‘The Rack Pack’ Review

Well, here’s a first. I’m actually going to do a review of a TV Movie which has been exclusively released on BBC iPlayer, The Rack Pack!

Why am I doing this instead of something more graphic design related? Well… I actually designed some of the props for this film. Specifically, I designed these drinks-labels…

drinks labels
The labels I designed for this movie.

There’s even an old blog-post about the time I spent designing them, and watching the show be filmed. So, it only seemed right for me to review the show I helped created (if only by around 0.2%).

Synopsis

Based on true events in the early 80’s, Alex “Hurricane” Davies is a bombastic, alcoholic snooker-player whose just too good at his craft for anyone to criticise. That is until Steve “The Nugget” Davis comes along, a nerdy, ginger-haired newbie to the sport who spends his spare time playing arcade games and staying clear of the booze.

Steve’s manager, Barry Hearn, knows he has the skills, but not so much the personality for being in the limelight. So, he gives the lad a new haircut, a new suit, and trains him to be the well-manored yet startling snooker-professional we all associate with the sport today. But as Steve gets more positive publicity throughout the tournament, it looks like it may be more than Alex’s championship that’s on the line here.

Davis made to look threatening.
Davis made to look threatening.

The Good Points

Let’s start with the actors in this film, because they all did wonderful jobs. Luke Treadway did really well as Higgins, especially as we watched his life go down the pan. Will Merrick was really good as Davis, too, and it was fun to watch him grow from being the underdog to the quasi-nemesis. Kevin Bishop was spot on with his voice when playing Hearn, as well. Honestly, there isn’t really an actor or actress in this movie who I was swap. They were all right on the money.

Higgins and Davis prepare to lay against each other.
Higgins and Davis prepare to lay against each other.

I also thought this was written especially well, not only for the memorable characters and sequences, but also because it managed to cater to both sports-fans and the general audience. I’m saying this, because even though I’m not into snooker by any stretch of the imagination, I still felt as if I could grasp how rules of the sport worked simply by watching the film. I didn’t have to think too hard about what they were, I could just watch them play and grasp if they were doing well or not.

By the way, were these actors really playing with real balls? There’s one continuous shot I remember in which we see Higgins pot them all one after the other, and I was trying to figure out whether or not this was really him doing it, or whether there were some very clever effects being used in post-production. Either way, it was still very impressive.

Was this moment real, or some very clever movie magic?
Was this moment real, or some very clever movie magic?

Speaking of which, I loved it how cinematic this movie felt. It didn’t feel like the director shrugged his shoulders and said “oh well, it’s only going to be on iPlayer, so we don’t have to work as hard on it”. No, I actually felt as if I could watch this on the silver-screen and be very satisfied with what I saw. I loved the desaturated colour-palette, I loved how the editing flowed seamlessly between all of the different camera angles, and admittedly, I’m a sucker for the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. There’s just something about wide-screen that I fall for every time.

I realised this back when I saw this movie being filmed, but what I didn’t realise was that what I actually saw was the movies ending. And I have to say, there’s something really chilling about this. Despite all of the editing in the finished product, I can tell you from personal experience that this scene was actually acted and filmed in one continuous shot (albeit multiple takes), and it really felt like these two characters had been in this mad journey this entire time. They had their highs, and they had their lows, and with the way they were talking to one another and saying their farewells, it actually kind of left an impact on me.

A still from the very shot I got to see being filmed.
A still from the very shot I got to see being filmed.

My Little Criticisms

What, you didn’t think I was just going to be calling this movie perfect on the pure basis I had some involvement in it, did you?!

Well, I for one think honesty is the best policy, and I think it’s only respectful to be honest with the crew of this movie about the little problems I had in order to know what improvements could be made in the future. And besides, it really was only minor problems I had with the show.

Most notably, it was simply that I noticed a few details in the props they used which gave the game away that they weren’t real. For example, when one character stuck a cigarette in his mouth, I could see the indentation of where the fake logo was glued over. I can’t really criticise the show for that, though, because the naked eye wouldn’t have noticed. You’ve got to really know what you’re looking for to spot these errors.

Also, the soundtrack could have perhaps been worked on. Don’t get me wrong, the actual playlist is fantastic. One of the songs they used, Baba o’Riley from The Who, is actually my favourite song (I love songs with a strong build-up). But whenever a song started playing, it seemed to come out of nowhere. Once again, perhaps that’s simply a case of me being farmiliar with the material.

Overall Opinion

On the whole, I found this to be a really well-produced, cared-for, enjoyable TV movie, and surprisingly enjoyable for those not into Snooker. If it comes out on DVD sometime soon, nothing’s going to stop me from buying a copy.

Now, I’m not exactly the best person for making predictions for award-season. I thought Inside Out might have been a contender for Best Picture at the Oscars this year, and it wasn’t (good grief, will an animated movie EVER win Best Picture?!) With that said, this did remind me quite a bit of another TV movie I found to be exceptional, Murdered by my Boyfriend, and that had its fair share of BAFTA nominations.

So, keep your eyes peeled, folks, because this might be a BAFTA contender.

Keep your eyes on this, Higgins!
You heard me, Higgins!

If you fancy watching this movie, feel free to click here and experience the rack pack play the game the only way they know how!

Top 10 Iconic Adobe Creative Cloud Apps

It shouldn’t be surprising to any of my friends that the highest standard in creative software packages is Adobe Creative Cloud. However, one thing I did find surprising was that when I searched for a list of the top 10 most iconic Creative Cloud Apps, I got no results.

So I thought, “what the hey”, and decided to write one myself.

I’m basing my list more on how well known they are outside of the design community than I am on how useful they actually are for the wide variety of creative products out there. With that said, their functionality will also play a big role in my decision-making, both individually and as part of the overall usage as part of the Adobe CC package.

No.10 – Muse

adobecc-muse
Personally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of WYSIWYG website builders, mainly because I think they’re not everything they crack themselves up to be. With that said, the key reason I think this way is because most people are either frightened of code, or simply don’t know how to do it!

That’s why Muse is such a good software for anyone who wants to build a website without any knowledge of HTML or CSS. Unlike a software I’ll mention later in this list, this is the go-to app for anyone looking to get started on designing websites, putting their look before their practicality.

No.9 – Lightroom

adobecc-lightroom
I’ve personally tried using Lightroom a handful of times, and I have to be honest, I can’t work it out for love or money. However, this is a software designed for photographers, as opposed to graphic designers, and most of the friends I have in the photography business wouldn’t know how to cope without this app.

From what I’ve seen, it’s a great tool for cropping and colourising multiple photos, as well as organising groups of similar photos into catalogues.

It might not be the most well-known of softwares, but if you’ve ever looked at a photo collection, don’t be surprised if Lightroom was a key tool used in choosing and refining those pictures you love.

No.8 – Audition

adobecc-audition
This is the only one of Adobe CC’s softwares to be designed exclusively for sound-design, making this the primary software for musicians and sound-effects artists.

I’d love to brag about what wonderful things Audition can do, but seeing as the most I’ve ever done on it is an attempt to remove the background music from one song, I’m certainly not the person to ask.

Just be rest-assured that if you’re into the art of sound, Audition is a good software too pick.

No.7 – After Effects

adobecc-aftereffects
After Effects is the best place to go for special-effects when using the Adobe CC package, especially those which involve using 2 pieces of footage in one shot. Therefore, just about any hologram, motion-graphic, or chroma-key (i.e. blue/green screen) effect you see in a movie or TV show today would have been achieved using After Effects.

Some advanced examples of how After Effects can be used include the ‘helmet’ shots in the Iron Man films, and the fan-made opening titles to The Walking Dead. But some more subtle uses of After Effects include the Idents and used by news-corporations, such as the BBC and Sky News.

Really, all you need to do to see what great work can come from After Effects is turn the TV on.

No.6 – InDesign

adobecc-indesign
You’d be hard-pressed to find a design company these days that doesn’t use InDesign. Much like Microsoft Word, this software is designed for text-editing and publishing. Despite the fact that Word is cheeper and more functional for the everyman, InDesign is easily the industry standard in publishing design.

Not only does InDesign it easier to control the leading, tracking, indents, paragraph spaces, etc. which make typography work, but it’s also easier to create drop-caps, create page spreads, and seamlessly combine multiple documents into a whole book.

It can also be good for website design, but if you ask me, there’s still one software more iconic and capable for designing websites to wait for…

No.5 – Illustrator

adobecc-illustrator
Contrary to what you might think from the software’s name, Illustrator is in fact a highly adaptable software for any creative working in the digital arts. In many respects, Illustrator is a superior software to the number one on this list, since it allows someone to design using vectors (solid shapes) as opposed to bitmaps (pixels). This allows for shapes to be more adaptable, curvatures to be smoother, and outlines to look crisper.

From t-shirts to typefaces, from leaflets to logos, and from maps to mascots, there’s an awful lot one can design simply using Illustrator.

It might take some time for someone to get used to bezier arms and the pen tool. Yet personally, this is my favourite of the Adobe CC Package, and I won’t stop using it anytime soon.

No.4 – Premiere Pro

adobecc-premiere
One of the problems with After Effects is that it takes a long time to load each one of its frames as you test your footage, making it painful for basic video editing. This is why Premiere pro is there better software to use for editing.

I have to be honest and say that I’ve never used this software myself, but from what I can tell, it’s more stripped down than After Effects is, and capable of loading its clips faster. This allows editors to slice away all they like, often creating masterpieces of film.

And if you think this is a software just for the general public, think again. The Sundance Film Festival saw a 130% rise in entries that were cut using Premiere Pro in 2015. Gone Girl, the first ever movie to be edited entirely with Premiere Pro, would not be the same if it weren’t for the Creative Cloud!

No.3 – Dreamweaver

adobecc-dreamweaver
This software is designed with one thing in mind… development. Whether that be a website, a software, or an app, this is the go-to software for coders.

One part WYSIWYG, one part text-editor, it makes it easier than ever for developers to create sites using this software. Not only can the developer see a near-perfect replica of what they’re creating as they build it, but pre-built templates and segments help the professionals get the divs they want in their sites, and then use their knowledge of code to tweak their sites to be just the way they want them!

For every website created with WordPress, just about every other website would have been created with Dreamweaver. And once you get the hang of it, you can certainly tell why.

No.2 Flash (soon to be re-named ‘Animate’)

adobecc-flash
Web-designers typically hate this software, because it’s tendency for slow loading times-and overly complicated UI’s meant hundreds of websites created in the early naughties were butchered.

On the other hand, this is the ideal software for animators and game-designers, especially those who like to keep their work 2D. Not only are the transitions crisp and smooth due to easing, but by adding some ActionScript, it can become entertainingly interactive.

Even if Flash games have fallen out of popularity with the rise of Apple devices, it’s popularity in cartoons like The Tom and Jerry Show show that Flash still has a bright, animated future.

Now, I would usually write a list of honourable mentions for this segment. However, since the majority of apps left in the Adobe CC package are used in the background, it seems rather pointless to make a huge fuss about them. So, let’s just skip to my number one pick…

No.1 – Photoshop

adobecc-photoshop
Sure, InDesign and Illustrator might be the better softwares for graphic designers like myself. But seriously, how can anybody deny the sheer influence that Photoshop has had on both the creative and technological industries?!

Designed especially for photo-manipulation, such as the artwork by Erik Johansson, photoshop isn’t just the software most of us digital-creatives are introduced to. It’s a trademark which has become a verb in its own right, which if you ask me, stapes this as the most iconic the Adobe Creative Suite softwares!

(Sorry, I couldn’t help but include this video too!)

But, perhaps you have a different idea of which one of the Adobe CC Apps is the most iconic. If you think this list needs a different order, feel free to comment below and let me know!