UWOL#8: Six Miles of Change by Mike Beckett at DVinfo.net

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Old April 22nd, 2008, 11:11 AM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2006
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UWOL#8: Six Miles of Change by Mike Beckett

This is my very first UWOL, so please be gentle!


So how do you do an interesting nature-based video when you don't have any interesting, exotic wild life? Tricky! No grizzly bears or elk round here!

I decided to take my cue from a local news story, when a local river was polluted by a chemical spill. This left thousands of fish dead and much of the wildlife was displaced. What a transformation that was, it was so depressing. A river was teeming with fish a few weeks before, and the next thing you know, it is almost empty.

I go for walks regularly along the river, and hadn't seen any of the more interesting wildlife recently. I decided to spend some serious time down there, standing still, watching to see what I could see.

My first day of filming wasn't good, not a single animal or bird of interest along the river. This left me genuinely sad - I thought that the larger and more interesting birds had left for good.

Sunday found me start earlier and spend all day there, and at I managed to catch some of the larger birds. Kingfishers eluded me - every now and again a blue blur would shoot up the river but it was impossible for me to see where they landed.

The weather was also pretty bad, which limited filming time and a lot of time was spent with the camera in its bag, hiding under trees. I had to contend with warm sunshine, cold wind, hail, sleet, pouring rain. The mix of cloudy and sunny shots made editing a nightmare!

Technically, I am reasonably pleased. Some of the wildlife tripod work could be better. I made the mistake of trying the lightweight Libec 950DV tripod, and it just couldn't cope - almost falling into the river at one point with $6000 of camera on it! The Vinten Pro-6HDV was very heavy (much brusing and chafing) but much better quality.

So, let me know what you think. There are higher resolution versions online if you prefer:


I look forward to your feedback, as well as taking the time to view all your wonderful entries.
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 03:23 AM   #2
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What an excellent entry Mike! It is professional in every way! Your video work is beautiful - excellent landscape compositions with an interesting variety of shots, view points and good, clear images.
Good, detailed close-ups of the birds. I liked the little details you added for interest - such as the squirrel.
Nice timing on your shots - not rushed or too drawn out although I would have liked the shot through the arches to have been a tad longer or a bit slower on the zoom simply because it worked so well for me and went past before I could take it in.
You have a well composed story - informative and well narrated. Your V.O. is natural and very pleasant to listen to and I simply love your Irish accent. You have included some nice natural sounds while the music at the beginning and end finished it off neatly. Well done Mike!
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 07:23 AM   #3
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Hi Mike, I too thought this was really well presented - I think of all the films this round yours is the one that has the audiovisual balance spot on - the quality of VO, timing and pace with music, use of on location sound and combination with solid visuals was really good stuff. Content wise I like what you did, taking us on your journey, which is tinged with sadness but at the same time injected with humour and hope.

NIce one chap, and a great first time entry. Keep em coming!!!
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 07:28 AM   #4
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Hi Mike,
Wow what a ripper entry. I loved every minute of it. To think we are still polluting these beautiful waterways in this day & age is incredible. Surely these companies responsible can do better in their efforts to ensure these sorts of things don't happen, ever! It was however nice to see things getting back to normal for the local wildlife. A sad issue to make a film about, but one which you did very well in documenting.

There's never enough hours in the day!
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 08:15 AM   #5
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Hey Mike

Great first entry and a nicely told story. You fit a lot into the 3 minutes and at the same time it was well paced and rolled along smoothly. The lake pan changing in pace and some of the shaking on the bird footage brought things down a bit technically and I did find some of the imagery needed more pop/contrast but I know with the way the weathers been this is a difficult thing to do....I had the same 'flatness' issues myself. (Are you on an XL2? by any chance) The other issue was the moorhens, the first image slightly under exposed the second blown out, but both at a similar range and stance, I think going with one or the other would have be stronger here.

Great first entry fella.
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 08:22 AM   #6
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Very good! My hat's off to ya...(Not a UWOL lucky hat, mind you..LOL)

Nice shots and great story, not just great, but meaningful...worthy of a TV news segment...

Your VO was well done....
Although it kind of sounded like you recorded it in a closet..... ;)

Again, nice job!

Bob T.
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 09:20 AM   #7
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Hi Mike,
Welcome to the uwol family!

Your video was really interesting and I enjoyed watching it.
A great story you came up with, and so easy to understand your VO!
Seems like you also battle with the same kind of weather we too often have here also. So I know how hard it can be.

A couple of details have been mentioned already, so I will just say well done!!

Stay with us for the future challenges, and I look forward to see more of your videos.
Thank you for sharing!
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 10:42 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the comments, folks! I'm quite pleased with my first ever attempt at this sort of thing.

This has been a fantastic learning experience, my first time up against a deadline (and the weather!) and an idea that isn't my own. I learnt a lot about editing too, I've never tried to mix music, voiceover and ambient noise in that wat,

Thank you for the kind words. The zoom through the bridge arch was sort of deliberate (at least at the editing stage), in a sort of "look! over there!" style. Lighting was awkward there, I was sort of shooting into the sun and the bridge was in semi-silhouette, so the slow zoom didn't quite work. Plus, the heron was miles away! Every time I scampered along the riverbank he would fly back down to the other side. The other heron just sat in the tree and scowled at me.

I'm very pleased with the music - 2b-royaltyfree.com has a lot of good material, I've used them several times. A bit expensive at around $50 a track, but you do get what you pay for. I'll be able to re-use that music again anyway, I hope.

Sound was very difficult due to the almost constant wind noise, so I had to do a lot of editing with that. I'm hoping that after the holidays this summer I'll be able to treat myself to a nice Rycote zepplin or something similar.

Close-ups were actually taken using the digital extender on the Sony 20x lens to take it to 30x, and it's pretty good. I was blessed by editing in SD rather than HD, I don't think HD would be kind to that sort of shot.

Thanks for the comments. Things like this always anger me. As well as pollution (which washes away quickly but leaves lasting effects), it saddens me to see junk thrown in the river - plastic bottles, bags and even a wheelie bin (!) are all within a couple of hundred yards of where I filmed from. I had my work cut out to make it look halfway pretty!

It has happened so many times here. The company responsible is in a different council area, upstream, which complicates matters for fining. In any case, it is cheaper for these guys to pollute and pay the fine (either 100 or 1000 per mile of river polluted) than to dispose of their waste properly. The government needs to get tough.

The good news is that the fish are coming back - my boss fly fishes in the river in that area and it seems as if it's almost back to normal. That's only about a mile from the Lough, so further upstream is probably still a bit grim.

A lot of the bird shots were from the Libec tripod I mentioned, which is now sulking in the attic, unloved! Exposure was an absolute pain that weekend - the weather went from cloudy to sunny and back again. Plus it was so cold my eyes were running and I couldn't see the LCD screen at times! One thing I did learn was to leave the camera alone - don't try to pan, just let the wildlife come in and out of shot sometimes.

I use a Sony V1, and I was editing in SD rather than HDV due to computer limitations. It's kind of hard to get good depth of field with the 1/4 inch CMOS - I think the focus pull at the end of part one was just about the only time I managed to pull that off.

I think if I'd taken more care with some of the shots (stop panning for goodness' sake, it's a cheap tripod!) I would have had a much easier time at the editing stage.

Don't mention the closet! I have nightmares about that place, and I think I still have the bruises.

Thanks for the welcome! A big problem for me was finding good subject matter for my video. I think I said somewhere else, but the largest animal I'd seen at the time was Rattus Norvegicus, aka the brown rat. "Proper" wildlife is scarce round here. Oh to live somewhere like Norway!

The voiceover was painful for me. Here in Ireland we tend to speak very quickly, which doesn't help matters. I deal with a lot of USA and Canada customers at work, so I know to slow down and try to annunciate clearly, otherwise they think I'm speaking Martian!

Right, now I'm off to spend the evening watching all the other entries - I can't wait to see what everyone has come up with for this.
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 12:57 PM   #9
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first, a good job portraying your story about the river disaster!! The flash of the newspaper article was a brillant idea to be sure.

I think it was a great mini documentary. PERHAPS YOU SHOULD BUILD A FULL LENGTH ONE !!!!

Favorite shot is the heron at the end!! the Moor hen would be my second.

The second more hen shot was a direct sunlight shot after the shaded shot, I would have reduced the brightness so the change would not be so severe. It would also lead into the heron shots that were nice but brighter shots as well.

I very much enjoyed your entry, good job.
Dale W. Guthormsen
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 01:01 PM   #10
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Dale - thanks for the comments.

Agreed re the lighting levels! Mr Moorhen wasn't willing to do a re-take, so I probably should've played around with the levels.

Half an hour would probably have been easier. I think I might've needed a bit more than three weeks. Three years would be more like it!
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 03:32 PM   #11
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Wow! I loved it. Great video and story. It's really great to see what a V1 can do in the hands of an artist. Oh how I long for that 20x zoom.
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 08:05 PM   #12
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Welcome to UWOL, Mike...I believe you are our first Irish finisher. I always enjoy seeing new places. It's always different and more interesting than seeing these same places on TV, because they are filtered through the experiences of people we get to know (doing VO in the closet, etc...heh).

This is a great story! With a great outcome. I like the investigative tone, makes me give a cheer when the heron has staged its comeback, especially knowing what a beating the water has taken....and a cheer for the shooter, who stuck out the vigil, waiting on the resolution to the story. Nice work.

There's some exposure issues, where you are blowing highlights in some scenes and following those shots (compare 2:13 with 2:15 or compare 1:11 with 1:14), which I found distracting juxtaposed next to each other.

But a really solid entry overall.
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 08:06 PM   #13
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This was a really good story, it kept me interested the whole time and I came away feeling I had gained some knowledge of the disaster that occurred here. I'll have to say the shots were very good and pleasing to the eye.

I liked the VO, I have so much trouble even trying VO with my $50 Pz mic, I just don't have the equip for it right now.

Good professional level work here Mike!
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Old April 24th, 2008, 11:10 AM   #14
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20x + the extra 1.5x that the digital extender was very kind to me. Because I was editing in HD I was able to crop off some SD-resolution shots from some of the HD shots. I just couldn't edit in HD due to my ageing editing computer. An even longer lens would've been better, but you have to make do with what you have sometimes.

It beats my old VX2100 hands down, I can tell you!

Thank you for the welcome. You were right, I had no need to be scared!

You're right about the lighting. The day went from cloudy to sunny and back again, and I didn't have a chance to re-shoot some bits - the bits were I am walking down to the river were hand held shots from my dear old dad who joined me for some of the time. He's approaching 70 and his entire video experience was a 10 second briefing from me! He's got a steadier hand than me, I can tell you.

Look at the shot at 2:00 - I have 1 minute of that, and it goes sunny-cloudy-sunny-cloudy about four times! I think the brave thing to do there is to snippity snip and edit mismatched shots out.

Some more cynical friends have pointed out to me that the heron was probably there on day one as well, just hiding from me. They may be right - but the fact is that everyone who frequents the area agrees that they've been absent for weeks.

Thank you for the feedback! I'll bet you have a better closet than me for doiing voiceover work though. Those $2 clamps from the DIY store should be in everyone's kit!

And equipment isn't everything - I could've got much better tripod shots even with my "cheap" Libec 950 model if I'd had a bit more discipline and kept my hand off the pan bar!
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Old April 24th, 2008, 12:23 PM   #15
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I really like how you make this into a great piece of investigative nature reporting. And though it's a depressing story, by finding wildlife you manage to inject some hope, which is always nice. The shots were great, and moved seamlessly from one to the next. The music and VO were just right for keeping the tone of the piece. And I was amazed how effective your lucky UWOL hat was at helping find wildlife- I need one of those :)

Thanks for sharing this story, and doiing a great job on bringing these issues out. Welcome to UWOL- I look forward to seeing more videos from you.

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