UWOL 18 - To lose a Tree by Marj Atkins at DVinfo.net

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Old November 22nd, 2010, 10:55 PM   #1
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UWOL 18 - To lose a Tree by Marj Atkins

This is a simple story that considers the cost of losing an old tree based on the way it is used by other species. I used this as a means of conveying as much detail about this tree as I could in three minutes.

The choice of subject was based on a number of factors:

Squeezed for time, I needed something simple and I needed to decide quickly so I could get on with it and work at it steadily.

The tree is wedged in a narrow strip between the house and boundary wall outside my home office and I can see all the activity going on around it from my desk which meant I could take advantage of everything that happened there with minimal interruption to my work.

One week before the theme was announced, we made the decision to cut down the tree for fear of it falling down and doing a lot of damage. We put off the evil day until I had completed my filming, but the main branch dropped 1.5cm in the three weeks we had to complete this task! (Yes that’s how nervous we were – even measured it daily.)

I wanted to record the story of the gall wasp, regardless of the challenge and the timing of all this was really fortuitous because November is when all the activity of this gall wasp takes place.

Getting the footage of the wasp break out was amazing because the chances of getting it are very slim for the reasons I explained on ‘tales of wonder and woe’. I was busy scouring the tree for galls without the tell-tale pinhole (indicates the wasp has emerged) as I was looking for some larva. Most galls I opened contained pupated wasps but I eventually found two with larvae in them.

While I was occupied in doing this my attention was drawn to three wasps congregated on a gall. I couldn’t make out what they were up to because they are so small – like midges. I tried to film them outside but the wind forced me to take the twig inside. While setting up the twig I accidentally dropped it about ten centimeters (can you believe it!?) and one wasp flew off. However very oddly the other two seemed so engrossed in what they were doing the stayed put! At first I thought they were engaged in some form of mating ritual but of course these wasps are parthenogenic so no mating is necessary. It was only when the one wasp moved away that I realized what I was filming!!! I would love an explanation of this behaviour.

Because of its location I could not get a wide view of the tree. Going wider just included more building. I tried to make up for this by including as many different shots of the tree as I could from different angles and viewpoints. Panning and tilting uses up a lot of precious space on a time-line so I had to keep them very short.

There were plenty of other species of birds and insects, more but no time to tell their stories as well.

Seems I can’t get away from doing good old educational docs. :}
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Old November 23rd, 2010, 04:25 AM   #2
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Hi Marg,

I thought it was very good , well paced, the right amount of content and as you say educational. The script coupled with the clips you filmed was just right as it kept your attention right the way though. And the wasp break out wow!

Well done,

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Old November 23rd, 2010, 06:24 AM   #3
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Hi Marj

A very nice premise. This is a great example of how story can be used in a short format piece like this and to be honest you've now got me thinking about using this angle in another way :-) Its a simple but very poignant and thoughtful concept. It really puts you in the place of the other creatures that call this home.

The shooting was all very nice although I'd have said your edit would have been better with a reduction in shots in some cases (maybe 10% overall). I think your writing has improved from previous works. It has more story, more thoughts and less of a text book feel. I'm not completely taken with the title and I think overall the edit could be improved by considering pacing more. Like a good piece of music a film needs different levels and apart from a couple of aspects this level was too constant. I think from exactly the same ingredients you could lift this piece higher with more thought as to which elements shot choice/music/VO are used in conjunction with each other.

I think the UWOL trophy may be going back to SA this round ! :-)
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Old November 23rd, 2010, 01:52 PM   #4
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Another part of the animal kingdom I had no idea existed, so thank you producing this.
I hope you saved the wood. The acacia we have in Hawaii is a prized hardwood. I would have liked information on why the tree was dying in the first place, or maybe I missed that part. The voice over was crisp and clear, and seemed to meld well with the background piano.
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Old November 23rd, 2010, 03:08 PM   #5
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Hello Marj,

Yet another quality video from you. I very much enjoyed watching this one.
Your story is interesting, the VO calm and easy to understand.
I really like when a video teaches me something new, and yours did.
Thank you for sharing!
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Old November 23rd, 2010, 04:03 PM   #6
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Hi marj,

I am having trouble watching your video, as the sound seems to have a four-per-second chirp superimposed over it. Is anyone else having similar problems, or is it just my crummy audio system acting up?
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Old November 24th, 2010, 07:34 AM   #7
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wow... vell done Marj! some nice close ups you got there...
I liekd the mirror shot in the end...
you film fits the theme very well. in some of the shots of the birds and gecko felt a bit "jurky", I don't know what, of if it was just the way the film was streamed.

over all a well done job Marj

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Old November 24th, 2010, 08:23 AM   #8
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Really well done! The Gall Wasp footage was really interesting. When we make changes to our environment we don't often consider the possible side effects of those actions. You certainly make us pause to consider our actions. Your voice over was well paced and very informative. There's not really anything I can fault. Thanks for a really enjoyable video.
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Old November 24th, 2010, 08:45 AM   #9
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Howdy Marj! This is a sad story that is still fun to watch. I enjoy viewing birds like the barbette that I have read about but never seen. Your and Per Johan’s videos are like virtual birdwatching! Nice job with the macro. You have no idea how much I envy you that permanent macro station. I have long wanted to do that, and for the microscope also. I spend the majority of the time setting up, testing, and breaking down equipment and a minority shooting and I make errors because of it. I think you have a slight color mismatch between the macro footage and the outdoor shots. This leads me to a question I have been meaning to ask you for some time. You mentioned earlier that you are now using After Effects. Are you also using the Color Finesse program I mentioned earlier on Steve’s DSLR thread? I only discovered that it was bundled with AE relatively recently. I really like it. (Marj likely already knows this, but for others which may be reading- you access the program from the Effects menu in AE. It’s in a folder called Synthetic Aperture. The instruction manual is a PDF that is conveniently hiding in the Plug Ins folder of the AE program folder. There are also tutorials online.) I don’t mean to imply that you need a great deal of correction here, I had only meant to make sure you also knew about the program after I discovered it myself. And now for the big question:
What will you plant to replace the tree?
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Old November 24th, 2010, 08:55 AM   #10
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Your work always amazes me!! I loved the birds of course, but the wasp footage was simply fantastic.

I like the story line and all the footage of course. I particularly liked the way you ended with your credits!!!!! Creative as usual!!!

Not much more to say than great Job and I think Mat may be right.
Dale W. Guthormsen
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Old November 24th, 2010, 09:06 AM   #11
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Marj, much have been said to your entry already and I second all of it.
This is a very watchable and educational film. I´m amazed how much information you are able to fit into only 3 minutes! You are a master doing it! I have to study your films and see if I can learn how you´re doing it.

Your VO is so pleasant to listen to. Your editing is flawless. I´m very happy that you´re are on the uwol-team Marj!
- Per Johan
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Old November 24th, 2010, 11:53 AM   #12
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Thank you all for your feedback on my film. I am taken aback by your kind and encouraging comments and appreciate your time and critique.

Just to respond to some of the specific things that were raised:

Mat : Thank you for your critique and vote of confidence, however I have spent the best part of today looking at the videos and writing my comments and there are some really fantastic films here. You may be interested to know that I spent more time trying to find an appropriate title than on any other single aspect of my film. Usually I know exactly what I want. I tried every angle I could think of. I even tried the thesaurus for synonyms. Nothing would materialize. On Sunday evening I threw in that title for want of a better idea. I would welcome any good suggestions.

Bill: I have saved some of the wood but past experience tells me that unless it is properly dried it splits so I’m not sure it will be of much use once it has dried. Any ideas on how to dry it properly without it splitting would be welcome. To answer your question - one half of the tree died a good few years back and we had to cut that part back a bit. Last year the termites moved in and I have a funny feeling they undermined things a bit underground before I dealt with them. There was also one rather heavy branch growing out at an angle and getting longer all the time. It was acting like a lever tugging away at it in the wind.

Steve: I’m not sure why the sound would be a problem – I have not downloaded my own video to check. I’m also not happy to hear that some of the shots felt a bit jerky to Markus. When I watched my Vimeo version the middle clips were jerky and so I decided not to post it. My original video and my compressed version play perfectly smoothly on my computer. Mmm. Did anyone else find the video jerky?

Mike: thanks for your tip about Colour finesse. I was aware of it but haven’t explored it yet. I have been doing experimental work in After Effects but unfortunately my version of Premier Pro does not seem to like anything I produce there or any format I render to so I can’t use it in my projects. I will have to upgrade and that will mean an upgrade to my computer system too. I will sort it once I have time to give full attention to it. Regarding what I will replace the tree with - well there is an indigenous tree already in place next to it that will eventually spread and fill the gap so I don’t really need to plant anything else.

Per I don’t seem to be able to produce a film without talking. One of these days I will give myself a personal challenge and try to produce a film without any talking only visuals . . that will be a huge challenge for me.

Once again thank you all for your time and input.
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Old November 24th, 2010, 09:37 PM   #13
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This film somehow reminded me of the poetry of Robert Frost. To him a tree or a wood was a character, and this film give the same treatment to an old friendly tree in its final days.

Interesting film and concept.
Chris J. Barcellos
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Old November 26th, 2010, 06:22 AM   #14
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as usual your video is a showpiece of what is possible to do within three minutes.
Most is said already, but I will emphasize the excellent sound editing.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 01:07 PM   #15
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Nicely done, Marj!

I'm impressed with how you tackled the theme this time with your story, stating the present circumstance and sentiment, then stepping back in increasing detail to bring to light the interconnectedness of wildlife and habitat, until you wind up full circle to the opening statement and the present circumstance. There is mastery in this, especially when you derive this scenario so effectively from footage taken a few feet from your office window.

Add to it, the million dollar sequence of the emerging adult gall wasp and the amazing behavior of the two gall wasps at the hole. This makes me shudder to consider the magnitude of what you had the unbelievable providence to film, and in such a technically perfect manner.


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