Our top 5 videos of 2016 - from Olympic boxers to Nama scandals

Ben Tucker, our video editor, chooses his top five videos of 2016

Clockwise from top left: Sean McKeown's fairy houses, Paddy Barnes prepares for the Olympics, Slieve Gullion and street art during Belfast Culture Night 

Boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan prepare for Olympics

With any film shoot, context is everything and seeing the fighters training at the University of Ulster gym with their gloves and heart rate monitors on added to the whole mise-en-scene.

To get such candid shots of Barnes shadow boxing and sweat dripping from Michael’s nose really gives you the essence of the effort and pain athletes endure ahead of major competitions.  I used slow-motion to emphasise the rise and fall of Michael’s breathing before the sweat fell from his nose and also of the shot of the punch bags swaying after Barnes had finished his circuit.  

The journalist with me, Neil Loughran, has a good relationship with Paddy and we got some great sound bites of Barnes’ honesty as he talks about the pressure he puts himself under.  

Observing the relationship between Michael and his father and trainer John was a privilege as you could see a bond beyond that of a father and son.  To see John as he tied up Michael’s gloves and watched him from between the ropes, revealed another layer of their father-son relationship, possibly pride.  

I had deliberately chosen the backing music to give a sense of hope and reflection.  The jazz track is almost melancholic at times and adds to the atmosphere of sporting history being written.

 Boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan prepare for Olympics

Nama coaching scandal in 60 seconds 

The NAMA coaching revelations that saw Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay aid loyalist blogger Jamie Blogger was an Irish News scoop.  It was an opportunity to be at the forefront of an event that was live and evolving.  It also added new depths to the undercurrents behind the NAMA scandal itself.

Creating a concise punchy video detailing the main points in under 60 seconds was challenging.

The 60 second timer added to the overall drama of the piece as well as the music underscoring the piece.

 Nama coaching scandal in 60 seconds 

Little world fairy houses

Without a doubt, my favourite work of the year.  My wife is from the Glens of Antrim and after photographing her hurling team ahead of their Ulster club semi-final match, our photographer Mal McCann stumbled across a man called Sean McKeown in the middle of Newtown-Crommelin who spends his spare time making fairy houses from tree stumps.

This video has genuine warmth to it. What’s not to like about a man speaking so frankly about being brought up to believe in the fairies and still believing to this day. 

The piece dances between an interview and footage of his creations - as well as his larger scale design using a Giant Sequoia tree – but it is the voice of Sean McKeown that you’re drawn to.  

I think for me what stands out isn’t so much that he makes fairy houses, but the context of a man in the untouched Glens of Antrim doing what he loves, using his hands and the earth around him.

 Fairy houses

Culture Night Belfast Street Art

Belfast Culture Night included a project called ‘Hit the North’ where graffiti artists from Ireland and the UK joined to paint their art across the city. As Northern Ireland has a culture of murals, it was interesting to capture this positive vein of artworks.  

A lot of my shots focused on wide composition to capture the full scale of works as well as vibrancy of the colour across the spaces. Observing the rule of thirds and capturing playful details such as paint splattered shoes and rows of spray cans completed the narrative as we go from small to big in the same way the artists start with a small spray and create large works. 

The artists featured were not happy to be identified, given their art treads beyond the law. 

The video was quite short, but felt right in terms of tempo and duration as the subject is quite punchy as is the bouncy music track. Overall the video gave a sense of fun and vibrancy in the city.

 Culture Night Belfast Street Art

Slieve Gullion: Footsteps in the forest adventure

It’s amazing what dry-ice, music and costumes that look as though they came off Jim Henson’s 1982 film The Dark Crystal can give you.  Especially if you put them together in Slieve Gullion Forest Park in the Mourne Mountains with some specially trained actors living and breathing Irish folklore. This was part of the Lunasa festival.

I captured this guided tour (meant for children) with an iPhone and steadicam device to follow our guide - Wallace the Ice Troll. The one-hour experience was scripted with audience participation allowing for me to essentially witness a live play and record it as it happened.  

In terms of set design, props, costume and scripting, the production value of the whole experience was actually very high and made for quite a charming news package.

Slieve Gullion: Footsteps in the forest adventure


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