The Protest March Run-Up – Reflection On “What Matters To Me”

So, I was going to a do little video about the event of the protest march this wednesday. But then this guy called Johnny Rickard comes along, asking all us Media Production students to help him create a show reel. As part of Source TV, I’m one of the first there, and pounce on the opportunity with both hands. Johnny hears about my side project, and sees an opportunity himself. He says he wants to do the interviews in my little documentary piece and add it to his show reel that my fellow students are creating. In return, he’ll bag an interview with a politician. Again, I say ‘yes’. I grab the opportunity as it presents itself.

Then, 260MC starts asking me to make an artefact based on something I feel strongly about, entitled ‘What Matters To Me’. In an attempt to reduce my vast workload, I merge this project into that, despite the fact that the actual march is occurring two days after the deadline. But then, the politician is announced – Michael Heseltine. A rather famous politician from the ‘Thatcher’ years and beyond – well respected, well known. Even Coventry University’s own Ken Fero knows of this man, even when I can’t fully recall the name. It’s practically a coventry conversation in its own right. The interview is set – upon the Thames, with the Houses Of Parliament in the background.

Then, Source TV grab a bit of the action. Now they too are heading down with their cameras. Then almost all of the fellow students embarking on the journey decide to grab their cameras. And thus, what started out as a jolly has turned into a military operation that teeters startlingly close to professional experience.

However, all excitement about the march aside, this 260MC project had that problem of being about an event that hasn’t happened yet. So, I decided to film students, and interview them about their own thoughts on the tuition fee proposals. After the first two interviews, I realised that the Student Loans Company has a lot to answer for in these matters as well, along with the Liberal Democrats, who originally stated they were abolishing tuition fees altogether, and those who are in the academic years below us, who will be most affected.

These formed the main points of my questions during these interviews, of which there were four. I wanted to vary the footage, so I shot two at different points of the Avid room, one in a corridor, and one in the rather inspired spot of an elevator. This project has taught me more than any other project this year so far, for several reasons:

First of all, this entire project was edited using Final Cut Pro. Within 30 minutes, I could see the result was that of Avid, but quicker and easier to use. Because I had used Avid, I could effectively ‘pick up and play’ Final Cut Pro instantly. The final result is much better quality than that of iMovies.

Second, whilst using Final Cut Pro, I have stretched my editing skills in whole new directions. I have modified title sequences, and I have also changed the audio levels of two of the interviews. I used reporter microphones for these interviews, and the audio came out a lot quieter than the other two. I raised the gain in Final Cut and made those shots louder to better match the interviews in the Avid room. I also had to re-format the background music and sounds at the end, as well as crop them from their original cuts. The shot with the shirt has music over it, slowed down to 77% its usual running speed. To me, this project is a technical marvel!

Third, you may notice the varied use of interview shots and techniques. I didn’t want to utilise all our strange ideas about doing interviews differently from a few weeks ago. I did, however, want to use a tilted shot, which I used in both of the Avid interviews (one is more obvious than the other). To vary things, the shot in the corridor was filmed on the move, which helped to make us students look busy (the student was indeed en route to a lecture at that time). The shot in the elevator just seemed like a good idea at the time. The audio obviously got echoey in there, but the change in backdrop added a nice variation to proceeds. The elevator interview was also heavily over-exposed – turning up an ND filter in a closed elevator doesn’t seem logical, but I know for next time.

My use of titles seems to mimic that of our previous interviews with misrepresented media students. This was, actually, entirely coincidental. I have not used any form of colour correction in the editing phase, although I did set the white balance accordingly in the Avid room interviews (but forgot to change it in the other two!) What is more, the cut away shots of the banners being created were shot using a PDX10, whereas the interviews were shot using a Z1, and thus I have used mixed footage from multiple cameras and succeeded. I have also learned that my initial plan to convert all my ‘Sony’ footage using my ‘JVC’ palmcorder will never work. Luckily my flat-mate hired a Z5 out over the weekend, and I already have a firewire (yes… it is true that this artefact almost didn’t get made at all!)

My knowledge of cameras, interviews, editing and sound have all increased immensely via this project, which will no doubt benefit me on the actual day. For the first time, I feel I have created something with purpose, forward towards an even greater media artefact which I can place on a showreel and present to potential employers (which is what this year is all about). To say the whole thing has been orchestrated on my own (with respectful thank yous to those who allowed me to interview them, and the chaps who made it possible for me to access Final Cut Pro in the first place), this project is pretty darn good, and I’m pleased with the way it turned out. All ahead to the march!

–> Also, as an extra bit of reflection (as opposed to description), I think that what my fellow students say is very true (especially about the SLC). It took a few views on playback, but during editing I noticed that I appeared to have to struck a nerve with them individually. This is a subject they knew about, had experience of, and felt passionate about. They had something to say. Although I edited my own voice out, their words alone spoke volumes, and constructed an informative piece of footage. None of the students were in contact with each other on the day of filming, and none of them had prepared any form of answers – it was all authentic.

I also noticed that I’d accidentally done something quite clever after editing – you don’t know what the cut-aways mean until the final few seconds. Throughout the piece, you’re wondering what those shirts are for. It’s only when the word ‘protest’ is mentioned that the pieces fit. I think this is a good thing, as it possibly adds an enigma code to a series of interviews (which is unusual). This brings into question what this piece is actually about – students voicing their opinions, or advertising for the protest march? To be honest, it is really both of those things!

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