It’s that time of year again – the Belfast Comic Con. Except that it isn’t. It’s a month earlier this year, and I’ve talked myself into going again. I will try to remain positive, but there is no guarantee on how long that will last. I briefly considered applying for a press pass, but given my previously negative coverage, I doubt they would appreciate an honest opinion. Seriously though, who in their right mind invites Eastenders “stars” to a comic convention. Madness!
This next part is long overdue, but I’m going to write about it anyway.
Long missed are the times of three week Easters, where the world was your oyster and any project, large or small, could be accomplished. At least, that’s what it felt like when I had a week off this year. I had so much to do, and not a lot of time to do it. Most of my week was spent in the garage working on rings, though I did fit in a walk in Glenariff in the Antrim plateau. I have discounted the Antrim hills for many years, preferring the Mourne mountains where possible, but there is some amazing scenery up there.
One of my key projects over Easter was the Beast – a 2015 silver two pound coin. It’s comparable in size to the silver dollar ring, but it was a much more manageable task with my renewed workshop. The ring was a custom job for a client, and a task I was happy to take on. Given the high value of the coin and the nature of the job, it was an excellent candidate for another “making of” video. This time, I was going to do it right. I put together a basic script and tried to inject as much enthusiasm and “acting” I could muster. A few takes later, I had something I was reasonably happy with. Filmmaking almost always takes longer than anticipated, and the whole thing took a number of hours. That doesn’t include the time spent editing the video and recording the voice-over. Dad was in charge of video and sound, and was using the Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5K with a few different lenses. The quality from the Blackmagic is outstanding, and more than adequate for a normal web video. It can shoot 2.5K RAW, but RAW isn’t practical considering the huge filesize. Recording in 1080p ProRes is the best compromise, and is really easy to work with in Premiere Pro. Video quality has been improving rapidly in recent years in consumer and prosumer level cameras and it’s no longer the limiting factor. That role is played by my storytelling and acting. I was a lot happier with the end result of this video – at least for the intro and conclusion – than with the last one. My performance was a lot more natural, though in reality performing is about as far from natural as I can get. Most of the video was done by the end of Easter, but it still needed some finishing touches.
I thought it would be worth adding in a voice-over to explain what I was doing at each step, providing a little more detail. That became tricky because at that time I had no access to sound recording equipment. I had my laptop and the inbuilt microphones, but that wouldn’t cut it. The quality of the inbuilt microphones wasn’t bad, but there was a lot of additional noise from the computer itself. Half way through recording the fans would spin up to jet engine levels and ruin the take. I didn’t want to spoil the potential of the video by tacking on a last minute, poor quality voice-over. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I set off on an expedition to the Amazon. Well, Amazon.co.uk at least, in search of budget microphones. I wanted something cheap, but decent enough quality that it would be of use in further projects. Dad has a reasonable amount of sound equipment but he uses shotgun microphones – I needed something a bit different. After a few searches I came across an interesting piece of kit. The BM-800 condenser microphone, a studio style mic with a professional looking shock mount and XLR jack, costing the princely sum of around £20. It looked like an interesting prospect, but for the money, my expectations were set rather low. The reviews, however, were overwhelmingly positive, describing excellent value for money. I was sold! I could get hold of one quickly and finish the project, and still have a decent mic for future use. It took longer to arrive than I had hoped, but when it did turn up I wasn’t disappointed. Build quality that solid wouldn’t have been out of place on a much more expensive product. Sound quality was good too, if a little quiet. I opted for a model powered by an AA battery, avoiding the need for phantom power. The quiet volume issue was resolved reasonably quickly when I realised I was talking into the wrong point. The coverage pattern is different from microphones I had previously worked with, but once I “read” the manual (it was in Chinese, but with clear diagrams), it became easier to understand. I’m pretty happy with the sound quality, but you can judge for yourself – check out the finished video below.