Monday, 4 December 2017

Videoing Perfection; Harveywetdog Reviews 2017

Videoing Perfection
Oliver Townend at Land Rover Burghley
Photo ©Harveywetdog

What will you remember from 2017 in our equestrian world of alleged elitism, self interest, bullying and corruption?

For me three things stand out, one bad and two beyond good to excellent. To deal with the bad first and that has to be the Badminton Grassroots accreditation debacle. I devoted a whole blog on the topic back in May and I'm not going to waste any more vitriol on it here.

The two excellent memories I have are Oliver Townend winning at Land Rover Burghley and Charlotte Dujardin just winning! Of course everyone loves a winner but what I find inspirational is the hard work that these people put into their sport to push themselves to the top.

It was after another large dose of Dujardin magic at the Hartpury Festival of Dressage in July, complete with the infamous coffee machine incident and an emotional appearance by Valegro, that I came up with the Videoing Perfection strap-line stroke hashtag. Like a lot of things it came to me in the car on the A40 on the way to work; I like the fact that it works both ways, what I see and what I do, but I also like the fact that achieving perfection can only be an aspiration and drives me to do better - if you say you're videoing perfection then you'd better deliver it!

Here are my 2017 highlights in the search for VIDEOING PERFECTION. 

Tweseldown; my season opener of choice
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Early season - sights set on Badminton

The rule I have set myself these days is one event every two weeks. That's to ensure I can keep on top of things at home while at the same time ensuring that I don't get swamped with unprocessed video. With the early part of my season focused on the British Dressage Winter Championships and the Badminton Grass Roots competition I limited myself to trips to Tweseldown and Belton Park in the run up to  Hartpury in mid April.

Thursday at Tweseldown is my season opener of choice although the weather has been known to get in the way. I love the new course and the fact that the big boys and girls are brought out for their first play of the season and with their sights generally set on Badminton. Additionally this year I had the amusing video of William Fox-Pitt and My Lucky Day struggling the leave the start box. The video has had 114k views on Facebook and has been shared 400 times.

I was also pleased to have videoed Andrew Nicholson and Nereo preparing for Badminton.

Early April saw me on the road to Belton for the Sunday cross country. As accredited media I always feel well looked after at the Bede Events especially as they often feature commentary from the very knowledgeable Matt Ryan. Amongst the post event highlights was Devoucoux using one of my Alexander Bragg photographs after I'd pointed out that the one they'd asked for first featured a great big Voltaire advertisement hording in the background.

Photo ©Harveywetdog

Not quite what Devoucoux wanted!
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Worth Noting #1 All those stills?
I don't actually take photographs but I do take stills from the 4K videos. That means I have 24 chances every second to get the perfect shot. Often they jump out the screen at me as I'm editing the videos. While these aren't going to stand blowing up into posters they are perfectly acceptable for your social media. I'm very happy when people use my stills and links to my videos but obviously a little mention for Harveywetdog is always nice.

Winning smile; Charlotte Dujardin and Brioso II
Photo ©Harveywetdog
After Belton came the British Dressage Winter Championships at Hartpury. The three Hartpury events in my calendar are very special to me as I can really immerse myself in them. The Winter Championships in 2017 were no exception and I had a brilliant time with Winnie and her team. The highlight for me has to be the show reel with the Mozart Requiem backing together with the final prize giving featuring Charlotte Dujardin and Brioso II after winning the Albion Medium Gold Winter Championship.

The Winter Championships also gave me the chance to catch up with Florentina, a horse I really enjoy watching Charlotte ride, and a first chance to see the exuberant En Vogue, or En Vouge as he was introduced to us at Hartpury. but more of En Vogue later!    

Show Reel

Rockingham to Hartpury Festival of Dressage

After the highs of the Winter Dressage Championship came the lows of Badminton which resulted in me not being able to video the Grassroots cross country. Putting that behind me I set off for Rockingham International later on in May and covered both Saturday and Sunday. I had paid a fleeting visit to Rockingham in 2016 and wanted to cover the full course in 2017. Rockingham also gave me a chance to catch up with Nicky Hill this time riding the constantly improving Kilrodan Sailorette. Looking back through my files I clearly made up for lost time at Rockingham and produced a large number of quality stills from the two days and left a large portion of the Sunday Intermediate video untouched - that could be a project for Spring 2018! 

Nicky Hill at Rockingham
Photo ©Harveywetdog

The shot you want at Rockingham Castle
Photo ©Harveywetdog
I had planned to follow Rockingham up with Bramham. The good news (for me) was that ERM weren't covering the event, the bad news was that the broadcast rights had been sold for the main competition. I'm very grateful for the media office coming up with a working solution for me but in the end the rain on the day together with the restrictions meant it wasn't worth my while travelling all that way. Hopefully thinks will work out better in 2018.

Worth noting #2 One Million Lifetime Views
I started 2017 with the declared intention of  passing 1 Million Lifetime Views on YouTube and I achieved this target at 18:14 on 21st March! Thanks to everyone who helped me achieve this. When you're down at 80,000 views it seems an unachievable target but I'm already looking forward to 2 Million in 2018/19.

Worth noting #3 Charitable Works
My employer is very savvy when it comes to positioning their image in the community and one way I benefit from this is that they now give me days off to do "good works". In 2017 this has helped me produce videos for Cotswold RDA and to attend the Rockstar Academy organised by Jenny Olivier in aid of  MacMillan Cancer Support.


Following a mini heatwave and a short holiday in Wales in mid June it was back out on the eventing trail and a first visit to Farley Hall Horse Trials on Sunday. Farley Hall is another event that I planned to visit in 2016 but had been beaten by the weather. The course is nice and flat and cut through the hay crop with the minimum of string. The sun shone and I got some great video and I definitely plan to return to Farley Hall in 2018 to see the bigger course being jumped.

Videoing Perfection at Farley Hall
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Farley Hall was followed up with the Hartpury Festival of Dressage in blazing sunshine. I've already said how much I enjoy the Hartpury events and the Dressage Festival is no exception. For me it had everything; Charlotte Dujardin demonstrating the range of horses she is bringing on, a win for Lara Butler, the great team in the media centre, En Vogue and the coffee machine incident, Valegro saying thank you for the support over the years and of course the creation of #EventingPerfection. So many happy memories of hard work bringing reward.

En Vogue's WTF! moment
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Worth noting #4 En Vogue and The coffee machine incident  

A little bit more of the back story; En Vogue had an early time in the Elite Stallions PSG Qualifier (~8:00) and at that time it is reasonably quiet at Hartpury. The coffee outlet is a way away at the top of the bank but as he started his test the steamer was screaming away serving someone with their first drink of the day. The noise reached a crescendo as En Vogue turned towards M with the result he decided that discretion was the better part of valour and quickly turned tail towards C! once Charlotte had settled him down and continued with the test you can clearly hear "and would you like cream on the hot chocolate" from the vendor. For a minute I was worried that he might have spooked at our cameras which were positioned at M; the fact that a representative of En Vogue's owner was standing next to us probably didn't help either!

Worth noting #5 Valegro's surprise appearance
Valegro at Hartpury FOD 2017 with his BD poster again
Photo ©Harveywetdog
I had no idea when I started the week at Hartpury that I'd be seeing Valegro again. He came to Hartpury to say thank you to the venue for the support that he'd received there. The word in the media centre was that the appearance wouldn't be streamed because it was to be a private moment between Charlotte, Valegro and the Hartpury crowd and I went along with that, but when "Simply the Best" started up I just had to switch the camera on to record a little of the moment. The video is still the pinned Tweet at the top of my Twitter account.
I've already said that The Hartpury Festival of Dressage was the starting point for the Videoing Perfection hashtag and the first picture I used was taken by Charlotte Colley and featured me in the background and Charlotte Dujardin riding Hawtins San Floriana. I revised the layout for my 2018 Videoing Perfection Calendar and  this remains one of my favourite shots carrying the strap line.

Other highlights from the 2017 Hartpury Festival of Dressage include Lara Butler's successes and Spencer Wilton and Nev taking off during their Lap of Honour. I was delighted when Jen Goodman decided to use my photo as her profile picture for a while.

My Facebook Page Picture
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Neville takes off
Photo ©Harveywetdog

The Road to Burghley

I saw out July with a trip to Little Downham on the Sunday and then settled down for The Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe quickly followed by the NAF 5 Star International Hartpury Horse Trials. Both were immensely enjoyable events but a lot of work; in fact I'm still completing the videos from Gatcombe. A nice moment at Gatcombe was when the young lady behind the media desk told me how much they enjoyed the Harveywetdog videos "in the office" which was topped at Hartpury by the college using some of my video in their formal record of the event. I've decided to drop The Festival next year because of the clash with Hartpury but I've enjoyed my time there even if we do seem to get swamped by the paparazzi at times!

Royal watching at Gatcombe
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Surprise visitors at Gatcombe - Valegro and Alan
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Gemma is interviewed by An Eventful Life
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Hartpury also gave me the chance to catch up with Nicky Hill and the irrepressible MGH Bingo Boy. Nicky very kindly took time out of her busy schedule to do a course walk for me on Friday.

Nicky Hill course walk
Photo ©Harveywetdog

That Sainsbury's coat has served me well!
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Videoing Perfection at the Superflex Lake
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Nicky Hill and the brilliant Bing
Photo ©Harveywetdog
I did the best I could with the mountain of video from Gatcombe and Hartpury and then prepared for Land Rover Burghley. I'd sort of decided this would be my last year at Burghley and I wanted to do it real credit. I was already getting into the habit of recording lots of additional sound so that I could back up the slow motion and I also wanted to capture the journey and the preparation. The Cold Play song "In My Place" came up on the iPad shuffle and I decided to work with it. The 3 minute 50 second video is one of my favourites with its dash cam sections, slow motion, black and white and 21:9 widescreen format. I also saved some video back from Discovery Valley which only appears in this video.

My traditional Burghley Cross Country Video, with eventual winner Oliver Townend's triumphant salute to the crowd has been a firm favourite on You Tube. I also recorded the Press Conference but although there was a bit of controversy about some of Oliver's comments I don't think it had quite the drama of 2016 when Captain Mark Phillips had appeared genuinely upset that his course had proved so challenging in the wet.

Worth Noting #6: 21x9 Widescreen
I've fallen in love with this aspect ratio - it seems to work so well with Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. If it's a short 16x9 video clip I can generally get away with doing the conversion with Nero which has the 21x9 ratio as a standard. However I only get one chance to move the video to make the majority of the action remains in shot. For bigger pieces of work, typically the show reels, I do the conversion using Adobe Premiere Pro which takes longer but does mean I have greater flexibility to move the clips. I ration myself to how much black and white and slow motion I use but I have to say that is my favourite combination. When I'm videoing (which is 16x9) I'll zoom out on some shots so that I can be sure that it will work in 21x9. 

The Final Leg

I could have had problem with Blenheim and The LeMieux National Dressage Championships clashing as they did, but somehow with not being able to video ERM at Blenheim and not being able to video the Grand Prix at Stoneleigh it all worked out very well. I had a slight panic when I thought Nicky Hill and Bing's dressage might be on Thursday but that all worked out OK in the end. Of course Charlotte Dujardin won a hat full of National titles, British Dressage and Mount St John were very nice to me, I discovered the best way to get from Stoneleigh to Blenheim and vice versa, I got very wet on a couple of occasions and Nicky and Bing shone at Blenheim after a sticky start in the Dressage.

Rising star; Charlotte Dujardin and MSJ Freestyle
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Worth Noting #7: The Charlotte Dujardin collection
I never set out this year to video Charlotte Dujardin so much. It sort of just happened with her bringing on so many horses at the moment at events that I was attending and at a level I was allowed to video at.

The winning habit comes with hard work
Charlotte Dujardin and MSJ Freestyle at Stoneleigh
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Slightly disappointing was not being able to record Lara Butler's test on Saturday, Lara is a rider I've followed for some time and clearly someone who deserves all the success she is now enjoying. On a more positive note I was delighted to be asked to provide video for a Saracen Horse Feeds Promo which hopefully I'll be seeing on the circuit next year.

Happy Champions; Lara Butler and Rubin Al Asad
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Worth Noting #8: A famous Lara?
For reasons we don't have to go into earlier in the year we had a visit from a Billy Butler to Hillside House. I was more than intrigued when the white van turned up with a canoe on the top especially when Billy stepped out, very politely said hello and introduced us to his wife Lara. It's quite unnerving when the person who you're used to seeing through a view finder and sitting on top of a horse is standing there in front of you on your drive. The best I could come up with was "Aren't you a famous Lara?" 

For my final two events of the year I chose the Bede Events at Osberton and Oasby. Thank goodness the A46 east of Leicester is such a good road. These were new events for me and a couple more courses I can tick off my list. And it was lovely to meet Fizz Bolton at Oasby; Fizz was one of the first people to like Harveywetdog on Facebook so it was great that our paths finally crossed. As a slight diversion I took time out to video the Heavy Horses at Osberton. The four cross country videos are quite long as I continue to pack in more and more slow motion sections.

Worth Noting #9; the most difficult volunteering job in eventing?
The car park entrance/exit as Osberton goes across the 2 Star track with horses coming in two directions, either suddenly appearing out of the woods or coming round a blind bend. Stewarding traffic in two directions and horses in two directions definitely calls for a steady nerve. There seemed to be a few close shaves but well done whoever was in charge!

Loved the definition in this photo of Heidi Coy at Oasby
Photo ©Harveywetdog

Looking Ahead

Since the season finished I've been busy tidying up the video I haven't used yet and making plans for 2018. My aim for 2018 is to travel less, keep to one event every two weeks and to see if I can get to some new venues. In order to achieve this I've changed the "rhythm" of my year which has meant dropping Burghley and Blenheim which is a shame but it's also good to move on. I've had a couple of requests to cover events, which is nice, and I've just got to see how I can fit them into my schedule. I still have to produce my thank you video for 2018 and I've already started my run down of the top 20 Harveywetdog videos of 2017.

I've been asked to explain exactly what my Modus Operandi is when it comes to events and I think it was good to spell that out in order to explain to people what it is I do. I added the MO to an earlier blog when I set out my plans for 2018. On a technology front I plan to buy a new camera and a new Laptop, hopefully one with more processing power which can render the 4K video more speedily, and I will look for ways to reduce the wind noise on the video because more than anything that really annoys me!

Thank you all very much for your continued support of Harveywetdog either on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. Remember to watch like share and I will continue to strive for videoing perfection.

Give your horses a pat from me and I hope to see you out and about in 2018.

"I hope we make it!"
I  used this photo of Charlotte Armstrong in a
photo competition for a calendar.
(I was told the theme colours were pink & grey)
We weren't chosen but I still think it's a great shot.
Photo ©Harveywetdog 


Final lovely surprise of 2017 was seeing Valegro for a third time when he made an appearance in local Market Town Newent to promote his sculpture appeal.

I was delighted to end the year with 2884 Facebook followers, 1,348 Twitter followers, 1886 YouTube Subscribers and 1,350,000 Lifetime views on YouTube. Thank you to everyone who supports Harveywetdog on all these different platforms.

Suitably attired at Little Downham
Thank you for a great 2017!
Photo ©Harveywetdog

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