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Old February 1st, 2011, 04:03 PM   #1
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Oasis: Birds of the Esk Valleys

Following my previous updates, finally here is Oasis. I hope you enjoy it :)


Oasis is my third wildlife film, and first attempt to produce a full length (27 minutes) documentary. Oasis takes the viewer on a journey up the Esk Valleys in Midlothian, Scotland, and looks at the less well known birdlife in the valley. Bird behaviour, songs and calls are all shown in this film. The documentary begins with a description of the Esk Valleys and opens with winter flocks (waxwings, starlings and finches) . Further up the valley, in a steep gorge, ravens and peregrines are encountered and revisited later on. Waterside birds such as kingfisher and dippers have made a remarkable recovery as water quality has improved. Other woodland species such as tawny owls woodpeckers, redstart and nuthatches are studied. Oasis closes by observing some of the passerines of the upland Esk watershed such as whinchat, redpoll and grasshopper warbler.

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Old February 4th, 2011, 02:47 AM   #2
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Dear Neil,

Watched your film and must say you have some interesting footage. For example the flocks of starlings are wonderful, as are other shots.I do however have two suggestions;

1) In my opinion you make the mistake to try to make it a 27 minutes production. I feel many shots are too long with the risk of losing the attention of the public. I would suggest to cut it back to 10 or 15 minutes the most.

2) Try to make extra storyline(s) in your film. For example one or two species of birds, that are the main subject, the changing of the seasons or some other event that builds op in the story. For me it now feels a bit as a summing up of birdspecies. This brings the same risk of losing one's attention.

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Old February 4th, 2011, 10:11 PM   #3
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Neil, this was a very pleasant video to watch. Your camera work is rock steady and the audio of difficult to catch bird calls was also excellent. You have a good, gentle voice for narration and I expect this will become a successful production. Aye, you've made me homesick for a motherland I've never visited.

Steve McDonald
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Old February 5th, 2011, 06:37 AM   #4
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Hi Neil,

I have now, after several starts managed to watch all of it. Well done, I would imagine all the groups you aim to show to will be impressed. For the type of audience you have produced this for I think you you have the balance about right.

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Old February 6th, 2011, 08:08 AM   #5
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As someone who likes long clips, I thought this film was great. I can understand Cees comment about shortening it if it was for a non-wildlife audience, but for anyone interested in birds, you allow them time to actually see and appreciate each species.

My only complaint would be the curlew calling in the background - I think it was during the whinchat sequence. The curlew sound dominated, but you didn't say what the calls were, perhaps leaving the impression that they were from the whinchats. I think in this case, I would have chosen a quieter, less confusing, section of ambient sound.

I'll look forward to your next film.
Canon XH A1; Canon XF100; Nikon D800
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Old February 7th, 2011, 02:18 PM   #6
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Thank you for your comments so far.

Cees, I agree that a shorter version of the movie would be better for some audiences, and I am in the process of preparing this for my local film-making society to enter into the annual competition. For this I will focus more on specific species such as peregrines and nuthatches.

Annie, you are right about the inclusion of long clips being for the birdwatching audiences. Oasis had it's premiere at Fife Bird Club last week, to an audience of 50 or so knowledgeable birders, and I had a good amount of positive feedback. Several people commented that the movie was over too quickly and that they were left wanting for more, which I took as positive! Your remark about the curlew call is fair, although it is meant to evoke the feel of the uplands in summer. But I agree that if the viewer didn't know their bird calls it could appear confusing.

Stephen and Mick, thanks for the positive feedback, much appreciated.

Any further comments or feedback is still welcome!

Many thanks,

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Old February 7th, 2011, 04:05 PM   #7
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Bird Videos for Birders

Neil, I've made a number of videos about birds, that had long scenes that stretched for several minutes. So much bird content that anyone, except a true birder, would find them redundant and tiresome. But, these were made specifically for birders, who can't get enough of their favorite subject and I didn't care a fig about how boring others would regard them to be. Usually, these would have no narration or explanations, as the birders didn't need them. Some of them enjoyed seeing my raw, unedited clips strung together, glitches and all.

Then of course, I'd make an abbreviated version of them and explain everything, for general audiences. On subjects like this, editing style depends on who the intended viewers will be.
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Old February 10th, 2011, 02:05 AM   #8
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Very informative, beautiful and peaceful video Neil. And some fantastic shots in there.
I agree with other comments in the idea that this could be very interesting for birders or people with specific interest in this area. I think that this kind of documentaries like yours could also be very helpful for schools.
But nowadays documentaries, even nature ones, use mainly short sequences with a lot of action and unfortunately its difficult to find a place for other kind of docs in tv channels.
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Old April 2nd, 2011, 01:37 AM   #9
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Feedback from birders

Following the very helpful comments from DVInfo members during and after completion of Oasis, the film has now been shown at a further four birding meetings. For birding audiences, I'm very pleased with the way Oasis has been received and it encourages me to get going with a new project. After showing the film as the closing piece to the 75th Anniversary Scottish Birdwatchers' Conference, to 220 birders, the secretary of the Lothian Scottish Ornithologists Club wrote to me:

' I think you could tell from the audience they loved your film. They were completely engrossed with a few oos and aahs. We have seen the feedback forms and here are a few comments about your film:_ 'absolute magic', 'simply outstanding', 'fantastic', 'impressive way to end the conference'. We were particularly pleased with the last comment as we deliberately slotted you in at the end so people would have a great last impression.'

I have been invited to show Oasis to several more societies over the next year as a result of recent showings. Feedback like this makes all the effort worthwhile for what is an amateur production!

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Old April 2nd, 2011, 11:44 AM   #10
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Re: Oasis: Birds of the Esk Valleys

Thanks! Brilliant Birding.
It was really watchable and the pacing is perfect.

I'd like to see more of the general locations, wider shots, panoramas, a little more flora perhaps.

I agree the Curlew is very odd in there. But there's also two places with strong road noise and yet you never see the road, you may as well remove it and the audience would be none the wiser. Also a few time where the music needs to come in a few seconds earlier and run a little lower and longer, just general tidying. Longer mixes between atmos to avoid level and tonal changes.

There are a few too many dips to black, where straight cuts with the music to drive them would be great sometimes dissolves would be better also. I didn't really get the Tawny Owl section fading to night time and back to day, it could be tidier.

You would have a very marketable product if you added in more of the general location shots, misty mornings, dew on spiders webs, timelapse a little more variety in the music (the tune was good, but sounded a little boxy in the recording and also repetitive, a sparser tinkling or slower version of the same melody on certain scenes would be good)

Are you able to zoom in or some areas to get closer. the Waxwings feather circular highlight looked really dodgy, perhaps a zoomed up shot would be better. But I've never seen Waxwings (been birding on and off for 20 years) so it was great to see so much of them.

And generally also the image seemed a little undersaturated, what have you been shooting on? Some fantastic closeups.

Sorry for the rush of waffly comments, I think you really have something good there, with a little polish it could be very commercial. Being so close to Edinburgh there must be a tourist market you could tap into?

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Old April 7th, 2011, 11:36 PM   #11
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Re: Oasis: Birds of the Esk Valleys

Need to be able to produce it in Blu-Ray. Recently purchased a bird DVD , shot on a XLH1 in HDV, down-ressed to SD. Pretty horrible!

For bird clubs or those with an interest in the Scottish Esk (there's more than one in the UK I think) 27 minutes not at all too long.

Good stuff!

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Old April 15th, 2011, 12:16 AM   #12
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Re: Oasis: Birds of the Esk Valleys

Thanks for the comments and advice.
Duncan, I agree the road noise is distracting, I think you mean the kingfisher and starling sequences. I decided not to remove it from the kingfisher sequence as some of the bird sounds themselves needed to be preserved, particularly the noise of the bird shaking its head rapidly. I thought about an establishing shot of traffic at the Sherrifhall roundabout at the start of the starlings section but it didn't seem to work. So I agree, road noise could be removed easily from this section. Re the music, I think it does need some tweaks re timing and levels. Most sequences were shot using a Canon XLH1A but a few were with a Canon 7D, where colour saturation was, to my eyes, unnaturally high and needed toned down in the edit.

Ron, I have burned the project to Blu-Ray and it looks very nice, and projects well. At three of my four showings of Oasis I was able to project using my own Optoma HD projector and did so from the Blu-Ray, and this worked well. I have also encoded to DVD SD for one talk, where the auditorium was large and had a fixed SD projector. It didn't have the same impact but wasn't too bad! Incidentally, there are at least two Scottish Esks but I didn't elaborate in the title; the location is detailed at the start of the film.

I hadn't really thought of marketing Oasis as a commercial project; I produced it as a vehicle to educate the public about local wildlife. To this end it's going well with four public screenings already and several more later in the year. But it's great to hear that with modification it might be a sellable product. I wouldn't really know where to start if Oasis were to be marketed!

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