For anyone who has been in hospital and wondered at the various machines and gizmos in use, our next series of factual films is one to look out for.
We have just launched onto YouTube the first in a new collection of bite-sized factual films. Based on our close links with University of Oxford academics, we are making factual series on topics with a wide interest among the public. The films are designed for online viewing, covering their topics in a series of short, easily digestible, episodes.
The first is a three-part series of 6-8 minute films, ‘Professor Bulte’s Incredible Medical Machines’. Oxford University physicist and MRI expert Daniel Bulte leaves his lab to discover the remarkable science and history behind the technology in modern medicine.
The project came about when Daniel approached us in response to our callout to academics to come forward with ideas for potential factual programmes. We were incredibly impressed by his infectious enthusiasm for his subject and his natural ability to communicate complex science on camera.
The series marries Daniel’s enthusiasm for science, history and engineering in a unique way. Over the last century, advances in technology have led to astounding medical advancements and we are all now living longer, healthier lives thanks to some incredible medical machines. Travelling between oak panelled science museums to clinical environments and labs, Daniel explores the breakthroughs that led to their discovery, dispels common myths, and discovers what we can expect from future medical engineering.
We always enjoy it when we get asked what kit we’re using out on a shoot. As professional videographers we love what we do and are always happy to share the secrets of what’s behind all the smoke and mirrors (on occasion we do use actual smoke and mirrors!)
Much of what we use wouldn’t look out of place in Star Wars, so the curiosity is hardly surprising. So we thought it would be helpful to take a look at some of the equipment we get asked the most about.
4K cameras – All of our studio and location cameras are 4K. We have 4K Blackmagic cameras in our studio and on location we use the Sony FS Series which, among many other things, shoot in both 4K and HD.
Most or our finished videos are viewed online and most commonly in HD, so we often get asked, Why invest in 4K filming? Well, capturing higher resolution footage gives us more flexibility in post production allowing us, for example, to adjust a shot’s frame size or improve image stabilisation. It also helps with time lapses, as filming these in 4K allows us to create camera moves in post production, eliminating the need for cumbersome and invasive tracking equipment on location. So, even if you are not showing your final film in 4K there are still so many reasons to use it.
Many of our larger clients have 4K monitors on site or wish to project their videos at live events with 4K projectors. For these productions the workflow becomes entirely 4K from ‘capture to export,’ giving their content a level of visual detail and sharpness HD cannot match.
Motorised Gimbals – These are powered 3- axis stabilising rigs on which we mount our cameras. They enables us to shoot hand-held footage that is both stable and smooth. They have evolved from traditional Steadicam technology. Being more dynamic and flexible at a lower price point they have taken the market by storm over the last eight years and at ODM we use the famous DJI Ronin system.
Essentially the gimbal allows us to tell a story with video that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. In a recent shoot at an Oxford college we followed students as they travelled through the grounds. The intimate nature of the gimbal footage meant that the camera and therefore the audience shared the space with the students, moving with them, rather than becoming impartial observers. This technique can be very dramatic, conveying atmosphere and creating emotion effectively, in ways that traditional filming techniques can’t.
In video production, the story is really told by the editor; footage is just raw material for him or her to work with. So, shooting footage with variations in movement, angles and pacing give the editor far more scope for developing emotional responses, pace and dynamism.
Drones are increasingly used in all types of production, from corporate video to Hollywood movies. If used sparingly, drone footage can be the perfect way to get a story across, to show the scale of an environment, to act as a visual break or change of pace. Essentially, drones enable us to tell a story in a different way, but they have to be planned into production and cannot be used ‘off the cuff.’ A drone licence is required and it has to be operated by a CAA PFSO (unmanned pilot) certified drone operator. We use the DGI Inspire II. Although it takes a little bit more pre-production planning we think it is well worth it (and it’s a lot cheaper than a helicopter!)
Slow motion is another great way to add variation to the pace of a film, or to focus in on people’s reactions. For example, at an event, filming audience reactions in slow motion really brings out the power of their emotional responses, and it can be very effective in adding a moment of poignancy to a fast paced edit.
As exciting as all these tools seem, it is important to remember that their use must always be narratively justified. In the right place at the right time they can lift your film above both your own and your viewers’ expectations. But, when used haphazardly they can confuse viewers and muddle content.
But, no worries – that’s what we’re here for!
So there you go. Next time you see us on a shoot, ask us what kit we’re using and why. Your only challenge will be how to stop us talking.
We recently welcomed our eighth group of Oxford University academics for our workshop Talking Heads & TV Talent. The training, led by our Development Producer Hannah Veale, helps participants navigate the TV production industry.
The group came from a diverse range of fields ranging from English literature to anthropology and Middle Eastern economics. All were keen to build their understanding of the television production industry and explore how to reach out to factual producers.
Demystifying factual television
For the uninitiated the TV production system is notoriously difficult to navigate. Understanding the many structures, hierarchies and job titles makes it difficult to know who to approach. People involved in the production process all have crucial roles, but with differing levels of editorial input.
Academics are often approached by television producers looking for a contribution, but without a clear understanding of the process, an expert can feel uncomfortable taking part, unsure about how their appearance will be edited.
This lack of transparency on both sides is keeping potentially excellent and engaging presenters off our screens, and preventing research from finding an audience outside of academia. We created our TV training workshop to bridge this divide.
What we cover
Every University term, ten early career researchers come to our studios near Oxford for a half-day workshop. We take participants through the factual television production process, from original idea to delivery to the broadcaster, and deconstruct the editorial chain of command. We share intelligence on what television commissioners are looking for, how to effectively pitch an idea to a production company, and how to adapt academic research for a television audience.
For those interested in contributing to programmes but not necessarily originating them, we provide training on how to give a great interview. This covers everything from advice on phrasing and the art of a great ‘sound bite,’ to tips on clothing and delivery.
Academics have the opportunity to practice what they learn in a brief interview in our purpose-built studio, while their peers watch via video link in the next room. They then get to take the results with them at the end of the session to use as part of a ‘showreel.’
The editing process
We make a point of taking participants through the editing process with a real-time edit of one of the interviews. We show how the narrative is developed for a television audience, creating sound bites, cutaway images and music, for the true television documentary effect. This insight gives them a useful perspective for developing their interview techniques.
The benefits of the training go beyond the techniques learned on the day. Every participant becomes part of a roster of academics that are willing to contribute to future television productions and who have an understanding of how factual production works. This basic expertise can save a producer significant time and money across all stages of production.
Since we began the training, many academics have come back to us with great ideas. If we think a proposal will appeal to broadcasters, we help with developing the pitch. We are currently in production for an online series about medical technology, which will soon appear on the Oxford Digital Media YouTube channel.
“Our researchers have found their time with Hannah Veale at Oxford Digital Media to be invaluable, providing them with an excellent introduction to the world of commissioning and TV media. They especially appreciated Hannah’s enthusiasm and professionalism, and how her friendly and approachable nature made doing a filmed interview for the first time less daunting than it might otherwise have been.” John Miles, Humanities Training Officer, Humanities Division, University of Oxford
Job title: Production Coordinator Term: Full-time Salary: Commensurate with skills and experience Location: Oxford, UK
Oxford Digital Media specialises in creating educational and promotional videos for major publishers, educational institutions and businesses in the UK and abroad. We are currently seeking a full-time production co-ordinator to work in our rapidly expanding team. The role involves the management of video shoots on a variety of media projects, working closely with our in-house creative team and external freelancers.
Key tasks Day to day management of video shoots Liaise with freelancers and in-house team Manage calendars and bookings and update project management software Keep on track of budgets, post-production schedules and delivery dates Client management from initial enquiries to project completion Casting for voiceover and acting projects Quoting for new work and completing project proposals
Core skills Ability to multi-task High level of organisation Great communication skills Knowledge of filming and post-production work flows
Additional requirements Driving license Degree or equivalent qualification would be a bonus, but not essential At least 2 year’s professional experience in media production First aid training would be a benefit but not essential Please send applications by email only to: firstname.lastname@example.org by 19th June 2017.
Leading TV production magazine Televisual asked us what was behind our decision to make and self-fund the documentary The Spy Who Stole the Atom Bomb. This fascinating story of Ursula Kuczynski, a WWII spy who handed over Britain’s atomic secrets to the Russians, felt to us like a gift.
With the release of the MI5 files on Sonya, we were able build a more complete picture of her life in the UK than had ever been possible before. And, as we have been producing factual content and digital video for over a decade, we certainly had the capabilities to bring this tale to life using high quality drama reconstruction.
But we also knew that to cut through as a new entrant in the race for commissions in the UK and abroad would be a challenge….
Read the full story from our Head of Production Hannah Veale on the Televisual Blog.
The Lubaina Himid exhibition Modern Art Oxford draws to a close this weekend after a hugely successful run. We’ve filmed a number of talks and events at the gallery, and you can view all the multimedia around the event on Modern Art Oxford Channel.
One of the best parts of our job is having access to so many fascinating events and talks. Invisible Strategies has been a real treat. Himid was a pioneer of the British Black Arts Movement and the show brings together her paintings sculptures, ceramics and works on paper. It contains many works shown for the first time in decades alongside pieces never-before seen in a public gallery, this exhibition highlights Himid’s consistently thought-provoking and distinctive visual style.
We’re proud to have been a part of helping Modern Art Oxford communicate the wonders of this show through video. If you’re in Oxford this weekend you have until Sunday April 30 to see it for yourself.
Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times columnist and author of The World is Flat, spoke recently at Oxford Martin School about how the advance of technology, globalisation and climate change are driving forces fundamentally reshaping the world. We filmed his talk on his book, Thank you for being late, to declare “We have no choice but to learn to adapt to this new pace of change. It will be harder and require more self motivation — and that reality is surely one of the things roiling politics all over America and Europe.” He suggests 18 steps to sustainable growth, and discovering our sense of community as key to the solution. Watch his talk here
When the hugely popular podcast Freakonomics Radio ran a three-part series around the science of medicine, we interviewed Ben Goldacre, University of Oxford research fellow and author of best sellers Bad Science and Bad Pharma. In the second episode he talks about how ineffective and even dangerous drugs make it to market. He suggests one reason is that clinical trials are often run on “dream patients” who aren’t representative of a larger population. In the last episode he gives some insight into why medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. Listen to the whole series here.
Handling data in digital media production today is a complex operation because of the huge volumes involved in digital video, audio, animation and graphics. So when we moved to new premises recently we took advantage of the fast broadband service on offer from regional provider Gigaclear. The service really has given us the edge when it comes to sharing and storing data.
Our business relies heavily on the ability to effectively share and store media files. Huge amounts of data go back and forth between clients and stakeholders while projects are under way. All of these files are kept on our servers in a RAID storage system which currently handles around 56 Terabytes (a Terabyte is 1,000 Gigabytes). When finished and delivered, we archive our clients’ projects on tape in a secure, industry-standard format (see our recent post on Archiving).
The Gigaclear service gives us the bandwidth and speed to expand and strengthen our data handling and archiving. For example, we now use an Amazon service to back up all our RAID storage online and this provides incredible reOsilience for storing our clients’ projects in a secure, offsite backup. We simply couldn’t have done this without the Gigaclear bandwidth.
Looking ahead, Gigaclear broadband will also enable us to easily live-stream video direct from our studio. This will be a valued service for enterprises who wish to run live events in a news studio-style setting.
So watch this space as we continue to develop our service offerings. For now, the fast broadband service ensures files are shared with clients quickly, securely and without fuss.
Location filming specialist Jose Silver joins our growing in-house videography team. He has worked in extreme environments around the world on productions for global brands including Leica, Isuzu, Subaru and Hunter. “I’m proud to join a great production facility with such an impressive client base,” he says. “While I love filming in the great outdoors, built-up environments present a new and different set technical challenges. Oxford Digital Media is a team to watch. They work in a variety of location and studio situations, and have great expertise in live-streaming and online delivery of media content.”
Jose has a First Class Honours degree from digital media college Ravensbourne. He has worked with Teamwild Media, where he filmed field sports, off-road rally championships and corporate videos in countries such as Argentina, Israel, South Africa, Germany and around the UK. In his spare time, Jose is an experienced horseman, having trained with leading experts in Oxfordshire and completed an apprenticeship in natural horsemanship in the Judean Wilderness in Israel. He also enjoys rock climbing.