Five Minute competition – 16 October 2012
Film maker David Gibson won the competition, which had as its theme “Heat”, with a documentary entitled “Joules”. Here David talks about the making of his film.
Why did you choose this subject?
“If you ask any physicist “What is Heat?” he'll probably reply with the mantra “Heat is Work, and Work is Heat”. This is what Joule first pronounced, and so for any physicist the subject matter was already decided by whoever set the topic of “Heat”.
How much research did you have to do?
“Given that the aim of the film was to answer the question “What is Heat”, the first part of the film attempts to show that whilst people are naturally familiar with the level of heat, there was little explanation of what heat is until Antoine Lavoisier came up with his “caloric” theory.
“I did a little research into this aspect if only to be able to better explain it – after all, we still talk of calories today.
“Count Rumford was the first to cast doubt on the caloric theory, and this research took about one evening, and I then did some research into Joule's life which took about two evenings.
“I found that much of his life was spent in trying to overturn a very well entrenched view of the correctness of caloric theory, and his consequent struggle with the academic establishment to make his views known and accepted was an obvious story.
“My original script was thus much longer, but had to be reduced as it was to be a 5-minute film, and in any case I could turn up little in the way of visual material unless I made a special trip to Manchester.
“Originally I had entertained the idea to also try to answer the question “what sort of energy is heat” and so get into kinetic theory and entropy, but with the time constraints and interest in Joule's life was such these aspects were not checked out for interest and visual content
What club competitions have you won previously?
“Absolutely none. My attempts have usually been such that judges have been severely taxed to find new ways to express their contempt for my efforts.
Who else was involved in the film?
“In previous attempts at making films (on albeit less serious subjects) any narration came as an afterthought, if at all.
“This time I thought I would write the script first so that the story was complete and flowed, but tried to do it as if I were speaking to a friend and not in a written style.
“I thought of recording it to camera in a quiet room – I don't have any posh microphones – but I didn't like the sound of my own voice.
“The voice had to carry the film as there was so little visual material and to sound more professional, so during Summer I enlisted my brother-in-law's services.
“He records “Books for the Blind” as well as working at the BBC and so knew just what was required as well have having all the recording facilities at home.
“I don't know how many attempts he had at doing the recording, or what microphones he used, but I only ever had the one version he sent me.
“Having such a good recording made the editing so much easier.”

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