My third & final visit to Barrow Hospital

After looking back at the footage from my last visit and constructing my Figrig it was time to head back to Barrow Hospital to finish filming for this area. This time I did not go alone and took at crew of two others to help out. This was because I planned to film the scene of the “being” jumping out of the 3rd story window for the ending of my production.

On this trip I managed to explore more of the hospital, covering these extra buildings:

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To film the scene where the camera jumps to its potential death I attached 3 pieces of 15 metre camping rope to the Figrig. 15 metre’s seemed like a good choices, yet I didn’t really think about of much string this actually is, which turned out to produce quite a few tangled problems. The reason for using 3 pieces of rope was because the Figrig had 3 handles which allowed me to attach them to. How did i go about attaching them, simply tying a knot and using a lot of my trusty friend, Blu Tack. I also used a lot of Blu Tack to secure the frame of the Figrig in place as i didn’t want it falling apart as the rope became taught, which would cause my camera to fall to its death. Here is the modded Figrig:

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With the help of my 2 man crew I was able to get several shots of the camera falling out of a 3rd story window. I also got the rest of my filming done on site during this trip. Here is the view from the window and a few photos of the day:

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Testing the Figrig!

Before taking the Figrig out to begin filming I had to run a few tests. Seeing as the Gopro has such a wide lens of 170 degrees, I was worried that the frame of the Figrig might show up in the shot. To test this I simply took a video of the Camera in different positions on the frame, then watched back to footage to decide where best on the frame to fully secure the camera.

Another test I carried out was to make sure my hands did not get into the shot whilst holding the Figrig. This test showed that as the Gopro’s lens was positioned to the left of the camera, as seen below, my left hand was in the shot if i held the Figrig with the front grip.

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To overcome this problem, I simply only held the right hand grip at the front and placed my left hand on the back of the Figrig or lower down at the front so that it wasn’t in the shot. All in all the Figrig was worth making and the deal was even sweeter by the fact that it was easy to take apart and pop in my bag, then assemble on site.

Making my own Figrig

To help make my footage come out more smoothly I have decided to make a home made Figrig. Initially I thought of cutting out the center of a Frisbee and attaching the camera in the middle, yet this wouldn’t provide much stability. After some research I found a video on Youtube which showed how to construct a Figrig out of PVC piping. I decided that this was the best Figrig to construct as it was small, light and could be taken apart easily to fit in my bag.

Here is the video which explains how to make it:

For this I bought;

4x 1/2″ PVC pipe 6″ in length
4x 1/2″ PVC pipe 4″ in length
1x 1/2″ PVC pipe 3 3/4″ in length
1x 1/2″ PVC pipe 1 1/2″ in length
5x 1/2″ PVC T-joints
4x 1/2″ PVC 90 degree elbow joints
1x 1/2″ PVC plug

Unfortunately these items were not as cheap as the American equivalent but it was worth having that little bit extra stability when it comes to filming. Also,  I was unable to screw my Gopro into the figrig in the way that is shown in the video, as Gopro’s have different attachments and often require you to purchase more in order to adapt to most tripods and rigs. Here are the photo’s to show how I attached my Gopro and some photo’s showing the construction:

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Now, as you can see the only way I discovered to attach my Gopro with the Figrig was… Blu Tack, which is sometimes the only answer. Of course as a student I had to combine what little Blu Tack I had with even cheaper, White Tac. I did initially think of using Sugru, which is “the new self-setting rubber for fixing, modifying and improving your stuff” (https://sugru.com/), yet money did not allow it. Here is a photo of the finished, put together, sawed to size, Figrig!

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Im sure even the best movie producers have made their own botch job equipment in their time and considering it will make filming much easier it was definitely worth the effort.

Problems & Solutions – footage from first visit to Barrow Hospital

After watching back my footage from my first visit to Barrow Hospital a few slight problems where spotted. The first problem that i noticed from a few of my shots was that the red LED light which turns on when the GoPro is recording (On the front, top & back of the camera) could be seen in the reflection of some shots. So in some scenes where i looked through a window the reflection of the light could be seen and in shots done in dark areas of the buildings. Also when I went close to any surface the light could be seen.These shots obviously could not be used. Here are some stills taken from my footage to show examples of what I mean:

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As you cans see the red LED shows up in the dark and even in shots done in the light in reflective surfaces. Here is a video that shows the lights as i try and do a close up shot moving through some tape:  

To resolve this solution I simply researched the Gopro settings and managed to fully turn the LED light off. Yet, this created another problem, I was unable to tell when I had begun recording. So to overcome this I have to now double check at the front of the camera on the LCD screen to make sure the film has begun shooting, then later cut out myself checking this from each shot.

Another problem with my initial footage was that my fingers seemed to creep into the side of some shots. This was an easy mistake to make with the GoPro seeing has it is a very wide angle camera with its 170 degree view. Also, the camera is very small, so there is not much to hold onto whilst filming. Furthermore, the GoPro does not have an LCD screen to look at any playback or whilst recording, so everything is just point and click and hope for the best. Below is a still taken from my footage, it shows my foot and finger obstructing the shot.

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Another problem caused by not being able to check my footage on site and the fact of the wide angle lens is my shadow being visible in some footage. The once again takes everything away from the shot and makes them useless. Here is an example:

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On top of these problems I found that some of my footage was quite shaky, due to holding the camera in my hands and not being able to film as smoothly as i might want to. The solution for these problems involves a few extra pieces of equipment. Firstly, I have constructed a home made Figrig to prevent shaky footage and to stop my fingers from getting in any of the shots. I will explain the construction of the Figrig in the next blog post. I have also downloaded the video playback app from the Gopro website, which gives a 2 second delayed playback of what the Gopro is seeing and recording. The only problem with this is that you need an iphone to run the app, luckily I have managed to get hold of a second hand one for this. Also this requires you to connect the Gopro and the iphone with wifi, which drains the battery very fast. So, I will only be using this when I really need to make sure a shot is looking good. As for the shadows, I will just have to be extra careful when filming.

Gopro do offer a “lcd touch bacpac” which lets you do all this on your camera, though this costs an extra £79.99, so unfortunately I am not going to be able to amount the funds.

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Filming in Barrow Hospital

After a lot of research into what Bristol has to offer in the area of abandoned, derelict areas I came to a decision. My best port of call was Barrow Hospital, an abandoned mental asylum which I found to be suitable from my research into the area and discussions with Urbexers online. Here is a little info about what led to Barrow Hospital’s closure in 2006:

… a national survey of hospital cleanliness conducted in 2005 which named Barrow as the dirtiest in Britain and the collapse of part of the ceiling on top of a patient in the Leigh Unit the saw the closure plan brought forward and the last ward closed in 2006.
In 2008 permission was granted build 18 luxury homes and 405,000 sq. ft. of office space on the southern part of the site: the fate of the northern part remained undecided. Demolition began in 2009 and continued in a piecemeal fashion until 2011 when work abruptly stopped, possibly due to the discovery of bats in the site’s underground service tunnels or to an ongoing planning debate concerning road access and traffic issues.

Barrow Hospital has been close since 2006 and so has been decaying, falling apart, vandalized and graffitied on since. This has created an environment unlike many others, offering a suitable eerie, unknown, atmosphere for my production.

The hospital is located in Barrow Gurney, North Somerset, just off Long Ashton road which is a 50 minute bike ride out of Bristol from where I live.

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On my first visit to check out the area and suss it out for future filming I did not manage to find Barrow Hospital. It seems abandoned mental asylums hidden in wooden areas aren’t the easiest places to find. After another close inspection of google maps I found the exact location of Barrow Hospital and set off again. The circled area is the Barrow Hospital grounds, as you can see it is a very large site, with many buildings!

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On my second visit I managed to find a way into the grounds through a wooded path to the north. I managed to explore 2 of the buildings and get some filming done. I first explored the nurses ward, one of the biggest buildings situated at the very north of Barrow Hospital. I also explored the Mother & baby unit, just to the south of the nurses ward. This was a much smaller building. Here they are on the map:

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Here are two of the websites which I found some of the information on Barrow hospital from: http://derelictmisc.org.uk/barrow.html  and the website which provided me with these very helpful birdseye maps of the buildings:  http://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/showthread.php?t=20832#.UZD3bKLqmSp

Shot list / Storyboard?

I don’t think for my production that it is worth making a storyboard or even a shot list. I have written a rough idea of what the video will present and given the specifics of the ending. The majority of the video will just be a matter of improvisation whilst on location and trying to get as many aesthetically looking shots as possible. I am trying to create an experience through film, so i think limiting this experience to a shot list will hinder me, i will rather just go with the flow and create it as its scenery helps me to. 

I may though, make a rough shot list in post production, presenting the photographs i take on location or stills from the video. This will help to show a rough plan of how the video progresses and will be made easy to understand with the photographs to refer to.

Research on Urban exploration

I have been researching areas within Bristol to film at and found two more urban explorer websites. These are, http://www.ukurbex.com/ and http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/. I have registered to both websites and been in contact with urban explorers within Bristol. Both websites have friendly explorers who have been answering my questions and tipping me with locations which they have been to. I have been told that Barrow Hospital is a great place to start and as i understand from my research it is being demolished, so i will make it my first port of call. A photo below shows a snip it of its magnificent potential:

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Further video thoughts

I was thinking of adding another aspect into the video. This came to me when i was rethinking the bird scene. I want to incorporate subtle hints into the video, perhaps hints that don’t need to be spotted from the first watch but can add to the video if watched a second time round. I want to add bird feathers into some shots, just subtly placed in the background here and there, just to send a subconsciousness thought that the camera is a bird. This will also be great for watching it through again and seeing these clues that the camera was a bird all along.

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Name for piece

Though it is not of much importance right now i have been thinking of a name for my video. Here are some i have thought about; The speculation, To see the unknown/unseen, The unknown, Illusion, Free/Lone bird. These are all just ideas that i want to get down so i don’t forget and not exactly top on my list of important things to do for the project. The name of my piece will be shown at the end, as i do not want it to ruin the surprise of the ending.

Cliff scene ideas

I have been up to Bristol downs to try and find a safe spot to film the cliff drop. However, it seems this will be harder that anticipated, i was perhaps being a bit optimistic in the first place. Most of the cliff of the gorge is not a sheer drop, so if i was to lower a camera it would be very tricky. There is also the problem that if i lower the camera it will swing and hit into the cliff face or even worse it could detach from the mechanism i wish to make. So, if i were to use the fishing rod like contraption i spoke of i would have to dangle it very far from the cliff face in order to not hit into anything. In reality i think this is too risk and so out of the question.

Other ideas i have had include perhaps dropping it off a much lower point of the gorge attached to a parachute. Though, this again could go wrong, any wind might steer the camera off course. Another idea hit me when i noticed the rock climbers. I might be able to strap the camera to one of them, or they might be able to help me attach it to something and then i could get the shot i need. It only needs to be a short clip which will cut to black, like the shutting of eyes, then come back in near the bottom of the cliff. I will look into contacting one of the rock climbing groups. 

Otherwise, if all fails i will go to Plan B and shoot the shot along the ground as if it is looking down off a cliff. Here are some photos i took when i went up to the gorge to contemplate my options:

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In the final photo i have circled the area in which the rock climbers usually are. This is much lower down, therefore, much safer to film in. Yet, it is still high enough to make the scene powerful:

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