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Chalke Valley 2018

After sleeping on something other than the stony ground of a field (which is a convoluted way of saying a bed [which is a needlessly long explanation for it {sorry}])  I finally feel human enough to write about my week at Chalke Valley History Festival 2018.

And what a week it was! Having taken on a more senior role this year as Assistant Project Manager/Data Wrangler, the experience was very different to that of last year. I’ll go into more details in a future post about my role,  but overall it was a challenge which I learnt a great deal from.

Overall though it was a fantastic week. The team this year was half the size (16 compared with 30) but were all really driven and keen to learn. We managed to put out as as much if not more content than last year and still at the quality Bournemouth Uni is renowned for and it was amazing seeing how quickly their skills developed over the week. It was also good getting to know them all as I’ll be joining them in September to complete my final year at Bournemouth.

I made a moth-friend

One highlight was seeing Bryan Begg’s wife Diana and close friend Paul again to go to his memorial talk along with James and Georgia who were my production managers last year. Bryan was a long-time patron of the festival and at CVHF 2017 I edited the last interview he ever did before passing away earlier this year. Paul orchestrated a surprise of flowers for Diana which we gave her and it was a special moment.

Another was going to see Rob Wilkins give a talk about Terry Pratchett. I owe my love of reading to Terry who has been my favourite author from a young age and it was touching to hear such personal accounts of his life from Rob. It was amazing to learn that Terry lived in Broad Chalke, just a few miles from the festival site.

It’s been a whirlwind week with so many memories, hopefully I’ll be able to make it to CVHF 2019 and make even more!

 

The Transcribinator

Transcribing is the kind of frustratingly labour-intensive task that makes me realise humanity still has a ways to go before being at risk of being enslaved by sentient AI overlords.

However, I’ve come to realise that is a necessary part of the editing process. For those of you who are unaware, transcribing is the process of converting speech into text. When faced with large chunks of footage, such as after shooting a series of interviews like I recently have, figuring out how to go about editing it all can be a daunting task.

Transcribing helps because it allows you to edit before you even import your footage into your timeline. Known as a paper edit, having the words written out in front of you makes it much easier to figure out how you’re going to structure your interview. This is because it’s faster to read two sentences next to each other than having to scrub back and forth in the timeline to hear if your cuts work.

On top of this, if you have the time and patience to do the transcribing yourself, the words will be seared into your brain via repetition-based monotony. This might not seem like too much of an advantage until you’re actually editing and your nice clear text become ambiguous clips in the timeline. Trust me, it helps.

Transcribing is a fairly time-consuming process (please see previous comment about lack of robot overlords). So even though there are a few tips and tricks to speed up the process, be aware of this when planning your project. The biggest tip I can give you to help reduce the workload is to run your interviews through a speech-to-text converter. This allows you to go through and make corrections rather than writing it out from scratch; the better your audio quality, the less changes you have to make.

There are loads out there, but my software of choice is VoiceBase. Although you have to pay for it, you get $60 free credit which I’ve only used about $10 of in the year I’ve been using it.

So, to recap, transcribing is a painstaking but necessary part of editing which, when done properly, will end up saving you time in the long run.

 

It’s All About Tone

Colour correction is a skill which I’ve been slowly getting to grips with. My biggest challenge yet has been matching the footage from my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMC) with my Canon camera. This is because the two cameras capture information in very different ways.

The Canon records in a .MOV file format, with H.264 encoding. Don’t worry if you don’t what that means, what’s important to know is that it allows the camera to record HD video with a relatively small file size. This comes at the cost of being less flexible when it comes to colour-correction in post-production. A smaller file size means less information captured, which means you can’t manipulate the colours as much before it affects the image quality.

The BMC uses ProRes. This captures much more information and therefore creates a much larger file size, so when it comes to colour correction you have a lot more range to work with.

Think of it like taking notes in a lecture. The Canon notes down the key points, so that by the end you’ve got a general but clear idea of what the topic was about. The BMC covers all the points of the lecture in detail, with cute little subheading’s and the occasional highlight.

More notes = More paper                   SO                More information = Larger file size

What this means visually is that the Canon footage looks much closer to a finished product, while the BMC is a blank slate, devoid of any striking tone or colour.

With the help of a course on the amazing Lynda.com (please sponsor me), I began the process of matching the BMC’s footage to the Canon’s. The first step was to set up a workflow where the two could be compared side by side, which I did by cropping both shots and placing them next to each other, making sure they had similar framing of the subject (which in this case is the dashing Jonathan).

Next was to match the tone, which is shown by the Luma waveforms below. As you can see, the waveform on the right (which is the BMC) is more compressed and a different shape to the one on the right.

To match the tones, you use the Basic Correction settings in Premiere to match the shape of  the BMC’s waveform with the Canon’s as shown below. The BMC footage on the far right now has more depth to it than it did before.

After matching the tones of the two cameras, I then moved on to colour. This followed a similar process of matching the waveforms, this time using a RGB Parade:

As you can see, the three pairs of waveform are similar in size and shape. This is done using the curves you see on the right hand side of Premiere (the green line in this screen grab). The two are now much more closely matched:

Jeff Sengstack, the author of the Lynda course I watched, said that there was both an art and a science to colour correction, with tone being the science and colour being the art. Understanding this was key to my understanding of the skill – it was easy to match the tones of the two shots, but matching the colours was a much more subtle and subjective process.

 

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!

Artisan GIF’s

I have spent the last 2 days making a GIF. That’s about 16 hours making 16 second’s of what is essentially a moving image. I’ve been staring at the timeline in Photoshop for so long the images are ingrained in my eyeballs. It’s probably not been the most efficient way to make this GIF, but with so many components it was the only way I knew how.

Yet I don’t feel bitter towards it, instead feeling strangely proud of my labours. Others will probably glance at it and then continue their scrolling, but I’ll remember the hours of staring at that flashing sequence of images and the subsequent kind of mild epilepsy I inflicted upon myself to get it done.

It makes me wonder how many GIF’s I’ve scrolled past, oblivious to the blood, sweat and tears which someone poured into those few seconds of content. It’s a humbling realisation that there is immense craftsmanship in even the simplest of things all around us. I shall try to be more aware of it, as should you. The world might seem a little bit brighter.

Loose Women – Day 5

And so my week’s work experience at Loose Women has come to an end. I must admit, even after only a week I felt a pang as I walked out the elevator for the last time. Of course, with all the running about I’ve done this week this may well have just been the ache ebbing from my legs.

But wow. What a week it’s been. The buildup to today’s big celebration show has certainly been an interesting one, with puppies, prosecco and Gemma Collins all featuring in the highlights. It’s been a really educational experience and even in the short time I was there my knowledge of terrestrial television as an industry has grown tenfold. From the Producer’s desk to Director’s gallery, Floor Manager’s studio to editor’s suite, Stylist’s wardrobe to Set Dresser’s workshop, I’ve had a glimpse into the huge workforce behind the TV we enjoy daily. It’s given me a clearer sense of not only what I want to pursue as a career, but my own place within the media industry.

It’s been a great start to my placement year, I can’t wait to see what the rest of it brings!

 

Loose Women – Day 4

So today I shadowed Jack, the Assistant Floor Manager, whilst on air. Running around behind the set getting everything ready, I was suddenly transported back to my acting days at school, the familiar buzz of preparing for a production surging through me. It was a feeling I’d missed.

The Floor Manager’s job is to keep everything running smoothly in the studio. This means organising props, the cast, rehearsals, timings and generally being alert to anything which might cause an issue whilst live on air. As to be expected, this involves a lot of running around trying to do 12 things at once. Thankfully I was only a witness to this, completing errands and relaying instructions, but nonetheless remaining largely observant of this manic activity at work. Gemma Collins (whose memes are dominating Twitter right now) was the main guest who we had to escort around the studio for the day.  It was a strange sensation seeing someone who had garnered such a frenzy of attention online in person.

Me and the Queen of Memays

Once the show was over I went down to wardrobe, where I got to see the somewhat less glamorous side of fashion – sorting through and bagging up all the multiple outfits which hadn’t been worn on the show. Although I don’t have a particular interest in pursuing fashion as a career, it was still another insight into one of the micro-industries which make up the world I want to work in.

Chalke Valley History Festival 2017

So I was hoping to do daily updates but, rather fittingly the history festival had virtually no wifi or phone signal. So instead must sum up my experiences in retrospect. But first a bit of background:

Chalke Valley History Festival has been running since 2011 and is the largest festival in the UK which is dedicated to history in all forms. It has over 100 talks from historians, authors and celebrities throughout the week, as well as an impressive array of Living History spanning from the Romans to WW2. On the Saturday and Sunday there are also air shows showcasing historical planes in all their glory.

It was a lot more hands on than more conventional work experience, we were planning, filming and editing all of the content created. As such, I was able to get involved with all 3 stages of production on a wide range of content including multi-camera talks, cinematic pieces, vox pops and plenty of interviews. Working in a real media environment tested and built confidence in my skills in a way University work could never achieve. It was a great feeling being able to see all the things I’d learnt come together so well.

My favourite project I worked on was the interview of one of the festival’s most beloved patrons, Bryan Beggs. This was admittedly in part due to the quality of the footage being so good, but the man was also a charismatic interviewee, which made staring at his face for several hours a bit more bearable. When I finished they had a private showing for him and his wife which was a bit of a tear-jerker. I was very proud to have played such a large part in the event.

My production manager Georgia, Bryan Beggs, his wife and me

The festival itself was also fantastic. Having a passion for history, the talks I was able to film were very interesting and by the Saturday the whole site’s atmosphere was electric. The Living History was particularly impressive. I was able to talk at length with some of them whilst filming a short cinematic project and the amount of knowledge they possessed about their era was staggering.

Overall it was a great experience, one which I hope to repeat in 2018!