Archive for October, 2010

Coventry Conversations – Kirsty Wark

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations with tags , on October 31, 2010 by Adam Broome

Knowing very little about this ‘Renaissance Woman‘, I decided on spare of the moment to crash into the lecture theatre and grab a seat, given that this talk had been recommended by just about every single lecturer on my course.

Kirsty starts off by talking about her career at present, mentioning Newsnight, and some of her most recent interviews. She has conducted many interviews during her lifetime, and I realise that it will be her pointers on this aspect of media to which I should pay particular attention to.

She says that Jeffrey Archer was her least favourite interview, as he was just an ‘unpleasant character’. In contrast, she also mentions Toni Morrison and Pete Doherty as her favourite interviews. In naming her interviews, one member of the audience pounced upon her now infamous interview with a Scottish MP back in 2007, which was done so bad the BBC had to issue the MP an apology. She explains that she felt strongly on the matter, but was in no way justified in the way she acted. When pressed for an answer of whether she considered it a good interview, she simply replied ‘no’, adding complements to the student for ‘pushing her for a direct answer’.

This leads her to talk about several political points, including the BBC World Service and Wikileaks. With regards to her infamous interview of 2007, she states that it is always important to detach yourself from the material, no matter how strongly you feel about the issue. Detach yourself emotionally, and remain professional. On the topic of challenging interviews, she boasts with a certain confidence that challenging interviews are the better ones for the interviewees, for if they survive it intact, they appear all the more stronger for it. She says that her show Newsnight almost has a reputation for being host to hard interviewing. However, politicians are willing to put themselves up, to try and come out on top, thus proving their steel.

With regards to her show, she highlights the importance of her audience, stating that you should never take your audience for granted, and that you should always welcome your audience ‘into the programme’. She also comments upon something called ‘Empty Chair-ing’ (where an interviewee doesn’t turn up), and how she feels that she has failed her job as an interviewer when she doesn’t cement her interview enough. When asked about what motivates her, she comments on the variety that her job offers her – pretty much identical to what Nick Owen said only weeks ago.

But then comes the most important point – on many an occasion, Kirsty has had to resort to research notes mid-interview, making sure she knew where she stood a hundred percent before making a claim or point. She advises to always have your notes on you when conducting an interview. Always, ALWAYS do your research, and when the interview occurs, bring your notes with you, just in case. You can tell she’s speaking from experience.

As the hour draws to a close, Kirsty mentions that she still wants to interview Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama. However, she also states that who you interview depends upon the structure of the show or episode you are hosting. With thanks, our guest subsequently takes a bow and zips off to the next thing on her agenda, ever busy. Students chatter immediately – apparently, they feel they’ve learned a lot!

Semiotic Analysis Of 3 Commercials

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , , , on October 31, 2010 by Adam Broome

This week, I have been set the task of semiotically analyzing 3 adverts – one standard commerical, one made before I was born, and one from a foreign country. Here are the three I chose:

To conduct a semiotic analysis, I need to analyse each advertisement on three levels. I will pick three shots from each commercial, and in those shots, I will delve into the three different layers of meaning – Identifying the ‘signs’ on a denotative level, then elaborating on what those signs mean on a connotative level. Finally, I will discuss how the signs relate to each other in order to give meaning to the artefact itself, in doing so hopefully finding the ‘myth’ of the commercial. The thre shots I will choose will be ones that seem to be the most relevant to the narrative of the artefact.

Commercial One

In the first commercial, we have an advertisement that is marketing a brand of beer. The commercial starts off misleading the audience into thinking that it is actually aimed at women, and is selling something along the lines of perfume or bath accessories. How do we know?

The opening shot is of an attractive woman. She is dressed in an expensive silk gown. The shot is in slow motion, and we get a clear shot of her face as she walks towards the camera, which is a typical convention of makeup adverts (supposedly to show what effect the makeup has on the model). Some slow, bluesy music starts playing in the background. Much like the advert we studied in our lecture – that of the famous Chanel No 5 advert starring Nicole Kidman – we can see that this advert is selling itself as sensual, romantic and passionate.

From this opening shot we can thus connote that this is an advert selling itself as something classy, being aimed at women, and probably selling something that women would want to buy. This is reinforced over the next twelve seconds, with the subsequent shots also playing on the joke. The first time you view, you will not be aware of what happens fifteen seconds in.

Fifteen seconds into the commercial, the woman has taken off her silk robe, and lies in a bath full of bubbles. The pace is still slow, and the slow, sensual music is still playing. The shots have told the audience that she is in bliss, using soft-focus shots and general slow pace. However, the joke needed to be applied fifteen seconds in at the latest – any later and the advert would probably risk losing a percentage of it’s target audience.

The whole advert changes in the shot where the man jumps into the bath. We see an unknown shadow appear from an elevated position and ‘cannonball’ into the bath, creating an explosion of water, which thus, metaphorically, explodes / destroys the fantasy of the first half. The shot is fairly long compared the ones that have gone before, as if allowing the viewers to take in what has happened, and understand the joke (much in the same way as it must be for the woman in the bath!). At the point of impact with the water, the blues suddenly stop, clearly differentiating the first half of the advert from the second half. Diegesis suddenly takes over, with the sounds of the water splashing suddenly tuning into focus sharply. This also that the fantasy is over – we are now back in the ‘real world’.

The man takes a drink of beer from a bottle, and the advert does it’s thing. The final shot of the man and the woman in the bath is quite important, as the man says ‘What?’ to the woman, adding somewhat a punch-line to the joke. The camera is positioned behind the woman, as if we are as an audience still seeing the events of the commercial from her point of view. The man sits in front of her with his beer, and a rather confused look on his face, as if he is unaware of what he has done. The two remain in the bath parallel to each other – neither character is in a position of power at this point, thus signaling that a ‘struggle for dominance’ (ie: an argument) is about to take place. That will not help to sell the product, so that is omitted from the commercial.

Ultimately, we have to think what the creators of this piece wanted that beer to be associated with. Beer keeps you in the real world? Beer destroys healthy relationships? Beer gives you a sense of fun at the same time as being selfish? Interestingly, there is somewhat an argument over the male gaze and feminism in this artefact. By the end, we have established that this is an advert aimed at men, trying to sell them beer. Why was the first half of the commercial shots of an attractive female taking a bath? Why was her happiness ruined by what is represented as a larger-lout? Why, as a man, do I find it funny?

In simple terms, the woman was used to sell the advertisement. The beer isn’t included until the final frames, but this advert is a joke, and viewers need to be kept watching until the punch-line can be delivered. Thus, the joke is on an attractive woman. ‘Battle of the sexes’ themes start to come through, especially given that the man ‘cannonballs’ into the bathtub – a rather heavy and dangerous dive, showing complete disregard for the well being of the woman in the bathtub. It could be suggested that the beer makes the man stereotypically masculine, which is perhaps what every man wants to be.

Commercial Two

The second commercial is a 2009 advert, paying homage to the classic ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ advertisements from the 1980s. Despite being made recently, it is largely constructed of archive footage, and done in the same way the original adverts were (I can’t seem the find the originals, so this will be the nearest we can get for Heinz Beans).

The commercial in constructed of a poem spoken by one boy, which lasts for the duration of the advert. The poem is all about what the product means to be the boy, and how much he appreciates it, thus following the ideology that all other boys feel the same way about ‘Heinz Baked Beans’ (ie: they love it).

The opening shot again is very important. In the first shot, we see a black and white cartoon of a clock striking four o clock. Immediately, the cartoon denotes that this is perhaps an advert aimed at children, as children watch cartoons more than any other audience demographic. When the clock strikes four, the first thing we hear is the sound of a bell, but it is a school bell (differentiated by the recognizably unique ringing sound). Thus, within the first second, we have been placed in a cartoon schoolyard before the child has even started reciting the poem.

The use of the bell connotes happiness to all schoolchildren, as it signifies the end of the day. As the cartoon children run away from the school, the poem begins. It is a child narrator, who is obviously going to make a point or sell the product, further reinforcing that this advertisement is aimed at that age group. The fact that the cartoon is also black and white also connotes that the ideologies it represents have been around for a long time before the advert was made.

The following shot is also quite important for two reasons – first of all, it is a shot of real children walking home with their mum. Despite the narrator being a boy, the children in the shot are boys and girls, showing that the product appeals to both genders. The shot can be considered ‘reality’, as the cartoon was a fantasy world, and this is the real world. It could also be interpreted in that the school was a fantasy world / cartoon or ‘other’ world, and reality only kicks in once the children leave the schoolyard (though personally… I think not).

The other important thing about the second shot is that not only does it include little girls, but it also includes the parent. After all, they will ultimately be the ones buying the product, so they too have to be considered in the advertising. The inclusion of the ‘mum’ figure is reiterated several times throughout the commercial, as are the uses of cartoons, and the poem being narrated by the boy. The poem is in parts nonsensical, implying that the boy perhaps wrote the poem himself, and won the prize of having it used in the final cut (I don’t know whether that’s true or not, I’m just putting it out there!).

The advert generally remains the same, with the poem being spoken, and the shots following the words being spoken. Funnily enough, I have just read Chapter 1 of Analysing Media Texts, which states that meaning, in terms of Syntagms and Paradigms, are like sentences – words can be swapped and changed, but only if the audience an understand the sentence at the end. This advert uses shots of cartoons, children and mums in line with the poem, and it’s funny to wonder what the commercial would look like if some of the poem was swapped around a little, and whether it would have the same effect.

The third shot I chose to analyse was the one at 32 seconds in. At this point, the narrator starts complaining that he doesn’t like it when he sees his brother has more beans than he has (or something!). Anyway, there is a shot of the mother again 32 seconds in, immediately after the narrator has stated that he is feeling sad. There is a shot of the mother looking rather sad in a rather cold shot, where she’s looking down. Half a second later, and the following shot contrasts with this, showing a warm, vibrant, soft-focus shot of her being happy.

The importance of this part of the advert can be summed up in one word – ‘family’. When the children and the narrator are depressed, this affects the mother, which is quite true. When the mother gives her children baked beans, all of a sudden the children are happy again, which makes her happy again. What happens to the children affects the parent. Hence, the advertisement has now successfully targeted both the children and the mother alike.

It is strange that at no point in this commercial are the father figures represented, despite the fact that the narrator is a boy. Probably for the best really – cannonball dives onto the kitchen table might not work so well in this one. Still, please note this advertisement has played on the stereotype that men are out working all day, and thus neglect their family / have affairs etc. (just kiddiiiiing…)

Commercial Three

Commercial three is a foreign advert. It is aimed at a general audience, aiming to teach them English. Much like the first commercial, humour is used to make the audience laugh, and thus sell the product to them through the laughter. Since for the most part I can’t understand what is being said, the mise-en-scene is even more important here.

The opening shot establishes that we are in some sort of control room. To a western audience, it is unclear precisely where we are. We can tell that there are two men in uniform. One looks younger than the other one. The younger of the two has his hands behind his back, whereas the older man is pointing and directing. As shot after shot appears, we get the feeling that the young man is being given a vast array of instructions. Perhaps this is his first day at the job, and his manager is telling him what to do.

Ten seconds in, the older man leaves, leaving the younger man alone at the control desk. We are still unsure where exactly we are until we hear a distress call on the intercom calling ‘mayday’. Thus, we can deduce we are either in some form of sea or air-based monitoring station. Once the intercom states that a ship is sinking, we know it’s a coastguard, or equivalent.

The shot of the young man alone shows that he is far from help and isolated. We are positioned parallel to his head, showing that the audience is at more or less the same position of power that he is. As this advert targets non-English speaking audiences, we are ahead of the game here, and we know what is being said. We must assume that the target audience are not so familiar with what is being said, and are thus in the same position as the young man – isolated, and without help.

Two shots on, and we return to the same shot as before, but what makes this shot so important is what is said, as it is the delivery of the punch line to this advertisement. The man has told us he is part of the German Coastguard, thus informing us that the target audience is now German. The young man clearly does not understand the difference between ‘thinking’ and ‘sinking’, and doesn’t understand the seriousness of the problem out at sea. The moment the line is delivered, we cut to a white-backgrounded advertisement, with Beethoven’s 9th in the background, adding extra slapstick to the delivery.

Until the younger man mentions he is part of the German Coastguard at the end, western audiences are not aware of the context of the situation fully. This is sort of an accidental enigma code, as we may continue watching the advert just to see where it goes. Overall, the commercial is really just a joke using a play on words, which is a good idea since it is trying to market a company based around languages.

And Since I Was In The Area Anyway:


Response To ‘Transcendental Realism In Documentary’ By Dr. Erik Knudsen

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , on October 27, 2010 by Adam Broome

And please do keep in mind, this is only a response to the first few chapters (which was plenty to allow me to get the idea).

Regarding the mini-interview thing I just did, it seems quite ironic that we have been set the task of reading this piece. It is irony in the way that, although Media Production is in no way and easy course to take on, occasionally we get faced with something like this, which makes everyone groan, and makes people thankful that such academic reading is usually minimal. One of the opening paragraphs states:

“I hope to speak as a filmmaker and not an academic; for the motive is to try and understand how,

in practice, one may evolve the documentary form – indeed, the cinematic form,

generally – in such a way as to deal with experiences not sufficiently touched by the form

as it is currently generally practiced.”

Did you get all that? He hopes to speak as a film maker, and not as an academic. If this writing was anymore academic, Einstein would have a hemorrhage. The bit from ‘indeed’ onwards in that quote basically sets out what the rest of this extract reads like. Sifting through the reams and reams and REAMS and general ‘stuff’ that seems to have no bearing on anything, I do manage to bag the central point of the article:

“If the language of documentary does not evolve and change, there is a real danger

that the form will become a hollow expression, built on clichés and that it will cease to be

an effective tool of understanding and knowledge.”

So, in a nutshell, the style of documentary needs to change the same way that cinema does, otherwise documentaries will be repetitive and boring (nay, they may already have). The purpose of this written piece is to investigate ways in which we can change the way we decide to report on the world around us. I immediately name two big ones – coincidentally mentioned in our documentary module last year – United 93, which was a to-the-minute accurate account of an incident occurring on 9/11, and Man On Wire, which involved standard interviews with cutaways of re-enacted drama mixed with real-life footage and photographs (in similar vein to Touching The Void, which I analyzed last year).

“The problem, and the solution, to the different kind of documentary I am suggesting in

this piece starts with the question of reality and the question of why we are making

documentaries in the first place.”

Thus concludes the prologue. Transcendental Realism is obviously at the heart of this investigation. Our author believes we have preconceived notion of what reality ‘is’, and therefore we should set out to change what realist is, so that we can thus alter the way we report ‘reality’. This is consistently hammered home by the use of case studies of films, and by the science of psychological studies.

“…since the documentary form is steeped in debates and discussions about fact, fiction, proof, imagination and reality, it is important to at least question what we mean by reality.”

The thing that the writer obviously goes up against is the fact of this concept of the misinterpretation of the term ‘real’. In my own mind, I created a fictitious event where a suicide bomber had attacked Luton airport. Now, if that really happened, and one was to make a documentary about it, surrounding the events, and the aftermath involving those affected, would the concept of reality be the first thing you’d think about? Sure, you can re-enact some of the scenes. You should interview the people, because they would have a lot to say, and their words would have meaning. It would be very real.

“If we, as human beings, are made up of mind, body and spirit working seamlessly together with such faculties as logical thinking, imagination, feelings, emotions and a propensity for mystical reflection and superstition, why should all of this, in its totality, not be considered as part of the reality of the real world?”

Around about this point, films start getting referenced. Much to my humour, the films sound really bad. If I recall correctly, some documentary about a load of bread in a supermarket? The camera just sits there staring at the loaf all day, with occasional cutaways of the people in the supermarket. Yeah, it’s different, but perhaps not the most exciting and innovating thing since *ahem* sliced bread. However, right now a film has been released called The Arbor , which innovates the documentary style by using actors to mime over previous recording of interviews that have occurred in the past. Having not seen it, I wont dwell on it, but innovation is indeed occuring, and it sounds a lot more interesting than the ‘bread’ one (especially given that The Arbor is about the woman who wrote ‘Rita, Sue and Bob Too!’ – awesome film!)

“Documentary, on the other hand, has too often been bound by boundaries of fact

and authenticity.”

The author goes on to write that emotion and feeling are two different things – one is internal, one is external etc. He throws in a bit of history, a bit more psychology, and repeats the word ‘paradigm’ to the point that you actually wonders he knows the meaning of the word. He goes off so far from the subject in question that you wonder if you’re reading about documentary at all. But then he brings it back, simply claiming that we can use feeling and emotions to varying effects in documentary. Yes, that is really the conclusion of the first chapter as far as I could read it.

“…there is a strong reality; but it is another side of reality than we are used to seeing. It is more mystical, transcendental, as it fills us with feelings of awe and sorrow.”

Ultimately, I appreciate what the man is trying to say. I agree that documentary is, as with most media, an art form. It is entirely open to interpretation, and it should really change over time to represent our culture at the time the artefact was produced (one of the main purposes of art if you ask me). However, his ideas of changing the style of documentaries largely depends on what the subject is about. My example earlier would not go down well if a surrealist artefact tapping into ‘fight or flight’ responses was made. At the end of the day, documentaries are made to inform people, so they will always need to report something. As this is their primary purpose, this does to a degree limit what you can do, and what rules you can bend or break.

Audience also affects his ideas, and to quite a great degree. Given that ITV just contracted The X Factor for a further three years, it is a sad truth that the majority of the population do perhaps enjoy repetition. They enjoy being comfortable, and knowing where they are with things. Alternative documentaries may not sell, and be solely aimed at the smarter people who have the effort to decrypt the arty meanings behind it. Or perhaps, nobody would want to watch the documentary at all.

Documentaries are an art form, and that point I agree with. But they are an art form that needs to be respected, just like paintings. Everything was hunky dory until photography came along. Photography is another art form entirely. If you keep changing a concept, it will eventually cease to be a documentary and become something else. Documentaries need to tick certain boxes with the mass audiences it’s aimed at (always masses, as they usually have a message or point to get across). Therefore, it is questionable if documentaries need to change. They can change, and they can be done differently, with mixed results. Whether these ploys will be proven successful is something I’m not entirely convinced about. After all, if you change a documentary so much it becomes something else, nobody will watch it, and thus it will defeat the purpose of making the documentary in the first place.

Mini-Interview Evaluation

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 26, 2010 by Adam Broome

Last week, we were set the task of creating a short interview, with the aim to experiment with different styles of interviewing. Much like the previous task, this one is again handed in rather late.

Originally, it started on a Monday. A group was made and the task was set. I grouped together with three other students, and we had an idea of interviewing a lesbian, who also happened to be of an ethnic minority. I knew the idea had a slim chance of success, as the idea seemed to be repeated 111MC last year in one single week, which did not suit the brief to the full extent. As a free thought, I came up with the idea of mis-represented media students, and how the rest of academia stereotype us as idiots. The notion was confirmed when one team member said a joke:

“In ten years, a chemistry student will find a cure for cancer. In ten years, a philosophy student will ask why life has meaning. In tern years, a maths studet will get humanity to Mars. In ten years, a media student will ask… ‘would you like fries with that?’ ”

I thought that quip was a rather good opening for our piece, yet we decided to try the lesbian character first anyway, as it seemed the more interesting of the two.

Forty eight hours later, and the lesbian has declined to do the interview. Then, one team member goes solo, leaving just the three of us to carry on the project alone. It is good that I had the idea for the back-up plan – we were able to meet up, and construct a plan straight away around our second option, which helped us a great deal in meeting the time restraints (read on).

During our mid-week meeting, we found out we all had so much work that none of us could make the same time to film. Thus, one team mate and myself met up the following day, and pulled various students from the nearby common room to take part in our interview. Now, the thing to note is that the idea was to collage all the faces together through various letter-box cutaways. We lined our interviewees up against a plain wall, and told them to look at the camera and keep their heads still. Needing to edit over the weekend, we knew we could not use the Avid suites (which was fine by me), and found a way to use Final Cut Pro.

Unfortunately, my camera abilities met with several hardships. I decided to be the cameraman, yet turned up on the day of filming without a VT tape (luckily, my personal tape collection was only 5 minutes away). The other major problem was that I reset the Z1 camera, and set the sound to 48khz. Subsequently, I changed the recoding mode from HD to DV. We filmed our piece in it’s entirety, before realising that the sound automatically shifts back to 32khz when you change from HD to DV. Luckily, we were able to convert the file with little fuss. Lesson learned.

Shooting took just over an hour, and then the tape was shipped away in my team mate’s pocket to be edited. The footage was never again seen until today, and hence this late evaluation. All in all, given that this was a one-week task riddled with problems, all have been overcome, and I’m quite happy with the way it turned out. I had no part in the editing of the final piece, although I do aim to get Final Cut Pro in the imminent future (thus increasing the amount of time I spend editing, and my abilities doing as such). I don’t know what happened to the idea of the letterbox-created faces. After all that, the background looks rather bland. However, we had some humourous characters which saw the mini interview through, and all things considered (despite the spelling mistakes), it could have gone a lot worse!

In terms of my own piece, that also seems to have some problems with deadlines as well. My documentary will revolve around a protest march taking place two days after the deadline itself. Yet, I still feel I can pair these two projects up somehow. It is silly to make an artefact about the same topic, but not relate it to my personal media creation. Therefore, the final result will be something like half of the final piece, and I will hand that in to be marked as part of 260MC. Then, I will get the rest of the footage, and complete that as and when. The documentary on the march was always my own project – typically, when the media production course comes into it, deadlines and evaluations start kicking off, which can sometimes make me rush projects and limit their quality. That is not what my documentary will be like – I aim to push myself technically and creatively, but in my own time. I guess what I’m saying is, (in the nicest possible way), 260MC will get half my finished project as a completed one, and will just have to make do with it! 🙂

A SWOT Analysis Of Me

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , on October 24, 2010 by Adam Broome

So there was this thing, wayyy back at GCSE, in Business Studies. It was called a SWOT analysis, because it stood for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. They were used to help establish where abouts you were on the corporate food chain, and also help you set out your goals – ie: how important your survival was in relation to achieving your goal. For this module, I am nigh-on certain I am smack-bang at the very bottom of the lowest area of the food chain. I am about to go out and hunt down some professional experiences, but before I do, I have ben asked to do one of these on me… so here goes:

Strengths

I consider myself mentally strong. When the chips are down and things are bad, I tend to keep a level head. This was proven most recently when we lost our radio show in formats production the day before hand in – luckily, the audio logs resurfaced just before the day ended. Physically, I am also in good shape, which is helpful when two Z1 cameras need to be somewhere at a certain time. This has helped a lot in the Prague Trip, as I have to carry heavy JVC cameras and their accessories around at a certain pace.

I am self-motivated, meaning I’m always ready for the next ‘big thing’ or challenge, which is evident in my enthusiasm for my current and future projects.

Throughout my academic career, I have shown time and time again to be a good listener and a good communicator. These skills have been pivotal to almost every media artefact I have produced on this course, as every project has been created in a team. I have proven able to get on well with people from a variety of different backgrounds, and this will no doubt be handy in establishing links within the industry. I am also honest, reliable, trustworthy and punctual, again shown in many of the projects I have made thus far.

In addition to this, I am organised and have good time management. These skills were most harshly tested during my filming of the Demo-Lition protest march, when my bus got stuck in a massive London traffic jam, and left me and my group stranded in Piccadilly two hours after we should have been there. I managed to find the person I as supposed to meet, and I still made a solid attempt at a documentary.

I consider myself a creative person – there’s not much evidence of it yet, but it’s all up there in the mind! I will be creating some of my more abstract ideas in the upcoming terms, as I now feel I am technically competent to take them on.

Technically, I’m good at setting up and using a variety of cameras. Tripods are accessories I can use very well also, which has come with being a frequent camera operator in projects – notably Source TV, such as when I used a tripod and a Z1 in the middle of a nightclub.

I also possess skills with DSLR cameras – generally self-taught. I have created several ‘on the side’ galleries of work online, but I haven’t considered any of them professional as of yet, as I’m still exploring the medium. These skills have helped me a great deal in understanding video cameras however, as they share many similar traits. The most recent gallery I created was of Coventry’s War Memorial Park in autumn, which was a study in the contrast in colours on the leaves of the trees.

I am a confident person, and have good presentation skills, both in myself and in my work. I have often been asked to present work, and I always do presentations to the best of my ability. My social skills have come into practice here, and hopefully I will continue to develop these skills throughout my career.

Weaknesses

My biggest weakness lies in my ability to use technology to it’s full potential. I seem to be improving equally in both visual and audio media, but it’s an ongoing thing at the moment. I can use cameras to their full potential usually, but I would consider myself at an ‘advanced stage of learning’ rather than a professional master. Practice makes perfect. I used a JVC recently and I couldn’t get an image to appear on the screen, despite the fact the lens cap was off. It turned out the iris control had been set to a practically closed shutter, letting no light into the lens. Whoops.

I have rather relaxed attitude towards things, which is both a strength and a weakness. On the plus side, it means it’s very hard to get me stressed, and as I result I can cope under high pressure. On the downside, I can sometimes feel complacent about tasks – especially ones I don’t want to do, or have no motivation for. This leads to the production of sub-standard goods, which is why I consider this also a weakness, as I wont be able to make what I want to make a hundred percent of the time. One example of this may have been when we were asked to record people watching The X Factor – I simply did a blog post on my feelings about the show instead (humourous though it was!).

As a final note, my work experience history is extremely limited, and thus I will be working on my portfolio and CV extensively over this upcoming year. As you can see, my CV is in the process of being built. By the end of this academic year I hope to have a professional-looking showreel I can show to potential employers. My work should range from marketing videos to short films to documentaries, making me an all-round camera operator for various parts of the industry.

Opportunities

The university has offered several opportunities for me, and I’ve gone for as many as possible. I immediately got myself signed up for Source TV and Source Radio, as was always the plan throughout the latter half of the first year. As I’d hoped, these societies have improved my communication and organization skills already, and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so in the future.

I am going on the Prague trip, and also to Tenerife, so I can gain experience abroad. Experience in an alien environment is a luxury, but something I consider an important and relevant experience, to prepare for situations where I may be asked to film in places where the weather is different, or where I don’t speak the local dialect.

I am also creating some of my own projects, away from the restraints of university modules, so that I can use the skills I have learnt from the course and create something that I can put in my showreel. I have sometimes felt that module guidelines have restricted some of my creativity – for example, the 201MC proposals. I have a lot to say about a lot of things – sometimes I waffle of course, but other times making a longer film or documentary can allow you to explore themes to a deeper level than a ‘3-minute wonder’ can. I learned so much from my Demo-Lition protest march documentary that I feel these solo projects are highly beneficial.

I am also part of a documentary project at Hereward College, dealing with the issue of Asperges Syndrome. I am only a camera operator for this project, but it is giving me a different perspective of documentary production, as previous projects have been based around issues I’ve been familiar with (eg: tuition fees), whereas in this project I’m much more out of my comfort zone.

Threats

A threat to me is that I get easily distracted. It’s not strictly a weakness, as when I am part of a team doing a job, I am devoted to the project and I become focused on the job at hand. When on my own however, the internet often provides ample distractions, never ceasing my work completely, but often delaying it. The internet will not disappear, and my personality will not change. ‘Easily distracted’ is something I have been labelled as by academic staff since nursery, so this is a weakness of mine that’s probably here to stay.

The internet also provides another threat, however – that of the industry. It’s changing the media institutions. On the down side, less of us will be working for the BBC or ITV when we leave – on the plus side, more jobs will be available in new, vibrant online networks and institutions. The BIG problem is that these new networks are entirely unproven. No-one knows how they will work, it will be highly based on theoretical approaches, and generally we will be a generation of media producers diving into the unknown. Sounds like a fun opportunity – but it’s also going to be a massive headache.

However, the biggest threat to the industry right now seems to be the recession. Indulging ourselves in professional broadcast media is not crucial. DVD sales may deplete, as will games and other forms of media. For example, nobody can probably afford the new Call Of Duty game at £45. It is a threat to me, because I’m graduating in the next year or so (dependent on grades and the option of a masters degree). If we are still in the recession, getting a job in the industry may be difficult when I leave. Improvisation and creativity will be important.

Source Radio – The Story So Far…

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , on October 24, 2010 by Adam Broome

So, I have always planned on joining Source TV and Source Radio this year. Making up the smallest particle of a fraction of my professional experience (2 hours a week), Source Radio has given me the opportunity to have my own radio show, slotted between 8:00pm until 10:00pm on a Saturday. Usually, this is a good slot. My only competition is The X Factor – a TV show I thought people had more sense than to watch. I was wrong.

My show, currently titled ‘Adam’s Alternative Show’ (to differentiate from ‘The Alternative Show’ which is on Thursdays) had one primary aim – to broadcast a wide range of underground music from the alternative scene. I had no other ideas – generally, I thought the music would speak for itself. After all, the songs on the playlist are tunes people probably haven’t heard. This show was about music, through and through. As long as I had good taste, surely it could not go wrong.

Originally, I was set to do duo show with my friend Shaun, but during training, we were told that such presenters usually end up falling out over who dominates the music genres on the airwaves. Thus, Shaun decided it would be best to separate. I was indifferent, bagging this slot at this time. Shaun was less lucky – he bagged 10:00pm until midnight on Sunday. This, in total means that there are three main alternative shows on Source Radio – all orientated around the weekend. These two will be my primary competitors in the enterprise.

Having to carry the entire two hour show on my own was a bit nerve-wracking to start with. I am the only DJ in the studio on Saturdays, which goes in my benefit in so much that I can effectively start and finish whenever – there’s no one before or after me, so I don’t have to stick to any tight schedule. On the downside, if anything goes wrong, I am zero out of technical help. I took some videos of myself presenting (see below), so that I could possibly find ways to improve my presenting style. Generally, I thought the music was pretty good, but the absence of having a co-presenter or any audience interaction was evident right from the start.

After the show, I was several points better off – first of all, I need to write down the playlist on paper. The playlist is saved on my iPod, but once the first song was played, I couldn’t view the playlist again, so I had to largely improvise my vocals, only seeing what the next song really was about five seconds before it started to play. Luckily, I’d written down some material for the more interesting songs, so that I knew to talk about Paramore’s Tour, Limp Bizkit using the Mission Impossible theme tune, Pantera’s epic guitar solo and so on.

I feel that all I did was introduce songs and tell the audience what they were called. The trivia was not enough to carry the show on or make it interesting. Audience interaction and / or guests and co-presenters are very important, and I will be lucking to find such next week, now that I am more familiarized with the mixing desk. Speaking of the mixing desk, the computers actually shut down half way through the show. I didn’t know whether the microphones were shut down during this period, but I went ahead and used them anyway. Luckily, only the carts were affected by the computers shutting down, meaning my show was relatively unaffected. It was a good call on my part.

I cam across several spates of confusion, but considering I made it to the end of the show successfully, all the problems I came across I managed to solve by myself. One problem I did notice was that because my entire playlist came from my iPod, I had to start to play songs before turning the fader up to play the song on air (to avoid the ‘clicking’ sound of pressing ‘play’ on the iPod). This cut off some of the first seconds of some songs, meaning if I choose to continue this way, I will need to develop a sleight of hand to pull off the trick.

Next week I will also incorporate the internet into my playlist, and possibly fade songs between the two streams. Whichever way you look at it, the carts available to me and the songs within will probably not be what I am looking to broadcast in my show. I have a focus on unsigned and unknown bands to start with! This means that every show will revolve around my iPod and the internet, and will very rarely go to the Myriad playlists. This, however, may mean broadcasting required advertisements will become difficult (I didn’t have any on the first show, yet I did unwittingly advertise Rock Sound Magazine during one of my improvised speeches!)

The ‘Demo-Lition’ Protest March Documentary (+260MC Week 2 Questions)

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , , on October 24, 2010 by Adam Broome

I have been planning over the last week to produce a media artefact around the student protest march up ahead, taking place on November 10th in London against proposals to lift the cap on tuition fees. The artefact would be a documentary, interviewing students at Coventry University, and possibly some of the lecturers as well, so each side can voice their thoughts.

For 260MC, this week we have also been set a task similar in vein. This week involved us producing a media artefact which involved doing an off-the-wall style interview, and then contemplate creating something that was more personal to us. Now, although politics have never truly been my forte, I do believe that raising tuition fees to £7.5k a year is a bad thing, and that’s why I am doing the documentary, to report, and also to further understand, the incident. I was doing it for portfolio, and also for me own private interest, but since this module seems to be asking for something of the like, I shall use this future project as a basis for this week’s work.

The interview produced earlier in the week was about the misrepresentation of media students. Coincidentally, this is actually a relevant artefact, as the protest march will be directly linked to how students represent themselves as a collective. It is all in future terms – on the day of the march, anything could really happen. Misrepresentation is clearly the word at the heart of the protest – perhaps students are seen as being alcoholics, and young people who use taxpayer’s money to stay out of work for as long as they can. Incidents such as this didn’t help:

Indeed, from my own experience, drinking seems synonymous with student culture nowadays. When at college, I had the naive notion that university could have been boring, surrounded by intelligent people that made me feel like an idiot, and unintentionally made me feel small. This was not the case, which is perhaps a good thing – I am not the brain of Britain, but I like to think that with 300 UCAS points, I earned my right to have a place at university.

This is where I shall insert a side-argument – are the exams getting easier? GCSE and A-Level results continuously get better with each passing year. I remember feeling quite happy when I heard that my year were the most academically successful thus far. But now, such results are almost expected. Was a B, a B and C at A-Level really a true test of my intelligence? Are people who should not be deemed ‘worthy’ of university being let in? Crucially – are these people the students who have the least amount of money?

I was born on what was effectively a council estate. Little by little, me and my mum eventually managed to migrate to a middle-class suburbia around the corner. Through personal reasons, I came to have a little money to my name. Had I not got that money, could I have come to university? The first thing every MP seems to jump to is the Student Loans Company. It is a business so inundated with applicants that it’s system crumbles almost every year under the strain. I am eligible for ‘maximum everything’ because my household income is so low. Yet, even this year, my halls of residence ask for the money up front, otherwise they deny you accommodation. Money to the tune of £1,500, before the loans have even gone through. Then there’s the trips, and social events. If you really want the best out of the university experience, you need to have some money stored somewhere to fall back on when you need it.

So, why raise tuition fees? To stop the poor students getting in – stereotypically the lesser intelligent of the social ladder? Is it to make the cutbacks, which our PM seems to be promoting – stop students using the SLC so the government doesn’t have the lend so much money to so many people. Is it a case of making the education system look more competent? Being able to say that not just anybody can go to university anymore. Restrict it to the privileged. It has taken many years for the education system to get to where it has, and these proposals will be a backward step – but for better, or for worse?

In relation to the questions, the media certainly represents students in a bad light. We are always in the spotlight for drinking, partying, and generally doing anything except studying. Of course, this is not wholly the case – yet I can testify that there are small truths to the stereotypes. Next week there’ll be a ‘Carnage’ night taking place, one such event which the above student was taking part in. It caused a media storm of outrage, and according to my mum, students were never seen in the same way again. In other words, all respect for us was lost from that point onwards.

Lest not we forget people were paid to go to university not so long ago, until we were accused of ‘dossing’ and abusing the system, at which point they implemented the tuition fees once more. Currently at approximately £3,500 a year on loan, the proposals will add another £4,000 to the sum, increasing debt by double, but reducing the number of students by half. On the surface it seems illogical – in terms of money, half the students paying double the money gives no financial gain to a government that claims the education cuts have been purely economical.

These matters are largely seen through the eyes of the government and the public, which appear to be the two main driving factions behind the media of today. I find that since neither are being directly affected, it seems to make much more sense to interview those who are – the students who may pay more, and the lecturers who may benefit.

I am choosing to do a documentary on this, although much as we have been exploring this week, there are a variety of ways I can conduct my report on the event. I will, as always, make it as interesting as possible. I plan to interview students before the events, and then take footage of the march from within the march itself. ‘Vox Pops’ style footage may be taken during the march with fellow campaigners. This documentary will also serve to tell my story of the event, and what the day actually entailed (including the journey there, and the return journey). Interviews with the public may be beneficial, as would footage of any political speeches. Generally, I’ll take footage of as many different things as I can, and mix them the way that looks right in the editing suite.