BoW.A4 Formative Feedback

This is a summary of the formative feedback received on A4 during a an audio/video tutorial on 1 October. The assignment submission is documented here.

Very pleasing feedback, with my tutor commenting on impressive progress and enjoying having seen the evolution of the work. Main points to consider in refining further for A5 are noted below, along with how I addressed them:

  • Work further on edit to aim for a series of images that are all as strong as possible. Even go back to contact sheets to look for images that may now better fit within the overall series. This I have done a number of images being removed (including the old bridge, allotment, doll and discarded safe) and a few added in (including the pub and an old blue mini parked by the canal).
  • work on the pacing so that both the slide transitions and narrative sync with the slowness of the canal. I thought of the canal as the beat to a piece of music and experimented with the timing of transitions to arrive at a new pace; slower and with more time to absorb the images. I listen back now to A4 and it seems to be racing along in comparison to the updated version for A5.
  • re-sequence the images so there is a more consistent fit with the narrative. I commented that any alignment is currently coincidental. This I have done by using a storyboard approach to sequencing the images to the narrative.
  • Think about how / whether to create a sense of drift/flow in the viewing experience. As well as the change of pace in the slide transitions, I’ve worked extensively on the sound track to achieve this (documented here). In summary this involved working with the stereo movement of sound (through both panning and volume) and sourcing additional ambient sounds to fill out the soundscape. The soundtrack is transformed in A5.
  • Think about the lead image. My tutor enjoyed the iconic images of the rooftops/chimney. I thought carefully about this and decided I wanted to leave an atmosphere of wandering in the film – of gradually discovery, rather than directly meeting the most powerful images. Therefore, I have made some adjustments to the sequencing of the opening images (as part of the overall resquencing), but left the most iconic images to later in the film.

My tutor commented that as long as the finished work comes in under 15 minutes there would be the opportunity to present it to open calls for short film festivals etc.

A4.BoW: assignment submission

Introduction

This assignment is a multi-faceted submission. The main work is in the form of a narrated video of photographs, featuring ambient sounds from the canal. This is accompanied by a selection of 10 prints (represented on a website for the purposes of this assignment). The psychogeographic narrative that accompanies the video is a supporting work. Finally, I developed a website that houses the different facets of the submission.

The submission can be viewed online here: https://leedsandliverpool.co.uk. Please use this link to view the work.

Snapshot of contents at time of assignment

As the website and content is likely to evolve as I progress to A5, a record of the main components at the time of this submission is below. This is for the record and the website’s presentation cannot be recreated in this post.

Video

Prints

Chimney

Image 1 of 10

Prose

A locked in flow moves through memories, land and time.
A world connects with a space inside my head, where thoughts wander freely.
Stumbling upon experiences real and imagined.
Layers of histories and hopes, some owned and some borrowed.

Two hundred years of time are trampled
and worn into the paths along this watery route.
The heritage of a grand project and as a dead poet from God’s own country said, ‘a gloomy memorial of place. The fouled nest of the Industrial Revolution that had flown’.

It is a hotchpotch of a space.
There are shipshape gardens and drowned shopping trolleys.
Lovers’ graffiti and the anger of the disillusioned.
Those living the grey dream, afloat 50 footers.
Those subsisting on the margins. 

There are no celebrities on barges,  and no café culture along these banks.
But there are ‘stories and songs that hang in that space between memory and water.’
There are doors that once were, land cut with shovels, relics of industry and bird song.
There are makeshift shelters, and childhood memories encrusted in rusty bicycles.

Whoever shouts the loudest claims a space. The water calmly reflects. 
It’s from Leeds to Liverpool where my mind wanders.
Through worlds within a world. Between presence and memory. 

Andrew Fitzgibbon

Quotes from poets, in order of appearance. Ted Hughes from Stubbing Wharf . Ian McMillan from Canal Life.

Self-reflection

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills (30%)

I’ve swapped from an ebook presentation in the previous assignment to a video presentation in this one. My rationale for the change and experiments in video are documented in my learning log: Experiments in film making #1 and Experiments in film making #2: Sound; in summary the change is down to the medium specificity of video better fitting the inclusion of sound with work.

For the video, I researched various tools that would enable the video production and in the end settled on a simple solution that used Apple’s Keynote to create a video-slide of the images and then added layers of sound within Apple’s Garageband. In the past I’ve used Adobe Premiere Pro, but it is over-specified for making a simple video from photographs and the tools I used offer a simpler and streamlined workflow. Decisions on tools are documented here, Prose and exploring Apple Keynote. I obtained feeback from fellow students on the video draft, which I’ve noted for discussion in my tutorial, A4.BoW: Video draft for feedback.

The production of the video involved creative challenges and decisions in several areas. Including the selection of images for a video flow, the pace and overall timescale of the video, the timing and sound processing of ambient sounds and narrative added to the images, the development of a narrative script. The script was a significant additional work and I blogged on my approach here, Narrative – rough draft and discussion.

In addition to the video, I produced a website to disseminate the work. This was made using Adobe Portfolio by customising one of the standard themes to project and industrial/canal vibe through the typeface and colour scheme. Details are discussed here, A4.BoW: website draft for feedback, along with a summary of feedback from fellow students. I describe my technical work around to Portfolio’s poor lightbox options here, Google slide show embed.

Quality of outcome – content , application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas (20%)

I believe this is a significant step from A3. Moving from the ebook format to the video format for digital dissemination has been transformational and also allowed me to indirectly introduce my own reading of the photography work with the inclusion of a narrative. I enjoyed revisiting my passion for sound and recognise that this should become a habitual aspect of my practice, which I’ve noted in my reflective journal, Thoughts at BoW A4 – sound. I feel that the website brings the content together in a clean coherent place.

There are a number of points to consider when refining the work for A5. The timing of the images / overall duration – a number of observers have commented that they would have liked longer to view the images and found themselves rewatching to take more in. If I were to extend the timing it would allow longer and also more time for quiet observation between the narrative. However, the work is already 6 minutes long and I’m not sure about extending it further. A couple of fixes will be to split the end titles onto separate slides so they are easier to follow, and to shift the narration to avoid clashes with slide transitions. Something, I’m more certain of is to work on the selection of prints presented on the website – I discuss the decision making here, A4.BoW: Ten Prints workings, but feel I need to revisit a broader range of shots to consider which might be of interest for display on walls (versus series in video or photobook).

Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice (30%)

This assignment is a continuation of refining a digital dissemination of a work that in pre-Covid times would have most likely taken the form of a book – as I’ve mentioned before, I’m likely to revisit the book format during SYP. However, looking for an alternative solution and eventually ending up with a video has provide a specific output that stands in its own right, without just being a record of a physical object for digital sharing. Video, I conclude can be a useful way of both showing the work and expressing my intent for it through a narrative in quite an indirect way.

Context – reflection, research, critical thinking (20%)

Lot’s of activity on my blog that can be skimmed through here. Two pieces or research that strongly influenced the video production are British psychogeographic cinema and Video — LAURA EL-TANTAWY. My work sits firmly in the psychogeographic genre and examining this helped shape my own output. At one extreme is the rambling production in Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Ruins and at the other is Laura El Tantawy’s short and fast moving videos. The former, I’ve noted is not to my taste.

A4.BoW: Ten Prints workings

During my last tutorial, we discussed the idea of a multifaceted presentation to the BoW. My tutor suggested the idea of a small number of prints to accompany the video. I liked this idea but it has proven to be surprisingly challenging to realise.

The difficulty is that the work is not conceived to include the types of images that one might want to display on a living room wall. I realise that is not the only use of prints but in this context, I feel it should be kept in mind as a possibility. Especially if I ask people to consider buying prints.

After experimenting with a range of different possibilities, I decided on the images below at this point. I feel that using diptychs in some images helps add something of the series to the representation and that added dimension makes them more wall-worthy. There are number of images that I could use in this way from the large number I have collected (ie beyond those featured in the video) and I’ll continue to experiment with these and print, up to the completion of A5.

I’ve blogged separately about presenting ‘prints’ on the web. Having not been a big user of LR print module in the past, I found it very useful for quickly working up different layouts and exporting as web-ready jpgs. I wrote about sizing of these on my website post.

The gallery view of the images is against black for a similar experience to the website allowing the white framing to be visible. On scroll below the spacing appears off because the white framing is not visible.

Click image for gallery view

A4.BoW: website draft for feedback

Click on image to visit website

While waiting for feedback on my draft video, I’ve been working on finishing the draft of the microsite for the body of work. I’ve been experimenting with Adobe Portfolio for a while now, so this is not new to me. It offers a quick way to create websites based on standard templates and without the full functionality and opportunities for tailoring of a WordPress site, for example. It is suitable for microsites and portfolio sites (its design purpose) but not sites requiring CRM, e-commerce, blogs and community interaction. Different templates offer slightly different layout capabilities and it takes some experimentation to become familiar with the layout elements.

I’ve created a simple site and used the custom domain name www.leedsandliverpool.co.uk. It uses the ‘industrial’ typeface I’d chosen to work with during the ebook experiments and a simple black and white layout – to echo the colours of the canal’s equipment and machinery, to provide a backdrop to the video work, and to allow framing of ‘prints’ against a contrasting background.

Contents are fronted by a full page landing page featuring a full-bleed image. There are then pages for the video, ‘prints’, video transcript, book (intended to be worked upon during SYP), canal information, and an about/contact page. It deals only with my BoW material. A separate full website will be (re)developed during SYP also.

For now, I’ve not initiated SEO or submitted the site for search engine referencing. I’ll wait until everything is complete to do that.


Conclusion

There were some helpful suggestions received on my blog, by email and through OCA Discuss. The version of the website linked above now reflects those. Main changes were:

  • Avoid use of significant areas of white on black text by alternating the webpages between black backgrounds and white backgrounds. This allowed for black behind the video and prints for contrast. It also further develops the black/white theme of the website, which echoes the traditional colours of the canal architecture.
  • Changed button to enter website from ‘HERE’ to ‘WAY IN’ – someone rightly observed ‘HERE’ sounded a little abrupt!
  • Resized picture elements and text width to ensure it sits well on mobile devices and tablets. I find this a drawback of working on a large monitor that is not the typical viewing platform. Next time I work on a website, I should undock my MacBook Pro and work on that screen.
  • Reduced image file sizes to speed up loading time over 4G and slower internet connections. Now at 1500px on the long side. This leads to a compromise in quality when images are viewed on very large monitors but I think better that than a potentially laggy loading experience on the Ten Prints page.
  • I’ve gone through various iterations on the ‘prints’ selection and blog about that separately.

A4.BoW: Video draft for feedback

I’ve spent too many hours experimenting, tinkering, listening, watching, recording and repeating the cycle. It’s now time to put it out to a limited audience of fellow students and friends.

The finished video will be included in a microsite that will also include a selection of still images and some text.

Best enjoyed with headphones © 2020 Andrew Fitzgibbon

The work is an evolution of the ebook format I was previously working on and I have explained the reasons for the change in output medium on my blog. Some of the feedback I received on the ebook has been used to shape the format of the video, in particular for those wanting to know more about the canal information is included in the end titles.

The technical process for making the video is noted in contextual practice and research section of this learning log. It used Apple’s Keynote and Garageband. Ambient sound recordings were made either on iPhone or Roland R-05 recorder (more effective than iPhone). Voice over recording was made using a condenser mic, interfaced into Garageband.

More information on the narrative, including the poets quoted is here.

Please leave any comments and suggestions below.


Update – summary of feedback

I felt very appreciative of the encouraging feedback received (recorded on the blog and by email). Thank you!

Here, I note some points to take to discussion with my tutor and potentially address in A5.

  • Timing of transitions. A few people commented that they would have liked longer to view images or certain images. As currently configured some images have longer on screen than others – mainly the ones that are more complex. However, only longer by a few seconds. I see the video as part of a broader dissemination presented through a microsite that allows other ways of interacting with the work. I’m not convinced that increasing the viewing time would benefit the work – I enjoy the transitory experience of video and feel it part of the specificity of the medium. It leaves me with an appetite for more, in contrast with the long film stills in Robinson in Ruins that left me feeling like I’d sat through 1 1/2 hours of 7 minute guitar solos.
  • End titles. A mix of comments between the inclusion of too much information and not enough time to read the information. I deliberately placed this at the end as I’m aware that some people welcome this sort of context and others can do without. Those who don’t want it can then simply stop the video. People read at very different paces and I timed the transition at a slow read for me. I’ve also included further information on the website, so I’m not minded to make changes to the end titles.
  • Image processing. One comment suggested that they found too much red in the images. In a number of images, I have enhanced colour because to my personal taste it was lacking (a product of often overcast skies in northern England). This is a subjective area but one to sound out with my tutor.
  • Timing of narrative. One person felt distracted when the start of narrative phrases coincided with slide transitions. I didn’t notice this myself but can understand it being a distraction and will address it in the next iteration. Obviously any question about the timing of slides and transitions needs to first be resolved to avoid tail chasing.

A4.BoW: Prose final draft

The challenge with multi-faceted works is that they require multiples of work in addition to the work of photography. The time needed then seems to grow exponentially.

I’ve gone through several iterations of the prose to accompany my video and also had another exchange of thoughts with my writer friend, James Wall. The process of recording the narrative also highlighted areas that sounded fine when read inside one’s head but awkward when articulated on a recording – sometimes the combination of word-sounds or rhythms, other times the realisation that the meaning wasn’t coming across. As I worked, there are a few things that seemed increasingly important:

  • Clarity, without over-explanation.
  • Ambiguity, without confusion.
  • Simplicity without emptiness.
  • Overall, something that wouldn’t distract the viewer from the images when watching the video but would also add to the experience.

This has proven to be a difficult thing to attain, and a reminder that we don’t ‘just add another facet to our work’ – it is another work in itself to achieve anything approaching worthwhile.

A locked in flow moves through memories, land and time.
A world connects with a space inside my head, where thoughts wander freely.
Stumbling upon experiences real and imagined.
Layers of histories and hopes, some owned and some borrowed.

Two hundred years of time are trampled
and worn into the paths along this watery route.
The heritage of a grand project and as a dead poet from God’s own country said, ‘a gloomy memorial of place. The fouled nest of the Industrial Revolution that had flown’.

It is a hotchpotch of a space.
There are shipshape gardens and drowned shopping trolleys.
Lovers’ graffiti and the anger of the disillusioned.
Those living the grey dream, afloat 50 footers.
Those subsisting on the margins. 

There are no celebrities on barges,  and no café culture along these banks.
But there are ‘stories and songs that hang in that space between memory and water.’
There are doors that once were, land cut with shovels, relics of industry and bird song.
There are makeshift shelters, and childhood memories encrusted in rusty bicycles.

Whoever shouts the loudest claims a space. The water calmly reflects. 
It’s from Leeds to Liverpool where my mind wanders.
Through worlds within a world. Between presence and memory. 

Andrew Fitzgibbon

Quotes from poets, in order of appearance. Ted Hughes from Stubbing Wharf . Ian McMillan from Canal Life.

Narrative – rough draft and discussion

I want to add a narrative to the sound of my video that conveys something of my experience of the canal, including the psychogeographic. I was awake early one morning and started writing, quickly getting something down, to make a start. I made a few quick edits afterwards but didn’t spend time thinking to much about what was there. I also recorded the draft narrative and added it to my video and ambient sound to get a feel for how it sounded and fitted with the rest of my work. I felt there was enough to continue with analysis and improvement. I dropped a text to a writer friend, James Wall, and asked if he would read and give some input to help me move the draft forward. The rough draft is attached at the foot of this post (more as a record of work and progress than anything else). I spoke with James for about an hour about the words and video and this triggered some very useful ideas on how to take the narrative forward. The main points from my written notes are:

  • Use objects to evoke meaning and connect to the images – for example, instead of ‘neglect’ use rusty bikes.
  • Use a constant throughout the stanzas, for example the journey (place and history) or slow, still water.
  • James commented on the idea of ‘time lapse’ in photography and wondered if this might be used as a metaphor. I had considered using time lapse photography at an earlier stage of the project. I think a verbal reference to it without any inclusion of a time-lapse could be confusing?
  • A couple of places where the narrative became muddled because of a change in voice or expressions that were unclear. Including ‘trampled’ in connection with water, without mentioning the tow path. Also the only place where there was a very direct reference to an image re the Yorkshireman – didn’t seem to fit well with the rest of the narrative.
  • Noted the double meaning of ‘reflection’ and how that could be used. Also of the work ‘lock’ – the physical locks on the canal and the idea of being locked in time and place.
  • Suggestion that each stanza could reflect different stages of the journey (physical, metaphorical, or psychological).

The discussion left me with lots to think about. However the narrative is concluded, it should remain in the shadows of the images – I think this is achieved by allowing plenty of space around the spoken words.