The Solitary Rambler

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Filmed February 1994
Post-production completed May 1994
Latest revised edition 1st November 2014
Running time 55 minutes
Michael accompanies me on a walk, where I take him on a very tranquil journey in the Wye Valley . I enjoy inflicting Michael with my childhood memories and historical knowledge of the area. I also relish that I can walk the long distance easily and the fact that Michael has a hard time keeping up.....
Filmed in the Wye Valley in the county of  Monmouthshire.  Locations include  Itton Devauden St Arvans , Fedw Wood, The Cot, Tintern Cross,  Trelleck Grange , Parkhouse,  Trellech Penallt  and  Monmouth .
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Background and production details
After the recording of “ The Solitary Rambler ” finished in August 1993 Richard, Michael and myself all agreed that we would like to make more of these video projects, so I decided to give my “series” a name. “The Solitary Rambler” had been an effective title for the first film, so this was the title I decided to give to my video series, and each subsequent film would have its own individual title.

The next stage was to create a title sequence for the series, which was relatively easy as I simply I selected various scenes from the first film for this sequence.

My main task was to compose a piece of music that I would use as the main theme for my series. In my younger days I created a tune, which I entitled "The Bionic Swing", a musical theme I often hummed in my head whilst out walking. It was largely my own composition, although I based a small part of it on Emerson, Lake and Palmer's arrangement of " Fanfare for the Common Man " by American composer Aaron Copland . I decided to use "The Bionic Swing" as my theme for “The Solitary Rambler” series.

So, with the name of the series, its title sequence and musical theme sorted I thought about a script for the next storyline. I still had my script of “The Lost Villages”, so I decided to have a second attempt at filming this. The only change I had to make to the script was that Michael would now take part in the project instead of Phil.

In my script I had to tell Michael all about the history of the places we visited. I went to Chepstow library to do some research, mainly about the history of Gaer Hill and  Penterry Church . I incorporated all the information I researched into my script. Upon reading through the finished storyline I thought to myself "how the hell am I going to remember all this when we do the filming?!" When the time came I actually split the scenes up so that I only had to remember short paragraphs at a time!

I was very particular about filming “The Lost Villages” in the winter season, so in February 1994 Michael, Richard and myself went on location in the Wye Valley over several days in the freezing cold to record this film. The cold weather did not prove very popular with Richard, who said he would never go out filming again unless it was during the warmer months of the year! During breaks in shooting we regularly needed to warm up with a hot drink, so we discovered a nice teashop in  Monmouth  in which we became regulars. We went there day after day, even if we weren’t particularly near Monmouth at the time! There were no internal scenes for this film.

For my musical soundtrack for the film itself I composed a piano theme, which was used in various scenes throughout and I made a more dramatic version of this same theme in the Gaer Hill scenes. I composed fairly dark themes for Fedw Wood and Penterry, but the soundtracks for the  Fountain Inn Trellech  and  Penallt  were much lighter. I also used some music from the Pink Floyd album " Dark Side of the Moon ", which I felt would help to provide the appropriate mood for the story.

Revised editions

I had felt that the  pilot episode  had been greatly improved after it had been digitally re-edited in 2000, especially after its entire musical soundtrack had been re-recorded with the new professional music software. Therefore, I decided I would do the same for the following five films of "The Solitary Rambler", all of which were originally completed before I bought the video digital editing and music software in 2000.

"The Lost Villages" proved to be the trickiest to re-edit due to the fact I had lost the original master footage. I always feel annoyed with myself that, once I had copied the original footage onto a VHS tape for editing, I then wiped the original camcorder tapes. Sadly, as far as "The Lost Villages” was concerned, I even lost the VHS copy of the master footage. I can only guess that I accidentally wiped it at some point, so I only had the completed 1994 version of the film, which existed as a third generation copy.

By 2002 I had re-edited all of the first six films of "The Solitary Rambler" except for "The Lost Villages". The problem was I had no master footage from which to edit, so I would only be able to work from the completed 1994 production. This meant that I wouldn't be able to separate the sounds, i.e. dialogue and music. For instance, all the scenes where Michael and I spoke with music in the background would need to be re-dubbed, which of course was most of them. So that's what we did. Michael and I re-recorded most of the entire episode's dialogue, which I then dubbed on after I digitally re-edited all the scenes. It was a very fiddly task, but the results were worth it despite the picture quality of the re-edited episode being pretty poor.

In the winter of 2001, similarly as I had done with the pilot episode, I went out with a newer camcorder and revisited the countryside where "The Lost Villages" was filmed in 1994 to shoot a scene or two to insert as additional footage into the new edition. I only wanted a couple of new shots here, i.e. the opening scene in Itton to use as a shot for adding the film title and similarly with the end titles, where I filmed a new shot of the twin masts at Gaer Hill.

In 2014 I made a newly revised edition as I had done with the pilot, and like that first film I did not include the later inserted scenes of the countryside I had shot in 2001. The existing 1994 footage of "The Lost Villages" was poor quality indeed, but as with the pilot episode I wanted all the footage to match for a more consistent looking video.

When I posted my “Solitary Rambler” videos to YouTube I had to remove all the Pink Floyd music I had used in "The Lost Villages" due to copyright, so in those few scenes I replaced it with other pieces of my own soundtrack used in other parts of the film.
Next: The Old Barn Lane
Previous: The Solitary Rambler (pilot episode)
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