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Friday 14 April 2006

In search of cheap video lighting

I’m delighted with my Sony DCR-HC22E camcorder. But one thing that has been disappointing is its performance in low-light. It isn’t a patch on my old Canon Hi8, which can pretty much shoot anything the eye can make out and also corrects the colour well — even in street lighting at night.

For indoor shooting, I had equipped myself with several 60 watt spotlights from IKEA, which produced good results with the Canon — even for bluescreen special effects. But these aren’t enough for the Sony. The images are noisy.

So, what’s the solution for my ‘no budget’ film making?

I have a couple of Photax photographic stands and lamp holders that have provided faithful service for 25 years now. They take ordinary screwfitting domestic bulbs or photoflood bulbs (which come in 275 watt or 500 watt versions).

Trouble is, photofloods are expensive (£7 for a 500 watt bulb) and they have a short life.

An alternative is to use 200 watt domestic bulbs. Purists will point out that these change colour with age but, in practice, it isn’t a problem.

What IS a problem is that I can’t find any 200 watt bulbs in central Manchester (the third largest city in England). So I’ll probably have to order the bulbs online.

Work lights from Screwfix

An alternative is work lighting. Screwfix do two 500W tungsten halogen lamps, on a 1.8m telescopic tripod stand, with a 4.5m cable — for just £16.99 and replacement bulbs cost just 76p. You can imagine how much a ‘special video lighting’ version of this set-up would cost from a photo shop!

The lights will work great if bounced from a white wall or ceiling, or shone through some kind of diffuser. So I may order this too.


Filed under: Manchester,Net & technology,Video-making — GS @ 7:56 am
Wednesday 1 March 2006

Manchester Pride 2004 – just 34.5% of Operation Fundraiser ticket money went to good causes

Today I received some official figures for Manchester Pride 2004 via my Member of Parliament. They appear to show that only about 34.5% of Operation Fundraiser ticket money from the event went to good causes. The rest was spent on costs. So far I have been unable to get figures for collection bucket money. I don’t know where that is included.

Currently the Operation Fundraiser website states:

‘Once again in 2005/06 50% of the money raised by Operation Fundraiser at Manchester Pride will go directly to Community Futures’

From the figures that I have seen for the years 2003 and 2004, and the information I have now received from Manchester Pride, that statement from Operation Fundraiser appears to be untrue. I don’t see how they can say 50%.

If you’re wondering why I had to involve my MP. The answer is because Operation Fundraiser will not give me information.

In 2004, Operation Fundraiser collected £331,192 from ticket sales at Manchester Pride. They handed over 50% of that money to Manchester Pride to cover the cost of running the event. Leaving £165,596.

Operation Fundraiser Annual Report 2004-2005 - no mention of a ££165,596 that was handed over to Manchester Pride towards running costs

Operation Fundraiser’s ‘Annual Report’ leaflet, which they distributed last August, was misleading. In it they add together the £165,596 ‘net proceeds’ Pride figure and a £43,812 figure (for other non-pride fundraising and donations). Giving a ‘total income’ of £209,408.

Then they deduct their own costs of £79,982. Leaving just £129,426 for good causes in 2004.

The true costs in 2004 were £165,596 handed over to Manchester Pride. Plus £79,982 of Operation Fundraiser’s own costs. Total costs: £245,578.

Therefore we can say that out of ticket sales and non-pride year-round fundraising (£331,192 + £43,812), Operation Fundraiser spent 65.5% (£165,596 + £79,982) on costs and only 34.5% (£129,426) went to good causes.

I don’t know where collection bucket money is in all of this.

In the Operation Fundraiser ‘Annual Report’ 2004 leaflet, they don’t mention the £165,596 that was handed over to Manchester Pride. By doing so, they give the public a false impression of what percentage of income goes to good causes. They make the situation appear much better than it really is.

Interesting to note that, although Operation Fundraiser handed over less to cover the running costs of the event in 2004 than it did in 2003 (£200,000 in 2003 and £165,596 in 2004), Operation Fundraiser’s own costs in 2004 are some £20,000 more than the previous year (£59,520 in 2003 and £79,982 in 2004). A 33% increase in running costs in one year. Why?

Which leaves a final figure for good causes in 2004 that is just £1,736 more than the previous year. Quite a coincidence… Sometimes it feels as if there is a ‘glass ceiling’ on the amount that is allowed to go to good causes each year.


Filed under: LGBT,Manchester — GS @ 4:41 pm
Saturday 11 February 2006

Profits fall in Manchester’s gay village

This morning, both The Independent and The Times have stories about profits being down in Manchester’s gay village. Income has fallen by 20-25% they say.

This is not a surprise to me. Recently I found figures that suggest, since they began charging for entry, attendance at Manchester Pride has fallen to one quarter of what it was in 2002. And contrary to the ‘best-ever event’ hype that we see in the media each year afterwards.

Aw what a shame. Now, after ten years during which time the businesses abandoned their traditional loyal customer base in search of the biggest possible profits, finally the chickens are coming home to roost.

Neither article mentions that gay bars and clubs used to be a safe space that could be enjoyed by gay men and women of all ages. The pubs may have had curtains at the windows but, once inside, they were friendly and rather civilised. You never saw a fight and it was rare to see anyone really drunk and misbehaving.

Anyway, the ‘gay village’ has always been a commercial manufactured thing. Years ago, the bars and clubs were spread across the city centre — from Deansgate and Spring Gardens to Sackville Street. Despite what it says in The Independent, there were no gay bars actually on Canal Street until the early 1990’s (the entrance to the Rembrandt is on Sackville Street and the New Union is on Princess Street).

These days the area is threatening, unpleasant, cynical and aimed exclusively at the 18-30 age group who have a high disposable income and drink a lot. Everyone else has been driven out. There is no ‘community’ anymore and they should stop pretending this now-awful area is anything of the sort.

Even the bricks and mortar have been destroyed in the quest for profit. Old shop fronts have been ripped out to make way for takeaways or bigger bars, stonework has been removed from the front of the old warehouse buildings and the original cobbles are long gone. Controversial and tacky waste-of-money memorials have been put up in Sackville Park, when the cost could have been better spent actually helping people.

It’s not just the fact that we are now more-accepted at other places around Manchester and have other ways to meet people — such as the Internet. It is that we don’t like what the so-called gay village has been turned into by money-grabbing businesses and Manchester City Council.

Now The Rembrandt (which used to be a men-only bar) is to take the drastic step of banning hen parties. Unfortunately, the time to do that was ten years ago. Not now, just because your profits are down.

So what is the future? I think the outlook is bleak for the businesses down there. Gay men and women are going to continue voting with their feet and the over-30’s who, in the past, would have been customers for life, won’t ever return. As the area becomes increasingly ‘less gay’, there won’t be the novelty value, so the ‘non-gay’ customers won’t bother with that part of town anymore.


Filed under: LGBT,Manchester — GS @ 9:25 am
 
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