Final reflections…

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2009 by rodchapman1

For this, my final blog, I’m taking a look back over my Documentary Learning Contract, and seeing just how far (or hopefully how closely) I stayed on track with my doco through all its various stages.

I’m actually pretty happy to see that it really ended up being pretty much what I had initially said it would be, although there are still a few little aspects here and there that where I diverged a little from my initial intentions.

In terms of the question of whether or not smokers enjoy a sense of community, I would say my doco found the answer to be a definite “yes” – particularly in the instances of smoking in the workplace, and smoking outside pubs/clubs/bars. Smokers agree they tend to congregate together to enjoy a social exchange while they indulge their habit, and for many the social capital to be gained from this exchange is the biggest benefit of smoking in the first place. After all – there isn’t too much else that’s positive when it comes to tobacco!

In my contract I also wanted to explore the notion that the rise of anti-smoking legislation and anti-smoking media campaigns over the years, and in particular over the last 10 to 15 years, has led to a strengthening of that sense of community. Here things didn’t seem so clear cut. Based on the admittedly small sample of interviewees I spoke to, and the handful of other smokers I spoke to, I found something a divide of opinion that seemed to be centred around age. Younger smokers did feel a strengthened sense of community because of the restrictions placed upon them – they experienced  something of a sense of solidarity in the face of what they perceived as an incursion upon their own freedom (as in their own choice to smoke). Older smokers didn’t feel any strengthened sense of community. These older smokers had tried to give up several times over the years, obviously unsuccessfully, and really seemed to feel like smoking was an awful addiction that had them beaten. More often than not, they seemed to think the increasing restrictions were a good thing, as they thought it was all helping to dissuade youngsters from taking up smoking in the first place.

I had initially said that the core of the documentary would be the six interviews I would conduct, and here I did seem to stray a little. In the end result the interviews are simply on the last of four main pages in my WordPress blog, but I don’t think this is a bad thing. At least people generally will look at the intro and history pages first, before getting to the interviews. If they looked at the interviews first they may not bother to look at the other pages at all.

At first I was toying around with the idea of incorporating Tag Galaxy as a means of displaying my photos, but when I got into it I found that a Flickr slideshow was as effective a means of displaying my shots as I needed, and Tag Galaxy, once you got past the novelty factor, wasn’t going to work anywhere near as well.

However, in general I’d say the doco really ended up being very close to what I described in the learning contract. That actually comes as something of a surprise, as it wasn’t until I actually sat down and began constructing the WordPress blog that a visual representation of the doco began to form in my head.

To sum up, I’m really thrilled with how the doco has turned out, and the whole process has opened my eyes to a whole new world of social media and documentary making. I’d love to have a go at putting together another project – maybe not necessarily a doco, but something injected with a bit of fun. As always, being a dad, husband, student and business owner, spare time is the key. I will definitely keep blogging, however – if only to give family and friends a means of keeping up with what I’m up to. An example – my wife and I have just bought a house, but the rest of my immediate family is outside of Melbourne, and spread over about 2000km. So, I’m going to take a video walk-thru of the place using the video camera on my digital stills camera, then I’m going to embed it in my blog – voila! Now before I took Transient Spaces, I wouldn’t have even known how to begin to go about doing something like that!

Well, now I’ll sign off. It’s been great learning and working with everyone in the class – good luck to you all, for whatever direction your studies/careers/lives may take you, and I’m looking forward to taking a look at each of your own docos.

The finished doco

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2009 by rodchapman1

Oh, I just realised – I haven’t actually made any mention anywhere in my blog about the URL of the finished documentary. So, here it is: www.transientspacesdoco.wordpress.com

If you’ve got a spare moment go and take a look – and if you’ve got yet another spare moment why not leave me a comment?

Looking back

Posted in Uncategorized on June 2, 2009 by rodchapman1

Now that my doco is produced, polished and live, it’s time to attempt to step back a bit from it and reflect on the entire process from start to finish. I went into this course able to fit most of what I knew about social media and social theorists on the back of a postage stamp (I wanted to take this course to try and push myself and expose myself to new ideas and technologies), and when I think back to Jenny’s first lecture, when she outlined what was required, I can really remember being more than a little worried about delivering the goods.

However, some 13 weeks on, I can say with some pride that I’ve come out the other end not just with a decent documentary to show for my efforts, but a far greater understanding of both social media and the notion of community too – what is a community is, how communities come into being and what they require to stay together.

The actual process of getting this project together was quite an experience in itself. I’d love to know how many hours I spent on it in total – it certainly didn’t come together in five minutes! I really enjoyed learning to use WordPress and the audio editing software (Audacity), and the interview process too. I certainly didn’t enjoy, however, the process of skulking around the city shooting groups of people smoking with my 300mm lens, which I felt was really quite intrusive (even if the subjects themselves didn’t realise they were being photographed). A paparazzo I ain’t!

Every step of this documentary was fraught with obstacles and annoyances big and small, from dealing with WordPress’s formatting foibles to trying to get a decent audio recording of an interview conducted under the flight path for Essendon airport. Even just trying to find people willing to be interviewed took some doing – there’s still a healthy distrust of the online world out there.

Right, I’ll sign off for now, but I’ll get one more post up on this blog some time in the next week – where I’ll look at how closely my end result fulfilled its brief (and its documentary learning contract!).

Last minute panics

Posted in Uncategorized on June 2, 2009 by rodchapman1

And just when you think it’s over – it’s not. I was just about to send an email to each of my six interviewees – alerting them to the fact the doco was finished, live, and ready for viewing – when for some strange reason I thought I’d take one last look at the blog to make sure all was in order.

Moving my mouse pointer across the page, I found that whenever I rolled over an image of an interviewee, it revealed the full file name – which contained the full first name and surname of the interviewee. Now some of those interviewees probably wouldn’t have a problem with this, but several others would, because they’re magazine editors and as such work in the public sphere.

So, before I hit send on that email, I quickly renamed the relevent photo files, deleted the original photos from the blog and re-uploaded the replacement photos, each of which has a file name of simply each interviewee’s first name – potential problem averted!

I’m looking forward to hearing what each of the six has to say about the end result, as I’m sure they only had a fairly vague idea of what the end product was going to look like. Not that I didn’t try my best to explain the project; just that the broad umbrella term of “online documentary” can mean so many things. I’ve asked them to pass the link on to any other interested parties too, so hopefully I’ll see my hits start to spike in the next day or two…

A final checkover

Posted in Uncategorized on May 24, 2009 by rodchapman1

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been lying a little low of late – pardon the alliteration – but then life’s been a little chaotic over the past two weeks (well, a bit more chaotic than usual!). My wife and I have been getting everything ready for our move into the house we just bought (our first), so there’s been plenty of to-ing and fro-ing, packing up, cleaning, disconnecting and re-connecting of utilities, and all that other fun stuff.

OurHouse

Hey, it's not much - but it's ours!

On top of that, our 10-month-old son brought yet another cold home from daycare, promptly infecting both my wife and I – all good fun.

VersysVStromTest 017

This way germs cometh...

Okay, enough of the excuses – now I’m back and into it. I’ve completed the final page of my doco, about the rise of anti-smoking legislation and anti-smoking media campaigns. This went together pretty well, with links to a YouTube playlist I’ve set up of Quit campaign TV advertisements, and links to various other websites. I’ve also linked the page to the Quit website TV ad archives, which has anti-smoking TV ads going all the way back to 1971. It’s really great to meander through these, and see just how graphic our anti-smoking ads in this country have become in a relatively short space of time.

After finishing off that page I went over the whole thing, fixing the odd typo and broken link. I had about five broken links amid all my audio files – glad I checked all that out before the big presentation! Anyway, now it’s ready to go – my next step is to show it to family and friends and see if anyone can come up with any good suggestions on how it could be improved, before it comes time to ‘Submit The URL’.

The end is in sight…

Posted in Uncategorized on May 14, 2009 by rodchapman1

I was incredibly relieved on Wednesday night to be able to do a ‘pre-rough-cut-showing showing’, and come out of the experience with positive comment. It was a really valuable exercise to ‘go public’ on what I’d already done, and see certain aspects of my doco through fresh eyes – that’s really important, as I’m sure by now we all know how close we’ve got to our subject and content, being well and truly ‘in the fish bowl’ in terms of objectivity.

I thought I might have included a little too many audio bites from my six interviewees, but as Dean and Allan pointed out, people who visit the doco don’t have to click on all of them – they’re free to chose whatever questions they’d like to hear answered from whichever interviewee the wish to hear from.

It was also valuable to do a run-through of the doco on a Mac. I’d noticed some anomalies in the layout of the doco that appeared dependent on whether or not you viewed it with Firefox or Internet Explorer. I was stumped, but Dean let me in on a bit of HTML sorcery to fix the problem (well, ‘sorcery’ is perhaps a little over the top – but it can appear that way when you’re not familiar with HTML!). It was also good to see my audio levels were okay on the Macs. They were fine on my desktop at home, but try and hear the sound bites on my laptop and some were just too quiet.

Now a bit of time has passed since assembling the audio component of the doco, and I’m actually quite pleased with how it’s turned out. Now I need to complete the final page – about the history of anti-smoking legislation and anti-smoking media campaigns – and just do a little more tweaking here and there. Some 10 weeks down the track, the end is finally in sight!

Audio crunching

Posted in Documentary mechanics with tags , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2009 by rodchapman1

Well, after a solid 12 hours of work, I’ve finally crunched my through the audio editing of my interviews. The first one took ages, because I was getting used to the Audacity software, but after I’d sorted that out the rest went relatively smoothly.

Having spoken with others in our class who mentioned they’d conducted interviews of up to 30 minutes in length, I’m so glad I kept mine to a maximum of 15 minutes – it really does take ages to whittle the interviews down to the sound bites you really want, especially when you have to multiply that by six. Well, it took ages to do mine – but then that’s becuase I’ve chosen to split mine up into half-a-dozen or so pertinent sound bites for each interviewee, with myself edited out of the recording. I guess if you wanted to run your interview in its entirety, then there’s not so much to be done.

Once I’d got to grips with it, the Audacity software was really quite simple to use. As I was only working with speech, and not producing music or looking for any special effects, this made things easier too. However, actually embedding the audio within my WordPress blog wasn’t quite so straightforward.

I tried for an hour to upload my audio onto my blog. I didn’t have any problem with getting it into my gallery, but linking it to the relevant page within my blog just didn’t seem to work. The WordPress support page wasn’t much help, and even the Q&A and WordPress support forums seemed to be in another language. Eventually, after much fiddling and pulling out of what hair I have left, I managed to successfully link an audio file – but when I clicked on the link when viewing the doco, it merely booted Realplayer and played the audio in that.

I wanted to embed the files and have them play within the blog itself, so it was back to the drawing board. Cue more frustrated fiddling, and rubbing my now  completely bald head. Finally, success – I had to actually type the URL of the audio files, stored in my gallery, in the page editor in HTML mode, not visual mode, using the audio prefix. If anyone else is struggling with this then feel free to message me if you need any further help.

Anyway, now all my audio is up on the doco site, with an accompanying photo of each interviewee. It adds a nice personal flavour to the doco in general, and I’m now pondering if I should somehow make the “Smokers’ Views” page more prominent – something to discuss with Dean in the next tute.

I do have one issue still to resolve here – I’ve noticed that the format of my interviews page appears perfect when viewed through Internet Explorer on my PC, but it’s a little out of whack if I view it through Firefox. This makes me wonder if there will be any problems when viewing it on a Mac – I guess I’ll find out in Wednesday’s tute.

Now there’s just one more section of my doco to complete – the page detailing the rise of anti-smoking legislation and anti-smoking media campaigns – before I get on to fine-tuning things.