Cogitating …

At the end of my “Something Different” blog last week I said I was off to do some cogitating. Well I’m still doing it – cogitating that is!

One thought that did come to mind was: What is the correct way to go about making a video. Or should I say “correct”?

Last week, I put together three videos in as many days using existing material, video and stills, from my files.  The audio was recorded as I went along and together with sound effects was the only part created specifically for the three videos apart of course from the tea-making sequence.  One thing I realised was that the oft-heard advice that the only way to improve was to get making videos was sound. After three days I had remembered most of what I’d forgotten about using the software and I think that the same will be true of shooting footage. I’ve dipped my toes in and out of video-making so often over the years that I invariably end up having to relearn things I’d already covered and therefore each attempt is no better than the last.

© Dave Whenham
Nine months since my last dabble in video creation

Making three videos in as many days, all using the same approach meant that each time I was able to build on the learning from the previous one. I genuinely believe each is better than the previous attempt and can say without fear of contradiction that putting them together in the software definitely got easier. Not easy … easier!

The first video, Something Different,  was built around a narrative and is something I was originally going to produce as a normal written blog post but given that it was about video making I thought it made sense to create a benchmark video. The visuals were selected to provide something interesting to look at rather than move the narrative along and I surprised myself by how much material I have lurking on my hard drives!

Video two, Something Different – The Sequel, has a definite theme. Again built around a narrative but this time the imagery relates directly to the subject matter.  I also found that I had material I would have used in the first video but omitted because I wanted to keep the running time to around three minutes.  The secondary aim of that video was to incorporate some drone footage that a friend of mine had shot and I was keen to use.

© Dave Whenham

Which brings us the the third, Black & White Landscapes. This has a definite concept, black & white, and the opening sequence was shot specifically for the video, in black and white. Like the first two videos it is narrative-driven, but this time I added something of myself (the opening sequence) as a way of appearing to be speaking directly to the viewer and the words themselves are perhaps more personal speaking as they do about I how think.  The main body of the narrative was adapted from a blog post from 2016 as I wanted to see if I could present the same material in two different mediums. Again I used existing material for most of the visuals apart from the specially shot opening sequence and I created the voice over on the day.

So, this trio of offerings are all built around a narrative with the images supporting the words. A bit like a composer writing the music to fit the lyrics I guess.  But some lyricists add words to music and some composer/lyricist teams evolve words and music together. Each approach works so I would conjecture  that the same can be true of video making?

One of my biggest stumbling blocks in terms of video production has been coming up with the initial idea. I’m beginning to realise that I already have the ideas – I write them regularly in this blog. Viewing these latest three attempts at video making, especially the third, I am starting to think that I can use this approach to present some of the ideas and topics that I’ve been writing about for some time now.  In doing so the mechanics of which comes first, words or images, becomes less relevant. What matters is how the thoughts evolve and how best to translate these into a finished piece.

Some things will need to be done differently that’s certain. I love writing, always have done, and enjoy playing with words and constructing sentences. I found when recording the voice overs that some of these sentences do not work as well when spoken aloud. Long sentences in particular.  Which means that the narrative will need to be written in shorter, tighter sentences. Without appearing clipped.

I will also need to think about what video sequences I need and make sure I shoot specifically for future videos to keep everything fresh and relevant. If for example I want to talk about the role of chance in photography the visual subject is not as relevant as if I wanted to discuss street photography for example.  However, taking that first example, I think it would work better if I took a specific example, say the Bluebell Woods, and shot footage specifically for the purpose. As I’ve already shot the stills that will mean returning on a suitable day to capture the video footage.

Everything needs to be more considered and deliberate, I can’t rely on somehow having suitable footage but need to plan ahead and capture it specifically. If I’d known at the time I would consider a video on the subject I would have shot video footage whilst working in the bluebell woods for example.

I also need to be more patient but that’s a whole new skill set for me to learn!

Of wardrobes and plastic boxes

I had an interesting hour Monday morning which culminated in me sitting in the wife’s wardrobe chatting to myself.

Pause for dramatic effect …

No, I’ve not lost the plot, well no more than usual anyway. I had been recording the voice over for my second video blog (yes a second) and whilst I was able to use the spare bedroom on Sunday, the main road outside on that side of the house is a lot busier in the week and waiting for lulls in the traffic is not an option.

I watched a ton of videos before heading towards the wardrobe mind. And there was method in my madness.  I will try to explain. Many of the videos I watched talked about putting acoustic tiles on the walls, eliminating extraneous sounds etcetera. All well and good for a professional or serious enthusiast but the casual blogger? Nah! Which explained why one vlogger I watched recorded her commentary sat in a cupboard and another under the stairs surrounded by coats and other outdoor items.  Not much good for voice to camera or talking heads style recordings I guess but for voice only it seemed workable.

© Dave WhenhamSo I looked about this house -no cupboard under our stairs, just the steps to the cellar and nor are there any handy cupboards with sufficient floor space for a six-footer like me to squeeze into. I settled on my wife’s walk-in wardrobe (except you can’t walk-in because of all her shoes).

By opening the double doors and draping these with dressing gowns I had a type of acoustic-cubicle when taken with all the clothes behind (sorry, should explain, clothes absorb stray sounds). I placed my microphone in an acoustic foam-lined plastic storage box on a chair, attached the recorder and then knelt as in prayer in front of the microphone.

With the bedroom door closed and draped in even more dressing gowns (how many can one woman wear!) and the floor length curtains pulled at the window I was as acoustically set up as I was going to be I figured.

Having used this makeshift sound booth for a few days now I can confirm that it does what it is intended to and I’ve recorded two complete narratives using this makeshift set up. It is also very quick and easy to set up, especially as I keep deciding to record just one bit more shortly after putting it all back to normal.  It wasn’t that comfortable if I’m honest, kneeling is no fun at my age I can tell you! The other problem was the floorboards, every time I shifted even slightly the microphone picked up the squeak of our ancient woodwork.

For now it works, if I end up using it on a regular basis I may have to think of a slightly more permanent arrangement – I can’t spend my life in my wife closet after all!