One of my projects at the start of 2019 was preparing content to announce and celebrate the opening of pre-orders for the first Raasay Single Malt, due in 2020. Some of these attempts I detailed on the blog as I was making them up.
On Friday the 15th of February, our big announcement went live, along with a shiny new webpage featuring shots and video stills I’ve taken over the year. The big debut for me though was a one-minute video that had kept me up all night for days on end: it’s called The Story So Far.
The basic premise was to try and show the ‘journey’ of the Raasay Distillery since 2016, bringing about a sort of nostalgic feeling to highlight the achievement of what we’ve done so far and hopefully get people invested in our future whisky. The inspiration came from a couple of shots in a beautiful short film made for The Singleton 25yo release called “Drop to Drop”:
That idea of a film or footage projected onto a cask or still just sparked an idea in my head and reminded me of a project I had helped with in Kyleakin a few years ago called Travelling the Archive. The idea was to highlight old photographs taken around Kyleakin and the execution of it involved some pretty extensive projection art and lighting installations in multiple locations.
I was only able to help out for a couple of nights, but the effect of projecting onto outdoor locations and sort of matching up old photographs with the current view was very clever and stuck with me ever since. Now I didn’t have a whole team of people to help me, but probably the biggest hurdle was that I didn’t have a projector and only a five-day deadline on the entire project! I quickly jumped onto Amazon Prime and looked the cheapest somewhat-decent quality LED projector I could find, and eventually came up with this:
This Elephas projector cost about £50, which is a pretty good deal for a decent brightness, HD projection and a robust enough build quality that it could handle a few bumps as I moved it from location to location. With that ordered, I then had to cut together a film to actually project. It really amounted to creating a 25-minute long ‘highlight reel’ like I have in the past of all the best video clips of the distillery I’d taken so far, along with time lapses of the build and other TV/news reports made about the distillery. I decided not to throw them all onto the projector as separate files, as when testing this out I found some didn’t files play, some were an odd aspect ratio and some refused to even appear on the projector menu screen. With one long, uninterrupted video I knew exactly what I was going to get each time and I knew that pressing play meant not having to follow up or worry about any problems in playback once it was running and recording. Amazon Prime, as good as ever, delivered the projector within a couple of days and the shoot could begin:
It was the trusty 50mm prime lens mounted on my Sony A7III that I used for all the recording and both were, as always, flawless. The ‘fire and forget’ nature of the A7III is what endears me to it the most, and in these situations makes everything so much easier to shoot. You just know the battery is going to last all day, you know the autofocus, ISO and 4K are just going to bring out the best possible picture, and you can trust that any audio you need to record is going to come out crisp (with the right mic). The only issue can be overheating when recording in 4K, and that can limit you to the 25-minute mark of recording, but shooting in a freezing cold distillery after hours probably mitigated that problem.
In the end, I did upwards of 10 different shoots, projecting onto different surfaces for the entire 25-minute highlight reel and recording each in full 4K. For three days, I worked 9- 5, going home for some rest, back at 10PM after distilling finished and projected/recorded until about 3AM. It was an absolute nightmare, but it meant that when it came to the edit I had every shot projected in every location to play with, making the final edit a dream to do. Normally you’re trying to edit around missing and badly composed shots due to the rush of the job but with this, I was left with hundreds of beautiful shots that I can use for future projects.
I was really pleased with how this came out in the end, but I do think overall the film is a bit short. Because of the narrow production window and also trying to angle it as part-advert part-short film, I think it suffers from being slightly abrupt towards the end. However, with a bit more time and planning I do think I could make a really interesting piece out of what I have taken already and I’ll certainly be using the raw footage for future projects. You can see a slightly longer cut below, which I much prefer in terms of pacing:
If you’re interested in some other videos I’ve made, check out the Youtube channel for Raasay Distillery, or my own channel here. You can also find posts with videos on my channel under the videography category. I plan on making blog posts/portfolio posts about my favourite ones in the future.