Thursday, March 1, 2012

A video day in Dorset

Half-term Friday and we had booked it off!  A whole day for us to terrorise the nice folk of Dorset.  We packed the car and headed south-west for 140 miles.  Our wives were also having a jolly day out, so we could play at movie makers for the whole day.  It would have been a boys day out if it hadn't been 40 years since anybody called us "boys" and meant it.

The weather was in total contrast to our mood.  We had packed cameras, video camera, a throat microphone, a voice recorder, tablets and laptops just in case.  We were ready.

The throat mike and voice recorder were the suggestion of Jack Thrush, a digital media guru at work - as well as an all-round nice guy as well.  Flipcams are great, but their microphone picks up everything.  The wind whistles round it and make a terrible din as you will hear if you look at the Systems Life Cycle video on YouTube.  Jack suggested a throat and Game stores were selling them for £4.99 (normally they are £8.99, but they had a Make-Andy-Happy week). Across the road was a Maplins. They had digital voice recorders for anything up to £150, but an Olympus GN-8700PC only set me back £59.99. It records for over 45 hours in high quality mode and over 1,000 hours at its lowest quality - plenty for even a gobby toad, like me.
We trundled round the M25 discussing how a mathematical model of learning (pedemetrics) might work - oh, we know how to enjoy ourselves. Then it was off down the A3 to enjoy the new Hindhead Tunnel and on to the M27 for "home".

A detour to Verwood gave us our first chance to make some videos. Tony thought it would be a good idea to take some footage of the process whilst I got busy in front of the camera. As you can see below, the technology and techniques are basic. The Flipcam sits on top of a tripod which also holds a wallet. The wallet contains the "script" - a list of key words - because I cannot read and present at the same time. The difference on this occasion was the throat mike. Trial and error taught me that it works best at the side of my neck rather than anywhere near the front. I started the voice recorder whilst Tony turned on the Flipcam and I was off. The problem was stopping me!  The voice recording was there so that it could replace the sound track of the video. These will only need to be synced in the editing software - and that should cure the problem with wind ... well, mostly.

Please notice the total lack of a committee.  No, you don't need to plan the shoot in detail with a script and ten flunkies.  You need to know what you want to cover - but you can decide what you want - it is your video.  Tony and I had a giggle imagining how someone might want to empire build off the back of a project like this.  "Well, we need a budget and we need a scriptwriter and we must have a cameraman and someone for sound.  Then we have to have transport and editing.  Oh, we will need a budget!".

A brand new HD Flipcam costs £125 from Amazon, a good tripod about £30 from eBay, the throat mike and voice recorder were £65, so the total comes to £220.  On top of that you need batteries for the Flipcam and voice recorder.  Whilst not cheap, there are more expensive hobbies.

The two videos recorded in wood took about half-an-hour, including a bit of a wander.  So then it was back down the road towards Bournemouth - but then we saw a pretty thatched church ... that would be a good place to film.  This is one of the joys of this work, you get to change your mind and play.  However, this was one of those "men-don't-ask-directions" situations.  So we got lost and ended up a completely different church (but still pretty), found a small stream run by it and did another video there as well.  The road to Bournemouth then appeared magically and we were back on track.

Then it was into Poole and across to the Isle of Purbeck on the chain link ferry (we both like boats) and then stopped to make the next batch of three videos on the beach.  The wind howled (hmmm, maybe February was not the best time?) and the sky was grey, but the ferry, harbour and sea made nice back-drops.  This batch meant that the seven planned videos had been shot so anything beyond that would be a bonus - and all that before lunch!
Ah, lunch!  There is a hotel at the centre of Wareham which used to be a bit run-down but did good food, so we headed there.  The Red Lion had rebelled in a wonderful make-over.  The food was excellent and there was an alcove with a real fire.  The young lady who owns the Red Lion, Lisa Sainsbury, gave permission to film in the alcove since no-one else was using it.  So I set off with gusto and emerged 20 minutes or so later with another four videos.  I quite liked the idea of His Lordship expounding from a well stuffed chair by an open fire.  I'll see how they turns out, but the idea seemed sound.

Refreshed we waddled back to the car.  The Flipcam now held prospective videos for a unit overview as well as all the pass and merit criteria.  We would have a full set if we could get in another two.  The little wagon was then pointed at Wareham Forest.

A footpath led from the minute car park and had a stream at the side - this seemed like a good spot so I set up the tripod, camera and keyword notes ... and along came two ladies on horses. They were very nice and were interested in what the film was about - a common occurrence when filming in public places - and then I had to get the equipment back to where I had set it up.  The final two videos were soon dispatched to the Flipcam - hopefully in a better state than the produce of the two horses - and then back from civilisation to London.

The cost is reasonable :-

Flipcam : £125 from Amazon
Digital Voice Recorder : £60 from Maplins
Throat Microphone : £5 from Game
Tripod : £30 from eBay
Total Cost : £220

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