Directorial Dilemmas

As part of the CCRI’s endeavours to increase dissemination and engagement with social media, we have begun to create short films, most recently to help with promoting the forthcoming policy conference. Taking the lead on this has been Research Assistant, Nick Lewis, who in this post discusses his thoughts on how things have been going…


I am not a huge user of social media – but I am very aware of the potential power of the various forms, and their increasing prevalence in society. There are regularly incidents of inappropriate use of Twitter by a range of people, from footballers to politicians to large corporations. Breaking news stories are also reported using such media – as past and recent events have highlighted. Creating ‘Youtube’ films has been an idea that has been thrown around the office for some time, and we have finally made a start.

One of the many issues we have, is that we have no equipment or experience. The former of these is resolved by borrowing equipment from the University’s media library. A tripod, tie microphone and digital video camera is all they are able to supply us with – which I am beginning to realise really is the bare minimum that is needed. A second microphone and camera would really help, but with limited people (i.e. me as cameraman, ‘director’, editor) would probably make things more complicated. The experience side of things is something that can really only be learned by ‘doing’. So I have had to learn how to use editing software – which is actually fairly simple and intuitive. I have had some help with this area by the helpful staff in the library at Oxstalls campus.

Getting good quality footage however is the real skill. Sound, lighting, angles are all things to consider. Also, people. Many of CCRI work from home, so their physical presence is clearly useful! Combined with everyone’s hectic schedule and commitments it is often the case that they simply don’t have time to spend a few minutes thinking of things to say and then putting it to camera. Other issues which become apparent are:

  • Lighting – we don’t have any artificial lighting which has meant that unless a room is particularly well lit, footage can be gloomy. Recently I was using two desk lamps to help brighten a dull room (with limited success)
  • Audio – with only one clip microphone, true conversations can’t really happen. Recent films have had to have staged conversations, which is a particular problem when you only have one camera! Checking things sound ok is also a problem – when you have to (ideally) get the footage off the camera an onto a computer to check.
  • Space – office space is limited, and the main office isn’t ideal when there are numerous people working nearby. Quiet rooms are darker, and also much smaller – which means there physically isn’t enough space to get a good angle
  • Media Savvy – there are numerous very experienced researchers within CCRI, who have presented in front of hundreds of people, at important events. However, when they are in close proximity to a video camera, they go to pieces! How comfortable someone is in front of the camera is very varied – and how well they come across equally so. Speaking for myself, I do not enjoy it, and stumble on words – requiring numerous re-takes (a nuisance when you are the cameraman too!) Others are much more adept. This clearly impacts on how long things take.
  • Other Issues – using large photocopied pieces of paper as an autocue…people walking into the office/studio…people not standing where they should for the best shot…people not leaving sufficient pauses which enable smooth editing.

All of the above aren’t meant to sound like excuses – rather they are things which have become apparent of late! I know what is ‘needed’ to create a film that looks reasonably professional – look at the ‘Winter School’ film from last year, however not all films have been as good. I hope that people don’t judge the CCRI on the quality of our YouTube channel, as they will improve! The CCRI should be judged on the recent REF results which classified 71% of CCRI’s submission as ‘Internationally Excellent’ or ‘World Leading’.