We have plenty of hummingbirds visiting our back yard. They may look different depending on the angle the light hits their feathers but up until recently I had thought that they were all the same species – the Anna’s hummingbird. Then we got a visitor that seemed different. First, instead of having a grey look to the feathers, it was a lot more brown. The other difference was the sound of the wingbeats. Instead of the whirring noise we were used to, this one had a higher pitched sound almost like a click as the wings were hitting each other. It sounded quite distinctive. I trip to my big book of birds suggests that these may be Rufous hummingbirds. For the birders amongst you, I hope you will advise if I am mistaken.
The house at Bloedel Reserve sits up on the hill with the grounds landscaped to provide an unobstructed view down to the sound below. You can imagine the tranquility of sitting on the terrace in the evening, sipping a cocktail and looking out at the water. Unfortunately, at the time of our visit, a large barge was moored a short distance out in the water. I’m sure the view is beautiful but, with a barge plonked in the middle of things, somehow the delightful nature of the scene is a little compromised!
While I have experimented with video a fair bit over time, one thing I haven’t done is put together a video with a presenter in it. My mum was recently staying and she had an idea for something she wanted to do that involved her doing a presentation on video that could be shared at a later date. My own experience and some information I had seen online made me think that the key to getting a good result was not going to be the video but was instead the sound. The microphone on the camera is of okay quality but it picks up the sound of everything around it. The voice is isolated and any video online that does not take a careful approach to audio is very obvious and sounds decidedly amateurish.
The ideal solution would be to have lav mikes, the small mike you see attached to the clothing of TV presenters. These are actually pretty accessible and cheap but I didn’t have the time to sort something out. However, a surprisingly good alternative was readily to hand. I have an app on my phone for sound recording which I use when interviewing people for articles. Instead of using the plugin microphone, I used the headphone/microphone cable. By running it inside the clothing and just leaving the microphone up near my mum’s throat, we were able to make a very good sound recording. The closeness of the mike to her mouth meant the sound was very localized and clear so the background noise was lost. The room we used did not have bad echoes either so the audio ended up being pretty clear.
Then it was just a case of having a conspicuous clap on the audio track and the video file to allow me to synch the sound and audio together and we were off to the races. I shot everything with two cameras – one head on and one from the side – with the idea of cutting between them. However, when I did the first edit, the side camera didn’t seem to fit with the style of presenting to camera. I imagine it works better for an interview style piece. I reverted to the head on shot with some images cut in periodically to illustrate the piece. Overall, it worked pretty well. We did a number of takes and mum got progressively more relaxed in each one. I had thought I might cut the best bits together but the final take was really good so I didn’t need to do so. I hope her audience likes the result.
In the days before radar, there were other techniques that were used for trying to detect inbound enemy aircraft. One of them was the use of sound. Dotted along the southeast coast of the U.K. are a number of locations with devices for focusing sound. One of them is located in the hills above Hythe. This is one of the simpler forms that were used. Despite the age, the contract structure is still in good shape. With the introduction of radar, these sites were redundant but they do provide an insight into the trying of any idea to gain an advantage in another era.