Archive for demo-lition

‘Demo-Lition’ – The Whole Story

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2010 by Adam Broome

Introduction

The following post details the story of my artefact based on the ‘Demo-Lition’ protest march that occurred in early November 2010. I was at the march myself to create a documentary that would explore what I already knew about the genre, and also aid in Source TV and my own Professional Experience module. However, the march infamously turned sour, and was to become to first of many student protests in London that turned to rioting and violence.

Part One: Conception, Planning and Creation

So, it’s taken more or less the entire first term to create this artefact. Early on in the term, I noticed the Students Union at Coventry University were getting awfully excited about some sort of march taking place down in London. The march was a protest against proposals to raise tuition fees, and it was going to be called ‘Demo-Lition’. The title came from the idea that students would turn up in JCB-esque garb, for a peaceful protest to show the government our stance on their proposals. This was something I knew nothing about – I’m not political at the best of times. But the end of term 3 had forced me to make a hard choice – a choice between studying documentary or formats production in term 4. Ultimately I chose formats (and without regrets I might add), but this however meant I was on the lookout to do my own personal re-sit of 111MC in term 4 – that is, to create a documentary of my own, unimpeded and unrestricted by the university’s module guidelines. I go on the principle that best knowledge is acquired through own experience, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to explore the medium of documentary on my own.

Some of you may have already seen the finished artefact. What we have here is an abject lesson in what a documentary looks like when the producer went out and had no idea what he wanted the final style to be. I knew I wanted to document the protest march, but had very little ideas in the way of specifics. I wanted to record the events of the day – that seemed pretty simple, just point and shoot and record what you see. But then, of course, I would absolutely have to interview students and get their voices into my artefact, so that there was some deeper purpose to my creation.

The real shambles started when Source TV started to get involved. Having signed up to Source TV early in the year, it appeared that the SU wanted this march to be filmed. ‘Quite a lot’ of students were predicted to take part, and it was a major event during the term that the SU were involved in. I told Source TV and the SU that I was already making a film, and my film subsequently became ‘the film’ that Source TV were going to produce… resting entirely on my shoulders alone. Then, the university unintentionally got involved by asking me to create a piece called ‘What Matters To Me’ – an artefact for 260MC that would no doubt be linked to this artefact, even though the march would occur 3 days after the deadline for that project.

But one large chunk of this story came from a visitor to Source TV called Johnny Rickard – a man who asked for help to film a showreel for him in a makeshift TV studio. This project is still ongoing. However, upon hearing my plans to interview students at the mach, he was quick to jump on board with ideas. The general ‘gist’ was that he could use the interviews for his own showreel (as add-ons), and I could use the interviews for my documentary. It seemed like a great opportunity for us both. What’s more, Rickard also proposed to secure an interview with Michael Heseltine – a well-known politician from the 1980s.

Part Two: Preparation

I gave a long thought about what equipment I would be taking on-site. I figured that the worst-case scenario was that a full-blown riot would erupt, and what would be the plan if such an event occurred. Having been inducted into the Z1 cameras, which I was using quite a lot at the time, it was tempting to take one of the ‘big ones’ for high quality. This came with a rather large problem however – if I needed to get the hell out of dodge, the camera would slow me down. A bigger camera would also be harder to protect. I knew I’d be liable for any damage to equipment, so ultimately I decided upon the smaller-scale PDX10 cameras we’d used last year. This came with it’s own problem – a huge black box for protection purposes. I quickly made the decision that if this was going to happen, I would either leave the box on the bus, or at my room in Coventry. On the day, it was left in my room.

I needed to be selective with my equipment – there would not be time to set up tricky shots or interesting panoramic views. Nor did I have the inclination to walk all over London with tripods and boom poles all by myself. With thought, I chose only one other piece of tech – a reporter’s mic, used for interviews to increase sound quality. This proved to be a very wise move – the sound quality was much better with this mic than the ones that came with the camera. However, as it turned out, some shots required diegetic noise, meaning I had to switch between the microphones regularly through ‘input 1’ (the only way I really knew how to get both mics on stereo quickly). By the end of the day, I was connoisseur of swapping XLR cables into the Input 1 socket. Believe.

As the day grew nearer, actions started to happen. I got my ticket on the bus. Rickard was set to go on the bus with me, but realised he was in London that day anyway, and so we decided to meet up at the start of the march (Horse Guards Avenue) at approximately 11:30am, fifteen minutes before the march started. Simple plan. However, on the downside he seemed unable to secure the interview with Heseltine – just as well really, me and my borderline-palmcorder camera probably would not have done him justice. This was a project about the march, not about politicians. Given that the interview was to occur ways away from the march route, it brought a few niggling problems with regards timing arrangements to the table. Given what actually happened on the day, it’s actually quite lucky the interview didn’t happen! The idea for Rickard’s showreel went from ‘Heseltine’ to ‘politicians’ to ‘students’ to, ultimately, ‘whoever we can find’. Gotta love media production.

I decided to refresh myself with my equipment, and made sure I was thoroughly ready to dance through hell and high water with my equipment. The night before the final day, I realised the XLR cable was ridiculously long for what I needed. However, I was to transport the PDX10 in a small paper ‘Virgin Media’ bag, which I’d gotten with my recently acquired BlackBerry phone. The bag was juts the right size to cover the big tangled mess of XLR cable-work at the bottom. Providing I could keep the actual reporter’s mic near the top, I could film, interview, and slot my hand through a bag handle to keep all the wires together and hang them from my wrist. Haphazard, but practical for moving quickly around London with all this kit. What I could leave in Coventry, I left. The bus schedule was not certain, so I decided to keep everything that left Coventry on my person at all times.

Finally, I went back to my old tutor in documentary, to ask for his advice on approaching this event. He gave me some final pointers, which helped a little in my understanding. He did clarify that I should understand the difference between ‘documentary’ and ‘reportage’. I didn’t now what he was getting at at the time, but looking back on the final piece, you can clearly see the point when a point-of-view documentary suddenly becomes a vox-pops style clip with a reporter. Upon mentioning Heseltine, I seemed to spark off something in my lecturer, so made a swift exit and let him be. It was all down to me now.

Part Three: Heading To War

The first opening interviews of my documentary were extracts from my 260MC artefact. They showed the views of some of my friends on my course – specifically, what they thought about the cuts and the Student Loans Company. This was good practice for what my interview ‘approach’ would be like on the day. But for this side-project alone, I knew I had to do research. As mentioned, I knew little about the subject at the start of the term, and I knew I needed some knowledge about the proposals if I was going to interview people about it. I did just that, and used the internet as a means I get some sound intel. I didn’t focus on statistics too much – I just wanted a general outlook so my arguments could become more neutral / flexible. The way I saw it, I was there to report and document, and nothing more.

After my reading, from what I could make out the fuss was about a cap – Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg had promised to abolish tuition fees completely. However, now he was in power, he’d taken up the stance with David Cameron in active support of raising tuition fees. Under Labour rule, the UK education system had a cap, meaning universities could not charge any more than a certain amount (‘capped’ at about £3,500 a year for university). If the cap got lifted, universities were free to charge what they wanted, with estimates reaching around £9,000 a year. The ploy of ‘recession’ was being used as the reason behind the cuts – funding to education would be cut because of the ‘credit crunch’, and as a result, the universities would need to charge more to students to compensate for the lack of government funding. If college students were feeling left out, Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) was also being scrapped.

A lot of my friends started to show interest around about this time. Several colleagues also saw that going on this march would, at the very least, be an experience. Needing cut-away shots for my 260MC work, I also met Robert Wilson, the head of Coventry University’s SU, during the process of painting the shirts and creating the banners. He was a useful contact to have – he would have much influence over the organization of the event on the day. Out of all the shots I took, the tracking shot of all the shirts was something I particularly liked. It was used better in the 260MC artefact – eventually, having difficulty knowing where to include these shots in the final piece, they served to bridge the gap between the initial interviews and the footage of the actual day. I felt some of the effect was lost here.

Part 4: The Day Of The March

So there I am. Half eight in the morning outside Allan Berry, a Virgin Media bag in hand. Inside it, atop a gnarled bundle of cable, a PDX10 camera and a microphone. First estimates of the day’s turnout have come in – 20,000 students are expected to be coming down to London today. The bus is expected to arrive at Horse Guard’s Avenue at quarter past eleven, giving me fifteen minutes to find Rickard and get rolling with the interviews.

As you can see from the footage, most of the morning consisted of ‘rallying the troops’ as it were. The march started at Horse Guard’s Avenue, and would then head downwards along the Thames, past Big Ben and The Houses Of Parliament, and would culminate in a rally point outside 30 Millbank, A.K.A ‘Millbank Tower’ – the Conservative Party HQ. From there, the march would edge a little further on. We were given strict warning that the buses would pick us up from the Victoria Embankment at 4:15pm. If I wasn’t back by then, I was finding my own way back. As it transpires though, two of my mates had hired out a big Z1 camera, and were heading down by train to film a documentary of their own. Friendly competition had appeared from nowhere.

The seats on the buses had completely sold out. There are a lot of students around. Robert Wilson takes to the stage with a megaphone and blurts out a speech that readies everyone for the day’s events. I catch this on film, but realise the zoom lens on the PDX10 is a bit stiff. I record the sound whilst I zoom in and out of a blurry-faced SU president, meaning in the end I had to use cut-away shots for this part of the documentary. I get the shot into focus before the speech is finished, and whilst quietly chastising myself, and make doubly sure that I am able to zoom and focus my PDX10 before I board a nearby bus with my fellow companions.

The journey on the bus is interesting to say the least. I talk to my friends for a little while, before finally getting to chat to people sitting in front and behind. The girl in front is a nice student who has ideas about how to pass the time – a wonderful talent that would soon be realised when we hit London. The girl behind, more importantly, was a very opinionated girl who fancied herself a ‘V For Vendetta’ style revolutionary. It was almost love at first sight. The first interview was bagged, for the price of a £1 newspaper she was promoting. We did, however, decide to do the interview whilst on the march.

The bus set off at half past nine, and stopped by a service station en route. At quarter past eleven, we had reached London, but only the outskirts. A nervous Rickard phoned up asking of my whereabouts. Evidently, we were now in complete improvisation territory. We had no idea when the bus would arrive at Horse Guard’s Avenue. All we knew is that in less than an hour, the march would begin. The girl behind me had a contact in the march already, relaying events at the start back to her. This was a useful tool informing people on the bus what was happening at the place where we should have been by now.

On the M1 down to London, we had effectively ‘raced’ with several other buses, showing busloads full of students heading to the same place we were. After about the fifteenth bus though, I for one certainly started to get a bit edgy. How many were actually heading down here again? Rickard reported that same thing the girl behind was getting – Horse Guard’s Avenue was effectively buried under a sea of students. 20,000 was quickly reported to have gone up slightly to the SU folk at the front of the bus. Now, the number was more like 50,000. The important of this little project of mine just went up slightly. Unfortunately, I managed to consistently miss camera shots of the other buses (one blurry shot did show reflections were a big problem however). I did manage to get shots of people practicing their chants on the bus though – looking back on the footage, I realised some of the chants we invented did indeed end of getting chanted on the actual march, which added an odd ‘continuity’ effect to my piece.

Forty-five minutes later, and we’re stuck somewhere in London. Traffic is in absolute gridlock, the student sat next to me is getting angry, and then a bad message comes through – a rather agitated Rickard now informs me that the march has started. That’s it – for a documentary that charts this march, I’ve missed the start of it. I head over the to the front of the bus, and politely have a few words with my fellow SU reps and the bus driver. I ask if, since we’re not at all moving, and are located near the pavement, if we could possibly get off the bus and head to the march by foot. It really, really would be quicker today. The bus driver seems quite happy to oblige. I turn around to my fellow students on the bus:

“So, who wants to get off this bus and head to the march on foot?”

A resounded roar of gratitude confirms my own rallying of the troops has been a success. Students are on their feet and at the doors before I’ve even got back to my seat. We disembark onto the streets of Piccadilly, with no idea where we are, where the march is, or which direction we need to go. We walk in one given direction, and spot others in the same plight as us. We quickly join forces, and walk together into the biggest urban jungle in the UK.

Part 5: When The Going Gets Tough…

This was the point when the camera really started rolling. We were already off track in an effective wilderness where anything could happen. Getting to the river, finding the march, finding the rendezvous point to get home – it was all fair game at this point. We walked collectively in the general direction of where we thought the river was, and I got some good footage of our improvised march as we strode on.

It was at this point when I seized the opportunity to grab the interview with the girl on the bus. Predictably, she was quick to raise hell on camera in a flurry of colourful language. Annoyingly, in the final frames I walked into the sun and cast a giant shade right over her. The sun was rather low today, and I quickly realised I’d have to watch my step so as not to sabotage any shots.

With the first interview over, the woman disappeared into London. We walked through a park to a large open area, asking people if they knew where the South Bank was. All we could decipher was that we were close, although where we were exactly was almost impossible to tell. A rather irritated Rickard started to call, at this point having waited for the best part of two hours, wondering what the hell was going on. I was short on answers, considering we had no idea where the hell we were.

Moments later, however, we caught a glimpse of a large band of surging people through an archway. We ran straight for it, and indeed, if the banners and trumpets hadn’t given it away, we had found the march. Everyone, including myself, pushed our way into the manic heap, and quickly got swallowed up and separated within. Keeping the camera rolling, I looked for my next interview. I did manage to bag one with a male student, but I felt he didn’t have much to say, and thus I cut this from the final edit.

Upon sprawling around the mass of people and noise (which to some extent reminded me of a music festival), I caught a glimpse of Big Ben in the distance. I contact Rickard and arranged a meeting there. The precise spot was at Westminster Station, a subway entrance opposite the Houses Of Parliament. Having lost my fellow companions, I stuck with the march and headed downwards.

At this point in the documentary, that awkward silence occurs, as the march heads into the shade of some high buildings. I found some other Coventry students, but they were not the ones I had come with. Then, the march stopped completely. The chanting stopped, and a rather serious still seemed to fall upon the march. But I knew I had to get to Westminster Station soon, and realising the march had hit a stand-still, and left the mass of people onto a pavement and ran as fast as I dared down towards Big Ben.

This part was particularly dangerous. The march broke down the barriers holding people in place, sending people sprawling across the entire street. Even the pavements were blocked. I ran until I could go no further, and then just filmed what I saw. As you can see, what I saw mostly was a fire up ahead at the Houses Of Parliament, a line of policemen being booed at, and a large group of drums being bashed about. I waited for a good ten minutes, before deciding to push my way through. I asked a nearby officer where Westminster Station was. I was heading on the right track, but when she ‘wished me luck’, I had doubts I even be able to find the place.

As luck would have it, I was on the right side of the street. I saw an underground sign above and pushed my through to that. Parliament Square was a mess – this was the moment that it hit me. 20,000 or 50,000, the number did not matter. Fires were going off, people had scaled anything and everything. People were shouting, drums were big bashed around, and already the floor was littered with broken banners and paper. Stuff was going down. Worst of all, despite my best efforts, no Rickard was in sight. I scoured to no avail, eventually deciding to call him. However, all I could hear was noise on the other end. Hence, I turned to the art of texting. When I got no reply, I was left in an awkward predicament.

Part 6 – Running

I waited for about ten minutes. Phone calls were out of the question, and Rickard seemed to have fallen out of contact. Was he on his way? Was he just across the street? Ultimately, I could not see him. His last known location was exactly where I stood. There were thousands of students everywhere. The situation was bleak. But ever the optimist, I saw some students sat on a wall. I asked one for an interview, to which he silently nodded his head towards some of his friends who quickly leapt of the wall and broke into a run behind me.

This was a shot I particularly liked. I ran with the students as I filmed, with the one I asked to interview turning up to hold his banner as he ran backwards. The students were running to circumnavigate the hold-up in the march. To the side, protesters were being directed away from the river, into the centre of London. After the ‘rush’ and in the same shot, I turned around the saw a wall of people behind me with banners chanting. I walked backwards as I filmed, trusting there were no banana skins on the floor (or lamp-posts). This was the moment when I really began to feel an emotional connection to what I was filming – I was there to do a job, no doubt. But for some reason not even known to myself, this was the point when I felt the most empathy for the plight of the students who were here.

Having respectively already done my tour of London centre, I walked back to the march, and off ahead towards Millbank. Surprisingly, there was hardly anyone down this far. Evidently, students had congregated at Parliament Square. That was why the march had come to a standstill, and why the police were diverting people away. A little way down, and I felt at a bit of a loose end. Then, much to my alarm, Rickard replied, stating he was near Westminster Station by a load of riot vans. At this point I had a choice – call off the meeting with apologies, and continue on alone, or continue to try and find this needle in a haystack. The way I saw it, the ‘story’ of my artefact was back outside Big Ben anyway. And thus, I turned and ran back the way I’d come. Had I gone down a little further, this artefact would have turned out rather different.

Never in my life had I felt so much like Jason Bourne. Running through hundred and people as all hell seemingly broke loose all around. Not caring about the location – just the mission. Where the bloody hell was this man? I went straight back to the subway station, and asked a nearby bobby where the riot vans were. Apparently, no riot vans had been called. I stormed over to a nearby statue of Winston Churchill, and sent what was to be perhaps the final text. I was there, this is what I was wearing, and I saw no riot vans. To pass the time, I tried to get another interview, but the student declined.

Then, success! Rickard was never at Westminster Station, he was on a bridge that ran alone the other side of Big Ben. Now, I was on the wrong side of the march. I puckered up and fought my way across the river of students and managed to find a glimpse of a riot van. Barging out of the mess, I quickly found Rickard – standing there, as he said, between four riot vans. Mission complete.

When I first approached, I felt it necessary to give him a big hug. I was so relieved to have found him, and that this whole operation hadn’t been a waste of his time. Rickard seemed (as you would expect) slightly annoyed and anxious to get on with the filming, which we quickly got into. But he had no idea… no idea, that if I hadn’t found him within those last ten minutes, I would have been liable to just forget the whole thing and go solo. It was two o clock when we’d finally managed to find each other – two and a half hours after we had agreed (primarily courtesy of the SU bus). The important thing is that we had succeeded in meeting up. The moral of the story, known all to well to someone like myself – sh*t happens.

Part 7 – The Vox Pops

So, at this point, the documentary becomes a reportage – or rather, a showreel for Johnny Rickard. He’s already got two students lined up from Bangor University. Great! …unfortunately, within ten seconds you knew this student was going to be as dull as hell. Looking back on the footage, however, he does make some good points. His friend does not.

Rickard has some others lined up, but all have subsequently disappeared in the time it has taken me to find him. He looks rather lost as he stares at the march gently drifting ahead before him. I’m quick to show him how it’s done – I lead him straight into the fray, and now with added confidence, start asking all and sundry if they want their views aired on ‘Source TV’. We get all sorts:

  • A girl with fake blood all over face – an interview humorously interrupted by a guitar player half way through (which I kept for comedic value).
  • A girl dressed as a wizard – sadly, in the middle of making her only interesting point, she calls out to her friends, ruining her piece.
  • A group of 6th-formers – a great interview which showed Rickard’s ability to antagonise, as well as showing the views of those not at university yet. This lasted twenty minutes, but also showed Rickard’s ability to use a reporter’s mic was not so good, and antagonising students did not fit the overall tone of my artefact too well. Then I stood in the wrong place, casting yet another shadow over the shot once again. Oops.
  • A clown – some complete nut case which, although a hilarious interview it made, had no real purpose or message. It is arguable whether this should have been included in the final piece or not, but at thirty minutes already, I was as harsh as I dared with editing.
  • A grim reaper – a man who used a lot of acronyms (namely, HE and FE), meaning his points were generally lost to anyone outside academia. He was the only one to make Rickard laugh though, which I thought was a good moment.
  • Two dance students – leading on from the end of his interview with the 6th-formers, Rickard asks these two to describe David Cameron in two words. Writes itself really.

Half way through filming these, I meet my rivals who have just arrived by train. They seem anxious to head off somewhere – no idea where. Then, I meet my companions, who have only just arrived at the square. They have been stuck in the body of the march for well over an hour and a half, making sluggish progress. I went off with Rickard to get more footage, agreeing to try and meet them to head back to the bus (picking us up at Victoria Embankment – wherever that was). Some other ‘dude’ also asks for an interview, thinking I’m from Virgin Media because of my bag. He quickly leaves disappointed.

Half an hour later, with the crowds in Parliament Square dispersing, and sun getting lower and lower, Rickard and myself head down the river. We leave a trashed square in the shadow of Big Ben – a telling mark of what has occurred this day. Much like last time, the riverbank is deserted. Then, at the furthest point I got to last time, we suddenly hit a blockade. The march has been diverted across a bridge to the other side of the river, which I’m quite keen not to do, since in just over an hour the bus will be picking me up on this side of the river. Rickard and myself stand around for a few moments trying to decide what to do for these last forty minutes or so. I’m determined to make each minute count. It isn’t over until it’s over. Then, I get a text, from my mum of all people. Apparently, there’s a good reason why they don’t want the march to reach Millbank Tower. I suddenly get the feeling I know exactly where my competitors went to in such a hurry…

Part 8 – Hitting The Fan

Rickard uses i-‘tech’ to confirm the location of Millbank Tower. Truth is, it’s about one minute down the bank. We side step the barricade and proceed onwards. The shot you see on the film is exactly the moment I arrive at Millbank Tower – it was not staged. My mum’s text told me it’s on Sky News – Millbank Tower has been besieged by students, who have effectively stormed the building and smashed the place up inside. That’s not the half of it – moments after arriving on site, a sum of approximately a hundred students appear on the roof.

Rickard wants to do a report, and quickly sets up. Only a few words in, however, he gets interrupted by a rather angry woman, who seems very ‘fuelled’ and in defence of what is going on. In contrast to this, we manage to bag only one other interview outside Millbank – that of a student who is against what is occurring. The juxtaposition and varying views were a nice summary of the events, allowing me to leave Rickard gawping up at the sky and go about finding cut aways.

And cut-aways there are plenty. I have difficulty recollecting which ones I used at the end – a zoom-out shot of the students on the roof (which, when viewed closely, you’ll see actually captures the moment that infamous fire extinguisher gets thrown off the roof). There’s a shot of the smashed windows, at which point a banner is thrown at the riot police. There’s a shot of smashed windows on the floors above, a shot of students huddled together looking scared. Most impressively, I got the shot of students actually ascending the stairs into the building itself, which I was wary of using in case I got people into trouble (but which proved too interesting a shot).

I tried to get an establishing shot of Millbank Tower as well. But the one that stood out for is, as before, the tracking shot. Just like the shot of the shirts back in Coventry, I have a tracking shot of all the students aligned on the roof, militant and proud of it. Upon leaving the devastation behind, I quickly catch a glimpse of several riots vans charging towards the building at full speed. I very nearly missed this shot – that I captured it demonstrated that  upon viewing the vans speeding towards me up ahead, I changed an XLR cable, activated the camera, and sorted out the zoom and focus before the vans drove past. So much effort I almost didn’t bother – but so glad I did.

Part 9 – Evacuation

I can’t think of a better word for it. I quickly make a rendezvous with my companions – ironically right next to where I met Rickard just over two hours ago. Rickard luckily knows where Victoria Embankment is – he takes us straight to where masses of coaches are caught in yet another traffic jam. Other news is in also – my competitors are indeed at Millbank. They’re still at Millbank, intent on filming the full-blown riots in all their bloody glory, with a camera twice as expensive and heavy as my own. I feel like I metaphorically pass on the torch at this point. It’s all their show now.

But, not having fully finished this story, I say goodbye to Rickard as I spot the shirts of the Coventry University SU. I get several shots of our final walk back – the SU wisely make us walk past Westminster Abbey to avoid the gridlock. En route, we pass what can only be described as a small militia of police. I was going to take some shots on the bus on the way back (maybe even some of the service station), but in all honesty, I didn’t think they’d add anything. I was tired. The march was over.

I tried to get a final interview with our SU president, but he was busy right up until the end, meaning it never happened. The next time I saw him was one week later, at the All-Students Meeting (ASM), which I filmed strictly for Source TV, but decided Aaron Porter’s speech during this meeting was a fitting end to my artefact. Moreover, I had actually filmed this myself as part of Source TV as well, so I could use in my artefact without stepping on anyone’s toes.

Part 10 – The Edit

As anyone in Media Production knows, after all the fun of the fair, there is little left to do but sit down and edit your footage into the final piece. Unfortunately for me, I had only one editing suite open to me – that of a out-dated version of Avid in my University. Not wanting to repeat mistakes of the past, I vowed to find myself an alternative before editing even started. Two weeks later, and I have Final Cut Pro on my Macbook, which is the first editing suite I’ve come across that has actually made editing fun.

First, I imported the files, and then placed them on the timeline in the sequence I wanted. Then, par usual, I cropped all the really crap bits out, and narrowed two hours of footage into forty-five minutes. I thought this was too long, and did subsequent edits as I saw fit. Titles were an issue – they looked unprofessional, but given I know nothing about graphics, I figured they’d have to do. Alternate fonts and colours did not help. I referenced Rickard as ‘budding journalist’ as an in-joke.

The effects were kept to simple fade-in/fade-out transitions, as most of the other effects at my disposal looked rather amateur as well. The longest part, as always, was the music, which I had to find online first, before importing it, editing it, and normalizing it. I thought the quiet piano worked well with the contrasting chaos seen on film. I remembered to include credits (which I forget on the first export). I credited all who had helped directly with the creation of this artefact, but realised after the second export that I’d forgot to credit one other person – me!

Finally, I came to exporting it, only to find a 6GB file waiting to be uploaded. An unforeseen problem had occurred – there was no way this was going online unless I paid for it. I asked around for advise, and learned the art of compression – a simple thing that converts big files into small ones without affecting quality. Why videos aren’t automatically compressed is unknown, but evidently my Macbook was designed with all sorts of format-adjusting and compressing tools for media files (you can even convert music files in iTunes!). At 1GB, it was still too bog for most websites. Youtube and Vimeo were way out. I eventually managed to find Megavideo, a site specially designed for videos like mine. I uploaded the video in earnest – it took over five hours to upload. Sadly, Megavideo seems to have taken out some of the quality of the artefact. However, the argument is pointless, as this seems to be the only place I have access to online where it can be broadcast for free.

The Finished Article

http://www.megavideo.com/?v=62YSJDT2

(Get comfy – it clocks in at 30 minutes)

Evaluation

Overall, I’m very happy with this artefact. I know it’s not perfect, but it wasn’t meant to be. This was me re-doing 111MC the way I wanted to do it, without having the restrictions of University modules. It was also me compensating and exploring the realm of documentary, since I chose to do the formats module.

I have learned so much from this project, it’s hard to know where to begin. In terms of the genre, I’ve approached and used many different styles. I have now produced a medley of interviews in controlled and uncontrolled environments. I’ve done them alone, and I’ve done them with another person. I now know the difference between documentary and reportage, and I also now have experience in how to approach the two different forms ‘in the field’. Socially, I knew I was up to the task, and I believed I proved myself in bringing out a point in (almost) everyone I interviewed before meeting Rickard.

Other skills I have developed are clearly navigational skills. In those hectic moments on Parliament Square, you can find out a lot about yourself (not wanting to go all ‘Freud’ on everyone). I’m glad I found Rickard, and I’m glad I didn’t walk off in a huff. I’m also glad he didn’t either. I could tell at the end (from the sheer exhaustion) that we’d done a lot of work in the two hours we’d been able to get interviews. Of course, had the bus turned up on time, things would have been different, but like a military operation, the situation was largely flexible. It was all down to me to create this artefact, and me alone. Looking back on what I’ve filmed, things could have gone a serious lot worse. From leaving the bus at Piccadilly right through to Millbank, the day was completeley improvised. I think this documentary is all the more interesting because of it.

Simple skills such as swapping XLR cables really fast have also been developed. Not quite social or technical, but definitely something that will come in use. I can’t say my white balance skills were developed much – wrong place for trying to hold paper up and focus lenses.

Most of all, though, was what I learnt at the editing stage. I learnt about file formats, compression, re-compression, conversion, and even more so, the software used to do these things. By sheer determination and exploration I managed to upload a 1GB video, which took almost one week alone to arrange.

So, all in all, in terms of evaluation, did it complete what I wanted it to? It certainly developed me in various parts of the media. It gave me professional experience, and it gave Source TV an artefact to show. It charts my own personal experiences during my time at the march quite accurately. It shows the opinions of those in it, with added ‘panache’ before and after the march itself. Overall, I would have expected nothing more. To professionals, it may seem shambolic, but therein lies the beauty. I am no professional – this was a project to further better my understanding of an aspect of the media industry I knew little about, but had an interest in. This is more or less the way I wanted it to turn out, so I will say I completed my mission on just about every level I’d have dared to go.

Things to improve upon? Well, there are plenty. Having just watched it again, one month after completion, I find myself skipping some parts. Further editing could have been done – I find myself looking towards the shots on the bus, which were practically audio pieces. Some feedback I was given stated that the start was not interesting – I’m inclined to agree. Despite the fact that my friends made solid points relating to this artefact, perhaps opening my film with them was a bad idea. But where else to put them? Similarly, one person said the film ended not with a bang, but a whimper. Same thing applies – Porter’s speech was very relevant. He was at the march himself, and did a speech. That would have been a much better shot – had the bus turned up on time, I’m sure I would have filmed it.

I’m perplexed to know why I didn’t fade the audio in and out with the piano pieces. I knew how to do them – surely I wasn’t saving time? It’s taken me months to get to this stage anyway. The cutting of corners may not have seemed so bad on Final Cut, yet on Megavideo, in some places the piano just stops, making the piece look amateur. Only the Adam of November knows what happened there. I’d already explored the ‘fade-to-black-with-boom-noise’ effect in my 260MC artefact previous, yet the effect is less effective this time round I think.

Favourite parts? I really like the way diegetic noise fades in from the title. You see the title fade in after the ‘thunder boom’, and the next thing you hear is a man on a megaphone. It was a well chosen opening sound – relevant, and somehow enticing you and placing you straight into my shoes at the start of the day. My favourite bit, however, was the first shot of the march. As the interview with the female student ends, the piano tune comes into play. This tune continues as the shot fades into the view of the march. I feel there’s something quiet powerful in this shot – as I mention, the contrast between the chaotic surroundings and the quiet piano makes for an uncomfortable juxtaposition. My own analysis – the piano is a sad tune, spelling defeat. The emotion I feel is that the students know they’ve lost before this documentary has even begun. The emotion is quick to change to that of anger, after only one shot onwards (a shot initially cut from the final edit, but included because the transition was disorientating), we get that shot of the crowd booing the police – needless to say, a shot I was quite happy with.

Other good shots I liked included that first shot of the Houses Of Parliament – the smoke of fire burning upwards, obscuring my attempted shot of the UK flag flying. The smoke added rather than detracted. Then, my shot of Big Ben, and as I pan out, the big-brother camera right next to it (you couldn’t make that shot up). The carrot and horse-demonstrator thing is just as surreal when I see it now. I still think the unintended humour works well in some of the interviews – the student from Bangor making a serious point, while a plume of smoke bellows upwards behind him still brings a smile to me.

If you manage to see the cuts I chose not include below, you may see some of Rickard’s more antagonising moments with some of our interviewees. This makes the start of that first interview outside Millbank make me laugh out loud almost every time (she really cuts him down to size!). I’ve no idea whether she really was a student union president – it worries me if she was. But just to see Rickard left speechless is enough to successfully tie up that ‘sub-plot’  of my artefact, although as I say, the effect is perhaps different for the casual viewer, as most of Rickard’s annoyances were removed from the final cut.

The Shots That Never Were

This is the link to the best of the out-takes and the unused shots from this project. Most have been referred to – the mistakes speak for themselves, including reflective glass, shadows cast by the sun, and some funny interviews that I felt just didn’t add anything to the final piece, but are entertaining nonetheless.

 

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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.