One 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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.