creative responses / dissertation

Big wheels, and cogs, and pulleys

Donald’s comment of “young people today don’t get a chance to see big wheels, and cogs, and pulleys. Everything is in a little black box” at the Bradford Industrial Museum, has been running around in my head and making me consider if that is an attraction to letterpress printing and why I highlighted the work of Make Works in the presentation we were asked to do.

On the Friday of the same week I spent the morning with contemporary commercial letterpressing outfit Cotton Letterpress. Like I did at Bradford Industrial Museum, I arranged to interview and take filler shots. I interview the business director and the print operator this time getting two different points of view that were on the other end of the scale than the Bradford volunteers.

When organising the interviews I proposed an exchange where the printer gave up their time for my project, and in return I would give up my time to edit the footage into something they could use for their own purposes. The director, Luke, having had a chance to record additional interview footage to ensure I could edit a promotional film that would work for him refused and said that he wasn’t interested in talking heads, but instead of having a way to illustrate the machine as a selling point for his business. This had echoes of Donald’s statement from earlier in the week. Reflecting on my questions and Luke’s answers, we talked a lot about the businesses use of social media, and the popularity of images of letterpresses and the process more so that the print almost.

I thought this was a good opportunity to instead of focussing on making a mini documentary about the business as an immediate outcome of the morning, but instead to celebrate the process and the machinery.

Thinking about the use of the film on social media, I decided on a film no more than 60 seconds without exception. I then started editing down the footage I got of Andy the printer talking me through the process. The staccato style cuts and very short clips reminded me of the timelapse films I like to make – this gave me some direction in thinking happy, upbeat, high energy to match the energy and the contemporary successful use of old technology.

I realised that I could never edit the story into 60 seconds and what I was looking at was two stories – getting ready and printing. Having used split screen in my first year Narratives film, and recently again in the Love Arts Festival installation to split it across three screens, it was the first thing that came to mind. I thought it would work well as a device to tell two sides of the story simultaneously, illustrate the work that goes in to printing, show off the beauty of the machine, and keep it fun.

I made a short ten second sample and showed it to a friend to see if the idea was worth pursing. As a non pinter, she thought it was. She also liked the music which I had sourced for the Love Arts Festival installation timelapses but not used. I remembered that I still had it on file and it would be ideal to cut to.

Next I made two films – getting ready and printing. Printing had lots of lovely industrial noises of the machine working only very occasionally interrupted by Andy stating what he was doing. Getting ready was the whole printing process narrated but cut so deeply it no longer made sense. For both films I kept the sound and played about with and without them plus and minus the music to see what work. I made sure that Andy was part of the process as part of the charm of letterpress printing, no matter how automated and modern with the use of polymer plates, is that a person is still behind it.

I then brought the two clips together in the same sequence and resized and relocated them so that prep was left and print was right as I felt as we read left to right in the West before should be left and after right. Once together I removed one of the shots that was over exposed and looked really bad when side by side with other shots. I also brought the opening films into line with each other – they initially changed at different times and this was too much to understand and process when first watching the film. I also edited a couple of the sound clips and two with bit of speech that was too distracting and needed replaced with machinery noise, and another bit of printing had no audio with it as it was a very last bit of footage whilst packing up and the machine was off.

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I considered how to tie the two films together to make them look connected and circular. One way I thought of was sharing footage between the two sides so I used the last shot from the prep as the first shot of the printing. I appreciate that you would need to watch it again to consciously be aware of it, but the suggestion is there. Another was to have the final shots of the whole film very similar in composition, but one indicating the start of printing and one indicating the end of printing.

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I thought about putting in a title page. I like the idea of calling it Say My Name, to quote Heisenberg from Breaking Bad – giving the Heidelberg letterpress a pop culture hook and some ‘bad ass’ credentials, even if borrowed. In the end I did not put in a title as it’s such a short film that speaks for itself. I called it The Original to give it some gravitas and to quote its own name. I thought that would be a safer bet for a company that may use it too. The logo of Cotton Letterpress went at the end and I spilt my name and the music credits to replicate the spilt screen.

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I decided to keep both audio channels and add music to it. I liked the overload and I wanted to prevent the hypnotic white noise of machinery ticking over that may be perceived as boring.

I’ve asked for feedback via Facebook but have not received any yet. I will have to ask people to look at it on my iPad and feedback their thoughts.

Have spent the afternoon considering the video, I’m wondering if it isn’t better without the music, and the inclusion of cut speech keeps it interesting. I think so third party advise and a break from the footage may help me decide which is better at achieving the goals.

Over all, making this short exciting video is making be re-consider my direction and wonder if a larger longer documentary is the right approach to recording the processes for prosperity and engaging new audiences in the printing process.

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