Monday, 20 October 2014

The Fourth and Final BIME Video: A Profile of the Institute


I was able to improve my interview technique even more so this time around because I was interviewing five very different people, who required different levels/styles of encouragement... one of the problems you will consistently encounter when interviewing people on camera is that they will be very uncomfortable. It is a natural response when a person feels like they are being scrutinised and it makes perfect sense in an interview situation, because the interviewees are being scrutinised! However, this is not The Silence of the Lambs and it does not need to be, you just have to get in the habit of adjusting your approach for each interviewee. 

A screencast overview of this post (3:01).


In this post I reflect upon my decision to move on from BIME and instead focus on the concerns of my final year of undergraduate university. Additionally, I detail the filming and interviewing I did for the final video and briefly touch on my transition from standard/low definition into using high definition.

The emphasis of this post is on:

  • effective interviewing techniques and advice, as illustrated by what I did.
  • decision making.
  • forecasting a schedule in regards to deciding upon your obligations.
  • investing in what really interests you.
  • investing in digital high definition.

Filmmaking outside of the box greatly nourished my overall skillset and this is why I have presented my good and bad experiences of being the videographer for the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, from June to October, 2012, as testimony to encourage other filmmakers/videographers who are starting out to exercise themselves likewise - be a film-doer, not just a film-dreamer! 

For a more detailed overview of the BIME video producer position I undertook during my time as an undergraduate student and the other videos I produced as a part of it, see: BIME a Bullet to Bite on: Videography, Volunteering, Making Mistakes and Maintaining Momentum.



The itch and the final video

There is not really much I can say on the Profile video, because I did not actually finish it.

I had a feeling that this would be my final video, I did not want it to be, as I was starting to find the process of producing videos for BIME to be highly fulfilling. 

However, after coming into September, 2012, my attention had started to shift much more heavily towards the intended filmmaking focus of my final year.

At the beginning of September, 2012, I dusted off my very first short film, The Better Villain, so that I could rescore it with un-copyrighted material. I never finished that rescore, but check out that hair! Photo: Day 256 of my 366 Project 2012.



My first year of university had just been one mistake after another, hence why I restarted it the following year, with the promise that I was going to better myself. That second first year proved to be a major improvement and set me up just fine for my third/penultimate year in which I did vastly better than I expected I would; especially in regards to my first love - film.

The day after playing around with The Better Villain rescore, I started writing a new draft of the Busybody script I had submitted as part of my penultimate year filmmaking module. The submitted script received the highest mark, was adapted by one of the production teams and was even re-used for the following year's students practice film, so there are eight adaptations of the original script in existence. However, I was still not happy with the script and wanted to refine it for my own adaptation (which may still happen). Again, I did not finish the redraft, but there was definitely a filmmaking itch I was trying to scratch. Photo: Day 257 of my 366 Project 2012.





























After the success I had experienced in the filmmaking module of my penultimate year and after realising that my filmmaking potential was still very much in the cards, I wanted my final year to formidably build upon this success and be the best I could possibly deliver - so I had to go all in!

The process of being BIME's videographer throughout the summer had thoroughly exercised and refined my time management skills, so much so that I had started to actively plan out my final year schedule. Looking at that projected schedule and all the projects I planned to do, I knew that I would not have time for anything outside of university. 

University was costing me a lot and I was determined to get my money-and-time's worth! As I had done with BIME throughout the summer, I would need to devote all of my time, my energy and my focus into my final year.

Therefore, the next video would be the last:


"I've been thinking about how much of my time this video producing job has been taking up and, while it has been manageable during the holiday, I very much doubt that I will be able to continue doing it once the term starts. Therefore, the time has come for me to bow out.  
The teaching doesn't start until 1st October so I may be able to produce one more video. But I'll need to see the brief first to determine if I can squeeze it in with the uni work I have planned to do between now and the beginning of October. If you do have another brief and I do make it that will have to be the absolute last one! 
In regards to refilling the video producing role, if you email me an advert for the video producing role I will email it to my media tutor who in turn can email it to his Creative Media Practice students. I'd be VERY surprised if you didn't get some replies, because they're always looking for work in the video production field. Also, this is just a suggestion, if you wanted to reduce the time it takes to produce the videos you might even consider offering the role to more than one person.  
Once again, I just want to thank you and the whole of BIME for allowing me this opportunity. I have certainly learned a lot and acquired some very useful skills that I know will benefit my final year. 
- from the email I sent to BIME. 

BIME were very amiable about my decision and promised to put a final video brief together as soon as possible. In order to get the most from me before I left, that final video was a profile of the Institute: it's purpose, it's history, its testimony and its future plans. 

So it was a pretty good video to go out on.

Capturing an establishing shot of BIME's building at Royal United Hospital, Bath. As with the Nightlight video, I was shooting on the Sony Z1 again. Photo: Day 269 of my 366 Project 2012.



While the final video was vastly more ambitious than the first three, as it required me to film a bigger range of material, the process of planning and filming it was relatively straight-forward. 

Why?

Because I had royally messed up on all accounts with the first two videos.

And then royally succeeded on all accounts with the third video.

With the fourth video it really was just a case of taking those good and bad knowledge-sets and adjusting my course accordingly for this final endeavour. 

Basically, it was a breeze...

Some of the footage I shot for the Profile video with a reflective commentary (3:41). This was exported as a very low resolution, hence the very bad image quality. While regular standard/low definition is not as bad as this, high definition is still the preferable option.


Refining my interview technique

I interviewed five different members of BIME this time around and, as with the Nightlight video, four of them were done in the kitchen of BIME's neighbour. Once again, time was limited, but at least I had a pure white backdrop with fantastic natural lighting! 

As I was leaving after completing the filming of this video, the idea was to record enough information for the Profile video and more besides, so as to enable BIME to utilise the extra material in future videos. 

I was able to improve my interview technique even more so this time around because I was interviewing five very different people, who required different levels/styles of encouragement. 

I had been warned about this in Directing the Documentary, one of the problems you will consistently encounter when interviewing people on camera is that they will be very uncomfortable. It is a natural response when a person feels like they are being scrutinised and it makes perfect sense in an interview situation, because the interviewees are being scrutinised!

However, this is not The Silence of the Lambs and it does not need to be, you just have to get in the habit of adjusting your approach for each interviewee. 

Remember, everyone is slightly different.

Likewise, what show's up on other people is not always the same as what is screaming inside their stressed-out heads. The quote is from How Not to Make a Short Film: Straight Shooting from a Sundance Programmer by Roberta Marie Munroe, another essential filmmaking book. Photo: Day 253 of my 366 Project 2012.




So what's the solution?

Mirroring.

This is something human beings are actually inherently very good at and it is one of the primary reasons we have become the most intelligent species on the planet. The ability to mirror or sync or build rapport with another human being is at the root of the social interactions that took place across generations and generations, over thousands and thousands of years that gradually caused our brains to explode into their current size and aptitude.

We always feel comfortable around people who are similar to us, because the necessities of prehistoric survival evolved us to seek out similar people or to build rapport with very different people - the stronger and more unified the group, the better the chances of survival.

What I am trying to say is that it is very easy for you to make someone else feel comfortable, you just have to do three things:

  1. do not be condescending! 
  2. work with your interviewee at their level and as close to their style of expression as you possible can - you level the playing field by mirroring them, that's how you build rapport.
  3. do not be condescending!

That's how you make them forget there is a camera pointed directly at them, that's how you get them to divulge what you need them to express and that's how you make them feel comfortable.

How did I build rapport?

By pointing out something I had identified while conducting the Nightlight video interviews and using it fully to my advantage...

Me: nervous? 
Interviewee: yeah, very! 
Me: good, me too. 
Interviewee: why are you nervous? You just get to sit there, I am the one who has to perform for camera. 
Me: but I am doing two peoples' jobs. I have to ask you the questions, I also have to keep you on track and make sure you don't miss anything [as the interviewer]. Additionally, I also have to keep an eye on the camera to make sure there are not any problems with the image or sound; as well as ensuring we don't run out of tape [as the technician]. So, basically, don't worry about being interviewed on camera - I stress so you don't have to. Shall we have a go at the first question. If you make a mistake or want to restate something, just stop, have a think and carry on - we have all the time in the world. Tell you what, we'll do a first attempt of the first question without the camera rolling, just so we can get into the swing of things...

Just don't forget to press record for the second attempt!

Basically, if you can go through an exchange like the one above with a smile on your face and a relatively calm manner, you will instantly put your interviewee at ease and they will come over to your way of thinking, while still feeling comfortable in their own skin. That's the great thing about mirroring, it works both ways, so use it to your advantage. 

Going into this final video, I had actually tried to ease the overall workload by asking a couple of my peers if they wanted to get involved (and potentially take-over from me at BIME), but nothing came of it, so I had to do it on my own, which was not always preferable...

Clearing up after the interviews and trying to fold up the reflector - I absolutely despise those things! Photo: Day 265 of my 366 Project 2012

When I had completed the filming, between the interviews and the footage of BIME, I had accumulated 4 hours of footage all said and done, so I was leaving the editor with a great deal of material to choose from; in addition to giving BIME plenty of material that they could use for future videos. 

However, I doubt they will utilise this material, as all the footage is in standard definition, which any self-respecting entity is going to steer clear off today. Ultimately, it was a lack of foresight on my part, a lesson I have since taken to heart.


Logged, captured and moving on

End of an awful era - logging and capturing. Thank sanity for the digital harddrive camera (and the ones the university finally invested in), I never want to log and capture a DV tape ever again! Photo: Day 277 of my 366 Project 2012.

The closing of the standard/low definition era was ushered out by another cumbersome and irritatingly tedious process. The last piece of work I had to do on the profile video was take all of the footage and turn it into digital video files. 

As I had done with the Nightlight video and all the footage I shot in my penultimate year of university, I did this by logging and capturing the DV tapes. It took a very long while to log and capture four and a bit tapes...

Logging - yeah, it's pretty boring. The capturing part (minus any technical faults) is the best part, as it provides plenty of time to do some reading.

Let's just leave logging and capturing where it belongs, with the Dinosaurs!

The eventual video was edited together by a student from the Creative Media Practice course at my university and was uploaded onto YouTube a number of months later. BIME emailed the linked through to me, so I did see the how all my footage had been edited into the final video.

However, I can not embed it here, as the video has since disappeared from Designability's YouTube channel and I suspect the reason for this is because of their name change from BIME to Designability, as the final cut of the Profile video was branded for the BIME identity.

However, maybe it is just as well that it has disappeared, because when I first watched the finished video, I remember thinking, "I would not have edited it that way."

There was a nice criss-cross between finishing with BIME and starting my final year. I was filming Fresher's Fair 2012 at the same time I was filming the BIME Profile video, so between finishing my penultimate year, working at BIME and starting my final year my overall momentum never wavered. If anything, it got stronger and vastly better developed. Coming into my final year I was fully pumped to take on more and get a First-Class degree! Photo: Day 271 of my 366 Project 2012.

After handing over all of the digital files of footage, saying my goodbyes and expressing my gratitude, it was time to bow out from BIME and fully take on my final year!

A brand new Sony NX5 High Definition Digital Harddisk Camcorder - essentially just an all-digital version of the Sony Z1. The NX5 was an absolute joy! Photo: Day 314 of my 366 Project 2012.

I had approached BIME because I wanted to further refine my filmmaking skillset and inaddition to that I had also gained organisational and interpersonal experience as well. By producing content about an area that was not my primary focus, I had been able to get out of my comfort zone in order to approach what was my primary focus - filmmaking - and refine it from a completely fresh perspective. 

This is why I would highly recommend other aspiring filmmakers/videographers to do the same thing, as it will challenge you in ways you will not even anticipate and, as a result, you will gain SO MUCH from the experience.

The standard definition days of BIME were behind me, I had made quite a few mistakes and experienced a number of breakthroughs, but now it was time to enter a brave new high definition digital era - another area that was completely outside my comfort zone!

A great deal of new exhaustion, errors and success was awaiting me in my final year of university...


Deshi Basara or Die! My Final Year of Undergraduate University - coming soon.


Or head back to the beginning and find out how I first started working at BIME...


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