Week 4 – Outcome and Ambition

Lectures with Christoph Miller –Offshore, Veronica Fuerte –Hey, Vince Frost –Frost Collective, Sam Bompas –Bompas & Parr, James Stringer –Werkflow

In this week’s lecture, the participants were asked two questions –

1 – On reflection, how have self initiated projects helped shape your studio identity?

2 – What are the main differences between self initiated work and collaborative, client led projects?

It was very interesting to listen to the different panelists speak about self-initiated projects. They were all very positive about their own projects, and often a springboard into further work. Christoph Miller describes them as a “business card” and mentioned two specific jobs that came directly from their Migrant Journal project. Veronica Fuerte and Sam Bompas both said they were crucial for driving commercial business their way. Werkflow seem to be using self initiated projects to build and support their game development, in a very organic but pointed way. Bompas & Parr is always interesting as well, because they are selling spectacle a lot of the time. Using self initiated projects was a stepping stone to getting commercial work, but they also use self initiated projects as a way of generating far more revenue than a commercial project does. He spoke about how a marketing job for a Whiskey company might have a big budget, but that a self initiated project, which is more risky as they have to pay the upfront costs, may have a far bigger payoff. £50,000 safe money vs an event that draws 70,000 people, for £700,000+ This is, I think, also the choice of employment vs setting out on your own. I’m not brave enough to make that decision, but maybe if I had a bigger safety net or more viable opportunities that would change.

You usually start a self initiated project because you are passionate about the subject, or you want to develop skills in an area, or you have a specific message you are trying to communicate. The main draw in self initiated work is that you are beholden to no one, and have complete freedom. The risk is in not finishing the project either because of time or budgetary restrictions, or simply running out of steam and putting it on the back burner. Sometimes having a deadline is important, or there is no natural cut of to a project – if no one is expecting it I know I will just keep working on something! Very rarely does something feel completely “finished” to me, so perhaps I need to build in concrete deadlines in self initiated projects. Several of the panelists mentioned similar concerns, so at least I’m not alone in that!

Workshop Challenge

Finalise the design of your self-initiated project.
Write short notes to evaluate the success (or failure) of your self-initiated project and ensure you articulate the project’s relationship to your own personal practice, interests and creative identity.
Gather feedback from your target audience and reflect on what worked, what didn’t work and what you would do differently.
Engage in discussion on the Ideas Wall and add your reflective notes to your blog.
Record a five minute video presentation to evaluate the success (or failure) of your self-initiated project. We want you to reflect on the different stages, from concept development to final outcome, and demonstrate how your project has evolved over the last four weeks. We want you to evaluate your project and gain a fresh insight.
Record your presentation in the format of your choice (for example, a voice recorded Keynote or Powerpoint slide presentation, video recording or podcast).
Upload your video presentation to your blog

  1. During Module Two I had started researching Cornish Standing stone and quoits for a project that I did not end up developing.  Inspired by this research, and the lessons I had taken from Module 1 about noticing the ignored my family began taking more notice of the sites around us.  
    Living in Cornwall, walking is a common leisure activity,  According to Cornwall Council we have We have 2,216 miles (3,567 km) of public footpath across Cornwall.  Many of these areas contain ruins, Neolithic stone megalithic and Celtic sites, stretching back to through the years. These fascinating remnants include stone circles, quoits, fogous, Bronze Age villages, and holy wells.

2. This map from CASPN shows that in this small section of West Cornwall alone there are over 60 significant sites, often grouped in clusters or within sight of each other. 1.Myths and legends surround them – stories of giants and heroes,  dancing girls who were turned to stone, mischievous piskies and miraculous healing. We find these sites fascinating and had begun working on a large project to produce a series of short videos about the sites and stories of Cornwall.

3.      For this brief I decided to narrowed scope of the project, while working within the larger context of an explorative longer term project.  

4. I had decided my project question would be skills based, rather than research based and ended up with –        

How can I develop and support new creative skills and challenge myself in design areas I am uncomfortable with? 

Push both my skill and comfort level by developing branding and motion graphics for a series of short films about Cornish standing stones and myths. This will be supported by site specific research, filming, audio recordings and working collaboratively with a partner.

Audience – People interested in the history and myths of Cornwall. Both visitors and local people wanting to know more about the place where they live, people interested in Cornish scenery, anyone looking for an interesting place to visit or even Poldark or Doc Martin fans who just want to look at more Cornish sites. 

Anticipated final outcome – Motion graphics for an animated logo reveal and any needed transitions, branding and associated collateral for social media and a stretch goal of a completed first episode. 

5.     site specific visits  

I started with several site visits.  We went at different times of day, gathering footage and spending time at Men-an-Tol, including a very indignant mamma cow who did not want us to continue walking on the path!  I also gathered some of the braken and plants from the area, being careful not to take too much.  The project is very site specific, exploring my local area and documenting the stories and legends surrounding them.  Each video will require multiple site visits, and research into the history and myths around them.  

6.      Mood boards – a little bit of each

7.      Logo development

I started with the logo development, which is always an intimidating thing for me and part of what I was looking to develop with this project.  I had initially thought of a more complicated logomark that would animate in a complex way, but when I started developing the logo a much simpler and more refined logo ended up working much better.  Inspired by Men-an-Tol, I developed an “m” with a curved, Celtic loop, and a smaller dotted “o”.  This led to a simple animation treatment for the logo reveal, two posts representing the standing stones on either side, and a traced path reveal of the loop, representing the holed stone between th em.  I had made a very simple story board and started experimenting in After Effects.  After doing some basic tutorials, I was able to get the two posts to smoothly appear on either side.  

8.      animation – struggle with squiggle

This led to my first major struggle – getting the loop to reveal itself!  I tried about three different ways, first using a stroke reveal effect that should have been simple and easy. And it was, sort of.  The issue was where the loop crossed over on itself, no matter how I adjusted the path, sections of the side would peep out.  I tried masking, it off, which worked great on black, but, not so great on anything else.  Finally I split the logo into sections, and used trim paths and multiple small animations to adjust the loop until it worked.  This also flagged up that my glyph was slightly off balance, with a bit more space on the left than the right.  I went back into Illustrator and finessed this until it was pixel perfect, and redid the animation, this time ending up with a successful result!

9.      filming

We had started filming using an iphone and a hand held gimbal, which is used to steady the camera and filters to adjust to lighting conditions.  This gave us some good shots, but we realised we needed more flexibility so we did a lot of research and decided to invest in a small drone. 

10.   drone

The drone is terrifying to fly, but after several experiments my husband became quite adept at piloting it.  Part of working collaboratively is being able to recognise whose skills are more suited to which task, so I was quite happy to take a step back on collecting footage and be a camera assistant and asset wrangler.  

11.   after effects

Once we had enough footage, we wrote a voice over and began piecing the footage together in Premier Pro and After Affects.  My husband recorded the voice over, as my confused American accent would not fit the tone of the project as well as his. I used Audacity to edit the audio, removing extra noise and small sounds such as breaths.  

12.   

I spent the majority of the project trying to learn After Effects, and ended up broadening my initial project scope, including learning how to mask objects, rotoscoping, a different sketch reveal method which I reversed in Premier Pro and slowed down, and a final “disappearing” shot at the end of the video.  After Effects and Premier Pro are both such big programmes, but I feel that for a first proper project I have managed to use them effectively. I will need to continue to develop these skills as I don’t feel that I’ve even scratched the surface. The larger project of a series of these films, is quite ambitious, so I will have plenty of opportunity to practice.

When we started thinking about this project seriously, we were considering a few different names, but when it turned out that Cornish Myths was available not only on all major social media, but also as a domain name we pounced on it.  We have secured cornishmyths.com, .co.uk, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, and made a quick teaser trailer to put up.  This also provided motivation to finish the video, as we started to get a bit of response and had given the project a concrete release date.   

I also had a student organised group crit which was incredibly helpful, as well as speaking to both Ben and Dan about the project.  This helped me both with practical considerations, but also to refine my project intentions. I looked into psychogeography and Rebecca Solnit’s book, The Art of Getting Lost, as the initial idea was spurred on by discovering sites we never knew existed in spite of extensive walks in the area.  We had done a lot of research into existing YouTube videos of Cornish sites, and found most of them fit into three broad categories – 1. Long academic videos focusing on the archeology of the sites.  2. Overly mystical videos with no real content  3. Poorly shot videos with bad audio exploring the sites.  I had identified the tone we were intending to hit – accessible but informative videos that are light hearted, with at least moderate production values, and felt that our project has real potential.

After a bit push, working on the timing and audio, as well as going back to the site to film a few more times, we finished the video.  I had good feedback from the Week 4 group crit, and we were sure to add subtitles when we added it to YouTube. This was absolutely nerve-racking, as it was not just a first draft, but something live!

17.   Response

Our response was quite positive, we had quite a few views, and I sought feedback from peers and the target audience.  An acquaintance who is a film maker and teaches film at a university in Utah, was very positive, and several people mentioned the production values as a plus or were surprised we had shot the footage ourselves. 

18.   reflection

I feel that this project was very successful.  I had been cautious with deliverables in my initial brief, and not only did I meet them, I also finished my stretch goal, and three other visual effects I had not initially planned on.  I feel like the project hit the mark in terms of tone and accessibility as well.  I felt very vulnerable in releasing a video publicly, and very uncomfortable in promoting work on social media, so these are areas I need to develop confidence in.  The script was also a bit of a struggle, trying to hit the right tone and wanting a conversational style while recording several times is not easy.  I think this is a skill that will only develop over time and with experience. 

This project has huge development potential.  We have already been back to the site to leave a qr code on a stone (brought from home!), and on a board that is already used for stickers.  I’m sensitive to the need to not disturb the sites or leave things that are detrimental to the area.  I need to include tagging in the code so that we can monitor them and see if this is an effective tool to bring viewers to the videos.

The most obvious future development is for more videos, we’ve already started working on the next video about the Merry Maidens, and have several more to develop.  There is a lot of room for promotion, or linking up with other Cornish tourism  groups.  Marketing is not an area I have experience in so I have a lot of room for growth, and once we have built up a larger body of work I will feel more confident in promoting it further.  I can continue to develop my skills in After Effects, video and audio editing, and filming techniques. 

On the whole, I am very pleased with the project, we have successfully made a very professional looking video on a shoe string budget and starting with no skills or background in filming. I am confident that I will continue to improve and develop over the course of the Cornish Myths project. 

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