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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Love U More

Well this is my first blog post since the beginning of July when I moved into my new office.

Since then I have been completely snowed under with work - I've created over 100 different logo animations in those three months along with loads of other bits and pieces!

Here's my most recent piece of work, a promotional video for Fierce Angel Records' latest release, "Love U More" by Oxford Hustlers and Katherine Ellis.

It was based on original artwork by Jason Cook.  Artwork like this is an absolute dream to animate and, being a fan of disco house music, it was a pleasure to work on!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Big Move

Three years ago I moved to Manchester from Somerset where I had spent most of my life.  I had a separate home and office, 11 miles apart, so my work and home life were kept separate.

When I moved to Manchester, I decided to intially work from home until I got to know the city and could choose a suitable office.  Then the recession came along!  So I did the sensible thing and continued working from home in case business took a dive.

The trouble with this is that I lost the division between my work and home life which slowly but surely takes its toll.  I definitely work more efficiently doing a strict 9 til 5 rather than letting work drift into the evening. 

Last week I finally made the move into a new office so I now have a separate work and home life again.  I can't tell you how good it feels to have that seperation back again!

The move went very smoothly - I hired a van (from Salford Van Hire - very good value no-nonsense service), and with the help of a friend and the very helpful caretaker at the office block we moved me in within a few hours.

My new home is Ducie House, close to Piccadilly Station in the north of the city, the complete opposite side to my home.  Ducie House is an old converted factory, and has been modernised with lots of frosted glass to give the 'old meets new' effect common in so many of Manchester's buildings.

It is home to a number of businesses, mainly in the creative sector which will hopefully provide some networking opportunities once I've got to know my fellow tennants!

Ducie House is unique in Manchester, in that it offers proper self-contained individual offices (not just divided off sections of a big room) which are semi-serviced, in that your electricity and heating are provided and you have shared kitchen facilities, but you are left to sort out your own phone line which means no need to join a slow shared broadband connection or have all your calls go through a central switchboard, which is common in serviced offices.

My first week was slightly marred by BT taking a week longer than expected to provide broadband (you don't realise just how much you rely on an internet connection until you lose it!), but other than that I'm very happy in my new home.

All that remains now is to decorate the office to make it feel a bit more homely.

I'll post some pictures once that's done!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Club Candy TV Review in Pro Mobile Magazine

This was a review of Club Candy TV written by Pro Mobile magazine.

Pro Mobile Magazine - Issue 40, Page 69.
Club Candy TV is produced by Phil Bearman; you may remember his name as some of his previous visuals
were reviewed back in issue 20 of Pro Mobile. The DVD features six professional dancers in six different scenes: Boogie Nights, Electro Grunge, Glam, Neon Nights, Superclub and Vectro Electro, each designed to complement a different musical genre. There is an extensive mix of backgrounds in each of the six scenes, including a wide range of disco light type effects, a city background, a nightclub, various cocktail glasses, and some giant shoes!

Each scene features four minutes of footage making the DVD 24 minutes long in total. The DVD was designed to be used by VJs to provide visuals for tunes for which they don'thave an accompanying music video. All the visuals are choreographed to a constant tempo of 125 BPM with a click-track allowing the visuals to be synchronised with music using a DVD player with speed control. The DVD also features MPEG2 and MPEG4 H.264 files on the same disc for those using VJ software. This DVD is definitely intended to be used in segments - although it will play all the way through, it is best suited for use in the place of a music video, rather than as continuous background visuals.

Used in the right context, both DVDs would be an asset to a mobile DJ's show. All the dancing and graphics they feature are very good and professionally produced. Although some people feel that visuals of this kind can detract from the music, I personally feel that if left looping all night they have the same kind of effect as 'Go-Go Dancers' had in yesteryear.

As mentioned before, to be able to synchronize the timing of the DVDs with the BPM of the music track you have playing you will either need a DVD player with pitch control, or VJ software that will enable manipulation of the video. Of course if you're a budding VJ, if you don't have one or the other of these already, they'll probably be high up on your gear shopping list. All in all these DVDs are a worthwhile investment, and although they are similar on the surface, subtle differences enable them to serve different
purposes within a mobile DJ's show.

* * * * 

You can view samples and buy Club Candy TV at

"The music goes really well"

I've lost count of the number of times that clients say to me "The music goes really well!" when I present them with an animation which has been choreographed to music.

What they perhaps don't realise is that actually it's the graphics that are going well with the music (not the other way around), and that is because I've painstakingly spotted all the 'cues' within the music (beats, bars and musical nuances) and made sure the motion coincides with those musical events. Not quite the happy coincidence it's often perceived to be!

This is why it's key to choose (and settle on) a piece of music before starting work on a project - it really does influence everything else in the process, and changing it further down the line will add a lot of time and therefore cost to the project.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Qualities of a Motion Graphics Designer

I recently did a Q & A with some college students to help with a project they were working on, and one of the questions was about what skills/qualities are required to do my job.

I thought my answers might be of interest to anyone looking to get in to Motion Graphics, so decided to post them here (these are in no particular order, and are by no means an exhaustive list)...

(NOTE: These aren't all essential skills for somebody starting in motion graphics design, just things which have been useful to me over the years, whether they were existing skills or things that I picked up along the way. )

  • Graphic Design Skills - I often decribe my job as being a 'graphic designer who makes things move'! It is essential to understand things like the difference between vector and bitmap (or raster) graphics, and the difference between CMYK and RGB. A basic knowledge of software such as Illustrator and Photoshop goes a long way. Understanding the basics of typography, colour and layout are also very important.

  • Understanding of how television/video works - it's very useful to understand things like frame rate, the differences between formats such as PAL and NTSC (and now HD formats), TV-safe margins, Broadcast colours etc - if you don't have this knowledge before you start, it should be one of the first things that you learn.

  • Observation of the world around you - particularly the way things move in the real world. Also, the 'imperfections' of the world, for example dirt and grime on objects, and the variation in nature.

  • Understanding of how light works - how white light is made up from Red, Green and Blue components, the way those colours mix and how light interacts with different surfaces.

  • Attention to detail - this is a key difference between an OK designer and a great designer! Humans are subconsciously very sensitive to how things appear - when you're trying to simulate reality it's the small details that will really make it convincing.

  • Understanding of 3D - knowing how X, Y and Z positioning and rotation work

  • Musical Knowledge -synchronising motion and events to music is an essential part of being a motion graphics designer. It's really helpful to have an understanding of how music is structured and an ear for the subtle nuances in music which can act as cues for motion. If you're a freelancer or work for a small company you can often find yourself needing to edit pieces of music to fit a particular purpose - understanding how beats and bars work is essential in this situation.

  • Mathematics / Computer Programming - Motion Graphics software such as After Effects allows you to control parameters mathematically using 'expressions' which can be a huge timesaver if you know how to use it. As a simple example, you could create a wave motion by using a Sine curve to control position, rather than having to create dozens of keyframes.

  • Thirst for knowledge / research skills - Often it is necessary to research a subject yourself, and it's important that you can research efficiently and accurately.

  • Workaholic attitude - Near-impossible deadlines go hand-in-hand with this profession, no matter which sector you work in, and working long days is a regular occurance!

  • Understanding the fundamentals of computers and files - professional motion graphics software is not designed in the same way as office software like Microsoft Word where there are Wizards and Assistants popping up all over the place to help you along your way! You particularly need to understand things like file types & extensions and file sizes.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Geek update

I've just splashed out on a new workstation, as my 'youngest' was a three year old Athlon dual core machine that was struggling a bit with CS4 and the increasing complexity of projects that I'm working on.

I spent all of last weekend carrying out a major operation to get the new computer installed, and shuffle everything around in order to retire my oldest 'admin' PC which is 5 years old.

For anyone who's interested, the spec of the new machine is as follows:

Processor: Intel Core i7 Processor i7-930 (2.80GHz)
Memory: 12GB CORSAIR XMS3 TRI-DDR3 1333MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P6T WS Professional
OS: Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit
Storage: 1 x 250Gb for OS etc, 4 x 1TB configured as 2 x 2TB RAID-0 drives for video storage
Graphics Card: PNY Quadro FX580 512MB GDDR3

It's running like a dream! Rendering is at least 4 times faster than my other workstation.

This is also the first time I've used Windows 7 and I really like it. (Thankfully I missed out Vista altogether!).

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Advertising Tips for Nightclubs and Bars

Here are my three tips to improve the advertising of your venue's events and drinks.

Before I start, I should explain that I'm no expert in the subject, but with 10 years experience working in and with the nightclub/bar industry, I've learned and observed a few things over the years!

(In case you're wondering - I started out with a Saturday job in a sound and lighting shop, which led me to a four year spell working as a lighting designer, programming light shows in nightclubs among other things. I also taught myself to beat mix which led to DJing and promoting a successful club night for six years. In 2004 I became a motion graphics designer and have been supplying nightclubs and bars across the UK and internationally with custom visuals and advertising ever since.)

So, on to the tips:


I never cease to be amazed by the number of bars/clubs who ask me to make an advert for an event that's only a week or two away!

I would recommend that you begin promoting any event at least a month before it happens. By 'begin promoting' I mean you should have all of your advertising in place. Therefore you should aim to get your designers briefed 5-6 weeks before the event.

It's equally important not to advertise too early (although this is rare!) - start too early and the impact and momentum of your campaign will be diluted.

By thinking ahead you will give your event the best promotion possible, and you will get the best quality work from your designers rather than a rush job.


There is nothing more frustrating than being faced with conflicting information from different sources when all you want is a simple answer. Imagine a potential customer looking up information on your venue - if one website says your venue is open on Friday nights and another says it's closed, the chances are they aren't going to take a gamble - they'll just go somewhere else. I would guess that over 60% of venues have conflicting information on different websites.

Make a list of all of the places that your marketing appears, print it out, stick it on your wall, and use this as a checklist whenever you make a change to your listings etc.

Here are some obvious ones:

Your website
Networking sites: Facebook, Myspace, Bebo
TV Screens
Posters & Flyers
Event listings sites (Don't stay in, Tilllate)
Magazines & Newspapers (Mixmag, etc)
Directories - etc

Always look for the most clear, concise way of getting your message across, and use that same message on all of your websites, adverts etc.

Close down out-of-date profiles on networking sites so that you have just one 'page' for your venue - you don't want your punters to search for your venue and be faced with a choice of four different groups/pages/profiles for the same venue!


The drinks industry is well known for clever and entertaining advertising campaigns. Why not try to emulate this with your own adverts? Rather than just stating a product and a price, think up a funny, clever, or attention-grabbing message and you are sure to see increased sales.

Selling on price is rarely a good idea - unless you're a giant with huge buying power like JD Wetherspoon you are much better off selling the benefits of your products (drinks/venue/events) rather than the price alone.

As a simple example, imagine an advert for Tequila shots. Rather than just stating "TEQUILA SHOTS £1", you could play on the well-known song lyrics "Tequila, it makes you happy!" perhaps accompanied by a good stock photo of a group of people at a bar laughing (although you'd probably want to put a small disclaimer saying that tequila isn't actually guaranteed to make you happy!).

Think about your typical customer and what would make them tick - are they students who would have an 'off the wall' sense of humour, are they sophisticated people who are sold on style and glamour?

A picture is worth a thousand words - so, for example if you're putting together an advert for cocktails, go to the effort of making up each of the cocktails and taking a good photo of each (and by good, I mean well lit, in focus, and nicely composed with spotlessly clean glasses - don't just take a quick snap without thinking about it!).

Finally... unless you want to date your venue by 30 years, please please please don't spell nightclub as "niteclub" - just a personal niggle of mine, but I never cease to be amazed by the number of clubs still doing this - it was fashionable in the eighties, but definitely isn't now! 

I hope these tips will help you to promote your venue more successfully.

Friday, 5 February 2010

There aren't enough hours in a day

Lack of time is my biggest source of frustration!

Being a bit of an 'ideas person', my mind is constantly bursting with new ideas - ways to improve my workflow, marketing, website, new products, etc., but obviously these things come secondary to doing actual jobs for clients which, thankfully, I'm never short of!

I've been known in the past to take a week's "holiday" just to make some headway on some of these ideas! Of course the downside to taking time off when you're self employed is that it's unpaid - a week off means losing quarter of your monthly income!

I'm hoping to be in the position to take on an employee over the next year which will be great as it will free up some of my time to spend on these ideas, although employing somebody will be a big and scary jump!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Behind the scenes - Club Candy TV

Here's a short video I've put together showing s0me of the making of Club Candy for anyone who's interested:

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

"Don't give up the day job" (Club Candy video tutorial)

I've just posted a video tutorial on using Club Candy TV on my YouTube channel -

As you will see, presenting really isn't my forté - I won't be giving up the day job any time soon!

There are also full length samples of the 6 video files included with Club Candy Vol.1: