More little but regular steps with digital media
I spent this weekend taking a fair amount of digital video footage as part of this digital video course I’m doing at evening classes. Here is the digital video recorded on a small camcorder…
…and here is the audio alone as a podcast, recorded on a mobile phone but with a studio-quality microphone that I bought a couple of years ago for one of my previous digital video projects. In that case, it was others (Ceri, Michelle and Dana) that used the mic to do the voice recordings rather than me. This is the first time I’ve used it with a mobile phone.
It would have been nice to have started with this ages ago…but I didn’t have the confidence. My learning style is one where I like to work with other people. I needed the first few sessions of digital film school to get used to the habit of taking random digital footage, as well as being perched in front of a camera talking into it. The first piece of feedback I had in the first lesson was not looking into the camera. The lesson from the digital video guides I commissioned and produced (see here) was about the importance of really good quality audio.
I’ve been lucky to have gotten into the habit of digital filming as now is the time of year when lots of artists and musicians are displaying their wares and performing. At the same time, Cambridge isn’t yet there in taking footage systematically, publishing and then mass-publicising it on a scale that ensures people far beyond core audiences can access. My past attempts have been random and sporadic. All too often I’ve been self-conscious about filming. The past couple of weeks have been different: Taking extended footage of a number of musicians, as well as trying a couple of filming techniques at the Town and Country Fair in Cambridge on 14-15 June 2014.
I took this footage of Will Robert at a local street party. It was me, mobile phone and plastic chair on my side, and him with guitar and the sound system on the other. In one sense, all I had to do was sit there and film. But given the problems I’ve had not being able to hold cameras still, I’m pleased with how well it came out. Will and the technology did the rest. I was also in Hot Numbers Cafe earlier, recording some tracks for The Sound of Pop Art who just happened to be playing a Sunday afternoon session. (Footage coming later in the week as I’ve used up my limit).
With digital video as with journalism generally, you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time to capture the footage. That means being willing to get out and about. I’m not looking to be a journalist myself. That requires a skin tougher than I’ll ever have. This is more my series of attempts at being creative about subjects traditionally seen as dry or niche & uninteresting to the many.
‘Doing digital media’ vs ‘doing digital media well’
There was one of those ‘inspirational digital posters’ doing the rounds recently about luck. It said that good luck was created by a combination of good preparation and opportunity. At the same time, there’s also an element of risk-taking. If you don’t risk anything, you don’t get anything. You don’t get to push the boundaries – instead those boundaries start pushing in on you. This is what happened to me during my teenage years when I first started struggling with depression. Rather than embrace the challenges I ran from them. No longer. But it’s one thing seeing people creating content – however good, but quite another creating it in your own neighbourhood.
In this era of wanting everything now, getting to a stage where you’re competent and confidence with digital media takes time, effort and passion. But how many people in the world of full-time work feel they have that time? For some of us – myself included, there’s also the challenge of overcoming perfectionist tendencies. I touched on this in a previous blogpost on digital media. One of the things Puffles’ election campaign taught me was to accept that not everything you try will work out. In fact, very little of it will. At the same time, accepting that lots of material won’t be used in the final product is also a mindset I’m still trying to get used to. It’s like asking what sort of painter you are. Do you make small, precise and perfect strokes every time or are you the sort of person that can make big, brash strokes? I’m the former. I struggle with the latter.
Acknowledging you’ll never know everything about social and digital media
…because the amount of knowledge and information out there is simply too great. One of the things a lot of us struggle with is knowing which tools to use. There are just so many. This is why trying to work out what digital learning in the community is a tricky thing to plan and organise – something I looked at here. Everyone who is able to contribute will have their own preferences. Take coding. Even in a city like Cambridge, no one has come up with a standard evening class to teach adults how to code. The corporate world has one-day sessions but these cost several hundred pounds – out of reach for most of us.
Content, context and accessibility
This is what I’m going to be exploring over the summer. It’s all very well telling someone to go out and film stuff, but in the absence of what it’s for (even if it’s ‘for fun’), it’s hard to give it meaning. For example at film skool we were encouraged to take ‘filler’ shots that many of the better examples of short digital films were full of. At the moment though, I can’t help but feel my filler shots are pointless and useless.
Despite all of this, I’m trying to have a context of Cambridge and local democracy in much of what I do – with Puffles having a much lower profile. Puffles has to have a small presence due to the election campaign. Local print coverage as it turns out went far further than I thought it would.
Leading by example?
There’s a little bit of that. During the election campaign I challenged other candidates to do things that I wasn’t doing myself – making digital videos and making vlogposts. If no one else is doing these things in a local democracy/community action context, why should they? This is also something the Shape Your Place team in Cambridge have been trying to encourage people to start doing – though with limited success. What I’ve produced for this blogpost isn’t splendidly inspiring content by any means. The important thing for me is overcoming a personal barrier: demonstrating to myself that I can create my own digital content beyond text and pictures.
At a recent Net-Squared social media surgery I was helping at, the roles were switched. With one of the couples I helped, it was a case taking them through the process of filming and uploading a very short digital video clip onto one of their community social media pages on a mobile phone. Rather than have me doing it for them, I pointed them through the steps. They went away much more confident and willing to film and upload further content.
There’s still more for me to do and learn
Not least with websites – and my much-ignored personal website which I have been procrastinating over regarding a new theme. But the barriers to some of the positive things I’ve been wanting to do seem to have got smaller of late. And that can only be a good thing.