Writing: Plot and Story

I’ve been absorbed in videoblogs recently. However, while this kind of ultra-short, deeply personal movie is fascinating, it’s not the only kind. I also get the itch to write longer stuff, with more creative input and less “reality TV”. Sometimes I just want to tell a story.

If you also have that itch, you might appreciate Writing: Plot and Story, an interesting article about structure and progression of plot and story in movies and TV.

From the archives – a college movie from 1993

This is one of my earliest ever video productions. Back in 1993 I took a “video making” course at a local college (conincidentally, the same one where I now teach), and this was my end-of-course project.

Back then I didn’t have my own camera, so I borrowed an early hi8 analog camera from my boss at work and scrounged lights, microphones and stuff from the college. I convinced some of my friends who were on a “performing arts” course to act in it. Most impressively I even convinced the college to let us film on the roof. I think they were so astonished at anyone asking that they didn’t know what to say 🙂

This little 3 minute 44 second video took us 8 four-hour evening course sessions to set up and record. I took over an hour of raw footage. Much of this was due to the kind of continuity problems you get when there’s a week between each shoot. Can you believe that my “lead actress” went and had her hair permed in the middle, requiring us to re-shoot all her scenes!

That all sounds familiar enough, but for the next bit you need to remember that this was 1993. Before common internet access, before powerful home PCs and low-cost video editing software. The only computer I had available was a BBC microcomputer with 64 K of RAM that struggled with the meagre titles I eventually used. All the editing was done “live” with two video players and a vision mixer. No digitisation, no codecs, no computers. Just analog video from hi8 to SVHS. All done (and re-done, and re-done, and re-done) in one crazy 24-hour-long session.

Back then there was no widescreen video, so the final output was recorded on to regular video tape with thick “letterbox” borders. At the end I had to give back all the equipment and the tapes, so I lost the “original” footage. Now that I have more technology available, I have attempted to digitise from the somewhat worn VHS to something a bit more digital, and taken the opportunity to trim the borders so it can be seen in all its grainy, jumpy glory!

So here’s a test. Who can tell me the real reason why it was produced in “widescreen” ?

The video is enclosed, or you can download by clicking on the image

(WMV, 3:44, 10.2MB)

A bunch of video links

Over the last few days I have collected a bunch of useful links (to tools, software, tutorials ans so on) mainly posted on the Yahoo “videoblogging” group. I’m beginning to feel in danger of forgetting or losing some, so I have collected them here, in no particular order

Election Day

Today, 5/5/2005 is the date when the votes are cast in the UK general election. After rumours for several months, the date of the election was only finally set a few weeks ago, so the political parties and local candidates have been rushing to get the campaigning in.

There are actually two elections today where I live. One is for a representative on the local county council, and one is for a “member of parliament” representing our area in the house of commons in London. The three major parties (Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat) all have representatives in both these elections.

I thought it would be a cool idea to videoblog some of this, so here’s my little “election special”. I didn’t want to make a fuss of taking a camera into the polling station, so I just started my little flat camera and stuck it in my shirt pocket. It’s just tall enough to peep out the top of the pocket, and give some idea of what voting is like around here. If you listen carefully you can hear the sound of me marking my two X marks on the ballot forms with the special fat pencil they provide in the little wooden booth.

The video is enclosed, as usual, or you can click on the image to download it directly:

(WMV 2:56, 6.5MB)

Walk home 2: barriers to entry

I’m still trying to find my “Voice”, so this time I tried pointing the camera where I’m walking, and recording my thoughts as I went along. It might be what you’d call a “video podcast” as much as a “video blog”.

The location is the next stage of my usual journey home following on from my previous video used in more like a videoblog and both sides now.

If I seem out of breath it’s because I’m striding up a relatively steep hill, a road with the quaint name of “Back Hamlet”. To my left is Alexandra Park, one of the many green parks in Ipswich.

The video is enclosed, or you can get it direct from here (ASF, 2:05, 13.6MB).

Both Sides Now

I’m still experimenting with videoblogging, so I thought I’d try and “push the envelope” and make one that’s not just a 4×3 (or even 16×9) box. But I wanted to see if I could make it an actual advantage, rather than just a gimmick.

I have always been inpressed with the way that “dltq.vlog” tiles large and small 4×3 video panels to make a single multi-frame 16×9 video, so I thought I’d have a go. But just to copy “dltq”‘s approach would be a bit dull, so instead I have glued together two 320×240 4×3 videos side by side to make a 640x24o wide “letterbox”. The two videos I stuck together? The same fragment of journey, but with one camera looking toward me, and the other looking where I’m looking. I think it’s an interesting effect.

Editing it was actually relatively painless – I’ve got an old-ish version of Adobe After Effects (4.1) on my PC which is quite capable of tricks like this. The major problem was format conversion. This version of AE dates from before things like WMV and ASF format and mpeg4 video streams. On the other hand it does let me produce a Quicktime movie using a sorenson codec (which is not too huge) without buying Quicktime Pro.

The video is enclosed, or you can get it direct from here (QT 10.9 MB).

As always, I really welcome comments or replies.