Environmental video storytelling is an area of great importance when it comes to subject matters that involve our plant, our future and our communities. In this blog we’re going to look at a project that aims to help bring kelp forests back to Sussex Bay which makes up the area of coast between Selsey and Eastbourne in the UK.
Sussex kelp, once a flourishing and vital part of the marine ecosystem, has endured a series of devastating blows. Ravaged by bottom trawlers and battered by a powerful storm, its decline seemed irreversible. Despite a near shore trawling ban implemented to halt the decline, the kelp’s baseline has continued to drop over the past two years, highlighting the urgency of the situation.
Kelp’s importance stretches beyond the boundaries of Sussex Bay. As an exceptional carbon sequester, kelp has the potential to play a crucial role in the future of our planet’s climate. Kelp also provides nourishment, refuge, breeding grounds, and protection for thousands of marine species. Shockingly, the vast expanse of 300 square kilometres of kelp has dwindled to mere pockets of its former self.
Environmental storytelling – The Narrative
Marianne Glascott is a PhD student at the University of Sussex where she is researching the impact of particulate matter on kelp in Sussex Bay. This research aims to help understand one of the many strands that could be preventing the kelp from recovering. Particulate matter are microscopic solids and liquid droplets that are found across all the seas and oceans. As Sussex Bay kelp is coastal it is thought that the rivers flowing into the bay are transporting large numbers of particulate matter that settle on the kelp and seabed and have an adverse affect on the marine ecosystem. This particulate matter can be made up of a number of things, including but not limited to, farm chemicals, surface run-off and sewage.
Marianne approached us to be her video content provider for the duration of her PhD as she felt it was important to spread this important message as the kelp issues off Sussex’s shores are little known to your average bystander but could have a huge impact on the area if the forests can be restored.
Sussex Bay Sediment Research – Recovering Our Lost Kelp Forest
Environmental Video Storytelling
We wanted the environmental video storytelling to be honest and authentic as it’s the best way to get an audience to understand and agree with the work that you’re proposing and ultimately to get them to support you. To achieve this we wanted the message to come directly from Marianne as opposed to a voiceover. We settled on an interview format in a place that she felt comfortable and reinforced the story. We spent a large amount of time on pre-production as this would ensure that the production and post-production would run smoothly. During this time we worked extensively on the script. Usually for an interview we would only prepare questions but as so much specific information needed to be included in a short time we thought it best to develop the answers a little more than we would usually. We also worked out the best locations for b-roll. This included an extensive plan for drone take-off and landing sites across both East and West Sussex and a risk assessment for some underwater filming at Lulworth Cove.
Once a plan was in place we kept an eye on the weather and tides and when timings allowed we travelled down to West Wittering beach early one morning to be setup and ready to film the interview whilst the morning light had a nice warm tone to it. We ran through the interview a number of times until we felt we had enough coverage of each section. We had to also ensure that it didn’t take too long as the light would change quite quickly at that time of day. We opted for the early morning because the light looks much nicer. Once the sun gets high in the sky it becomes very harsh which isn’t ideal and also the beach would get busier.
Once we had the interview in the can we could then focus on capturing all of the b-roll to help illustrate the story and add further texture. We broke this up into two parts, part one was to travel to Lulworth Cove to capture some in-water content with Marianne and also some shots of what mature kelps look like. Lulworth Cove is the nearest and safest place to us in Sussex where there are well established kelp forests, something that Sussex Bay should be full of! We arrived bright and early ready for a day in the sea. Our first task was to get all the underwater camera gear setup which was then swiftly followed by a recce. As with these types of things, a certain amount of luck is needed and it wasn’t our day as there was an unexpected algae bloom in full flow. However, it didn’t stop us making the most of the day as we still managed to capture enough usable content to make the trip worth it. We filmed Marianne snorkelling and studying some of the kelps, we captured some shots of mature plants and some beautiful landscape shots.
The remaining two days of the shot were reserved for drone filming spanning the coast from Selsey to Eastbourne, the extent of Sussex bay. The key objective was to capture each of the three main rivers that flow into Sussex Bay, these included the River Arun at Littlehampton, the River Adur at Shoreham, the River Ouse at Newhaven and the River Cuckmere at Litlington and Cuckmere Haven. We also captured shots of Bognor Rocks, the Seven Sisters, Beachy Head and the lighthouse, as well as Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve as these key landmarks would help to locate and ground the narrative. We had great weather for each of the days and captured a wide variety of sweeping landscape and seascapes, fly-overs and top-down views to show sediment flows.
Once we had captured all the content it was time to power up the edit suite and start piecing together the story. This were the story really starts to come to life because all the assets are combined to work harmoniously together and we can edit the interview in such a way that it tells an authentic and heartfelt narrative whilst still remaining snappy and to the point.
Combining the best of the b-roll, carefully selected music, various editing techniques and hard-hitting quotes we were able to enhance the interview narrative and create a well-rounded, educational and authentic story that was well received by the audience.
The visual element of environmental video storytelling is clearly very important but one area that many people don’t consider is the music. Music is an incredibly emotive medium and it carries a huge weight when it comes to being used as a soundtrack. With this in mind it was very important for us to select the tracks carefully as they had the power to make or break the film. We trawled through many music libraries and tries 10’s of tracks before settling on the ones we chose. The search can take quite a long time because you need to find tracks that have the right tone, pace and emotion whilst being suitable to sit under some interview audio and not distract from it or fight with it. It’s a balance which requires a lot of thought and time to achieve.
If you have an important story to tell then please reach out as we would be very keen to discuss it with you.
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