Breaking down a scene: Scrapping at the Packard Plant
Video: Breaking down a scene: Scrapping at the Packard PlantSo what we're looking at right now is a bridge that's collapsed onto what used to be a city street and this happened many years ago. And the story that's told by the business just down the street, the one remaining tenant in here. Is that the owner was sitting in his office and he felt this rumbling going through the building. He thought oh this can't be good, he comes out and sees this huge cloud of dust rolling down the street. And there's scrappers and their ladders and torture equipment, and everything has fallen down right here. And these two guys limp up and walk away. And this bridge has been laying here on the street for, this has been like three or four years at least.
- Shooting a Then and Now
- Compositing a Then and Now
- Reporting with the iPhone
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Like the automotive industry, newspapers are struggling to stay healthy and relevant in a world of rapid technological advances. Part of newspapers'
success will be determined by storytellers like Brian Kaufman, a visual journalist for the Detroit Free Press. When Brian first moved to Detroit, Michigan, he visited the abandoned Packard Plant, a 40-acre complex once considered the epitome of innovation in the automotive world, but since come to represent Detroit's long fall from grace. The plant has slowly been gutted and collapsed into ruin, but to Brian, it represents a chance to re-engage the community in Detroit's rich history and create riveting visual content for the newspaper's website.
Follow along as Brian explains his process for creating long-form video features and how he uses the iPhone to capture and instantly publish breaking news in the field. We also take a look at his Then and Now comparison series, where he maps old images of the Packard Plant over new ones, which the newspaper then turns into interactive experiences for its web audience.
Breaking down a scene: Scrapping at the Packard Plant
So what we're looking at right now is a bridge that's collapsed onto what used to be a city street and this happened many years ago. And the story that's told by the business just down the street, the one remaining tenant in here. Is that the owner was sitting in his office and he felt this rumbling going through the building. He thought oh this can't be good, he comes out and sees this huge cloud of dust rolling down the street. And there's scrappers and their ladders and torture equipment, and everything has fallen down right here. And these two guys limp up and walk away. And this bridge has been laying here on the street for, this has been like three or four years at least.
Alright, so the footage that I shot, some of the footage I shot yesterday was very specific. It was for this bridge collapse. And it's going to go in the project in this area right here. And what we're doing is, we're introducing this man, and his business, chemical processing. They're the last tenant in the whole plant, and they have to deal with scrapping constantly. And so as we play this. (SOUND). Male Got pretty rough down here, I, you know, would say it's like the wild, wild west. Male The way I have set up right now is we're building a quote here, quote here,quote here and in between each of there it says narration.
And so this is where I have written narration. So after he said that quote, we hear you know, we'd introduce chemical processing and say, essentially in 2008 vibrations ran through their building. As, as scrappers cut steel from the bridge near by. And you would see footage from this bridge collapse that we shot yesterday. And so what I want to do now, is I imported the footage from yesterday, and we have a lot of clips. And we are probably not going to us all of it, so I created another sequence. Just so we can limit our footage here, and then go through and pull just a few shots here, in the original footage, (INAUDIBLE). And I would probably go through each of the shots that I shot yesterday and pick out the best.
There's one shot in particular. I've a little wire hanging down from the base of this building, it goes right here. And it was just kind of a last piece of metal hanging off the building. Nice, like that. And so, once I pull all of my favorite shots from this scene. I would essentially take these shots, and I would copy them from this sequence over into our working sequence here.
And the step of this process that isn't done right now is the recording of this narration. But you can imagine. Male That pretty rough ,down here, I'd, you know, would say it's kind of like the wild, wild West. Male What you hear right now is chemical processing has outlasted all other tenants. They now fend for themselves as the only business left. In 2008 vibrations ran through the roof as scrappers cut steel from a bridge nearby. And you cut back to interview quote from our subject.
Male First thing I thought was, oh, this can't be good. This can't be good at all. Male And you build the story like that. Now there's a lot of fine tuning that has to take place obviously. There might be music under this. A lot of fine tuning adjustments but we're not really at that point yet for the edit. Scripting for me has become really important especially for long form stories. I don't know how you could operate without having a written script. because you have so much footage and when you start laying it out on timeline, it's very easy to get, kind of lose your path through the footage.
And so I take all of the sound bytes that I think are important to the story and I transcribe all of it on to paper. And then I use, I basically build the story through paper. And so the last thing I'm doing is, is looking at all the footage in depth and imagining what shot I want where. The first step of this process is really to think about the audio that goes with this story. Your story comes through the audio, the quotes that people give you, the narration you use, and some of the natural sound and music. This guys quotes, there's three of them in the scraping section. here's our scraping section.
His quotes appear down here, between each of them, highlighted by yellow you see the narration that I wrote for each of those, those gaps. And so the film is essentially laid out on paper first. And that makes it very easy that I go in, and when you start editing, just follow your paper and lay it out as a story. The last part of the process is actually laying the B-roll footage on top. It seems like the most interesting part, and it is the most fun part of editing in a lot of ways, but it's literally the last step of the whole process. Scrapping has obviously played a huge role in, in the visual look of the Packard plant.
And so within the broader film, we can see here by our grain tabs, scrapping falls about a little more than a third of the way thorugh the film. What we've got is we've already worked through the history. We heard about the techno that happened there, and the parties in the 90s. And then we've, we've learned a lot about what happened in the 90's in terms of litigation and ownership. Which has led to a lot of this scrapping, within the scrapping chapter itself, we have multiple characters who have metal along the way. some of them who have, have no problem being on camera. And some of them who requested, like this guy did, that we blur his face, and disguise his appearance.
And so some people are very aware of what they're doing in there. It is illegal, you do have to be careful because a lot of people don't want to be on film, and a lot people can probably be pretty hostile about it. And so I was worried for a long time that the only shots I was going to have were very long shots of scrappers working off in the distance. I met this particular gentleman, I was walking through the plant by myself one day on a Saturday. And I heard some saw action, and I looked through the window. He must have heard me and looked through the other window at the same time, we made eye contact. He said are you a cop, I said no, I'm not a cop.
And I explained who I was and (UNKNOWN) this larger film and he said yeah, okay come over, you can film me. I don't want to be shown, please hide my identity. And so, that's how it started and I just told him, look do your thing, I don't want to bug you. Just work and I'll shoot around you. And the idea, again, is to kind of be documentary. You don't want to be in this guy's way. You just want to let him work and show what his life is like. This is how people work. They bring ladders, saws, most people have torches.
And they're working really hard pulling down all this steel. (NOISE). Male There's gold in these (INAUDIBLE). Male The thing that makes great documentaries or any documentary is having great characters. Even for something as mundane as the history section, finding people who used to work there, let's see if I can find them.
You know elderly ladies, and older guys who work there who have great voices and great memories. And just telling you very rich stories about what it was like to work there. What you're looking for is not necessarily, okay, what do you do and how do you do it. We know that they probably work either on a line or, or in the office somewhere, that's not important. But really getting the personal stories that come across. And, so these ladies here, you know, it wasn't so much about what they did as their experiences and their plan. (SOUND). Female Oh, it was not hard.
No, we didn't think it was hard. We were young and ambitious. Female To me, it was just, it was like a big playground. Female It was very nice. It was kind of like a family reunion. Female There was old guys floating around, you know. And then, you'd find out who was involved in that, and Female We were smoking cigarettes in those days, which we shouldn't have. But we did. Female Up against the black champ (LAUGH), everything for the war effort, (LAUGH). Male So just trying to find the personal stories, the things that connected these women to the plant war than what they did themselves is pretty important.
So, most important part of trying to construct a film is not only thinking about how you're going to start it, but also how you're going to end it. It has to end very naturally. And so, in this story, the broader story of Packard, and the continuation of Packard, it's not going to happen at the Packard plant in Detroit. That place is being torn down through scrapping and nature. And it'll probably be demolished someday. There's a group up in Shelby Township, 40 miles North of Detroit or whatever. Who run a Packard Proving Grounds and they maintain them and that's probably where the story of Packard will continue on.
And so I met this group of folks, they have an open house once or twice a year, and I went up there. And spent some time with them, walking around the proving grounds, you know people come to drive old Packards. And trying to, trying to work in this concept that as the Packard plant deteriorates. The continuation of the Packard legacy may continue through the proving grounds, and what's being done to maintain them. And so, the film will end up there. I don't have a lot o (UNKNOWN) yet, but let's see if there's anything here.
This guy says. Male As long as the people are interested in the history of the automotive industry, there'll be a place for learning here at the Packard (INAUDIBLE). we're just one more effort that's maybe a little more tangible than a book. We actually have (SOUND). Male I think this would be a great spot. He's talking about being more tangible. We actually have hes probably going to say Packards. This Packard drives by and I was going to cut to a scene of this gentleman driving a Packard and having a grand old time.
Male (LAUGH), keep them from grinding but you know you just got to find, find the your slot and slip it in, (SOUND). Male Obviously I'll have to cover some of this with extra B roll now there's a lot of junk cuts in it. Jump cut is moving from one situation to the next, where nothing's changed. (NOISE). Male Now this is the original test track, and all we have left is 400 feet of it. (SOUND). Male So, the idea is after we've watched a film about the Packard plant. And things have, you see that deterioration.
You see that it's pretty much hopeless to save the plant now. You end up here, where people are still very much in love with Packard and they're doing all they can to continue to Packard legacy. And keep the Packard tradition going that way.
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