Mad Cap'n Tom's entrance

In March 2008, I was elected Students' Union President at the University of York, after campaigning as a pirate and not trying to win. Here's a summary of the story from the local press.

Every year, the Students' Union has a half-hour slot in the induction talks for new students, and traditionally they put together a few quick videos to keep people entertained. This year, I helped put on a whole damn show.

So here's my entrance into the hall, sash flailing and toy duck on my shoulder — someone later said that it felt a bit like being in a theme park attraction. As we join the action, the university's Academic Registrar is just finishing up her speech...

Behind the Scenes

  • I directed the exterior shots, with the lovely Ed Crooks on camera and a support team of pirates and ninjas (who didn't make the final edit thanks to time constraints). The zoom out from smooth sailing to riding on a porters' trolley is done entirely digitally: the shot is actually filmed in HD, framed in post, and exported in standard resolution.
  • All the sounds, except for my "hup" and trolley-jump, are added in post — even my footsteps. There was actually a lot of construction work going on nearby when we were filming.
  • The interior shots, filmed by YSTV, were during the third of three talks. Sadly, it was also the toughest crowd: the second audience kept cheering so long that I had to gesture for them to calm down after I got on stage.

  • Embarrassingly, I realised after finishing my opening speech and sitting down that the fly of my trousers was undone. Fortunately, the frilly shirt and sash covered it more than adequately, and no-one noticed.

YUSU Dragon's Den

Then it was time for the rest of the team to be introduced. We had only one evening to put this together, and I'm so, so grateful to the big group of cast and crew that helped out. We'd been short of ideas for ages, until someone — and I forget who — came up with the idea of Dragons' Den. It was quick to film, quick to edit, and got laughs from the audience.

Watch out for some sterling acting from Sports President Alex Lacy. "Sure."

Behind the Scenes

  • The audio on this was a nightmare: an office has way too many background noises that can't be switched off, and I had no time to set up microphones. It's covered quite well by the background music, though.
  • The final "I'm out" took four attempts before everyone successfully managed to say it in time.
  • The team were incapable of doing a power-walk across the car park without cracking up laughing.

Elections 2009: Thunderbirds are Go

With apologies to Gerry Anderson, of course, we kicked off the publicity campaign for our Thunderbirds-themed 2009 elections with this montage of clips. Filmed in high definition, I composited still shots of the famous vehicles in, adding fire and dust effects from Detonation Films.

Behind the Scenes

Each one of the Thunderbirds shots included a different challenge:

  • For Thunderbird 1, I had to create an image of what the "chessboard" would look like from directly above, then match that 2D image in After Effects to the original video footage — then move it in 3D space to create the effect. Even the reflection in the window behind took an extra bit of effort!
  • For Thunderbird 2, trees were the problem - just adding a hangar wasn't too much trouble, but taking the tree onto a separate layer wasn't half difficult.
  • For Thunderbird 3, it was an issue of motion tracking: the shot pans and zooms, while shaking all the time. After Effects' motion tracker was invaluable here, but some manual tweaking was still needed.
  • For Thunderbird 4... well, water's always going to be a problem. The shot's so brief that hopefully no-one noticed quite how badly it's composited.
  • Thunderbird 5 was an easy shot: it's the university's Central Hall, which has always looked a bit like a spaceship.

Roses 2009 Closing Ceremony

The annual Roses tournament between the Universities of York and Lancaster is always a battle — and in 2009, York absolutely obliterated their opponents. I was lucky enough to be the emcee for the closing ceremony... and it was a hell of a ceremony.

Behind the Scenes

Apart from editing the Central Hall footage for this video, I was just the mug in the suit who looked a bit like a 60s variety performer — everything else you see is the hard work of the team at YSTV, with wonderful things done by Ian Martindale who directed the forge video, with Matt Gray on sound.