Good News and Visual Novels

Hi All,

Well, it’s been quite a week here in the UK. Politically, we’ve just shot ourselves in the knee-cap. It’s all a bit too depressing, so I wanted to post a few bits of good news.

1) Pandora won her appeal

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OFCOM, the UK regulator, over-turned the ruling by the over-zealous and now abolished UK video on demand regulator, ATVOD, banning Pandora’s site Dreams of Spanking, which is now back online and accepting sign-ups again. YAAAAY!!!!

You can read her thoughts about it on her blog. We had a chat about it with another friend producer a couple of weekends ago and all admitted that getting the tap on the shoulder from the censorious dead hand of the state is more stifling of one’s kink and creativity than any of us had expected. We’re so glad Dreams is back! None of us know what the future holds for the censorship climate in the UK- given the political turmoil this week, nobody knows.

So we’ll just have to keep chipping away and putting our points logically and rationally and make sure that we are heard (even if they go ahead and do it anyway). To this end, I’m supporting Pandora’s Patreon campaign to support her advocacy- and if you want to help kink survive online in Britain, please chip in a little too if you can!

2) I’m feeling a bit better

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a nasty attack of gastro-enteritis at the start of June which is taking a long time to get over. Yesterday I managed to walk up one the local hills- one of my fave local walks, around two hours round trip. This is much more than I managed last week, even if I was a bit tired and achy the next day. But OMG, progress! Very very happy!

3) I just discovered a whole new genre of thing!

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Watch CINDERS trailer on YouTube

I’ve always liked computer games, from the first ones I played on Swansea University mainframe computer when I went in to see my Mum at work in the holidays through to modern extravaganzas. Having been ill in the last few weeks and needing some non-physical amusements, I played a few. I finally got through BioShock Infinite, which is OK- lovely visuals, intriguing if horrible racist 1900’s dystopia background, and some story.

Trouble is by the time I finished the game I felt like going and checking myself into a high-security prison for mass-murdering psychopaths. My word, but there was a lot of killing and gore and blood. And as far as I am aware, I got to make exactly one decision during the whole game that had much impact beyond the end of the scene.

So I went looking to see if there was a different sort of game out there, and discovered a whole new genre!

Parenthetically- I don’t mind the odd bit of violence in games. I just prefer a lot less of it than BioShock Infinite, which is why I don’t usually play first-person shooters. I really appreciate games like Thief where there’s at least an option to resolve things by less-lethal means when you can, or sandboxes where you can play the game with a less-murderous characters (Elder Scrolls games like Oblivion and Skyrim have good plot threads for stealthy characters, which require less slaughter than some other story paths).

A bit of a Googling and searching of Steam turning up the visual novel genre, which I’d never heard of. Apparently big in Japan, popular with female players, there’s a huge number of these things revolving around high schools and dating and a lot with pretty linear stories… but also some stuff that looked really interesting.

I like games where what I choose to do makes a difference through the game and to the game’s ending (which is why I like BioWare games very much). Add that to a non-violent storyline and GORGEOUS art-work and I settled on my first purchase of the genre: Cinders, a game by Polish indie development studio Moa Cube.

It takes a little getting used to. There’s a LOT of talking, quite a few decisions, and not much else. It’s like a Bioware game with all the running around and killing stuff and levelling up removed, and just the character interactions remaining. Since Mass Effect 2 is probably my favourite game of all time, I’m good with that πŸ™‚ Makes a change from a LOT of killing, a few conversations and a very small number of decisions, which is what the routine fantasy and sci-fi RPG genres favour.

It may or may not appeal to you- playing Cinderella and trying to get one over on her sisters, step-mother, get the guy or get the hell out of Dodge, trust the Fairy godmother or really not. But if it sounds even faintly intriguing, I’d really encourage you to give it a go. Have I mentioned how gob-smackingly beautiful the artwork is?

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It’s not a long game- I got through it in one long-ish sitting. But it will bear re-playing, trying to achieve various different endings (I gather there may be “dead in a ditch” as one ending…). And the studio have another, larger game called Solstice which they just released, which I just bought and will start on once I have caught up on RE and SS stuff as I finish recuperating. The premise is really intriguing from the first scene, though.

Visual Novels for the Future?

Of course being nerdy introvert scientist Hywel, I had to look into visual novels more. I discovered a few game engines which look like they’d help a lot in setting one up. There’s an active community building them and sharing them, and a fair number commercially available.

Sad to say though it looks like MoaCube might not be making another soon. Well, unless we all go and buy Solstice and Cinders anyway!

Sounds like the indie games industry has hit the same market maturity issues as the porn industry. The studio head has blogged about how everything seems to have narrowed down onto Steam as a monopoly distribution channel, and how hard it can be to make a ripple with an indie game there. I hear that (try making a ripple with a single long, high-production-value movie on Clips4Sale if you don’t already have a fan base or channel in that genre).

And I hear the same thing from indies on the App store and musicians with online sales channels via iTunes and Spotify. All of these things have their wild west period, like membership websites did around 1997-2001, then settle into a small number of big players. At least the games guys don’t seem to have quite the industrial levels of piracy to contend with that porn does. (If you watch something on a tube site, know that it is 99% likely to be stolen. And the thief is making money pushing tacky adverts at your eyeballs while you watch someone else’s stolen work).

But still… I love the genre, and will be checking out more.

And better yet, even as polished and glorious a project as Cinders was made by a small team in a year and half… a few person-years of effort. That means it should be possible to do something interesting on a smaller and more modest scale in one’s spare time. There are some good tool-kits like Tyranobuilder and Ren’Py around to support it, too.

At this stage Ariel is probably rolling her eyes at me. We’re wildly over-committed, as the big work backlog following my illness shows. The last thing I should be doing is thinking of future projects, especially ones outside the core business. But what can the harm be in having a little play around with these tools in the odd hour before bed? After all I’ve got quite a head-start in terms of creating artwork and storylines… maybe a BDSM visual novel (well, let’s call it a visual short story) might be fun?

4) The mega-four-hour film is done!

The mega-four-hour custom film we shot a few weeks ago is done! It’s the longest and most ambitious single project we’ve ever done, and it would totally have fallen apart without Ariel, Zoe, Natalia and cameraperson Katie.

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I’ve still not decided 100% whether to put it up on Elegance Studios or serialise it for Restrained Elegance: it is a single story, and it kind-of sits as a companion story to Slave Auction and Pony Girl in some ways (the customer liked those films so much he wanted us to incorporate elements of those into the story for him).

But pragmatically distributing it as a single 9 GB MP4 file is going to break the downloads of anyone not on a fast internet connection, and any hiccup in the stream might see you back to square one. The shopping carts system isn’t really built for downloads that big. So I think serialising it on RE is the way to go: look out for it on the members’ area soon! It’s absolutely EPIC- Natalia Forrest sent as a secret agent into the depths of a slave-trading gang! Forced to learn how to be a perfect slave, how strip naked for her master or mistress, the positions a slave must adopt, how to talk dirty… and much, much more!

Just in time to shoot the SECOND film commissioned by the same customer this week! (Fortunately not quite such a gargantuan undertaking!) Should be fun!

All the best everyone!

Hywel

Back to Normal?

Hi Everyone!

I haven’t posted about this except from a few of self-pitying tweets because moaning about stuff publicly isn’t very attractive or interesting. But as it seems to be taking me a while to recover, I thought I’d better let you know what’s happening.

At the start of June I had a nasty bout of gastro-enteritis. Nothing too dramatic or serious, but I was totally out of action for two weeks, I didn’t eat for a week of that and lost over 7 kg body weight. Fortunately I had the stored fat to cope πŸ™‚ I took medical advice, all is well, I’m mostly recovered from the direct effects.

But it took a lot out of me, literally and figuratively, and there was a two week gap in my work schedule as well so I’m very behind.

It is taking a long time to build myself back up. My stamina in particular is lamentable right now. Ariel has been an absolute super-heroine in fielding a bunch of stuff I would normally have done, the most important being the longest and most complex custom bondage video shoot we’ve ever done which she stepped in to direct at the last moment, assisted by local camera-person and all around star Katie and our cast (Natalia Forrest and Zoe Page).

Yesterday I walked with Ariel and a visiting photographer through town to the castle, and by the time we got home I was wobbly and tired and needed a rest. It looks like it might take a while to get back to my normal mountain-walking form, since the castle walk is normally one I stride around in a lunch hour in the middle of a working day, not one that makes me have to go have a lie down afterwards.

Similarly, my endurance for shoot days, editing, and even just standing up is not what it was four weeks ago. Some days I’m managing two hours work, some days eight hours, but I’m currently incapable of the ten to twelve hour days I usually put in to catch up when I’ve got behind with stuff.

RE and Silk Soles updates are already done as far as end of July, but we have multiple multi-day shoots coming up and it might be a scramble to get August and September updates ready. We will – nothing has higher priority than keeping the RE and Silk Soles update schedule. I’ll hire extra helping hands to get through the shoots while I edit if need be, and the hell with the profit margin for the moment.

But some other stuff will have to go on the back burner while we prioritise the most important jobs that potentially impact the maximum number of our customers.

Specifically, emails and custom videos. Apart from the mega custom shoots, we were due to shoot a bunch of smaller videos, mostly with Ariel, in June and July. I’m very sorry but these will likely have to wait. I’ve not been feeling competent to rig, shoot and act in a film and do a good job (and indeed some days I’ve been so out of it that I’ve not even felt safe to rig bondage or drive a car at all). And if you are waiting for an email reply from me, please bear with me. It may be some weeks before I catch up.

So I’m sorry if I’ve gone quiet on you, or if we aren’t going to be able to deliver custom videos we hoped to shoot this month for a while. As I said, RE and Silk Soles updates are top priorities and I’m confident we’ll meet those obligations. And I’m definitely past the actual illness, it just may be a while before I’m fully recuperated. And in the meantime I’m not as productive as usual, so clearing the backlog may take several months.

Cheers, Hywel

ATVOD, OFCOM and UK censorship: Myles Jackman at the British Fetish Film Festival

GREAT NEWS!

Myles Jackman (the UK’s foremost legal expert on matters of censorship, obscenity law and sexual freedom) has kindly agreed to come along to the British Fetish Film Festival!

He will be leading a session on Sunday morning and will talk about the recent abolition of ATVOD and the absorption of their role back into OFCOM (their parent regulator).

What does that mean for UK producers and film-makers? Myles will give us a talk and take questions at the festival.

There is still time to book, you can see the full program and sign up online right now: BritishFetishFilmFestival.com

We need to know number for catering THIS WEEK so don’t miss your chance to find out the latest developments!

Oh, and we’ll be having a great fun weekend shooting and editing a Bondage Film Noir fetish film together, and chilling out watching some great kinky films at the Festival too. Be entertained! Be informed! Be there! πŸ™‚

Hywel’s Custom Videos vs. Ariel’s Custom Videos

Hi Everyone!

If you’ve been following us on Twitter, you might have noticed that Ariel and I have both been having lots of fun making custom videos.

We realised that with both of us offering customs, people are probably confused about what the difference is, given that we’re married to each other and live in the same house and everything. Then we realised that even we were a bit confused, too!

Who should you book your custom through? Ariel or Hywel?

So here is a post which we hope will clarify.

Executive Summary

For simple videos starring Ariel recorded in one or two long rolling takes, get Ariel to shoot them via AskArielStudio.com.

For grander or more complicated films shot in cinematic style, contact Hywel via EleganceStudios.com.

The More Complicated Version

Hywel’s Customs

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CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

Hywel shoots customs with the full apparatus of a RestrainedElegance.com shoot. That means using the RED digital cine camera which is capable of some absolutely awesome results (the same camera is used for Hollywood feature films shown at your local cinema).

Along with that goes stylish lighting, microphones on boom poles, and a very cinematic shooting style- lots of short takes, lots of camera angles, great closeups- very dramatic and stylish. It looks more like a film or a high-end TV drama than fetish videos you usually see on the web.

But this style is also slow to shoot, needs a fair bit of planning in advance and a lot of time in post-production to colour grade the RAW footage and edit the films together.

That means it is more expensive to shoot this way. It takes more people and more time. The results, as I hope you’ll agree, are stunning. But it takes time and therefore money to get there.

If necessary we’ll hire locations, hire other models, hire crew, buy specific bondage gear, or hire a van to take us all to the locations, and organise everything. We often shoot customs with models other than Ariel, too. On those days, Ariel’s usually doing the bondage rigging and Hywel is doing the camera work. Sometimes we have friends help out as extra crew too if the shoot is particularly demanding.

Hywel’s customs are designed for high-end productions for when you are after the very best quality bondage that anyone will make you on the web today. But they are not cheap.

Hywel can give you a break on the cost if the resulting film is suitable for him to put up on his websites. That means elegant, barefoot bondage (RestrainedElegance), bare foot fetish (SilkSoles), or long dramatic feature-length BDSM films like Pony Girl (Elegance Studios).

Hywel can shoot your film for you even if it doesn’t fit on one of the sites, but then he has to charge to cover his time, rather than making his money from selling the film afterwards. This adds even more to the costs and may stop it being a cost-effective option for you. But if you want the best quality that’s definitely the way to go.

If you want the best quality, especially if your custom video features elegant bondage, bare feet or a complicated story, Hywel is your best bet.

Ariel’s Customs

CLICK HERE for details at AskArielStudio.com.

Ariel shoots customs on a Panasonic bridge camera, with no boom mic, in whatever light happens to be around. She originally started shooting customs that she could film in her bedroom at home or in her hotel room when she is on tour.

She usually shoots them herself, which means that the style is more one-rolling-take with her talking to the camera rather than the very cinematic style which Hywel’s shoots use.

She also shoots bondage stuff (with Hywel stepping in to do the tying and the camera-work) or shoots with our kinky neighbour Zoe, but it is still shot by pointing her camera at the scene and hitting record.

This is a less labour-intensive and time-consuming style in which to shoot. So even where she does need to have other people involved to help out, the shoot can usually be done more quickly, with less pre-production planning and less post-production time as well.

As you’ll see from her Clips4Sale store, Ariel also sells the films afterwards sometimes.

But because her films are so much quicker to shoot, she can probably do you a better deal on a film which is more personal, too.

So if you want her to talk to camera as if talking to you, mentioning your name, or wearing a combination of clothes that wouldn’t sit well on Restrained Elegance, or stuff that Hywel’s sites just doesn’t cover… like Ariel dominating the camera, or pantyhose fetish, or brushing her hair… Ariel will be able to shoot it for you much more cheaply than Hywel.

If you want something more personal or specific which Ariel can shoot for you, and you don’t need the full cinematic treatment, Ariel is your best bet.

Don’t Know? Still Confused?

If you don’t know, you can always contact either one of us, describe your idea, and we’ll suggest which of us would be better to make it for you and how much it would cost πŸ™‚

Non-Kinky Landscape Project: Plynlimon

Hi All,

On 1st January 2015 I set myself a project: document the changing seasons on the top of Plynlimon, a mountain local to me in the Cambrian range in mid-Wales.

I thought I’d try doing a video 360 degree panorama every month through the year. It sorta ballooned into a 12-month video diary come visual poem about the mountain.

If you have 20 minutes and feel like a bit of a chill-out and relax, please take a look and let me know what you think:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lceUIPvaDVs

I started with a wobbly mini plastic tripod on top of the trig point; by the end of the year I was hauling the biggest tripod Gitzo would sell me plus a fluid head plus a motorized pan platform up the damn mountain to get some decent footage. Turns out Plynlimon is WINDY and that’s why the footage is a bit shaky at the start! I know it is a little slow to get started too- I wanted to keep the purity of the 360 panorama concept for January, and besides I didn’t have any other footage from that month and didn’t want to cheat.

I know it is not BBC Nature Department quality but I had a lot of fun shooting it, including a few summer nights spent camping out at the top with the whole mountain to myself. Heaven! πŸ™‚

I could upload a higher-quality version here for RE members rather than living with the YouTube compression, let me know if you’d be interested.

Cheers, Hywel

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