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!

Final Preview of Canal Prog

Richard Vobes is the Bald Explorer seeking out Britain’s fabulous heritage. In this episode for the Community Channel, to air hopefully in January, he is exploring a lost canal that the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal Trust are eager to see back in water.

Thomas Telford was involved towards the end of the construction and Richard is off to explore the area where the old tub boats used to run to provide coal for the iron furnaces at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

There is a stretch of the abandoned canal that is sill in water, although landlocked and so impossible at present to get a narrow boat on it, Richard has special permission to launch a coracle on it.

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.

 

The Welshpool Lock Open Day

As part of the research for the latest Bald Explorer episode I went to see how a lock was drained and new gates were inserted and other parts repaired. This is part of the winter stoppage programme. Each year, during the cold season when most traffic has died down, parts of the canals are closed off so that restoration and maintenance can be carried out. This is important work and is carried out by experienced workmen from the Canal and River Trust.

I popped along to the Welshpool Lock open day. I wanted to grab some shots for the next video production and learn a little about the Welsh side of the Canal and River Trust and the work they do. I cobbled a little video from some of the rushes to put up on the site so others might also find out a bit about the on going work.

Welshpool is in Powys, Wales and the navigation is the Montgomery Canal. It was great to see so many people interested in the drained lock and having the chance to descend down into the bottom. I was quite surprised to see the incredibly well persevered state of the brickwork. It is over 200 years old and still going strong.

The new Bald Explorer programme about the canals system in England and Wales will be on the Community Channel in January 2013.

Find out more about the Canal and Rivers Trust here: Website

Behind the Scenes on Canals Episode.

Filming and interviewing Kevin Walker from the Canal and River Trust.

I thought I would share some of the photographs that my assistant cameraman has been taking behind the scenes while we have been on location in Shropshire following the story of the Abandoned Canal for an episode of the Bald Explorer. The above is a little hand held interview with Kevin Walker from the Canal and River Trust at Audlem. The team are out in the cold winter weather replacing lock gates, sills and carrying out general maintenance on the 200 hundred year old Shropshire Union Canal. I wanted to find out how often this procedure took place and what was involved.

On board Karen Bayley’s new home.

Karen Bayley has just moved from a large modern flat to a narrow boat on the canal in central Birmingham. She is a single lady and I wanted to find out how she coped with all the changes that faced her with this new life on the water. Karen also related to me the story of her first 30 mile journey on the canal and how her eighty year old father managed to fall in twice.

James Boffey owns the land that the Longdon-on-Tern aqueduct stands on.

The oldest surviving cast iron canal aqueduct is at Longdon-on-Tern on the abandoned Shrewsbury to Newport navigation that the S&N Canal Trust are planning to restore. James Boffey is the farmer whose land it sits upon and he told me about the privilege it is to have this ancient monument on his farm and the interest it creates from canal enthusiasts.

Filming on the abandoned canal route with Bernie Jones busy on the phone.

The ever busy and energetic Chairman of the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal Trust is Bernie Jones. He was forever making calls and organising permission for us to film on the various privately owned areas along the old navigation. Without Bernie’s cooperation this episode couldn’t have been made. He has not only smoothed the path with officialdom, but also ferried Jimmy and I about from pillar to post to ensure we got the best shots.

There will be more photos and behind the scenes information as the project continues. In the meantime, if you have enjoyed the preview videos and posts on this project, do let us know in the comments area below. We would love to hear from you.