University of Vermont

Students on the Lawn

Survey Filming, Time-Lapse Wrap-up and The Interview Process

by Daniel Hopkins '13, CEF Summer Media Intern


As the surveying process for the Comprehensive Campus Renewable Energy Feasibility Study (CCREFS) is beginning to come to an end, I spent the beginning of my week catching up with the interns on their findings.  After discussing with them about the conclusions and highlights of their surveying experience, I was able envision exactly the way I hoped my videos to come together.  I spent a morning with Ryan Darlow on UVM’s central campus where he described to me the various reasons why renewable wind technologies would not be feasible at this location.  He described his reasons for this decision as being due to the very condensed layout of buildings on UVM’s campus, low wind speeds and several obstructions.  As I began to compile footage of Ryan surveying around campus, I realized that only some of what I’d captured would be useful for voice-over footage for the video.  I decided that in order for the surveying footage to fit correctly, I must be patient and carry out the intern’s interviews first.  Since the genre of documentary and interview filmmaking is still fairly new to me, every step of this process has been a huge learning experience. 

While waiting for the first of the scheduled interviews to occur, I continued editing the final time-lapse for the Equine Center installation.  After a second round of reviews from Mieko and Michelle, and re-watching the time-lapse several times myself, I was able to add some finishing touches and more or less, call it done.  As I’ve experienced in the past with other video projects, it seems to be a very crucial step to let a fresh pair of eyes review a video in progress before making any finalizations.     

From what I thought would be a fairly simple task, the process of interviewing is actually the opposite.  The first interview conducted for this internship was with Kirk Herander of VT Solar, the company performing the Equine Center installation.  This interview proved to be a very valuable learning experience for me, and would be a tremendous help in preparing for the upcoming interviews with the rest of the interns and other key players in these projects.  The first mistake I made was not testing the clip-on external microphone which I had rented from UVM’s Media Department.  When I arrived on scene with Michelle for the interview, I was scrambling to get it to work, but had no such luck.  I continued on with the interview anyways due to time constraints.  I quickly ran into another issue.  While the answers I received from Kirk were extremely interesting, in-depth and knowledgeable, they were not what I had intended when going into the interview.  For the video at hand, I was looking for concise, succinct and to the point dialogue in which the general public would be able to understand.  Michelle and I expressed this idea to Kirk and he was very understanding.  Luckily, he is willing to do re-do the interview after I clarify and condense my question list.  This experience has taught me to be more aware of possible technical difficulties before arriving at a scene.  Also that, while envisioning what an interview is going to look and sound like is one thing, actually producing this product is a completely different story.

Using what I had learning from the first interview experience, I’ve since carried out interviews with Jack Lehreke and Rylan Darlow who are the interns working closely with CHA on the CCREFS, as well as with Josie Davis, the Associate Dean for the CALS department.  I found that using a shotgun microphone instead of a clip-on, solved my audio issues and that reviewing my interview questions more carefully will result in a much more concise and useful answer.

The past two weeks have taught me a lot about the art behind putting together a documentary film.  While learning from your mistakes is a proven way to progress at anything, catching those mistakes before they happen is a much more efficient way of making this progress!