Roughing it

Both meetings with Carole Anne have unfortunately been cancelled as she has cancelled training this week so not been able to go over last Sunday’s footage to pick out the best bits.

Done my best in the meantime to whittle the footage down to a more manageable amount.

Biting off more than I can chew

Had a long day today shooting video for a wee mini-documentary on the squad’s day at the BBL Trophy Final.

Not being overly well set up for shooting large quantities of video meant I was constantly having to offload data to the laptop and I was also having to improvise with methods of holding the camera since I don’t have a proper rig for shooting video.

Digital SLR cameras may be capable of shooting extremely high-quality HD footage but because of how they are designed they are much better suited to locked-off static shots rather than constantly moving around. The best solution for what I was after was to pre-select the focus distance and rely on maintaining a constant distance to the subject. Not always possible but trying to keep a high enough depth-of-field meant that for the most part the majority of what I was shooting remained in focus.

I had a rough shot-list of what I needed so it was a case of trying to get as much suitable footage to go into the editing room with. I started off with some establishing shots of the outside of the Emirates Arena, and then done some test shots of the girls rehearsing their routines. We weren’t planning on using any of the rehearsal clips in the finished video but it was useful for setting up the camera and trying different techniques for hand-holding the camera while trying to keep it as steady as possible.

I found that attaching my monopod to the base of the camera provided some counterweight which helped smooth out the motion of the camera and also allowed me to raise the camera for high-angle shots as well as prop it on the court for steady low-level shots. For walking shots it still wasn’t a substitute for a proper Steadycam™ but it was certainly smoother than trying to just hold the camera.

Since I was using the DSLR for video I decided as a bonus piece of fun to use my film camera to get some stills with the 200ISO film I had bough the other week. Not expecting miracles given the light conditions but with any luck some of the posed shots might turn out OK. Of course being film I have no way of knowing how they look until I finish the film and get it processed – oh how things  have changed in the new digital world!

Once it was nearly game-time we had to record an intro for the video so we got Hannah so say a little piece to camera since she done so well for the previous video. We had some unexpected interruptions from the mascot Leroy but it actually added a nice fun feel to the video so I think I’ll use the take with him in it. One problem that I had no answer for was the volume of the background noise, especially the commentator Mark who was almost drowning-out the soft-spoken Hannah. Since I don’t have an external microphone there was nothing I could do so I think I’ll have to look into rerecording the audio.

For the remainder of the game it was pretty much a case of getting different angles of each of the dance routines and a good variety of shots of the girls reacting to the game, crowd shots and a few action shots of the game itself. The more footage I could capture the more options I would have for putting together an interesting video clip. I also had Carole Anne getting some extra footage on my little compact digital camera – the quality isn’t as good but being a Canon it at least had a very similar colour and tonal balance to the main camera so should hopefully drop into the footage without any problems.

To bookend the video we also recorded a little conclusion interview with Hannah to sum up the game and how it was from the girls’ point of view. Thankfully the background noise was a lot less so the audio from these clips should be a lot more useable.

Of course, shooting the footage was the easy bit – the next stage is going to be a lot harder: editing!

Old School and New Ideas

I had the idea after last week’s presentation to give Kat a loan of my old film camera so that she could gain an appreciation of how much different it is to shooting digitally and how much extra thought and effort goes into it.

Since I had to buy batteries and film for the camera I decided to fire off a roll while I was working in Glasgow on Friday and it got me thinking about how I could use the older techniques in my own project. Once I get the camera back from her I think I will arrange to shoot a few portraits on film just to see how they turn out.

Chances are I will still be using my digital SLR for any final images but you never know, I might get some good results from the film camera.

I’d really need to order some higher-quality film though as the Fuji Superia that was the only option to buy on Friday isn’t going to give me the results I want. Maybe I’ll buy some slide film so at least I know there won’t be any differences introduced by the lab when they process it. If I do that then I’ll need to wait until next month so I can afford the film!

I watched the National Geographic documentary again about Steve McCurry shooting the last-ever roll of Kodachrome to give me some perspective about making every shot count – I won’t be under quite the same pressure but even from shooting on Friday I remembered what it was like when you didn’t have the safety-net of instantly checking your results on the back of the camera.

It also got me thinking about the classic studio portraits from the Golden Age of Hollywood – primarily those by George Hurrell – and how that look would actually be very suited for the photos going on the Rox Dancers website.

We’d always wanted black-and-white photos for the background of the pages and the lighting in Hurrell’s portraits would fit very well. Without trying to slavishly copy his style I think I will shoot some full-length shots with the very smooth-but-contrasty directional lighting to create a very three-dimensional look to the images.

Final Presentation

Today was the scary day where we had to do our final assessed presentations for David.

I felt a little bit like I was being picked on since he made me go last just in case my presentation crashed the computer! Apart from the sound cutting out in the first slide it worked OK, although I did get a request to turn the volume down because people couldn’t hear my voice.

If we had done the presentation in our normal room it would have been better because the speakers were next to the screen rather than on the ceiling in the middle of the room.

But apart from all that it went well, got a couple of relevant questions from David about the content which I can address in the essay.

External Input

Had my first meeting with the external examiner today to discuss my project. Felt guilty that I didn’t have much written material to show her but I’ve been concentrating more on practical experimentation than on research. Having said that she seemed pleased that someone had been doing practical work instead of just research – I just need to get the research that I have been doing printed out and stuck into a sketchbook.

She said she was interested in dance which was a good start but I think she was thinking more of floaty ballet stuff rather than the more commercial style of dance which our squad will be doing. Maybe I didn’t explain that well enough in my PLP – and it probably didn’t help that the photographers and artists that I had referenced were working in a ballet-type style so maybe I should have been looking at other sources.

I’ve to do some more loose pieces of art rather than my precise drawings – taking inspiration from the movements rather than concentrating on the details. For what I’m looking for

Draft Presentation

After many false-alarms we finally got to do our draft presentations for David.mine was going swimmingly until about halfway through when the computer crashed. Not sure if it was because of the videos and background music – if it was then hopefully it’ll work for the final version because I don’t really want to remove them as they are a big part of my presentation.