On Wednesday 5 November I spent the day filming with the volunteers at Bradford Industrial Museum’s Print Gallery. It is the biggest and best supplied workshop I have been in during my dissertation investigations. I felt it was an ideal location to find out more about the history of letterpress and illustrate differences between the last generation of commercial letterpress printers and the new generation of artisan letterpress printers and thus provide some triangulation in the film,as well as being very visually pleasing.
When shooting the film I tried to capture as much of the atmosphere as I could and loads of interesting angles and activity, as after all one box of type looks much like another!
Afterwards I decided to make a short documentary based on the footage and interviews from the day. The reasons for this were to: familiarise myself with the footage I took during my four hours on site to help inform other upcoming shoots; practice with the software Premiere Pro and making longer films than I’m used to; and to experiment with editing for documentary purposes and I’ve never made a film that included speech.
I planned to make a short film between 5-7 minutes in length, however as it was very experimentally I didn’t feel restricted to that total and ended up with a 12 minute film.
(NB you may experience issues with the sound levels of parts of the interview if you use a laptop or device to watch this film – unsure why but working on a fix)
I took what felt like a statement line from the interviews and made it the opener – “young people today don’t get a chance to see big wheels, and cogs, and pulleys. Everything is in a little black box”. This line really resonated with my academic research into why people are developing a passion for letterpress printing.
Whilst visiting the Museum and number of school groups also visited and I felt like I could really illustrate that line by including some of their noise that I had recorded prior to it. The associated footage however made no sense for the narrative so I cut it out. As the film progressed I kept using black space not only as a way to hide slight differences in shots that are edited together, but as a device of nothingness to illustrate points being made about letterpress printing being dead and print gallery becoming static once the current volunteers leave their posts.
In a similar way, I liked the rhythm of the lintotype machine that could be heard in the background of the school group audio. It reminded me of a ticking clock which, coupled with the blackness, gave me a strong sense of the narrative I should follow and the style I could use to do it. The ticking is heard at both the beginning and the end of the work to give that sense of urgency.
I initially thought I would simply edit together the interview I did with Donald and pepper it with action shots. Looking again at all the footage, the personality of the volunteers came out most when they were just talking to me when I was taking filler shots; for people to care about anything they need to also care about the people involved so I wanted, I had to find a way to work it in.
To incorporate all three volunteers into the film, give the Print Gallery and the volunteers loads of personality and therefore make the audience care about them, and to fill in some interesting information about printing to help the audience care about the provision, I thought the best approach was to use the related footage like ad breaks or a chorus in the film. I used them to break up interview topics and marked the transition from interview into Print Gallery life by using the same music over each ‘chorus’ section.
I had previously decided that music should play a big role in my larger documentary. A lot of the contributors have a background in music so I noticed a link between the two mediums that would be nice to continue within the film. I was also keen to suggest that letterpress printing can have a future and felt that contemporary music could help send this message. I sourced free music from the audio stores on Youtube and Vimeo (credits needed). I found some with a calm electronic beat but also had some repetitiveness to compliment the machinery. The music also proved to be an effective tool in trying to give some continuity to the interviews as the background noise varied from school groups, to different machinery turning on and off, and the industrial air conditioning unit blasting away in the background.
In addition to having the music run throughout I did edit it at times so the beat amplified answers or the music cut out like the blackness does as a visual tool.
Another device that I incorporated into the film was a way to segway into the interviews with a non talking film of Donald over his speech before dipping to the associated footage. This was to solve an initial issue of the camera not being fully in focus during the first couple of question during the interview, but I quite liked it and felt like it needed to continue so the first use looked planned rather a cover-up.
After editing it all together and testing the exported video on my own desktop computer, I uploaded it to Youtube only to discover that when it is being watched on devices such as ipads and laptops, many of the interview sections are inaudible. This is weird as it works perfectly on my desktop. I tried to google an answer as perhaps I’ve not done my sound layers correct in Premeire Pro, or the frequency of the speech does not computer of handheld devices. I was unable to come up with an answer so I worked on the sound, reducing the music and increasing the voice recording and uploading a version 2 to youtube and to Vimeo to see where the fault lies. Both sites and the second version have the same issues as the first and it seems I may have damped the sound more in trying to up the volume and decrease the background fuzz.
I’m not even sure where the issue originated. The original clip is more fuzzy and quieter than the others even though it was part of a longer recorded clip that was fine and the questions before and after this one don’t have the same issues. Donald did not touch or move the lapel mic he was using during the answer either. It’s a bit of a mystery to me and one I will investigate with the AV technician.
Version 2s…<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/111328205″>The Last Letterpressers</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/kjgthatsme”>KJG that's me</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
I had asked friends for feedback on the film as I felt too close to it by completion to look at it critically anymore, however, due to the issues of viewing it I only received one comment which stated that they enjoyed the visuals and the use the workshop noise as they felt more immersed in it.
Overall I am pleased with the result, although more tweaking will help with the professionalism of the final piece. I think that you feel connected with the place and the people and concerned about the future of letterpress printing and the Print Gallery, which was the ultimate goal.
Although not too stressfilled, the editing experience has left me concerned about juggling multiple interviews across a long film