Last week in uni was the assignment that I’ve been most looking forward to (and simultaneously the most nervous about); our big broadcasting project.
For the project, we had 4 days to film and edit a 5-7 minute TV piece, with camera equipment and support from the Films@59 studio in Bristol.
And here’s the result:
Since we finished the project, I’ve been thinking a lot about the processes and decisions we used, as this is something I really want to learn from and try again in the future.
We started the week with a half-day of training; firstly in setting up the camera, tripod and boom mic, then in making shots and the importance of white balance, exposure and focus. While the people doing the training were really knowledgeable, having to compress all of the information we needed into a short space of time meant we were given a lot of terminology and knowledge about what camera buttons to use for different functions, but without much context of how functions connect to each other and how changing one setting affects others. A lot of that context requires hands-on experience and experimenting, so there’s not too much the organisers could have done to solve that issue. In hindsight, we could have used the first hour or so of filming as shot practice and experimentation time, rather than rushing straight in and trying to film final pieces instantly.
Then we were off to the farm for 2.5 days of filming. Having 3 chances to visit the farm was useful, as we had time in-between each visit to plan exactly what type of shots we would need on the next. However, the inconsistent weather meant many of the shots we took on the overcast first day were made redundant by the gloriously sunny second day being too much of a contrast. We reshot a few takes which were required for the story, but there were still a few in the final film which are visibly different in terms of lighting and colouring.
During filming, we needed to make sure that everyone on the team had a go at as many roles as possible. One difficulty we found with the project was the size of the team- as only 7 of us enrolled in this module, it would have been unfair to split into two teams as a team of 3 would have found the task incredibly difficult. While I wouldn’t change anything about how the project happened, a team of 7 was impractical: usually the work required 4 people (a presenter, camera operator, boom and sound checker, and a cue-card holder), so we each had some time of standing around without any way of helping.
Once we finished filming, we had 1.5 days to edit, with the help of a freelance editor. On the first day, team size again became an issue, as only two people could be at the workstation at once. We solved this on the second day by creating two teams; an A-team at the main computer, and a B-team for other tasks such as finding sound effects, and organising cutaway shots based on content and usability.
Looking at the cutaways reinforced that we could have done with more time to practice with the camera before going straight into using it for shots we intended to be final. Either that, or with an overseer to check the camera operator had thought of everything possible before recording. An annoying amount of shots were marred or sometimes rendered unusable from mistakes we didn’t spot in the moment, such as a mark on the lens, the autofocus changing its mind or hunting for a target during the shot, or too much movement.
Personally, I made an annoying mistake filming the interview section, as I was concentrating on making sure the presenter and interviewee were in good focus but I didn’t notice I had overexposed the sky until it was too late to fix.
However, we did still have enough cutaways, partly thanks to some creative cutting and joining clips, meaning we finished the entire film without needing to reuse any shots.
During editing, we all took turns at assembling clips onto the timeline, creating the overall narrative, and editing individual clips. While I usually find editing enjoyable, I’m used to doing it alone.
Coming back to editing after a few hours away meant I was uncomfortable to change anything; partly because I didn’t want to undo anyone else’s work, and partly because being in another room meant I had missed any discussion about where the piece was going, and didn’t want to go against anything that had already been decided. It’s another thing where confidence in deciding anything is an issue.
On the final day, we listened back to our radio broadcast from December, and watched the final cut of the piece. It turned out that Steph, the freelance editor, had stayed far later than asked to help perfect the piece, doing a colour grade that wasn’t supposed to be part of the service and reworking the credits so they looked really professional.
Watching it back as a group, it was great to see how everyone’s shots fitted together, and the points where something that looked straightforward on the screen had loads of decisions, careful edits, or plain luck behind it.
Then we found out what would happen to the piece now it was filmed. Firstly, it’s definitely going to be played at the Bristol Festival of Nature in June 2016.
Secondly, a chance connection from our lecturer means someone from Countryfile will be shown the piece. While I don’t think the piece is broadcast-quality due to slight issues with how we mixed the audio, so its chances of being broadcast are low, it’s still very gratifying to know that other people are seeing it.
So, overall it was a very busy and interesting week of being thrown into the world of media production. For me, it was one of the first times I’ve felt like I was independently trying something, rather than being “just a student”, which was a feeling I really enjoyed.