Approach and Planning.
To go alongside the artist films, I wanted to include interviews with each artist to learn more about them, their praxis and their links to the warehouse. It also felt right to include this element as a part of the project, like the films needed the interviews as a balance to them. This would give the artists an opportunity to represent themselves rather than them just being seen through my interpretation via the short films.
Interviews seemed to be a good idea, however I was very conscious that the quality of them would hinge on the questions being asked. I had never interviewed an artist of any form in my life. I had to ask the right questions to add relevant information to the documentary. I did what most people do and had a look on the internet for interview questions, find several sites that specialised in dealing with artists. This was okay for an introduction into the area but I didn’t want to seem to asking the same old boring questions. Once again I took to the TV, watching as many documentaries that had direct interviews with artists on screen.
I prepared a list of questions for my first subject – John Yeadon.
- Can you describe yourself as an artist, your praxis and what your most recent body of work explores?
- How has your praxis developed over the years and have they been influenced by other artists, where you have lived or development in technologies or trends?
- What is your connection to the Canal Basin Trust?
- How long and what involvement have you had with the Canal Warehouse?
- What do you think the challenges are for artists working in Coventry and what have you faced working here?
- What do you think is the biggest challenge that the Canal Basin Trust has had or has to face?
- Can you talk about your influences/collections?
- Open subject – artists given free reign at a topic they want to talk about.
I thought that the questions gave me enough of a range of topics that the artists would be able to get into and talk about. I initially prepare this list of questions just for John Yeadon, however it soon occurred to me that for the structure of the project, it was best to ask the same framework of questions to all the artists but allow the flexibility to ask further follow up questions if required to explore the subject/artist more.
From a technical point of view it was important for the interviews to look good. We would be in the artists’ own studio, so it would hopefully have good light, however I planned ahead in case there were any issues as I couldn’t rely on just using ambient lighting to make the interview look good. I found an very informative article on interview lighting techniques on the borrowlenses.com blog, however their setups required a lot of equipment that I didn’t want to drag in an put off the interviewees.
I took the most important lesson about location to heart. For each artist I positioned them so there was an interesting background and a reasonable distance between that and the subject to allow for depth to the image. I brought a 30cm x 30xm diffused LED panel for my key light and had a couple of small LED panels in my bag to use as hair lights if needed. I think I only needed to use the small panels once as there were a lot of light sources already available in each studio. I used windows as a fill lights where possible to balance scenes out.
For the interviews I decided to use a separate Zoom H5 audio recorder to use with a wired clip mic and the on board stereo mic capsules. I initially though about using a rifle mic above each subject but once again ruled this out as it might put off the subjects. I also used the same Sure VP83 on-board microphone on the camera to give me a backup if anything went wrong with the H5 unit, if the sound went wrong for the interviews then it would be pretty much pointless! The cameras levels were set and left and I monitored the sound from the Zoom H5 to make sure it was both working and of good quality. During the interviews I did find that there were a couple of issues, the first with stray hands from expressive artists that caught the clip mic making it peak, the second was with John Yeadon who asked to get up and show me something in the room partway through an answer. I had to cut this question completely in the edit as he disappears out of shot and the wired mic cable limits where he wanted to go to. Apart from that, the setup was very successful.
This was a pretty much straight forward process. The GH5 camera was on the same settings as for the short films, it was on a tripod so that there was stability in the framing over the longer shots. I framed the subject differently in each interview to give variation to each one and in response to the contents of each studio. I didn’t ask the artists to tidy up as this was their space and creative surroundings. The interviews lasted around 25-30 minutes depending on the length of answers and if there were any extra questions I included.
Now for the fun part!
Editing the interviews took a long time. The first thing I had to do was to sync up the audio from the Zoom H5 recorder with the video files from the GH5 camera. To do this I asked a friend for access to a software program called Pluraleyes by a company called Red Giant. This takes your video files and uses audio files from the on board camera mic and syncs them with the audio files from the Zoom H5 audio recorder by analysing the wave forms. It gives you a very nice little Adobe Premier project file that you drop onto the timeline in Premier and it opens up all the files nicely synced together. In Premier you can then select what audio track you want to use, in my case I only used the clip mic and then proceeded to edit the interviews as normal.
Each question was cut into separate clips, removing my voice asking the question as it was very feint and I didn’t want to be part of the finished clip. The same adjustment layer was copied and pasted from the films onto the interviews to enhance the colours and keep the same palette.
Although the audio from the clip mic was of a decent level and clarity, when you compared it to the audio from the on camera mic it was lacking in the ambience of the space. To fix this issue I decided to add a small amount of reverb to the track using the packaged audio effects included in Adobe Premier. I found by adding the preset of ‘Room ambience’ to the track, it lifted it and gave it a comfortable spacial presence when played against the image.
The next stage was to render the files together in preparation for export. As you can see below, because of the file lengths being used, this part of the edit process took a very long time to complete. When ever I had to do this it was always time to make a cup of tea or a quick lunch break!
Once the mammoth render had completed, the next stage was to export each question as a separate video file. To do this I set the ‘in’ and ‘out’ points to the start and end of each question on the sequence panel. I then followed the same process as per exporting the individual films, with one exception, I selected to queue the export which opened up Adobe Media Encoder.
Media Encoder is a dedicated piece of software that allows you to queue up a list of files and set it running to batch process them when you are ready. I repeated the steps above setting out the ‘in’ and ‘out’ points and added them to the list of files in Media Encoder. Once the files were all ready to go Media Encoder sat in the back ground working away until the files were all exported.
This process was repeated for each interview and the files save and cataloged ready for importing into Klynt.
Unfortunately I was unable to arrange and interview with Alison Lambert due to her work commitments at the time. This is something I hope to complete in the future so I have a full set of films and interviews for all the project participants.