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Luke Herbert's Creative Studio Blog

Week Number 1

This week I began the Year 2 Creative Studio module, essentially Creative Studio is what it says on the metaphorical tin. Working in the television studio environment, a collaboration between both the studio where all the action happens and the gallery; the ivory tower overlooking the action and commanding the action. Firstly, we were given a standard introduction to the studio environment. Our first task was to do some basic studio camera movements and actions: the tilt, the zoom, track in, track out and crab.

We were tasked with doing a standard zoom and focus on a Finding Dory poster and a studio microphone. We were also introduced to the fundamentals of the talkback device, pressing the button on the far-left corner of the device when activated will activate the radio microphone and allow you to communicate with the rest of your team; either in the gallery or in the studio. One thing you learn early in the Creative Studio module is how vital the talkback is, communication is key. The director in the studio can relay instructions down to the camera crew, the floor manager can relay the instructions from the gallery to the presenters or actors and then relay their information back to the gallery crew.

Other roles in the gallery include the PA, the director, the vision mixer and the producer. We were all given the opportunity to do each of these separate roles, the role I was tasked with was the PA. As the PA I had to communicate the countdown to the start of the recording, what shot the vision mixer had selected by saying: On and then the number of whatever camera it was currently on. Our first recording was a basic YouTube style programme and I have to say it went much more successfully than I expected.

Week Number 2

In the second week we had to record a basic studio interview, we also had to incorporate a clip to be incorporated into the interview. Unfortunately, everyone in the group including myself had forgot to bring in a clip to be used but no matter as another clip was already available. We were introduced to the Cue Lab software which allows the user to cue various pieces of media be it audio, video clips (VTs) or title cards. The media is dragged into the software from a hard drive such as a portable USB HDD (Hard Drive Disk) and is then loaded in the correct order into the Cue Lab software ready to be shown. Once again, I was in the role of personal assistant. I already feel fairly comfortable in the role. Even though I am usually fairly shy I could raise my voice correctly and get in the right tone for the role. I must admit though at times I would slip up saying the correct line, but in the process of repetition it just gets stuck in your head. So, the process gradually becomes much easier. Even though it was our second week it went fairly well. I’ve already realized that I much prefer being in the gallery than the studio. I suppose I like some of the technical aspects of the industry even though I believe I am much more of a creative person. The thing I look forward to the most is using the sound desk, I don’t know what makes it so fascinating to me. It looks like a very hands on job and I have done audio mastering digitally (and physically to an extent) but it really does look like a lot of fun and I can’t wait to give it a shot. If there is a role I would like to do in the exam it would definitely be sound.

Week Number 3

This week is Week 3 of the Creative Studio module. In this week we had to produce a news programme. There was a little more pre-production work to do with this session. Local news articles had to be acquired from the local Aberystwyth edition of the Cambrian News; we got stories such as the local war memorial being vandalised and various other interesting things. Pictures to accompany the pieces of news also had to be acquired, fortunately the Cambrian News does have an online site which offers the necessary images that get the job done. I personally also had a pre-production role. That role was producing animated graphics for the show, I decided to use the Cambrian News name, in fact I called it Cambrian News TV. I decided to keep it formal and appropriate for a news programme and had the logo simply fading in. I feel if I was to make it anymore complicated it would just detract from the actual programme. Many news programmes today go a little overboard with their animated graphics, usually accompanied by bombastic orchestral scores and footage. The style I am talking about is the very standard current affairs programme style. I also produced a simple credits sequence that would follow the programme. With these graphics I had to keep them in a correct time limit, if they go over or under it could potentially destroy the flow of the programme. Unfortunately, though the graphics didn’t want to work. Even though they were exported in the correct formats they wouldn’t comply for some bizarre reason. They worked perfectly in the testing of the clips but when it came to the recording of the actual takes done they didn’t work. I’m not sure if it was the fault of the cue lab operator or the vision mixer or myself. It’s a mystery.

Week Number 5

Unfortunately, due to a little unexpected heavy snow that kept me secluded in my hometown I was unable to attend last weeks production of a Children’s Programme and this week’s recording of a cookery programme. But I didn’t go without doing no work for this week as once again I produced a logo for the programme. So I decided to go for a nice logo that kept within the theme of a cookery show. The group decided in our online chat that the programme should have the title ‘Aberfood’ simple enough title that get’s the point across to the audience. I decided to put the logo in the 20th Century typeface, designed by Sol Hess and is owned by the Monotype Corporation. Which shares many similarities with the Futura typeface and was designed as a competitor to that typeface. I had Aberfood presented in upper case, so that it is quite in the face of the audience. Like a heading you would find in a newspaper. I also decided to have one of the O’s in Aberfood look like a plate with a knife and fork. Usually I try to avoid the gimmicky aspects of logos and keep it presentable. But this time I couldn’t resist being a little out of the ordinary of my usual graphic design work. I think the general audience of a cookery show would expect to see something like that, even in something as simple as graphic design you need to look at the target demographic. Yes, while there will never be an audience for these programmes we produce, it is still good to take a more professional route and produce content on that level. I really enjoy that aspect of the module so far. I also believe that the group really works together well.

Week Number 6 Part One

This week, Week 6, we had to produce a musical television programme with an act in the studio performing live. For pre-production an act had to be found and arranged to preform on the Thursday in the studio. I once again had to produce title graphics and a credits sequence, this time a title wasn’t decided by the group initially, until the very last second which was a bit annoying as it didn’t give me a tremendous amount of time to produce a decent credits sequence. I decided to create a poll in our group messaging chat, fortunately the service allows for this with the users able to submit their suggestions. ‘Aber’ snuck into the title again and the final decision was ‘Aber Anthems’. For this title I decided to go for a slightly psychedelia inspired logo, which has echoes of folky acoustic music which our act would be performing. Luckily this week I finally got my chance to be the sound mixer / supervisor. Of course, sound is incredibly important with a music programme, the levels of the instruments and the vocals have to not clash. The levels have to be perfectly matched so that they don’t clash and produce a nasty harsh sound. Fortunately for me I do freelance audio technical work for the BBC, albeit without the benefit of a physical sound desk with an incredible amount of audio knobs and faders to work with. There were multiple microphones to work with, it was a duet performance, so one for both singers and microphones for the acoustic guitars. It was a battle at times getting the levels perfect. Especially when there would be a sudden change in each take. Unfortunately, though we didn’t get a chance to have our work livestreamed and were forced to end early.

Week Number 6 Part Two

Following the unfortunate sudden ending to the session on Thursday, today the Saturday we recorded a music video that would accompany the recorded studio work. I was supposed to record sound on the shoot to follow up the sound desk work I did on the studio session. Somehow though whoever in the group booked and picked up the equipment managed to forget a lot of the necessary equipment. This left many of us jobless and all we could do was follow the director and camera all day. Honestly this irked me a bit, if not more than what occurred on the studio session. I was really looking forward to operating the boom and that chance completely went. Luckily for them they could rip the audio from the studio session, it would be a bit pointless to have a music video without the music. I think many of us really didn’t need to be there and overall it was pointless. There was also a lot of unneeded confrontation between the director and producer. I have to say this recording was not our group’s finest hour (even though it was much more than a single hour). Props were forgotten, crew members had no work to do because they didn’t have the necessary equipment. It was just a long waiting game. I really felt sorry for me and the others who were completely side-lined by the others. Hopefully a scenario like this won’t occur again and I really do believe that it’s completely fair to be unsatisfied with what happened. More preparation and care need to be taken even if it’s not a main studio session. The confrontation between crew members too is completely unnecessary, it just creates a divide between the crew and that’s exactly the opposite of what we want. We are meant to be professional, that also means personally acting professional.

Week Number 7

This week, Week 7, was a follow-up to last week’s session. We were to produce a music programme like the type you would see on MTV. In which an interviewer asks questions to the guests, the guests being the musical act and the producer and director of the music video. Again, I was working with sound. It’s undoubtedly my favourite role of all those that are available in producing these programmes. It’s a much different set up to that of the live music in the studio. You have to make sure not to pick up the wrong person talking. Also, you need to manage the PC audio for when the music video is being presented. During the programme when the music video is being shown there is a microphone swap so that the first duo of guests can have their mics placed on the next duo. This job is done by the floor manager. Following the microphone swap, I must then ensure that the levels are fine for the next set of guests. One slight mistake can mean disaster. Luckily though disaster didn’t occur, and each microphone swap went rather well. This makes everybody on the production’s job much easier. I also had to play music from the CD player during the intro graphic. I had to make sure to fade it out appropriately and not have the music interfere with final audio mix. Much like the vision mixer is all about cutting at the correct time, the audio mixer also has to fade and cue audio at the correct point of time. You have to hear all the important information and ensure that nothing important goes unheard. Overall though it went much better than the catastrophe that was last week, it was much more professional, more rehearsed and ultimately better organized.

Week Number 9

The ninth week is very important, we are now in the final stages before the exam. Before all of our work was strictly straightforward light entertainment or factual programming: cookery shows, musical entertainment, news programme, magazine programme, etc. Now we were facing an entirely different form of programming. That being drama. Our story written by Peter on our group is the story of blackmail, a high up chief of police returns home to discover a woman who seems to be a call girl of some kind who the police chief spent a passionate night with the previous day. The lady Faith blackmails the police chief John. There is good drama between the two characters, they clearly are trying to both one up each other. It’s the exact kind of character drama that we need for our drama program. The correct kind of dynamic is there and the actors we have played them appropriately. Before the session we had a non-recorded rehearsal in the rehearsal room, it allowed the directors to get an idea for how the scene in the studio would play out. The rehearsal went very well. Even those in the gallery had a chance to discuss with the producers and directors to understand how their roles will work in the studio. I was on sound and so I had to know what sound effects were needed, I noted down what I needed for when we were in the studio. The actors did a good job of portraying the characters and most importantly remembered their lines and actions. Compared to my previous audio ventures on the module it was ultimately much simpler, and I only really had to focus on the microphones of the two actors. I just had to keep my eye on the mix and ensure they never went into the red. However, we also had to practise swapping roles like we would in the exam.

Week Number 9 Continued to Week 10

Following working on sound it was decided by the producer that I would work on the camera in the next half. Making my two roles in the exam, sound and camera work. Upon setting up for the next half one of our crew unfortunately had to leave due to certain circumstances. This wobbled the aspects of many of the group, made them lose hope suddenly. So quickly a new director had to be found. However, many felt as if it had all gone pear shaped. But despite all this we still succeeded in recording some takes, to be honest I thought that it went well despite all the unfortunate circumstances. But it was apparent that many of the others were not sharing my hopes. The dynamic that the group had at times had definitely left the building that day. But despite all this we had to keep fighting and prove that we could get the job done. Week 10 soon arrived, and we had practised to make sure there would be no further changes and mistakes. The extra mini session really helped and proved that we do as a group work fantastically together. It allowed us to explore our second role a little more, to understand how the scene would be blocked in the final practical essay. Of course, the final essay won’t completely mirror what happened this session but if we preform as well as we did today I am sure it will go fantastic. I adopted the technique of using the character’s lines and dialogue as cues to move the camera. Meaning that there wouldn’t accidently be a cut to my camera wobbling or moving slightly. I also had to track actors, fortunately the viewing screen on the camera provides a very efficient centre marker so that the movement isn’t off putting to the audience. I was hopeful for what the essay would bring.

Exam Preparation

In preparation for the practical studio exam on the 11th of May 2018 I have done multiple tasks to ensure a successful grade. My roles in the exam will be the following sound mixer and sound effects arrangement and also in the second half I will be on camera. Our exam will be two 5-minute films instead of the one ten-minute version. Both work off the same script but the directors and shots and also the general construction of the film are slightly different. My first task in preparing was to gather sound effects that can be used in the film through cue lab. The kinds of sounds I had to acquire were: city ambience sound effects, mobile phone sound effects and the like to enhance the reality of the finished project with diegetic and non-diegetic sound, to create an illusion of reality to the audience. On the 10th of May, the entire group held a rehearsal in the rehearsal room. Which really is an opportunity for the actors to get used to their dialogue but also allows us the production crew to get to grips with some of the scenarios and point out things that need to be adjusted. I recorded the rehearsal on my mobile phone in the same position I would be if I were actually in the studio. I noted my shots and completed some further sound effect arrangements too.

Final Exam

The final exam finally arrived. In the first half I would be on the sound desk using the audio that I had gathered and modified so that it was suitable for the examination. I took the precaution of exporting the audio in multiple formats so there wouldn’t be any unexpected audio glitches or outright failures. One thing that was slightly awkward was that both directors had gone for different actors for the character of John. The first actor had a tendency of being completely freeform in his delivery of lines, raising his voice when you wouldn’t expect it. This was a nightmare for me as I had to constantly ensure the audio in the final mix was appropriate for the exam conditions. Hopefully though my fears though won’t become reality. Overall it could have gone much better and it felt like there was a tension between everyone in the gallery. The second half did go a little better, especially acting wise. I was working on camera and though the direction had changed entirely since Week 10 I was delighted with what I managed to record. The props in the scene allowed for good visual markers which allowed the director to accurately explain exactly where they wanted the camera to be facing in the recording of the programme. It was important that it looked perfect. The camera crew have to act just as much as the actors on stage do, rehearsal is just as vital to camera crew. It is at times a choreographed assortment of movements. The lens has to be on the right thing at all times. Moving cameras can’t get too close to each other as that would result in utter catastrophe. But despite all this we somehow succeeded and got an incredible number of recordings. This allowed us to be a bit more experimental in our approach to the final takes, allowing the camera crew to be creatives. Basing the shots of the director’s instructions but with a slight hint of personality. I think we all felt extremely proud when we had completed the work and there was many smiles. Overall despite all the challenges presented in the module and the further challenges provided by the group we did a great job and we are one very happy team.