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Ahead of First Light going offline at midnight on 7 August, we had a chat with the Director Richard Watson to hear about his experiences first hand

“Working with Scottish Ensemble has been not only a fun experience, but It has also given me the opportunity to experiment and develop my craft.

“With any project, it’s always my ambition to inject a fresh perspective into a ubiquitous narrative or brief. Whilst I am quite comfortable deploying this strategy with my regular day to day projects – which is often in the commercial realm or individual music acts – Scottish Ensemble have given me the opportunity to do this on a larger scale, harnessing a huge variety of talent. The biggest challenge is containing all of these ambitious ideas to fit them within the budget, managing expectations whilst optimising the production within those limitations.

“The aim was to create a look and feel that reinforces the theme of the music, holding this in mind on the shoot day to ensure we capture as many unique and intimate visuals that would furnish the edit. It’s important to capture perspectives that the audience would never see from their seats. Concerts by Candlelight was a great project to be involved in to begin with, as it was a more traditional set up; classical musicians in a church and as many candles and mirrors as the budget would allow. The Ensemble musical director; Jonathan Morton helped me to visually interpret the repertoire, recommending video split screens and graphical scores which were very effective in challenging the way the audience interacts with the programme

“For First Light, the theme lent itself to a more imaginative visual response. We wanted to create a setting where the repertoire could be reflected visually to help distinguish the tone of each piece. This led us to the idea of projecting colourful visuals that fit the theme in a space that acted as a sort of blank canvas. The industrial setting seemed like a great option as it provided a large wall for projections and also being a house of creation itself was fitting to the theme of first light. Max was inspiring to work with, he really had a passion for creating a rich visual language for the film and even shared some interesting content to incorporate into the projection reel including a transfixing clip of an octopus that he had filmed himself. I expanded on this by using content from my archives. I even filmed some experimental footage to complement the octopus footage which involved taking my camera and a glass fish tank to the beach and semi-submerging the camera inside the tank to film some underwater foliage – experimentation I never expected this type of project would facilitate! This material was then composited together to create some other-worldly, colourful imagery that we used for the projections and a lot of the transition imagery between tracks.

“One of the biggest obstacles for us was not being able to capture intimate closeups of the players. Since we need to have a wide angled shot of the whole ensemble playing, our camera operators are limited to how close they can get without being in shot. This became more challenging because the ensemble were more widely dispersed to meet COVID guidelines. Because of this, we used the rehearsal day to capture close-ups of the players. The only tricky part about this is that it can be pretty time consuming sourcing and syncing each close-up shot into the main performance film where the audio doesn’t align. In a lot of cases the close-ups used are from another piece altogether. The finer close-ups really contribute to a more rich visual texture though, so it was certainly worth the effort. We hired a probe lens that allowed us to capture unfamiliarly close perspectives of the instruments. It’s a lot of fun capturing unique perspectives and I really enjoy the challenges of finding new ways to capture the ensemble. It’s a privilege to work alongside such talented people, when the excitement and energy is palpable in real life, it easily translates to film.”

Thanks to Richard Watson from Flux Video for this great insight and a fantastic final film!