Black by Day & Red by Night

Client: The Black Country Living Museum

Nominated in the 'Best Factual Programme' category

Royal Television Society Midlands Centre Awards

Sector: Leisure & Tourism / Heritage

The Black Country Living Museum is an open air living history museum located just outside of Birmingham. The museum needed an engaging and eye-catching introductory film, which would give visitors of all ages an overview of the history of the region. 

Starting with historic descriptions of the Black Country, we worked closely with the museum curators to develop a script and outline for the film. We contacted various local history archives and reviewed over a thousand images in the search for visual inspiration.

This 35mm film reel, over a century old, was digitzed and used in the final film.

Of particular interest was a canister of 35mm film that was found un-opened in the BCLM archives. We arranged for this canister to be opened, reviewed and then digitised. We were delighted to find that the cannister contained over 30 minutes of footage of the Black Country dating from 1912 – 1919. It was in near-perfect condition and had remained unseen for almost a century. The footage featured a range of scenes of the region and gave us some fantastic landscape shots and short clips of workers leaving a factory. As you can imagine, wherever we could we used relevant sections of this incredible footage in the final film.

Filming took place over a number of visits to the museum in late January and early February 2015. We had a rough storyboard planned out but we wanted the footage to feel as real as possible, so wherever we could we treated it like a documentary shoot. We toured the museum, talking directly to the living history guides and filmed their demonstrations in action.

In order to achieve an authentic period look, we heavily de-saturated the footage and almost exclusively shot with natural light. This helped to accentuate the contrast between the heavy, smoke-filled skies and the fiery orange glow of the furnaces. 

Slow motion was used to great effect during filming. Using a special camera, we shot at 100 frames-per-second which allowed us to slow the footage down to 25% of real-time. This was particularly effective when shooting sparks, fire and smoke - giving a highly cinematic effect.

The personality of the Black Country had to be at the heart of the film, and we knew the voice over narration was key to this. Rather than trying to find a narrator that could do a Black Country accent, we instead found the authentic accent and personality first. After holding a series of open auditions we were thrilled to find John Homer (one of the Museum’s volunteers) who was perfect for the role. Having lived in the Black Country all his life, John was able to provide us with an authentic and highly engaging voice over.

Editing was completed in around two weeks. We created a CGI ‘blackboard map’ of the region to help give visitors a rough understanding of the geography and added a 3D effect to some of the photos we found in the archive. Some of the shots (Newcomen Engine exteriors, wides of the Canal Basin) were shot on bright sunny days with beautiful blue skies. This didn’t fit our theme of ‘Black by Day’, so we used special-effects software to replace the sky and add-in plumes of smog and smoke.

There has been a hugely positive response to the new film. It was launched at a special event in April 2015, and is now being shown on loop in the museum's brand new ‘cinema pod’. In September 2015 the film was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award in the 'Best Factual Programme' category. With hundreds of viewers each day, the film has received great praise from visitors, staff and historians and we here at IDM Media were thrilled to work on such a fascinating project.

The Black by Day and Red by Night film is the focal point of the Museum’s new entrance display. We’re absolutely delighted with the job that IDM did on producing the video and it’s clearly been a hit with the thousands of visitors who have watched it this year.
— Black Country Living Museum

In addition to delivering the main film, we also re-cut a short trailer to promote the Museum. This was a fantastic and inexpensive way to re-use some of the footage we shot, and delivered further value to the client:

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