AD5800 – On Assignment


On Assignment, I’ve really enjoyed this module, it’s opened my eyes to much more than what I could have imagined. I’ve always wanted to dive into video production – It’s actually the reason I got a DSLR in the first place ironically, I wanted to make motocross videos when I was 16. But never really understood or put much effort into it, well not enough. I know my way around video editing software thanks to a life of being sat on YouTube and playing games. Y’see I used to make video game videos and uploaded them onto YouTube. Things like Call of Duty, Forza, all First person shooter style games really. But after a year or two of editing videos I got quite a good knowledge base of Sony Vegas. Which helped pull me through editing the 002 assignment.

But firstly, lets take a look at 001. Initial ideas for me always starts out with cars. It’s like a drug, I cant get enough of shooting cars. I then had to think about the location, being that we could only photograph in a specific city. I initially chose Cardiff, as a challenge. I didn’t know anything about Cardiff, or wales in general for that fact. So I wanted to dive into the deep end and try to get a story. I soon realised that it would be foolish to try to do something in a place I don’t know a thing about, why make it even harder on myself. It was around this time that I started to think of other ideas, I started off thinking about community garden projects, photographing something with friendly people helping each other out of the goodness of their hearts. Then I decided not to, as they don’t have engines and burning tyres. I then started looking into things related to motorsport in Birmingham, I know Driftworks headquarters is based in Birmingham, but that’s more of a garage/shop rather than a suitable photostory. I also knew that Birmingham Wheels raceway was just around the corner.

Birmingham Wheels is a tiny oval racetrack which was built in the late 70s, as a venue for the community and youngsters to let off steam in a safe controlled environment. The same mentality exists today, with the same aim on objective to run a safe venue for the community. Birmingham wheels runs monthly banger and stock car races, cheap fast paced racing that appeals to the working class individual, as it’s cheap to get into, fun and highly competitive. I’m not stereotyping banger racing as a sport for the working class, but that’s generally the demographic of people who attend the races to spectate. The races are performed in quick succession, one after another in a very swift manor. There’s hardly any waiting around between races, as the next race is on in literally minutes. It keeps the spectators happy and drivers buzzing. Although as of recently Birmingham wheels has been the host of popular drifting academy Learn 2 Drift.

Learn 2 Drift is a small business that is rapidly taking off and run by BDC semi pro driver Andy Arnott and his team. They travel around the country at places like Santa Pod, Rockingham, Brands Hatch, Birmingham and Teesside Autrodome teaching people the fundamentals of how to drift. Customers pay £199 for a half day tuition session which I attended, the students will be taught how to doughnut, figure of 8’s, transitions and 3 high speed passenger laps – approximately 30 minutes of solid driving time. There are opportunities for extra tuition of course, alternatively there are also full day sessions which is roughly 105 minutes of driving time with much more advanced techniques taught for £385. The Learn 2 Drift business is rapidly booming thanks to the popularity and awareness of the drifting sport, as well as internet advertising on websites such as Groupon.

Photographing the day was pretty challenging simply because of one thing, the sun. Every angle I tried to get was obscured or ruined by the sun, the car is either in the bright sunshine, or deep in the dark shadows. So it was really difficult to get a good exposure, especially with the fast movements of the cars. I feel like I did okay, it wasn’t my best images, but it’s not tragic. I feel as if it’s just average photography on my part. I did struggle a little, im not going to lie. I tried to get creative and unique with framing, leading lines and reflections. I also tried to be unique in the way that I tried to use a wide variety of lenses. I didn’t want to stick to my 70-200 like I normally do. I usually get really lazy when it comes to drifting photography, I tend to just walk around with the 70-200 on as I can’t be bothered to change lenses, which is really damaging my photography, it’s a bad habit I need to get out of. Therefore with this day I decided to use the 17-40 whenever I wasn’t photographing the cars on track, for a wider perspective and to have variety in my shots.

I wanted to focus more on Andy teaching the students rather than just the cars whizzing around on track. Initially I wanted my story to focus on Andy, and how he’s bought his business up from scratch with an idea. But this didn’t happen as I didn’t get the shots I wanted. Well I didn’t get enough I should say. I got plenty of photographs of Andy actually teaching the students, but it doesn’t make an interesting story and is very very repetitive. Therefore I decided to look at the Learn 2 Drift academy in general, how it operates and the service it provides for the students.  There still is a lot of repetition in this series, as it’s all pretty similar in the subject matter. Cars going round a set course with people learning to drift.

Getting the access to photograph Andy and the Learn 2 Drift crew was fairly difficult, to which I am thankful for the online blog being a feature this year. But I’ll touch on that in a little while. I messaged Andy on Facebook with my intensions of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it, I offered to give him the images as a thank you gesture. He replied a few days later saying it was fine for me to come along, but didn’t give any information on where they’d be or when they’d be there, until Saturday before around 2am. So I didn’t even know I was photographing until literally a few hours before I was meant to leave. Back onto how the blog affected me getting access to Andy… Andy must have googled his name or googled Learn 2 Drift to find my post on talking about how I know of Andy and when I first photographed him. He then shared it on Facebook and tagged me in it saying thank you for the nice words. He then private messaged me saying that it was okay for me to come down on Sunday to photograph. I feel that because of the blog and the words I wrote about Andy and his business, as well as writing down my ideas and intentions it gave Andy a more detailed idea of what I wanted to do. Which then in turn gave him a better understanding of what I was trying to achieve. For that, I am thankful that the blogs exist, because if it wasn’t there, I probably wouldn’t have got the access and permission to photograph him and his team.

As a result of the really late notice, I couldn’t really manage my time appropriately. I didn’t even know if I was shooting the Learn 2 Drift squad until the day before, so I panicked and photographed the banger racing at Birmingham Wheels. Anthony and the rest of the class really liked the images from the banger and stock car race, but in my opinion there was no story there. It was just images of racing around an oval. I didn’t get anywhere near enough people shots as I’d have liked. The racing images were decent but the darkspots and noise from the sensor were hideous, as I was shooting on 3200 ISO, as the lighting was so bad. The floodlights were terrible at night. So until about a month before the deadline, I had no idea of what to photograph. I was pretty worried that I would have to change my idea yet again. But I’m glad the Learn 2 Drift thing worked out as it is a much stronger story.

I filled my 16GB card this day as I was shooting RAW all day, I normally would shoot JPEG Large, but as this was for university and I wanted a little extra leeway with my exposure, I chose to shoot RAW. Editing the images down was a hard job considering I took over 700 images. Firstly I went through and edited it down to half the images, basically rejecting all the ones that weren’t sharp or blurry. I then chose to do an edit of 20, show it to the class to get feedback then edit it down to the 8 images that was needed. I wanted to mix the images up and didn’t want car picture after car picture for the whole sequence. So I decided to do person shot, car shot, person shot car shot etc. I also wanted car shots to be very different from each other. I wanted to show that I actually did move around the track trying to get different angles as much as possible. I think I chose the strongest images, but everyone’s opinion is different.

Am I happy with the images? Like I said early and in the blog throughout, they’re okay, they’re not amazing and they’re not bad. They are very reparative, some would even say boring, but I tried my best to get something new and interesting rather than just the everyday fill the frame style that other photographers tend to adopt. I don’t like how they look on an online slideshow, they work much better as a flipbook on paper. Slideshows on wordpress simply kills it, which makes it look pretty bad in my opinion. I would have rather have made 10×8 prints or something rather than tiny online slideshow on wordpress.

I feel like I’ve spoken about 001 to death, onto the thing that I enjoyed the most, 002. I didn’t have an idea up until a few weeks ago. I was walking down Cheltenham high street when I was approached by three young men. They were missionaries from the Latter Day church in Cheltenham, they were Mormons. I don’t know a thing about Mormons and was intrigued to find out more about their beliefs and way of life. I wanted to know more about the three young men that I had just met, as one was from America, the other from Canada and the third from Cheltenham. I wanted to know their story and what led them to come to Cheltenham. I got in touch with the two foreign men, Elder Ross and Elder Shumway and asked If I could join them for Sunday service at their church to video interview them. They were more than happy to have me there and welcomed me in such a nice manor, they even gave me a nice tour of the church.

I’ve never shot a full real life documentary video like this before, so I could only go off things that I had watched previously, like other documentaries, YouTube and films. I knew the technical skills, such as the shutter speed had to be double that of your frame rate, but didn’t know much else like framing, movement or audio. I think it shows in the video. I wanted to keep some movement in the video, so I started to walk down the isle videoing the pews, leaning into the hymn book and panning up onto their faces for example. I really really enjoyed videoing them and it was such a great and reliving feeling watching the video playback when it was all done and uploaded. I felt much more sense of accomplishment from making the video than I do when capturing images. I feel that I have created something, something I am proud of, rather than an image I’ve just captured and quickly edited.

As I’ve spoken about in detail on the blog, I do have quite a lot of video editing experience from my time editing video game videos for YouTube. Which really did help when it came to editing the video for 002. I managed to edit it and upload it that night within about 4 hours after shooting it. It also helps as I know what resolution and frame rates I needed for the project track. I edited it on Sony Vegas Pro 10. The same software I edited all my video game videos.

I did have to go back and re edit some of the clips in the video, as in version 1 of the video, there was a clip or two with my tripod in the background. I also had to remove a shot that looked very similar to a shot a few clips before. I recorded 88 odd clips of details around the church, videos of the two guys socialising and other filler footage, so I had plenty to replace it with, but didn’t notice it until one of the class member suggested it. It also gave me an excuse to go back and play with the audio levels of the video. As there was an annoying hiss throughout the whole video from the shotgun mic levels not being correct. A mistake on my part.

Target audience, my target audience is for people very similar to me, people who don’t know much about Mormons or religion, that want to get more information on what a missionary is, what they believe and how they operate. I feel that my video clearly covers these points fairly well. I asked 10 people for feedback, and they all confirmed that the video clearly justifies those points raised.

Storyboard, I’ve never done one but I wanted it to be unique to the ones I googled to look at online. They all looked boring and very factual, I wanted to do a storyboard in a very artsy, detailed yet not boring way. I wrote down the vital information I needed to know such as the resolution, frame rates and bitrate, as well as equipment used, target audience and intentions of the video.

Overall I really enjoyed shooting the video, probably more than taking photos in this case. I felt like I was creating something special when recording the footage, rather than just snapping an image. I felt like I was part of the video, I made it. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I was editing the video as I actually put a lot of work and effort into creating something. The way I saw it was that I wanted to create something that I’d actually watch. I’ve spent countless hours on YouTube in my 19 years, so I have a lot of knowledge of videos and what does/doesn’t work. One of the main things I don’t like about this video is that it ends too abruptly. It sort of just cuts to black, I tried to slow this down by fading it out to black, but it wasn’t good enough. It still ends just as quick and there’s not much else I can do to keep in the 3 minute deadline.

Last but not least, 003 Narrative Landscape, my weakest part of this module. I decided to photograph the closure of the Cheltenham racecourse boot sale, as I saw the article in the Gloucestershire Echo with the announcement of the closure a few weeks ago. I was interested into why it was shutting down, as when I went there last year it was booming. I wanted to go down to the boot sale, interact with the vendors and get their views/opinions on why the racecourse is deciding to shut it down for good. Although I had to think about my “narrative” at the same time.

Most of the images I took were of people looking around the goods from the vendors. But where’s the “narrative”? Well in my mind the whole thing is a narrative of the landscape. The boot sale is only once a week normally, and once they shut it down it’s gone and forgotten about. There are some comments and views on the Gloucestershire Echo of people complaining and objecting, but other than that, there’s not much of a fight to keep it alive. The whole story is about the boot sale, capturing its last days, documenting what once was.

Scanning and printing was pretty dire, it took a hell of a long time to get the films scanned, as the film was so curved that it was pretty much impossible to get a clean scan. So I had to use the flatbed Epson scanners in Hardwick, then flatten the film. They scanned cleanly, but they aren’t the highest resolution, which shows in the final A3 prints. I printed with Matt, and the prints aren’t as good as I wanted them to be. The quality isn’t great up close. I also decided to put them with a white border around the whole outside of the image to separate them from the background

I faced quite a few problems and troubles from the Boot Sale, worst of all was my incompetence with the Mamiya 645 medium format camera, pretty much every other shot is hideously out of focus. I presume it’s just me not being used to the camera, but it looked perfectly fine in the viewfinder. I don’t know what went wrong, the only thing that I noticed was that the focus and aperture ring was really stiff. I doubt that had any effect on my photos though. It was 100% my fault. You can see how I talked about it on my blog. I talk about everything on the blog. Another problem that I faced which was again my own problem was that I wished that I bought my Olympus pocket sound recorder along, so I could get some quotes from the people I was talking to, as I spoke to 5 stall vendors and I didn’t get one of their names. So I had to resort to using the flyer that the manager was handing out at the boot sale to get all my quotes from. I wish I had taken it along and got some ambient noise at least, as every single person was talking about the closure coming up in a few weeks. It was very sad actually.

I don’t really like my narrative landscape images, I enjoyed using the Mamiya again, but didn’t like the photographs I produced. I just think they’re very similar and boring in a sense. I like the tones from the film I used, but other than that, they aren’t as good as I want them to be. I would also like them to be square format.

Overall I have enjoyed this module a lot, it’s opened my eyes to the world of video which I really love. I’ve enjoyed every part of the module to be honest, it’s been a good module to do for out first module for the first semester of second year. I enjoyed the video most of all honestly, I really wanted to do video production for a long time and this module has given me an incentive to actually get cracking at it. It’s my first time dong a video of this calibre and I feel like I’ve done well. I am proud of what i’ve achieved. However I do have one squabble with this module, the only blogs/evaluation confused me a lot. Even though I have done it, I don’t necessarily see the point of doing an evaluation of this sort for this module as I have evaluated my work throughout on the blog in just as much detail as I’ve said here. I enjoyed blogging more this module, but at some times I wished I had a sketchbook in front of me, especially for research purposes. I would have liked to scan and paste in book/magazine articles in a sketchbook manor, which you can’t really do on an online blog as it’s meant to be more professional. At least that’s how I feel about it. It’s online for the world to see, so it needs to be to a certain standard. In my opinion. I feel like I’ve done the best I can for this module, I have aimed for a high grade with the quality of my work as well as the supporting material. I think I’ve fallen in love with video production.

002 Video feedback and improvements

I got some very helpful feedback from the class the other day regarding my video for 002, about Mormons. The key things that was pointed out was some of the mistakes in the footage e.g me leaving my tripod in the background in one of the scenes. They also pointed out the clips that looked too simular as well as commented on the staticy of the audio quality.

I address all these things tonight and it does improve the video by a long way!

Here’s what I did as well as my render settings.


To get rid of some of the staticy noises from the audio, I had to play around with some Audio effect filters on Vegas. These worked wonders, but took alot of fiddling to ensure the audio stayed as close and as realistic as possible. Thankfully for me, the track EQ has a preset to reduce the static noises.


Once I made all the appropriate changes, It was time to render the video. I chose to render in the highest quality possible. So I chose MP4 format at a bitrate of 16mbps. Basically, higher the mbps, higher the quality. Downside to this is that higher quality videos take considerably longer to buffer and load than smaller videos. This isn’t much of an issue when uploading to Vimeo, as Vimeo automatically downscales your video to 720p. Unless you have pro.


I am happy with this edit and I think it will be the final version. I am going to email Annie soon for some feedback before Tuesdays hand in.


002 in the bag!!!

So today I did something i’d never consider doing. I went to church.

I decided to give up with trying to call and email, trying to find the Elders, so I woke up early, got a shirt on and put my nicest shoes on and decided to drive down the the church for Sunday service.

The church is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which is located 2 minutes away from Park Campus.


Whilst I was trying to find some research about Mormons, I came across this Echo article from the same day I met the two Elders in Cheltenham. A reporter from the Echo did a whole story on Elder Ross and Elder Shumway. Here’s the article:



So back to church, I decided to turn up on a Sunday at 10am, looking to find Elder Ross and Elder Shumway. Everyone I met and spoke to were so friendly and welcoming, they would greet me, shake my hand, pay an interest into why I was there and also help me look for the two Elders. I was pretty humbled at the kindness of the people I met today.

I met up with the two Elders just before the Sunday service got under way, again the kindness and good hearted nature of the people around was moving. I would sit down at the back with Elder Ross and instantly another Elder and two girls (Sisters), would approach us, Elder Hess would introduce himself, welcome me to the church, pay an intrest in who I was and wish me a good day. I guess it’s very odd when you go through life on your own, not many people really help you or approach you looking for friendship, but I felt that in church, there was a sense of being. Like everyone in that room loved one an other as if they were their own. It was really cool to be accepted by these people who i’d never met nor spoke to before.

Here’s a few notes I wrote down about the Service:

Photo 01-12-2014 12 24 40 am

After the service, I would ask Elder Ross and Elder Shumway if there was a small room we could go to and record this interview. The room they directed me to was pretty small, and had barely anything in it, which means there would be alot of echo. This is bad in my case as I was after the clearest audio possible. Nevermind, I got the Rode shotgun mic out, setup the tripod and got my settings correct. I shot the interview on the 50 1.8 at around f2.8 at 1/50. My frame rate was 24p, so i knew i had to double that to achieve the appropriate shutter speed.

I came totally un prepared, I just wrote down quick Who, What, Where, When questions down in my notepad in the car outside, and would then just ask questions off the top of my head after that. I feel the interview went really well, the audio isn’t the clearest, but i feel the engagement with the subjects and the topics they cover easily make up for the bad audio. At first they were both really nervous, although after a while they would relax and raise their voice to a more comfortable level. I feel the answers they gave were great, exactly what I was aiming for and gave me alot more information on what it’s like to live as a Mormon.

After the interview, I would wonder around the church with both Elders trying to get as much filler shots as possible. As I knew I wanted the video to be mostly filler shots with the Elders talking over the top. A little bit like the video Philip Bloom did about Amish people. This is what I was aiming for, the mix between face on shots with filler details around the church and of the Elders in another environment. Here’s Blooms video, I love it. http://philipbloom.net/film/an-amish-man/

There’s also a really cool documentary about a certain set of people who are Mormon in Leeds, it follows a guy called Josh who has recently dedicated to devote his life to be a missionary. It’s a real touching documentary as you get to see his transformation from family living to becoming an Elder. It also teaches you alot about what it’s like to be Moromon, as well as some addictional rules that I didn’t know before. I found it a really powerful documentary and is really well shot. Here it is. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/meet-the-mormons/on-demand

It was great to be welcomed and allowed to video the two Elders life in quite a lot of detail. I felt privileged to be able to video them and thanked them alot for all the help and hospitality they gave me. I dont think i’ve ever met nicer people. However, they did try to convert me.

Processed with VSCOcam with m6 preset

I joke, I wanted to learn more about their beliefs and wanted to know a little bit more about if God is real.

Onto the video editing. I’m pretty confident in editing video as i’ve done it quiet a lot with video games before. Which i blogged about earlier here: https://mattcrosspjd.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/previous-video-experience/

I got the video done in about 3 hours in Sony Vegas 10. I was tempted to use Premiere Pro, but I know how to use Vegas and I dont work Premiere Pro. Knowing the software is a massive plus in the time management scheme of things. Here’s a quick screenshot of the Vegas editing timeline/suite.

mormons screenshot

Not much editing done, just playing with audio levels, making cuts and adding filler clips. I had to boost the Brightness and Contrast on some clips as it was just too dark, the interview with Elder Shumway was all too dark, so I had to up the brightness a little bit. My own fault, I didn’t adjust the settings when I moved the tripod.

I’m really happy with how the video turned out, I’ve never shot a documentary film before, let alone an interview. I enjoyed it alot. I think I actually preferred videoing today rather than photographing. It’s much more rewarding to create a video, rather than just capturing an image. I feel very happy with what i’ve achieved and have asked all of my housemates for their critiques and thoughts on the video.

I hope you enjoy the video also. Here it is, on Vimeo.


002 Struggle

I never like to make excuses or like it when I make mistakes, but I recently met up with a group of Mormons on the Prominard high street who wrote their numbers down on my iPhones notes page. I recently had to update my phones software to the newest. Doing so managed to wipe my phone completely. I had to restore my phone from a day before Paris. No more images of Paris, no more Mormon phone numbers in my notes. ARG!

I’ve tried to find a number for the group and also tried to find a number for their church. But it just rings and rings for days. What im going to have to do is just turn up on their Sunday service at 11am and hopefully see Elder Ross and Elder Shumway and get talking to them and hopefully write their numbers on paper this time.

Dealines getting closer and i’m getting more stressed out.

002 idea – Mormon lifestyle

I was walking down Montpellier on the way to uni when I was stopped by 3 young men who are talking to people about the Lord, but from a Mormon perspective. They were all really nice and was easy to talk to. All 3 guys were from America, one from Idaho, another from Texas and another from Missisippi I think. They were all really nice guys and payed alot of attention to myself and what I was doing before starting to engage me in persuading me to come to the church where they worship.


I dont know anything about Mormons and would love to find out more about their lifestyle. The aim of the video will be showing their lifestyle and why they chose to be Mormon. I also want to learn more about the Mormon lifestyle and what they do on a weekly basis. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a greater Mormon following in the USA rather than the UK. It would be really cool to follow these guys around for a day or two to get an insight into their lives. They were all more than happy to have me meet up with them and video them. Although they would like me to meet with them twice and come to church with them once. Which I will do, as im genuinely interested in their lives.

I have watched one very good documentary and one very well shot video about Amish people. I intend to shoot my video in the same sort of way as the Amish video shot my Philip Bloom. The 4od Documentary has given me more of an idea of what it’s like in a Mormon way of life.

Meet the Mormons – http://www.channel4.com/programmes/meet-the-mormons/on-demand

An Amish Man – http://philipbloom.net/film/an-amish-man/

I’m going to test out my camera and sound whilst recording video on my DSLR this week hopefully and post it on the blog later. I’ll probably take and hide a small voice recorder as well as the DSLR sound to get higher quality audio.

I intend to call the two guys tomorrow called Elder Ross and Elder Shumway whos number is 07800614544

Previous video experience

I was into video a long time before I got into photography. The reason I asked my dad to buy me a DSLR was because I wanted to make Motocross videos. I was heavily into motocross at the time and would watch hours of videos of YouTube, Vimeo and Mpora all day and night. This was around 2007/8 odd, I was just starting secondary school at the time.

Shortly after, in my mid/early teens I got heavily into video games. So much so that, I bought a capture card and would begin to make my own little videos. Anything from Call of Duty videos/playthroughs to Forza Motorsort montages. At the time I was doing it for fun, and as a hobby. It was alot of fun, but alot of work.  http://youtu.be/p68617kF3-0

I soon got approached by a YouTube company called Machinima. The biggest on YouTube at the time, specifically Machinima Sports and I would submit Forza Motorsport 3 drifting videos to them. I would also earn money from them! The rules were very clear, no copyrighted music, proof of music approval from the artists must be given in a letter/email which will be attached in the folder that you send the video in to them with. They basically did everything else for you. You could assign your own title and descriptions too. It was really cool to be a part of and I felt like I had acheived something at the time. I loved it. – unfortunatly as it’s been about 4 years, the videos have been removed.

Although I eventually got bored of making gaming videos and got into photography. The last video I made was like last year about a game called Live for Speed. Chris and I occasionally host drifting competitions online that anyone can join. It runs the same format as real life drifting competitions and operates the same. As it was one of the first ones we’d done, I decided to make a video about it, to encourage more people to join. It worked, the next week the online server was full and we stuggled to fit everyone in. It was awesome. http://youtu.be/WuKKs3EZO1w

Real life videos? I haven’t done too much real life videos, except a few smaller videos. I decided to video a little bit of drifting at Teeside, as well as a little from JDM Allstars Wembley. The first time I shot real life video was the 2nd day I bought my DSLR, I went to Red Bull X-Fighters at Battersea Power Station and decided to record some footage. http://youtu.be/_hpWSTr4IUM http://youtu.be/rMjm-Qz94KU http://youtu.be/D6eHJ8eo_ko http://youtu.be/KXSaB-EOrR8

Other than that, I just tend to use my GoPro to record myself at different drift days. Just so I can watch my performance as well as expand my ego a little bit. That doesn’t take much effort though. http://youtu.be/3AhOZSdOns8