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.