Featured resident: Michael Danks, 4Groundmedia
This month, we caught up with FuseBox resident, 360° capture and interactive production specialist and Academy Award nominee (x3!) Michael Danks. We borrowed some time from his busy schedule to find out about his work here in the FuseBox and what is in store for his company, 4GroundMedia.
Hi Michael! Can you tell us how you ended up working in film?
I started in TV straight out of school as a general trainee at Anglia in Norwich. After 5 years there I left and had my first proper taste of the TV technology race at the Moving Picture Company in Soho. They have always been ahead of the game, ever since then I’ve kept a focus on exploiting emerging technologies.
In addition to my writing, directing and camera work, I’m a craft film editor, and have had some success with my sound recording/editing work too. I worked on a number feature films but always came back to TV, recording and editing ethnographic, anthropological, exploration and adventure films, and science docs for BBC, Ch4, Discovery and National Geographic.
I went to Brighton University and got an MSc in Digital TV Management and Production, that set me up perfectly for understanding how the relationship between the audience and digital TV media continues to change and adapt to engage viewers, it’s fascinating. I love the fact that the world around us is being captured and documented using all sorts of media, but moving pictures with sound is my favourite.
So, what is a 360° capture and interactive production specialist?
Using specialist cameras and microphones we can capture everything all around, then present it to a viewer using headsets, handheld or whatever so they can look around a scene as if they were there, it works well for places and experiences that people won’t come across readily or in their day to day, it’s super immersive. I had wanted to capture 360° ever since I heard about situational awareness technology. In 2015 I worked on my first 360 production with BBC Research and Development it was clear then that there were no 360° production experts, but that is changing.
360° is not just about VR and AR – they are useful platforms but when all is said and done it’s moving pictures with sound… with the exception of some funky still image work. 360°capture can get a bit technical when you talk about 3D and ambisonic sound, but I am adapting my craft skills into this space, there are some wonderful challenges and opportunities to do extraordinary things that have never been done before… everyday is a school day.
How has the last 12 months at the Fusebox been for you?
Completely brilliant! There is so much going on, I am a member of the VRCraftworks team, the stuff they are doing with AR and VR is opening up all sorts of opportunities for production craft, watch that space. I love what Outshift are doing with the Quizzer and Kate Stokes and her team are making history with the Wonderland X project. The Academic residents are super valuable, Gianluca Memoli is way ahead of the curve heading with a really valuable research direction. On a trip to Sussex University we saw a quantum computer in action, that’s the stuff of wild dreams, let’s face we are living in the future!
What was it that first attracted you to the city of Brighton and Hove?
The social scene is a huge keeper, people don’t obsess about work roles, social status and stuff i.e. material wealth, which means socially you can have a chat about all sorts of nonsense which I really love. At work everyone wants to collaborate and takes genuine interest, which, in such a diverse inclusive city explains the success of the Fusebox.
What’s next for 4Groundmedia?
I set up 4Groundmedia as a limited company in 2008 with the express aim to deliver affordable broadcast quality television production to clients of my choosing. The next few years will see me doing the same for and new bunch of clients who don’t even know they want 360 AV yet! There are early adopters out there, I am working with a few of them and always looking for more!
How can people get in touch?
That’s easy, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo all support 360° really well but there is an issue with how I share my commercial work so it’s password protected – drop me an email and I can help you get access. And you can check out the 4Groundmedia website here.Find out more about being a FuseBox resident