Week 2 of Ladders: Film/TV/Animation got off to a great start with Gayle Woodruffe from Northern Film & Media stopping by to talk to everyone about her role within the organisation. Northern Film & Media are a creative agency in the North East which sets out to “nurture talent and [drive] commercial film and television production within the region”. Gayle is the Production Service Manager over at NFM, and is responsible for encouraging film and TV companies to come and film in the North East. Encouraging film production in the region helps to stimulate the local economy, help to get city landmarks on the big screen and provide jobs for local production crews; for example, following the shooting of Harry Potter in Alnwick, it is reported that the town saw a 120% increase in visitors and an extra £9m pumped into the local economy because of this increase in tourism.

Gayle explained that there are two main strands to her job: the production service and the NFM Academy and Bootcamp. As part of the production service, Gayle promotes the North East to film and television companies. Northern Film & Media are dedicated to using as many local resources, local actors and local crew as possible, and Gayle is the main person who negotiates this with film crews. It was interesting for our students to speak to someone who is working within the film and TV industry in a different way, operating behind the scenes in an organisational and administrative capacity. A few of the students expressed an interest in possibly being involved in the film industry in this way in the future. The NFM Academy, supported by Creative Skillset, is designed to increase the North East’s crew base by acting as a foot in the door for those new to the industry or those already working in the industry but looking for a change in direction. By looking out for areas where there might be shortages and organising training in these skills, NFM Academy makes sure that the North East has plenty of talent across the vast range of roles on set. Interested freelancers then attend a Bootcamp where they can learn more about working in the industry, gaining valuable insights from experienced industry professionals. Gayle mentioned to the group that the current shortage areas are locations teams and managers who find suitable locations for filming, electricians and production office staff – perhaps some of our students might consider these areas in the future to make their skills relevant and appropriate to the needs of the industry.

When asked about the best way to start out within the industry, Gayle said that it would definitely be valuable for prospective freelancers to gain some experience as a runner. Running isn’t always the most glamorous job (in fact, Gayle says that it is mostly making tea and coffee!) but it allows those new to the industry to get a good feel for how things work on a real production. Northern Film & Media have a database which I’m sure some of our Ladders students will find is a useful resource when starting out in their careers.

After Gayle finished her talk, it was time for Tim Loziniski from TL Multimedia to show our students how to use Audition, a digital audio workstation which is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud. TL Multimedia is a creative agency which “works on cross-media projects including film, animation, video games and rich-media web content”. Tim explained to everyone how to edit common problems that might occur with an audio track: editing out pauses, pitching, switching audio onto a new track, looping and removing background noise. He mentioned first that the best way to deal with these problems is to take measures to prevent them when you’re recording the sound but of course it is sometimes difficult to avoid these issues. It was great for our students to learn how to fix them! Using a clip of Chloe speaking, the students removed the background noise, made a section of the audio louder, removed pauses and even swapped some of the words around using cross fades. Chloe and Tim then explained some of the effects that can be added in Audition to make the sound different. For example, there are effects to make the audio sound like it is coming from a telephone or effects to add an echo to make it sound like the person speaking is in a large, empty room.

 

On Wednesday, Tim was back to show the students the basics of essential photography skills. Many students brought their own cameras so that they could get to grips with making the most of their own equipment. A lot of the students hadn’t really experimented too much with their cameras, tending to use the automatic setting above the manual settings, so it was great to get an understanding of the various elements of setting up a camera in the correct way; it is rare that the automatic function would be used on a real film shoot so it was useful for the students to learn how to set up their camera in a professional capacity.

There were a variety of exercises using playing cards as the subject. This was to get an idea of how aperture, ISO and shutter speed work together. The students experimented with depth of field (the distance between the nearest object and the farthest objects in a scene, and how much of this is in focus), and then looked at shutter speed (the length of time in which the digital sensor in the camera is exposed to light). The group attempted to capture a spinning disk to work out how fast the shutter speed needed to be, thus preventing motion blur. They also learned how to set up custom white balance on the cameras which is important to render specific colours correctly and ensure that the neutrals (grey and white) appear neutral in the film itself.

After learning about getting the best result from a digital camera, the students were able to grasp sound recording technology and the details that you would require to get a good recording ‘in the field’ (recording sounds outside of a recording studio). Tim showed everyone a portable field recorder with a shotgun microphone on a boom pole set-up. Everyone listened to how the library sounded through the headphones and was amazed about how much sound the microphone could pick up, even from a distance.

Catch up with us next week when we will be visiting some local companies and studios within the area!