the lower-left are Tomy Thomas base plates from the city station (which also donated the arched roof bits for the City Station pic), and once again the oil tanks on the right are old soup containers.

Less successful than even the test pics, as regards the stills shoot, but the details on the lower-left, and the oil tanks, showed up better in the long exposure video.

Final one I wanted to re-do, travelling along the girder bridge.  This one never went right in the test shoots, as the camera was playing up and the lights I was using as headlamps to illuminate the tracks had also packed in.

The set was the previous one, re-dressed, with the girder bridge sides added along the edges of the bookshelf.  The crates were used to make something that looked a bit like a factory, and whilst I was happy with the chimneys I struggled with how to do the smoke, until I improvised with bubblewrap underlit.  The river surface was tinfoil, a trick I picked up from an old visual effects book.

Again, the streetlights for the road running along the river bank were the Poundland reading lights.

These shots are from the stop-motion film attempts.

I was much happier with the girder bridge effects this time, even if the resulting pics were accidentally a little too monochrome, a byproduct of the choice of lights and crates.

But most shoots are beset with problems, and this is as good a place as any to discuss how things went wrong.  The plan had been to shoot a series of long exposures which could be animated to show the journey along the railway as blurs, creating a very abstract short film... but then I had a lot of trouble with it.  Having to fire the shutter by remote was problematic, as it would randomly cut out and miss an odd shot here and there, meaning I had to reset the scene.  The first power controller running the motorised chassis failed on the second set-up and had to be replaced the next day, the camera was difficult to retrieve when it reached the end of the line (which had to be heavily padded to stop the camera smacking into the wall or tumbling onto the floor), and even with the new camera dolly the whole ensemble would still would occasionally overbalance and topple over, which was tricky to rescue as well from the middle of the set.

Possibly if I worked in a bigger scale where the camera would be more stable then it would have been less of an issue, but then trying to build the set to the bigger scale like gauge 1 (let alone the cost of buying trains) would have been prohibitive.  What finally naffed the idea was when the motorised Atlas chassis burned out from the weight of the camera, and with no time or budget to buy a replacement, or even make sure the new one would match the speed of the dead original, I just dropped the idea of doing the stop-motion film which I'd frankly been struggling with...  So more emphasis was placed on the lineside shots (of which more in the next, final, post on this project).

Monday 15 October 2018

Intercity 2018... At the Station

The main pic I wanted to do was a city station at night; something along the lines of New Street in Brum or Euston in London, a station crammed-in at low level amongst a mass of bigger buildings.

When I did the last lot of test shoots, the above pic was the one I felt happiest with, though I knew there was room for improvement, particularly as the choice of models was rather improvised with the setup.

As this shot demonstrates, the set-up was rather more complex this time.  The only thing that annoyed me was the kink in the track straight ahead, which was a limitation caused by having to prop-up the crates, whilst maintaining the double-track mainline so it would fit in with the rest of the shots, and the planned stop-motion video.  This shot used every crate/building, every light, every bit of track (to the point that the carriages on the left are just sitting on the baseboard as I'd run out of lengths of straight track) and most of the model carriages.  Also note the train on the other line; functional and able to move under its own power (the rest being static for the shots).

Oh and a bit of an in-joke which might just be visible on the end of one of the platforms; Birmingham New Street has a metal horse sculpture (one of several dotted along the route from Brum to Wolvo).  I was setting up the last details when I found a mini My Little Pony figure which Younger Child had left in the camera bag at some point, so it made it into the shots as the horse sculpture...


Note too the Poundland bug-viewers on the platforms, doing admirable work as platform shelters.

I was pretty happy with how the shots came out, but the kink in the track was disrupting the flow of the stop-motion vid...

...but then I ended up exploring a third option for the pics, and taking shots both as if I was a photographer taking arty long-exposure pics of the trains, and also rotating the camera on the dolly to get shots as if from the window of the train.

More on these experiments, and also the other set-ups for the rest of the project (goods yard, skyscrapers etc) in the next post.