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Seminars on Film – a fast learning curve in video production


When I first came to the IHR two years ago I had to learn pretty fast all about podcasting – how to use the recorder, post-production, metadata and so forth.  I quickly learnt the first rule of audio recording – get the audio volume clear whilst recording as there is just no way to clean it up very well in post-production.  There is still the occasional recording that doesn’t come out too well but I think for the most part we do quite well.

Recently, my new learning curve has been video filming and editing.  When I applied for this job no one warned me that I might soon need to learn how to become a film director!  Well, I’m no Steven Spielberg and whilst the thought of blowing lots of things up as rampaging robots charge through Senate House has its appeal aka Michael Bay-style, the extent of my filming career will be somewhat more ‘amateur’ than Hollywood.  Let’s put it this way, I’m not expecting a call anytime soon.     

My first video was a screencast; a merging of a slide show with the audio recording.  So far I’ve only done this the once – for the session  Following ‘The Absent-minded Beggar’: A case-history of a fund-raising campaign of the South African War.  Looking back at it now I think it needs to be in a higher resolution as it looks quite blurry, but otherwise it seems to work fairly well.  Since then I’ve created various ‘edited’ cuts from the live stream videos.  These are low quality videos anyway as they are made using a webcam designed more for live streaming the video and audio, than for later use.  Nonetheless I’ve slowly learnt how best to incorporate slides with the video and switch between the two. 

At the moment I’m working on the live stream material from Magnus Huber’s talk for the Digital History seminar.  This time around I’m not only reliant upon the live stream video but also have back-up camcorder footage to play with.  I’m hoping to merge the two – if I have time and if the quality of one video doesn’t look too different than the other.

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  1. David WIlliams

    Matt: As someone who spent his formative years in journalism and then the best part of 45 years as a producer-director-writer of short films and documentaries, I reckon to know a bit about programme production. All that finished about seven years ago when I was looking around for something else to fill my time – and finished up training and becoming a City of London Tour Guide and Lecturer, going on to do London studies for another year, spending 4 years at Birkbeck getting a BA in history and now coming to the end of a two-year Masters course in Sport, History and Culture at De Montfort University.

    I believe that as primary source material visual and oral recordings can be integrated into research projects. You have touched on an issue which is so important. Even in these days of point-and-shoot digital movie-making, it is still necessary to have a basic grasp of technology and how to film and record events and interviews to an acceptable standard. Wobblyscope, out-of-focus interviews, sound distortion, poor lighting and other inferior film-making skills can seriously undermine the quality of what could be an interesting subject. Would you submit an essay with words scratched out, poor grammar and spelling mistakes! Of course no. So the same standards of clarity and and story construction should apply to audio and visual material.

    I must stop. I sound like someone climbing onto a hobby horse but I hope these thoughts do make sense..

    1. Matt Phillpott

      Thanks David for your comment. This subject is something that I think will become increasingly important to us over the coming years. How to use audio and video as part of a larger package? – specifcially for us for online research training purposes.

      As for the quality of the product we currently have the difficulty of the live stream video being of low quality resolution meaning that there is a limit to how polished the final copy can possibly look. This is definately something we would like to improve!

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