The University of Bristol Botanic Garden at Bracken Hill

It all started with a question from John Gorst.

In 2003 plans were being made to cover various things that could be included in a video showing events in Bristol during 2004. John had heard that the University of Bristol Botanic Garden was due to move from its present site at Bracken Hill, Leigh Woods to a new location at The Holmes in Stoke Bishop. He approached garden curator Nicholas Wray to ask if a short sequence on the move could be filmed for the video. 'Of course' said Nick, 'but I've got an even better idea!'

So began a project that involved three members of the club making at least twenty five visits to Bracken Hill over an eighteen month period to record a comprehensive tour of the garden presented by Nick, the video to be sold to raise funds for the new garden at The Holmes.

At the planning stage Nick said he did not want to work with a large unit tramping around the garden, so that is how Ron Elson, John and myself became involved as the small crew of an independent venture under the umbrella of the club.

Cameras started rolling in October 2003 and Nick chose to film in parts of the garden at various times of the year to show the plants off at their best. From cold autumn and winter to very hot spring and summer, Nick showed off the garden, explained its history and talked in detail about the plants.
He worked without a script, improvising on a theme and doing numerous takes until the words, delivery and camera moves were right.

Even though we were jumping from season to season, to provide continuity Nick wore the same clothes throughout, although if you watch the finished edit you notice that his hair varies in length.

We kept on rolling through rock features, collections of plants, rose and Chinese gardens, borders, beds and glasshouses and all the nooks and crannies that made up Bracken Hill, including the potting shed, home of the garden cat.

We even covered the garden being used for a contemporary dance event and a jazz concert.

For those of you who like statistics, sixteen mini DV tapes were used to record fourteen hours and thirteen minutes of material and from those three hundred and eleven cutaways of flowers and plants were copied to two more tapes with timecode so that they could be listed and inserted into the finished edit where required.

Nick wore a radio microphone throughout to allow freedom of movement to both presenter and camera and a home made 'jimmy jib' crane was brought in to take the camera swooping around the garden to great effect.

Filming progressed alongside editing on Adobe Premier 6.5 with a 3.06 GHz hyper threading processor and lots of RAM and a 250 Gbyte external firewire hard drive which was fitted by John for the project.
This became full and caused a few interesting technical problems! One hundred and thirty one titles of flowers and plants were created on translucent black backgrounds for 'strapping' over various close ups and thirty other still images were used in the production, as well as twenty .avi files created to form a time lapse sequence of a wild flower sward over four seasons.

The last shot in the video went in the can at Bracken Hill in March 2005 and after many, many hours of work editing by John, Nick and myself the computers internal 200 Gbyte drive was emptied and brought into play to enable the one hundred and five minute production to be taken out to a DV Cam master for duplication.

The whole project was a real collaboration and labour of love for all concerned and I am sure I can speak for the three of us behind the camera when I say it was a joy to work on such a worthwhile project with someone as knowledgeable, enthusiastic and professional as Nick Wray.

Bob Bennett - April 2005