If your wanting to to film or photograph Otters, you could find this article very useful.
When I set out to film otters I reached out to professionals in the industry known for Otter filming. This was to no avail, and I decided to learn by doing. I love filming wildlife and think that everybody should have access to filming animals as long as it's done responsibly - e.g not getting too close, putting the shot before the welfare of the animal, not scaring the animal etc.
These are the films I have made about Otters:
Other useful films to watch for inspiration.
A Ring of Bright Water
A Man, (Graham) buys an Otter who he names Mitch. Graham tries to raise the otter in the city, attempting to live with the otter in his house, which gets quite comical. Graham decides to leave his home and live in Scotland. Once in Scotland, he lets Mitch live in the wild and develops a love for nature. After witnessing a mother of 4 ducklings being killed, Graham takes them in to live with him and claims they are part of his family now. He goes to the local doctor, Mary for a check up of sorts and a love relationship develops.
Mitch at one point, leaves the safety of home and does not return for some time. Graham searches an island and to no avail, later he finds Mitch washed up on shore who appears dead. During the time Mitch was missing, the otter was spending the time with a another female otter.
Towards the end of the film Graham starts to sketch his Otter ‘Mitch’ on land, but soon realises how magical and perfect the otter looks when underwater. He build a water tank for Mitch to sketch him underwater. After leaving for a business trip, and returning, he finds his otter has been killed by a local farmer. Graham goes for a walk along the beach with his new female freind and come across otter puppies being looked after by their mother. It is soon apparent that these pups were Mitch’s. A quaint film of it's time.
When to FiLM
Otters are most active at dawn and dusk.
They spot movement quite well on the horizon. If an Otter raises it's head from the water, I would freeze until it dives back down. This is where smaller crews benefit, as it's less of a risk of being spotted by the Otter. Some Otters can be brazen and used to a human presence and you can get away with more mistakes than the more wild and elusive Otters.
Dawn and Dusk works out well for beauty shots (golden hour). If the sun is rising, you should be out ready to film them. When the sun is setting they will also be active.
Otters when teaching their young remain in the same location longer than if hunting .
Where to find otters is the hardest part.
The locations I have found otters are along the north west coast of Scotland. Just north of Oban along the coast. Coastal otters like the mix of fresh water and sea water. They get a good source of fish, although prefer to live around fresh water. I have also seen a family of three otters in Dorset along the Stour river. I am planning to return with a photographer friend and get some footage of them throughout 2017 (time allowing).
Get a long lens that's above 200mm (minimum), a solid tripod with a nice fluid head and a 4k camera if possible. I use a Sony FS7 4k camera, Sachter Tripod with FSB8T head, 100-400mm lens. I film in 3840x2160 (UHD) and then edit the footage in a 1080p sequence. This allows me to zoom in by x2 if I need to for closer shots.
To supplement the footage you could always invest in timelapse kit, a camera slider and aerial drone technology.
I would suggest staying somewhere with a mains power supply to charge up batteries and get a good nights sleep. It's always nice to cook food in a well equipped kitchen and store your camera kit in a safe place.
Think about how much kit you are taking, and the amount of people going with you. Then factor in if you will need a 4x4 vehicle if your going to remote locations with difficult access, or if you can get away with a normal car.
Food and Drink
Make sure you take a thermos for hot drinks to help those early morning starts and evening finishes. Snacks are always a good idea to keep you fuelled whilst your waiting patiently for those elusive animals.
Good ankle support boots, thick jumper, tough trousers, waterproof jacket and trousers, midge nets, thick socks, gloves and a warm hat.
Exclusive or Archive
There are different trains of thought on what to do with you footage once you have filmed it.
You can either keep it and make a video for yourself and keep the rights exclusive.
Some cameramen sell the footage on archive sites like; Shutterstock, Getty and Video Hive.
It doesn't really matter what editing software you use. I have FCP7, FCPX and Adobe Premiere Pro CC. I tend to use Adobe Premiere Pro as I prefer the quality of the exports.
I hope you found this information useful and I will add to this when time allows.
Aviva Women's Tour 2016
During the Avivia Women's Tour, I was asked to make a series of videos for Wiggle High5. Instead of filming absolutely everything and then be rushed off my feet trying to edit a story together, I decided on a different strategy.
When filming drama, filmmakers tend to have maximum flexibility. With more time and a greater ability to control the environment, it's normal to draw a storyboard down on paper. This allows each shot and scene to be methodically thought out and planned, even down to what f. stop the lens will be on. For observational documentary work, this advantage is taken away. The videos that tend to stand out to me are the ones that have experience behind the lens. Understanding the subject area is just as important as having a creative and focused mind.
My method was to work on a simple structure of using an interview to guide the narrative forwards. The voice of the interview will carry the flow forwards, whilst the visuals aid to tell the events of the day.
Using music that drives the story forwards, helps keep the viewer captivated. I would have loved to just capture diagetic sound and edit in minimalist music style, but with a fast turnaround on each day and with no sound recordist this wasn't possible.
Each video is designed to promote the Wiggle High5 brand through the cyclists, but I especially wanted to reveal a little more about each person when they are off the bike.
A very challenging shoot, with filming throughout the day, editing in the evenings and uploaded ready to release the following morning. These videos were made one day to the next. My wrists were sore from carrying around camera gear so much, although the results are satisfying enough to make the pain worthwhile.
This information is designed to outline the specifications required for ‘Out-of-Home’ filming, also known as ‘OOH’ advertising. One of the requests I had whilst working for Chinese owned company - 'Vertu', was to make a film for their 2016 international brand campaign. The destination countries include; London, China, Dubai, Moscow and Australia. A full list of boutiques can be found here (Vertu Store Locator)
When searching the Internet for the specifications required for OOH Filming and output there was a real lack of information. Therefore after successfully delivering the OOH video for Vertu, I am sharing my knowledge.
The Final Film
I am restricted to post the video content here as it is only designed for OOH usage and not online as of yet. You can watch the final film by walking into any Vertu Boutique around the world and looking at the screens there. For those living in London, UK you can view it in Harrods.
Going into the shoot I had a very specific shot list sequence I wanted to get. I started with setting up the camera to a custom film Picture Style on the Canon 5DMKIII as follows:
There are various types of hard drives out on the market. The question is which one is the best to get and what size?
The Lacie Rugged Hard-Drives are my go to storage device in almost every situation that requires on-location editing.
My Entry into Wildlife
Animals can be misunderstood by people, and overpopulation is putting more pressure on our native wildlife. The media is a powerful tool that sheds light on the impact humans are having on the animal kingdom. My secondary school, (at the time) showed a video about the impact of global warming on our climate. The video made me understand how damaging our ozone layer will reduce the 'sun screen' effect which protects us from the suns radiation.
I suggest heading to this website for a couple of minutes and see how global warming is effecting wildlife.
Levels are lowering and animal deaths are rising. I recently read an article in the news about dead whales washing up ashore on beaches, it's a problem that will continue to grow as global population increases.
Sony Power vs Blackmagic
Comparing 4K Cameras
Many of you probably have sifted through the wealth of comparisons out there. There are technical comparison blogs, pricing considerations and visual results.
My goal was to film a few animals at the wildlife park that were not fact heavy. I spent 2 days with a team of university students fuelled with warm cups of tea and cold weather clothing. Each animal is introduced by a presenter to give the video a personal feel.
About the Park
After speaking with the owner about access to the animals, I was able to arrange two full days of filming at the park.
Pro Cycling Filmmaking