Rob in Lockdown

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Rob McCann, one of our Stargardt’s Connected Trustees, needed to find something to occupy himself at the start of lockdown. What started out feeling like an abundance of free time to go on long walks, after a while felt like a daily grind. Perhaps surprising for someone with a sight-loss condition, Rob began to teach himself to make videos using his walks to develop his film-making skills. This is his story!

At the start of lockdown (or lockup as I call it!), I first thought of it as a holiday. But as the weeks and months dragged on, I realised I desperately needed something to do. I started going for walks with my dog Bruno, this was great as the weather in April and May was generally wonderful, bright sunny days and not too hot. But once Bruno and I had seen all the local sights and found all the paths and trails through the fields and woodlands, I once again started to get bored and go “stir crazy” – to borrow a phrase. The days really were isolating.

I realised I needed something that would keep me occupied but not such a steep learning curve to put me off at the start, “I am a bear of very little brain”. I know, I heard myself think one day, I’ll make videos it can’t be that hard – can it?

Ok so I had a plan – videos it would be – but where to start? I instantly fell back on my twenty-four years, eleven months and three weeks as an IT technician in local education, and then made a cup of coffee as this needed some serious thought! Software that’s – what I need what’s the best video editing software? It costs how much! You can forget that, let’s try the free options.

So I watched lots of YouTube tutorials, and I tried the software. None of it suited me; they all seem a little bit difficult for a novice. Finally, I found a package that suited my abilities, so I started with that one. Sadly it was not free but also not too expensive at £50. It’s Filmora9 by Wondrshare, there is a free download, but this puts a watermark logo on your videos.

I had a plan. I had some software. I even had a camera – a modern mobile phone. They generally have good cameras for still and video images. So, it was time to go out shooting. But what to shoot?

After another coffee, and lunch, and then another coffee I finally got it – I would shoot the walks I go on. Well holding your camera out in front of you, watching it and looking where you are going is harder than I thought, especially with Stargardt’s, and I know that this bit makes me sound like a wimp, but that phone gets heavy at arm’s length, how do “real men” do it? So I get home I have some footage (I’m even trying to learn the lingo), let’s get it on the computer and have a look…

It’s rubbish! The film is bouncy and the light levels continually changing. My phone has in-camera stabilisation, but it’s not very good. Right, time to get some software to sort this – stop the light flickering and smooth out the image. It turns out that it wasn’t too hard to do and now I had a basic video. So what now?

This is when I turned to YouTube. One good thing is that if you have a Google/Gmail account, you have a YouTube account. You can just log in and start to learn. I started watching YouTube videos on how to create Youtube videos. I really like the following YouTubers. Both have great content, whether you are a beginner or more advanced:

Now, I’ve watched the videos and created my own, so it’s the moment of truth does anyone care? Will I win an Oscar? Not a cat in hells chance. But they might help others with Stargardt’s, other sighted people understand what a partner, family member, friend or colleague is dealing with.

So that’s what I have been doing in lockdown, there is plenty of room for improvement, so I’ll keep making them if needed.

PS. Does anyone think I should have a celebrity name for when I am famous?

robert mccann