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Year 3 – NEW BLOG

I have a new blog to document my progress on Year 3 Media Production…

emmabakowiczyr3.wordpress.com

Updated CV

201MC CV (hidden address)

AWF – a summary of one pretty hectic month

I’ve found it difficult to accurately document everything I’ve been up to; we did so much it would be impossible to document it all now in enough detail, so I thought I’d do a post to summarise the main points of the trip.

So what did we do?

  • boat promotional videos
    http://vimeo.com/23686617
  • beauty of Tenerife video
    http://vimeo.com/23923172
  • volunteering video (in progress)
  • day-to-day tasks of the organisation (cleaning, maintenance, research, data entry, cetacean identification, petitioning, education and promotion)

What did we learn/develop?

  • communication skills – living and working in a different country with many volunteers from a wide range of countries, with different customs and languages. We worked alongside local residents and tourists too so our communication skills were really put to the test.
  • organisation skills – we were set our media tasks and had to organise ourselves as a team around our other work that every volunteer is involved in. We also had to consider transport and expenses. We had to work within the community and when things didn’t go to plan (for example, our interviewee being away) we had to think on our feet and come up with a suitable solution.
  • technical skills – personally I’ve never used an SLR for video before, but while here I used both a Nikon D90 and D5000 for this. We also created quite a few time-lapse sequences which none of us had ever done before. I learnt more about sound recording, using the Marantz in a variety of environments.
  • creative skills – we had to think hard about how to make successful productions as they are going to be used for the organisation, this wasn’t just a student project, we had professionals relying on our ideas. I developed my camera, editing and sound recording skills, and also scripted the voice over for the Maxicat promotional video. Scripting and narrative was something I knew I had to improve on so this was good practice for me.
  • strengths, weaknesses and prospects – the whole experience confirmed to me what I am good at and what I need to improve on, and has given me a clearer idea of what direction to take my career in

Work duration evidence

It’s quite hard to accurately document exactly what hours I’ve spent doing what as my work has been so fragmented but I have definitely done well over the required minimum of 20 days work.

The recording dates for Studio 113 have been as follows (bare in mind this doesn’t include time spent on pre or post production, promotion, research, contacting, team meetings and so on):
2nd February – Show 1 (Pilot show – Jack Lord)
9th February– Show 2(Tapestry of Glass)
2nd March – Show 3 (Emma McGann)
16th March – Show 4 (Luna Kiss)
6th April – Show 5 (Arabella)

While I was in Tenerife we worked full days monday to friday for four weeks, often starting at 8am and not finishing until 11pm. We also did some filming in the early hours of the morning, overnight and at weekends.

Work duration letter AWF PDF

Professional Experience. (Presentation)

The two main things I participated in for this module were a placement with the Atlantic Whale Foundation in Tenerife, and a self managed project here in Coventry, Studio 113. These are two very different experiences which utilised, challenged and developed a wide range of both specific and transferable skills. They also involve different working styles/relationships; AWF was a client-producer relationship where we worked to a specific brief and deadline as part of a wider team, and Studio 113 was intended to be a fun forum for people from a variety of courses to collaborate and learn, where I took on a leadership role. Both experiences I knew would give me the opportunity to further my interests and gain knowledge of and contacts in fields that I could potentially go in to.

On my placement at AWF we (Faye Minister, Jake Humbles, Richard Neal and myself) were set several tasks. We had no idea what we were expected to do until we got out there, so choosing equipment in advance was a bit of a challenge. We were asked to make promotional videos for some of the tourist whale watching boats, a video to promote the natural beauty of Tenerife, and one to encourage people to support the organisation and realise they can make a difference. As well as this we participated in the organisations everyday activities; data recording and entry, petitioning, fin identifications and so on. We lived in a house of volunteers from around the world, who were always coming and going. We got to learn about so many different cultures and areas of interest. the environment and facilities for both living and working were basic and tired so this took some compromising and getting used to. Studio 113 was a big project that I knew would be a challenge as I had no experience in this type of thing beforehand, but this is exactly why I wanted to do it. Both my personal and professional attributed have been enhanced greatly through these opportunities.

AWF has opened my eyes to a lot more opportunities. I’ve met a lot of people with varying interests and expertise many of whom call on media skills in one way or another, even if they’re not strictly working within the media industry. For example, there are freelance camera persons on each of the tourist boats, creating both photographs and videos. There are media and
promotions people working all over the island; for everything from charitable organisations to tourist attractions. The AWF itself is involved with different projects globally and are always calling upon people to aid them with different expertise (although in this particular case it is primarily unpaid). I’ve been interested in getting a diving licence for a number of years but I didn’t pursue it because it would have been a far too expensive hobby while I was at school. However I am now more determined than ever to take this up, partly just as it’s a personal interest which I find exciting, but also as I realise it has
potential advantages in terms of a future career. All of the diving companies have their own underwater camera people to sell photos and videos to customers after each dive. With a completed diving qualification I could potentially go into a scientific field too; capturing footage (and/or audio) for research purposes. There are several organisations I could be certified by, and different levels of qualification which I am currently still researching; I need to find a course that will take me in the right direction and that’s affordable.  Working here has confirmed my interest in wildlife, and my desire to travel more, and also that, at least at this stage in my life, I am not motivated by financial profit, but by creating something meaningful. My original intentions to learn about what jobs I could potentially go into, make some contacts, and gain a lot of experience have really come to light; I think this experience has been extremely valuable to me in both a personal and professional sense. Studio 113
has also been a very worthwhile experience. I have learnt a lot about leadership and teamwork, as well as liaising with lots of different people, working under time pressure and with limited resources, and learning about equipment. Through this project I have learnt that I can’t imagine myself in a studio environment as a full time career. I think I need something more varying
and challenging, something that isn’t as structured or reliable maybe. So although I’ve learnt a lot in terms of leadership, teamwork and technical skills, I don’t think something like format television would be for me. We’re actually in the process of revamping the project; we’ve lost and gained some team members, and are going to start shooting on location (i.e. local acoustic
nights at pubs etc). This will be another new challenge that I will no doubt learn from. Along the way on this project there has been some friction between a few members of the team; I believe this is because certain people weren’t satisfied with their own roles and ended up stepping on others toes as they tried to widen their input, and certain people involved didn’t remain professional and involved others personals lives. I believe that myself and Stan dealt with the problems in the best way we could; trying to adapt people’s roles to make sure they were happy with the work, and tried to act as peacekeepers until some members decided to leave. Although this obviously wasn’t ideal I think it will work out better in the long run, as the current team are more relaxed in each others company and able to work professionally at all times. We’re also all on the same wavelength in terms of trying new things and experimenting and learning along the way; even if it means things go wrong
every now and then.

I’m really pleased with my progress on this module and think I really have got the most out of the opportunities I embraced. I’ve learnt so much and want this to continue. I’m determined to keep in contact with the people I’ve met, and continue to further
my interests, and Studio 113 will continue to develop and adapt to give us a forum to teach ourselves and get further experience.

 

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Networking. Useful contacts I’ve met through professional experience.

Ed Bentham – founder of the Atlantic Whale Foundation. He always needs a team of people working on various projects, and always has work to do. I can always offer to volunteer again, or if I’m lucky he might even request our help with something.

Joe Fox and Agata Paraszczak – doing their degrees in zoology, and Joe is looking into doing a masters in wildlife documentary. As we have common interests (wildlife and film) but have our skills in different areas I know that we can learn from eachother. I’d love to learn more about wildlife, and Joe is interested in learning more about the media, so we can call upon each other in the future for information or maybe a collaborative project.

Chris Light (and other media students) – media production student, who is now involved with AWF on a more permanent basis and who spoke about collaborating on future projects.

Leanne West (and other graphics students) – graphic design student proficient in a wide range of graphics tasks, currently working on promotional materials for AWF. Her creative eye and editing skills are really good and she would be great at designing supporting material for possible future projects (such as posters, DVD covers and so on).

Aaron Beese, Jack Lord, Sam Heerey – music technology and composition students. These three really know what they’re doing when it comes to setting up a studio for audio recording, recording, mixing and so on. They are knowledgeable about a lot of hard and software that I don’t have access to and they would be my first point of contact if I ever needed help with audio.

AWF projects progress

This past week we’ve made a really good start getting various bits of footage. We’ve been out on the boats getting footage to capture the experience; shots of the boat, the passengers, crew, wildlife and scenery. There’s a shift rota to adhere to though so we haven’t got all the footage yet. We have planned the remaining shots we need to get for the boat promotional videos, which are mainly shots of the boat in the port, and interviews with crew members. We have identified a crew member from each boat that can speak fluent English (as the videos are aimed at English tourists) but who is very knowledgeable about the local culture and history of each boat etc, and who seems genuinely interested. Myself and Richard have gathered quite a bit of footage from the Son Caliu (as mentioned in my previous post) and myself and Faye got a lot of footage on the Royal Delfin, which we are in the process of filtering through and making a rough cut of.

We’ve also been practising with time lapse. Jake experimented with the software, taking photos at short intervals, on automatic release, from the terrace of the house we’re living in. While me and Faye were out on a boat, Jake and Rich went off exploring a couple of the peaks near the house to do a few more time lapse sequences, with different lenses. All four of us walked out along the very high, very narrow wall near the house at night to get a good view across to the coast of several of the ports. We made a time lapse sequence here too; practising with different exposures to get it looking right.

Photo Faye took from the wall, where we did the time lapse

The internet here is temperamental and overused so blog posts and photo/video uploads to both my blog and Flickr may be few and far between for the next few weeks.
On a side note, the people here; locals and volunteers, are awesome. I’ve met so many new people and my people and communication skills must be improving through speaking to people of different nationalities, ages, professions, interests, goals and so on. There’s an inspiring work ethic here, topped off with great socials.

Hola y recepción a Tenerife

I’ve been here in Tenerife almost a week now, so thought it was about time to start blogging.  We arrived Thursday night and rested our weary bodies after a full days travelling. On Friday we had our induction; this involved presentations on the local flora and fauna including many endemic species, fact files about the cetaceans that are found in the area and a short test on our knowledge. We also watched The Cove, were told more about the day-to-day activities of volunteers, and were shown more of the house and the local shops and so on. I’m quite interested in wildlife and conservation and the research and statistics given in the induction were quite shocking and compelling; so this is something we want to utilise in our work. We went out to a few bars on Friday night to get to know everyone which was really good; everyone here is so passionate about one thing or another it’s very inspiring. It’s a very happy environment to be in with a great work ethic. Saturday was spent exploring the area a bit further; we wet to one of the beaches and around some of the more touristic shopping areas ad beach fronts. On Sunday we returned to one of the coastal resorts; Los Christianos, to have a look around the weekly market. We were expecting this to be a hub of local culture with handicrafts and foods sourced locally, which would have been a great opportunity to take photos and capture a sense of the traditional community that we’d seen glimpses of elsewhere. However, the reality of Geordie accents over a loudspeaker selling knock-off Etnies T-shirts, and ‘DKYN’ sunglasses was not so beautiful. It wasn’t long before it started raining, and this was some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever seen; restaurants were ushering people inside just to take shelter from the overflowing sewers and lowering the awnings. We decided to brave the rain with our cameras and run down to where people were trying to carefully navigate their way through a fountain of sewer water that was flooding the street. We got a few photos before we had to dry off the cameras and hide them away.

Monday was our first proper day of work where we were assigned in pairs to boats in one of a few ports around the south end of the island. However, the weather was awful and many of the boats deemed it unsafe to tackle the 6 metre waves, so we ended up meeting up and rearranging ourselves so that those of us who were least likely to get sea-sick could go out. Our job whilst on the boats is to help the crew with whatever they want (in this case, on the Freebird One, we worked the bar and cleaned) but our personal priority is to photograph any sightings and fill in data sheets that are used to record information such as species sighted, GPS location, number of adults and calves, behaviour, boat speed and so on. It’s also our responsibility to offer information to the passengers about the species of the area, the work that AWF does, the ‘Europeans Against Whaling’ petition, and different ways of getting involved. However, because the sea was so rough we actually spent all of our time cleaning up spilt drinks, catching falling bottles, stumbling around with sick bags and napkins for the passengers, the vast majority of whom were very ill, and sitting with our heads between our knees. The boat turned back under 2 hours into the 4 and a half hour trip, without a single animal sighting. It would have been impossible to take photographs capturing the intended atmosphere, beauty and awe of the trip and the people onboard.

Every evening there is a house meeting where everybody discusses their progress on the boats and interactions with the public, and we bounce around ideas for projects (whether they be film, photography, graphic design, or scientific research based), it’s also an opportunity to get feedback from everyone on your plans and work so far. We had a talk with Ed about the work we would be doing here as media producers. It’s been decided that we will collaborate with the other media volunteers to create a series of videos to promote some of the tourist boats. We’ll be making videos that portray the individual character of each boat and the experience that each one offers. The aim of this is to gain the trust and respect of the boat owners to sell tickets for them; if AWF sells them they will take a small cut which will go directly into funding one of the charities projects, whereas now, agencies such as Thomson’s charge extortionate amounts and take a huge sum of money from each sale; which doesn’t benefit the customers or the community. We (myself, Faye, Jake and Richard) will also be producing two other films. The first will aim to encourage people to make a difference, highlighting the difference that AWF are already making. Below are a couple of videos we’ve looked at for research and inspiration.


The second will be showing the beauty of the island, what Tenerife has to offer behind the touristic commercialised resorts.

Tuesday we were out on the boats again, and thankfully the sea was much calmer. Rich and I were allocated to Son Caliu, a small glass bottomed boat that took around 20 passengers around the Los Gigantes area. Los Gigantes is a very picturesque stretch of coastline with huge imposing cliff faces, natural beaches and secluded coves that used to be inhabited by pirates. We went out on two trips, and had interactions with Pilot Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins.  We took photos along the way; of the dolphins, the coastline, other boats and activity on the boat. As part of our job we are expected to take ‘fin shots’ which are used to identify individual dolphins. These were very hard to achieve though; I only had an 18-55mm lens which didn’t zoom enough. However zooming in was a problem too as I was having to try to predict where the dolphin would surface and the wider the shot, the more likely it is that the animal would be in the frame. Fin shots need to be as detailed as possible, as close as possible (so the fin ideally fills at least a third of the frame) and from a regulated angle as they are used for research purposes. This was really hard to achieve, whilst also filling in the data sheets and serving food to passengers. I took most of the stills on the trip with my D60, whilst Rich tried to get as much footage as possible with the D90 that could be used in the promotional video. It was quite difficult to capture the ‘character’ of the boat though in a way that would be appealing to tourists because the boat itself was a bit rundown and the crew consisted of the captain who was rather stern and abrupt, and one other man who was overtly camp and confident, making jokes that seemed to make some of the passengers confused or uncomfortable.

For our volunteer video we have decided to stick with the idea of using statistics to shock the audience. We thought of different approaches, such as filming our own version of ‘I’m On A Boat’ (originally by Lonely Island, which is well known amongst young people and has been parodied several times) using the volunteers that could be distributed virally. We have decided however that the shocking, factual approach is far more professional and informative. We plan to have somebody holding a bowl of water which spills out onto an arid landscape. With every drop spilt there is a statistic about a species lost or habitat destroyed. Ideally we will film this in slow motion, but we only have a D90, and slowing the footage down in the edit might not look very good quality, so we’ll have to experiment with this. The footage would then reverse, and as each drop goes back into the bowl, there will be a fact or picture representing a species saved, or environment nurtured. We’ve had a few more ideas about this but we need to think practically about what’s feasible in the given time.

The other video will rely heavily on landscape shots. We want the island to be highlighted as a place of natural beauty and rich culture. We want to use time-lapse photography to capture things such as sunrise and sunset, and the incredible cloud movement between two mountains. Below are a couple of example of other time-lapse pieces that have been done in Tenerife, but Ed’s told us he knows of several places that have much better vantage points. We have sorted out the software we need and have practiced filming from the terrace of the house. We are just waiting to be told when we can go and film.

My Montage

A Montage Of Beautiful Things from Emma Bakowicz on Vimeo.

So here’s my montage, not exactly beautiful I’m afraid!

I really struggled to make my showreel flow smoothly as each of the individual pieces have completely different themes, pacing, colour and so on. None of them relate. Ideally my montage would be much shorter; featuring only shots that I’m really pleased with and that are beautiful stand alone images. However, I struggled to find shots that did this so I found myself including lots of things that I’m not particularly proud of unfortunately. Because of the erratic pacing and mood of all of my pieces of work when put together, i struggled to find a song that I could synchronise to it. I chose a song that was pretty varying throughout, so that no one clip stood out as not fitting. In hindsight I’m also not happy with the arrangement of the clips, again another aspect that seems messy and doesn’t flow. The transitions between shots also seem quite amateur and badly done. It’s pretty obvious from the reflections on each individual piece and also on this montage that I’m not very proud of my work at all and I wish I had more time to correct my mistakes, but I have no choice but to leave it as it is for the hand in now. If I were to re-do this module I would think far more carefully about each weekly task, but more importantly what skills they advertise, and how they fit together to produce a showreel that I would happily show to a potential employer or client. My technical skills have got a lot of practice on this module. I’ve used a wider range of equipment, and used them in different ways, than I have done in the past; such as Z5 cameras and Blondes. I’ve also really tried to push myself creatively and try new things, so I feel I’ve learnt a lot about different artistic styles, even if it regrettably means that my finished pieces haven’t been refined, professional seeming artefacts.

Creating and Reflecting on my Experimental Narrative piece

I chose to use photos instead of video footage to construct my piece. I felt that video footage of cars passing etc may have been quite dull, but using photographs gives an unusual aspect of a very usual thing; the human eyes isn’t used to observing movement in this way so it’s more visually stimulating.
I made the deliberate decision not to use a tripod for these photographs, which goes against the norm for stop-motions. I did this because I thought a slightly jerky, rough look would work quite well; giving a more interesting and quirky overall feel, and maybe the impression that the viewer is moving as well what’s in the photo. However in hindsight, I think I should have used a tripod as the shots are too unstable. In some places it works fine (such as the shots of the metal grill with blue light), but for others it’s a bit distracting I (such as the traffic shots).
I made a ‘blank slide’ in Photoshop and went through all of the photos, resizing and cropping, and positioning them onto the slides. I decided to vary the arrangement and shape throughout the film to draw attention to certain parts, and hold interest. I adjusted the levels and burnt the edges of some of the photos so that they sat seamlessly on top of the background. However when I exported the finished piece, the colours and contrast look completely wrong; different to how they appear in several editing softwares. It looks perfectly balanced during the edit, but when exported the blacks turn to grey and everything has less of an impact. This also means that the images or ‘screens’ on each page sit prominently, the edges dont blend into the background as intended. Each image also looks far more pixellated than during the edit, despite not compressing the files.
Here’s an example of one of the slides so that you can see the difference in quality to the finished video below:

I wanted the soundtrack to play quite a major role in this film. I really like the pacing and atmosphere of the intro to A Thousand Miles From Shore by This Day Will Dawn, and wanted to overlay some vocal samples. I considered the lyrics about urban life/trains/cities etc from a track by Hilltop Hoods and also from one by CunninLynguists. I also like the females vocals in Crucify Me by Bring Me The Horizon; and felt the slightly eerie tone of this would work well. However I really struggled to extract the vocals from the rest of the audio, especially as I couldn’t find instrumental versions of each track for digital reference, I didn’t know how to go about it. I looked online for tutorials and asked advice from some Music Tech students but realised it just wasn’t feasible for me to do. So instead of overlaying the vocals I tried placing one clip in front of another, but it just didn’t sound right, and was too fragmented. Below are a couple of the rough audio edits I did when I was experimenting with how to compose the samples.

There are a number of things I’m not happy with on the final piece. Firstly, I would have taken a lot more photos which would make the film longer and also give time to build it up and vary the pace, allowing more scope for the soundtrack too, without appearing messy or crammed. Also, the above mentioned problems with the levels, contrast and pixellation are very degrading so I’d definitely want to improve on that; either by trying another different editing software (I used Photoshop and tried WMM and Adobe Premiere) or editing them so they don’t look right during the edit, but do once exported.

 

Experimental Narrative from Emma Bakowicz on Vimeo.