Crumbling Churches Preview 4

Richard Vobes is out and about exploring the British parish churches for the next programme of the Bald Explorer coming soon to the Community Channel.

In this preview, Richard is looking at pews and seating as well as discovering an abandoned church in the woods at Bedham in West Sussex, near Petworth.

Computer Animation

canalbasin-test10One of the things that makes the Bald Explorer programmes different to many of the videos you find on the internet is the computer Graphic images that are created for each episode. These help to illustrate perhaps, as an artists impression, what buildings and places might have been like in the period of the story being explored. They are the most time consuming part I would say of the post production process. Each graphic has to be researched from resource material, either from libraries, books or via the internet and then brought into a 3D computer animation package. Once the basic models are constructed, they under go the texture process, or if you like, skinning to make them look fairly realistic. I do not try to make them photo real, however, due to the limitations of my experience and the amount of rending time each individual frame would take to complete. I add a basic lighting rig to the CG models and give the 3D camera filming the sequence a little movement to make the video clip more interest.

Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury.
Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury.

In the forthcoming episode about the abandoned Shrewsbury Canal, I have built some of the major elements of the old navigation and the landmarks along the way, including the Ditherington Flax Mill. This was the grand daddy of the Skyscraper, because it was the first building in the world to make use of an iron frame internally. It is currently undergoing renovation and is inaccessible to film adequately and this where a CG model comes in handy. The canal can be added to show how it would have approached the site.

The Longdon on Tern Aquaduct
The Longdon on Tern Aqueduct

The Longdon-on-Tern Aqueduct is another structure that we visit in the programme.. Thomas Telford was involved in its creation. It is the oldest surviving iron aqueduct in the world and is what inspired Telford to go on and create on of the canal wonders of the world, the famous Pontcysyllte aqueduct, in Wales. It is no longer in water and lies almost forlorn in a farmers field. With computer animation we can put the water back in and have a narrowboat cross it again, as they once did a couple of hundred years ago.

The Community Channel will be showing the Bald Explorer programmes in February 2013. You can find out more about them here. http://communitychannel.org

To 2013 and beyond…

The Devil's Den - the remains of a prehistoric burial chamber or long barrow on the Marlborough hills in Wiltshire.
The Devil’s Den – the remains of a prehistoric burial chamber or long barrow on the Marlborough hills in Wiltshire.
During the Christmas holidays I have been away from the Bald Explorer office, but as soon as January is upon us there is much to do. The next three progranmmes for the Community Channel need to be made ready, including a re-edit of the video ‘History You Can Touch’. This was my first foray into long format history videos. I was down in Wiltshire investigating the ancient monuments of our prehistoric forefathers, the burial chambers, long barrows and tombs. These were plundered in the 17th and 18th century by the first of the gentlemen antiquarians and pioneering archaeologists. I have decided include this as a Bald Explorer production as part of the final three episodes to deliver to the Community Channel along with some additional footage, yet to be shot, to show what inspired the series format. It will also be nice to see this footage get an airing on British TV.

Early CGI of the Shrewsbury canal basin. Much more work to do.
Early CGI of the Shrewsbury canal basin. Much more work to do.
The canal episode is nearly computer. What is taking so long is the computer graphics element. It is a skill that I enjoy but am least proficient at and takes much long therefore to complete. I want to be able to convey an artists impression of how the complete length of the now abandoned canal might have once looked and highlight some of the original and historically important iconic landmarks along the way.

2013 is looking like a promising year for the Bald Explorer. I aim to produce more episodes and a number of series ideas have been planned. Keep checking back to the website where all the information will be updated regularly. In the meantime, I would like to wish all my viewers and blog post readers a very Happy New Year.

BE on the CC on Christmas Day!

cc-christmas How very exciting. I am very thrilled to say that the Community Channel is showing a triple bill of the Bald Explorer on Christmas Day from 11.30am. So now you can open all your festive presents while watching the intrepid adventurer as he clambers over some of Britain’s greatest heritage.

I have to say I am very grateful to the Community Channel for taking such a massive interest in the BE programme and I am looking to work with them more fully next year (2013) with a new exciting series. I do have three more episodes to deliver early in the year. These I think are likely to be screened in February, making a nice series of 6 episodes broadcast on UK TV. For me that is quite an accolade.

Also I would like to thanks all the fans and supporters who have enjoyed the journey, the episodes and read the blogs along with way, and those that have even taken the time to comment. It is all very much appreciated. I do hope you all have a fabulous Christmas and a very happy New Year. I very much look forward to connecting up with you all again in 2013 when we can get back to some more exploring.

Happy Christmas to you all!

Coracle on a Canal

On the best surviving stretch of the Newport Canal.
I have been back in Shropshire filming more footage for the Bald Explorer over the last few days and on this occasion I had my son, Billy, to assist me. We had a number of key sequences to shoot including the opening, various pieces to camera and a coracle in the only surviving ‘looked after’ length of the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal.

The biggest problem filming in winter is the short days, low sunlight and unpredictability of the weather. It can be numbingly cold, but provided it isn’t windy I can live with that. It certainly focuses the mind to get the shots in the can as quickly as possible and not to hang about.

Paddling the ancient coracle on the old canal.

It isn’t the best time of year to go filming canals if you want to see pretty narrow boats chugging along because many are moored up for the winter, in for repair and covered up. I desperately need to get some footage of boats going through locks, passing one another and chuffing under bridges. I think I will need a special day of narrow boat hunting.

The highlight of the recent batch of shooting was getting back into the coracle again. I bought the thing over two years ago for another episode, but haven’t had a chance to use it yet, so I found an excuse in this episode to get it on water. Billy and I took it to Newport where there is a fair stretch of the canal and having had special permission to do so, we filmed my slightly wobbly attempt to paddle the ancient craft.

Thanks to Bernie Jones for his help making this happen

A big thanks must go to Bernie Jones from the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal Trust for organising and smoothing the way. I am looking forward to editing the video and seeing this sequence in the programme when it airs on the Community Channel, hopefully in January.

A Canal in 3D

Early test picture of a computer model of the Longdon Aqueduct – no textures.

It is far too early to show anything terribly exciting in the world of 3D graphics for the up coming episode of the Bald Explorer as he explores an abandoned canal in Shropshire, but I thought I would share with you some of the progress. While the weather has turned rather unpleasant and not in the least conducive to filming lovely narrow boats up and down the navigations of England, I and immersing myself in the job of creating all the graphical elements for the programme. This is more time consuming that you might imagine. Because I do not use the graphic software everyday, I often forget certain procedures and find myself having to look up the various ‘how to’ videos on Youtube or blog posts on the Internet.

The Longdon Aqueduct, waiting for a CG narrowboat and landscape, as well as textures, lighting and animation. Its early days yet…

There are a number of reasons why I use 3D graphics within my programmes. The first and most important reason is to demonstrate how something works. It is not always easy to show a real life object in operation while on location, especially if it is a historic relic. Very often there is nothing left to show and my graphical displays are purely an interpretation, but they help to tell the story.   The second use I put graphics to within my films is that of style. Most TV shows have a series of visual stings that help to break up sections of a programme. In order to help the viewer feel he is watching a TV programme and not just a random quickly edited video on the Internet, I like to emulate this where it is appropriate. I try not to add things just for the sake of it, however. I do get annoyed by video producers who seems to put in every little bit of flashy gimmick effects they can, believing, wrongly I think, that it makes the production have more value.

The post production takes a fair chunk of time to achieve and shouldn’t be hurried. This is where all strands of the story come together. The graphics and live footage are only part of the story. There is the voice overs, photographs, music and sound effects to find, organise and get cleared for television broadcast.