Tag Archives: camera

Sheep and Sisyphus – The Toils of a Data Wrangler

As we loaded the van in Bournemouth ready to head off to Chalke Valley, the guy behind the kit desk gave a knowing chuckle when I told him I was to be data wrangler at the festival this year. ‘It’s a fancy name for the poor sod who sits in a dark room transferring files’. Blinded by my hubris, I laughed him off, oblivious to the truth of his words.

It wasn’t entirely true of course, there was no dark room. Just a very hot tent. In a field. There were sheep.

The major challenge I faced was storing the footage in a way that allowed me to later find specific files which needed to be passed on to our editors. This was crucial because over the course of the week I ingested over 10,000 files into the system. The recipient of these files was a hulking external hard drive sat next to me, which I affectionately christened Tobias.

Tobias and the backup hard drive, his son Toby Jr.

Anyway, the system I developed revolved around the file names – I put enough information in the names of the files I was transferring that I could easily find them again. The format I used was day_project_equipment_name and it worked really well. Using equipment as a variable rather than merely camera/sound allowed for the fact that people would often use different cameras filming the same project. Adding their name at the end further helped avoid confusion as to who filmed what.

I set out a portion of the table where people could fill out the relevant information on sticky notes, which they could then attach to their SD Cards and leave for me to ingest. Another feature which saved my life was the ability to mass-rename files (Press F2 with the files selected), saving valuable time in the transfers.

If this is sounding a little boring to you, it’s because it was. Once I had the system figured out it was just a matter of clicking and dragging files across from one folder to another.

What made it interesting is that in amongst this constant stream of transfers, I also had to review all the footage coming in and cut the best of it together into daily roundups. Each day around 5pm the pressure set in to meet the 8 o’clock deadline and I would enter an almost zen-like focus, shaped by the stresses and pressure of the task at hand. Anyone foolish enough to disturb me was met with primeval grunts and a look I didn’t know my face was capable of making. If anyone from the team is reading this I can only apologise.

BUT, I got them done, in the later half of the week helped by the brilliant Naomi. Each day, when the dust had finally settled as I hit that export button, I would look over and see the pile of SD Cards waiting for me to ingest. My very own version of Sysiphus’s toil.

*sad violin music*

 

Interviews Done!

So, two weeks and 17 interviews later, I’ve finally finished interviewing the staff at NEJ.  Some people dropped out or didn’t sign up to begin with,  which was something I hadn’t had real experience with before – people are nervous about getting in front of a camera. Having always done university projects with other media students who were pretty used to it, I underestimated The Fear of the Lens (cheesy horror movie anyone?).

This also affected people who had done the interviews – it was a challenge to get them feeling comfortable enough to give natural answers. There was a really magic moment when one of the guys, who was extremely nervous about being on camera, just for a moment forgot that he was and delivered one of the best lines of the week. That was a great feeling.

You’re very aware that these people are placing trust in you to show them in a good light, overcoming their own fears about being in front of the camera. It’s a humbling responsibility.

My ingest and file management has also greatly improved. Having never handled content on this scale before, I made sure to set out folders and a workflow for getting the footage ingested into Premiere.

The scale of this also meant I’ve had to transcribe all the interviews and do a paper edit prior to actual editing, a skill which I gained from my time with Atlas of the Future doing Meaning Conference transcribings. Quickly seeing the benefits of being able to go through and highlight the best parts and more easily visualise how they can fit together. It is melting my brain though.

And because I love a gif, here’s some of me setting up and then packing up in the workshop:

 

Foiled by a spindle moulder

Sooo, some stuff went wrong and I had to change my plans.

I spent the whole of yesterday setting up for the workshop interviews, only to find out the machine right next to my set would be being used until Tuesday. How I only found this out after hours of prep I don’t know, but its been an excruciating lesson in Sod’s law – ‘If it can go wrong, it will’.

My contingency was to interview the office employees, which meant finding a new location and all the challenges that posed.

I’m going to say this now, and until experiencing it myself I wasn’t able to fully appreciate it:

SOLO SHOOTS ARE REALLY HARD

Like the animals on Noah’s ark, my kit came in pairs. Having to set up a  camera, mic and light by yourself is not ideal at the best of times, but when each is multiplied by two it pushes you to the limits of your skill set. Nevertheless, I’m really grateful for the opportunity it has provided me to push myself. It’s a challenge having your motivation coming from the same source as your frustrations and problems, the overcoming of which is invaluable in all aspects of life.

One of my favourite tasks of the day was having the sound-proof the cupboard behind my camera which, after getting the guys in the workshop to turn their music down, I discovered housed a large and rather noisy server.

To get an idea of the noise prior to my handywork, hum moderately loudly until someone nearby smacks you.

Eventually I managed to get Ed, one of the managers from upstairs, to come down and be the guinea pig for my first (ever) solo interview. It was a really good run, by which I mean I found out a lot of the problems I hadn’t known about before I hit record.

Watching the footage back, I’m really pleased with how it turned out. My next challenge is going to be matching up the colours of the Canon and Blackmagic footage (which I *think* involves something to do with LUT).

Watch this space!

Workshop interviews

Having found a good location in the workshop, today I did a test setup to figure out any issues before the actual run. The first, I discovered, is that its quite very difficult to frame an interview shot without a person sitting in the chair. Not wanting to disturb the employees, who all looked very busy and were often holding something sharp, I was forced to run back and forth from the camera to the chair to make adjustments. I got there in the end and the resulting GIF which you see before you outlines my process of tightening up the shot, adding props to fill out the background and bringing in some lighting. (I apologise for looking so bleak, probably just sad that all the bees are dying)

This will change slightly from person to person as I adjust the lighting and focal length to accentuate their features, but it’s been really useful to get a feel for the space. It’s also allowed me to block out tripod and lighting positions like so:

Here’s a pic of the setup minus your’s truly. Hoping to start the interviews tomorrow, so we’ll see how it goes!

Compressed Cats

So whilst watching a course on DSLR lenses on Lynda.com like the studious media producer I (occasionally) am, I learnt something interesting about focal lengths and their relationship to image depth. The difference between taking a photo whilst standing physically close to an object and taking that same photo from a distance but zoomed in is remarkable.

Standing close, your focal length is smaller (or shorter? Forgive me if my technical jargon isn’t 100%) and so there is a greater sense of depth, allowing you capture a larger amount of the background. Standing further away and zoomed in, your focal length is larger/longer and so the image becomes compressed, making objects in the background appear closer.

To illustrate this, I enlisted the help of a small furry animal called Millie, who happens to live in my house:

CLOSE UP
ZOOMED IN

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see from this effortlessly photogenic feline, close up the photo captures more of the background, whilst zoomed in the image looks more compressed with the background much closer. Personally I prefer the first photo, which accentuates the shape of her head, whereas the second gives her a bit of a Garfield aesthetic.

You can clearly see, however, that even though the photos are framed in a virtually identical way, their overall look is noticeably different. This can work the other way around as well. I took two photo’s of Millie’s brother, Ollie, again close-up and then further away:

CLOSE UP
ZOOMED IN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time the zoomed in picture looks better, that compression helping to clearly define his facial features. Granted, the first picture is from a slightly higher angle, but you get the point. This serves to show that there isn’t a set focal length which is best for everything, and that experimentation with different focal lengths can drastically affect the quality of your image.

Because I’m feeling particularly zealous today I’ve also included the comparison in GIF form. Anyone seen discussing the pronunciation in the comments will be blocked.