Monday 24 September 2018

Keith's Cavers in The Search for the Missing Potholer - Part One

In 2017 at Hidden Earth I won the video salon competition with the opening video.

Hidden Earth 2017 Opening Video
Winning the salon meant that I was asked to produce this year's opening video and this is where my troubles began. The opening videos, or AVs as they are usually called, have been of a consistently and very high standard over all of the years that I have attended Hidden Earth, so I'd got to make something of an equally high quality. No pressure there then. I also set a self-imposed goal - I wanted to try something different, something really different from anything that had gone before. Last year I achieved this by producing a video set to two songs for which I had re-written the lyrics, but what to do this year? I had no idea. After weeks of racking my brain out of the depths of my warped imagination came the idea of creating a homage to Charlie's Angels, the TV series which was broadcast between 1973 and 1981. I liked the idea because the opening credits with the instantly recognisable theme tune and strong voice-over would be immediately recognisable to anyone over a certain age, and let's face it most of the Hidden Earth audience are over that certain age.

The opening credits to the TV show ran for just over a minute and as Hidden Earth opening videos should ideally be between 6 and 8 minutes long it would give me another 5 to 7 minutes to play with. I decided to go ahead with this idea even if I never went on to create a complete video as just creating the credit sequence would be a fun challenge and would require me to learn new video editing skills.

The three Angels were introduced individually by them appearing first as a silhouette on a vividly coloured background which was repeated in various colours and sizes. The largest silhouette then became transparent and grew in size to reveal shots of the character. Finally the iconic silhouette of the three Angels holding guns with a flame background was used for the show's title - CHARLIE'S ANGELS. I pitched my crazy idea to the Dudley members who have been my most loyal supporters and they agreed to indulge me. Also Brendan, whose graphic skills are amazing, agreed to produce the silhouettes.

Charlie's Angels
The next problem to overcome was casting. I needed three angels as well as Bosley of course. Casting two of the Angels was easy as two of my most faithful supporters were Kay and Jess, but would they be up of it? Thankfully they were!  Bosley was easy too. There was only one person for the job - Ian our chairman and fortunately he was also up for it. That only left one Angel to find. It also left me with yet another large dilemma. There was no role for my biggest (get it?) star, Mark, but the problem was quickly solved using a wig and Farah Fawcett-Majors became Margo Chunky-Burkey. Game on.

The opening sequence would only work if I could get the silhouettes produced to a very high standard. Also what could we use to replace the guns. Mark came up with the suggestion of a camera for himself (obviously) and a ladder climb for Kay who would take up the central position. He also came up with the idea of the drill for Jess to hold. Mark took the photos of the Angels one Thursday evening a the Dudley windmill using a massive tripod mounted 30kg camera and about half a dozen radio controlled flashes. He was obviously taking his role as photographer in chief very seriously and was taking the same sort of care and effort that he puts into his professional award winning cave piccies. Nevertheless try as he might he could not eliminate all of the shadows. The pictures were emailed off to Brendan and back came the brilliant silhouettes that appear in the final video as both positives, with the silhouette as a transparent layer, and negatives with the background as the transparent layer. I then looked again at the Charlie's Angels sequence and sod it, I had forgotten to get a photo of Ian. Mark was off jet-setting around the world taking wonderful pictures of caves so I took the picture using my phone and using just the ambient lighting. It turned out to be a great picture with absolutely no shadows - result! Take that Mark Burkey.

Keith's Cavers
Producing the graphic sequences and timing them to the music took several hours but I felt it was worth getting it right. Attention to detail was becoming a bit of an obsession so I also wanted to use the same font for the titles that was used in the original series. I researched via the internet and found it was LesterBold which I downloaded from a font site. I also added my voice-over at this stage. I tried a number of microphones but just couldn't get it to sound right. Eventually I recorded it on my iPhone. At the same time I added the flame effects which I bought online from Pixel Studios. While I was doing all of this we visited Cwmorthin Slate Mine in North Wales and filmed the sequence of Margo not using two cows tails. I will publish the outtakes one day which are hilarious in their own right. Obviously the rock face was not vertical so I had to angle the camera to give the impression of it being vertical and being a complete numpty it took several attempts to get it right. On the first attempt Mark flies off frame left horizontally.

The opening sequence was slowly coming together but I still needed the video clips to add in. I used a number of placeholders and archive clips but the hugging and essential cake sequence weren't filmed until much later.

I sent the partially finished film to Ian, Mark, Jess, Kay and Brendan (my critical friends) for their reactions and it was universally given the green light. I was now confident of completing the opening sequence on time, but that was all I'd got. I now needed a video to go with it, or to make the decision to not use it for the Hidden Earth video and resume head-scratching for another idea, and time was running out.

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