It was with excitement, that I turned up at The Engine Room in Bridgwater to meet Richard Tomlinson from Somerset Film and Video, who was helping us edit our film.
We were going to attempt to take all the footage from the cameras worn by the sheep,
the farmer and the dog and edit them into a split-screen video that hopefully captured the essence of a round-up, shown simultaneously from all of their different perspectives. I had spent the previous 2 days intently watching all the footage and logging it in detail, along with synchronising the timecode on each strand so, as a novice film-maker, I was as prepared as I could be and just hoping for the best!
We wanted this video to be an ‘artist film’, having a beginning, middle and end – showing the whole process from farmer Tony sending sheepdog Fly to gather up the sheep in the field, to driving them down the track and into the sheep-pens. During filming at the farm, the live-action had taken about 25 minutes, which felt too long for a film that gallery visitors would sit and watch, so we had to edit it down to a more comfortable 5-10 mins.
The feedback we’d had when showing a rough version of the film at the Nissen Hut exhibition had been very useful and so I took into account some of these comments when creating a story-board – consisting of a rough running order, derived from my logging process and providing all the timecodes, ready for Richard to use.
We decided to split the screen into 4 with the footage from sheep-cam in top-left, farmer-cam in bottom-left, dog-cam in bottom-right and the footage from a camera attached to a gatepost, in top-right.
This gatepost-cam was selected because it would provide a counter-balance to all the activity on screen in the other videos – it is a steady shot of the farm, which only changes when the sheep all gallop past up the track to the sheep-pens, driven by Fly and then shows Tony walking through after them.
The greatest challenge for us was synchronising all four videos accurately, so that when the film starts, all parts match exactly. This was down to Richard’s editing skills, patiently cutting and pasting frames, watching for the minute flicker of a dog’s ear on dog-cam and seeing it happen on the wider view from farmer-cam.
The recorded audio also helped the synchronisation process enormously, as we could hear the same commands, whistles and claps given by Tony on all of the footage from farmer-cam, dog-cam and sheep-cam – enabling us to match the edits accordingly.
Some of the editing proved challenging as, during filming on the farm, Sara and I had tried to keep out of shot by hiding behind a metal trailer, but footage of us ‘lurking’ had been captured on both the sheep-cam and dog-cam, looking very strange within the context of the round-up! Richard’s skills came to the fore again and by some nifty editing, managed to cut out the more obvious views of us – though, removing us entirely was impossible and there’s still an occasional glimpse, so if you see the film at Thelma Hulbert Gallery during the exhibition, look out for ‘lurking artists’ in the background!
Once we had synchronised and edited the visuals, we then played the video through and listened to all the audio. We needed to have sound from all four streams of video playing at once, but to be able to make sense of it, each audio stream needed to be at different levels. Richard balanced the levels as we went through, ensuring that Tony’s commands were always audible, but also including the panting of the dog and the baa-ing of the sheep in the background – all things that are part of the event and retain the authenticity of the film.
The final film lasts 7 mins, 16 seconds and I’m delighted that we’ve managed to capture the whole round-up event from the differing perspectives, giving an exciting and unique view of this traditional farming practice. Many thanks go to Richard for helping to edit this film and for his continuing, enthusiastic support for our whole project. We can’t wait to hear what people think of our video installation when it is shown at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery, playing on a continuous loop for the duration of the exhibition.