By Ted Simpson –
Andrew King would like to invite you on a walk, a late night exploration of Ottawa’s iconic streets and neighbourhoods, a slow moving vision set to dreamy atmospheric music and wrapped up in a history lesson, all delivered right to your television screen. He calls it Ottawander.
The Westboro artist has been working in collaboration with Bell Media to bring his love of film, history and the city of Ottawa together into a public access TV show. The first episode premiered earlier this month.
Andrew’s team shot the pilot on a cold night in late April, choosing Sparks Street as the debut location. Some may recall a recent incident in which he tried handing out free T-shirts on Sparks Street, only to be told to leave.
Fortunately for him, permits were in place this time and the first attempt at filming was a success.
“The Bell suits liked it, so they decided to pick it up and said, ‘let’s do more,’” says Andrew.
He’s drawing inspiration from a classic bit of Canadian public-access television called Night Moves.
“Back in the 90’s, in college, when I was pulling all-nighters, it was a show that would come on Global at 1 a.m. It was basically a dude walking around at night with a camera in Toronto, set to jazz music,” he explains. Here’s an example:
“I said I want to do it where we just walk around at night, film it all in one night, then I could come in and help edit in my spare time,” says Andrew.
Ottawander, however, is a more refined production than its predecessor. Andrew and his crew are using the latest modern technology to bring his vision to life. The series is shot entirely in 4K Ultra HD for the most crisp and detailed footage possible. Add to that, Andrew’s historical presentation, that is not delivered by voiceover or caption, but by a digital mapping system that overlays historical photos and events directly onto the modern video that match the viewer’s perspective as they walk through in real time.
To achieve the first person view of a late night wander, the length of Sparks Street was shot with a single camera and a small crew in one long pass.
“It was basically a three man film crew, one guy walking with the camera strapped to him, one guy working the controls and me walking behind them yelling, ‘OK turn right, pan up, pan down!’” he recalls. The key was mapping everything out ahead of time.
“We’re taking certain streets or neighbourhoods and the premise is, finding out cool stuff, historically, about those places.”
The second episode will be filmed close to Andrew’s home base in Westboro. Coincidentally, he’s been preparing for this role for years, documenting his own midnight ramblings with his trusty iPhone, which anyone can follow along via Twitter using #wellborowalk.
For the new episode, set to film in late July, the Ottawander crew will be resurrecting the businesses and landmarks of Westboro past which will appear as digital ghosts alongside the modern landscape.
Head over to Ottawander.com to check out the series trailer and see the concept in action, and get ready to see your own ‘hood in a whole new light. Just don’t go in expecting action-packed entertainment. It’s an entirely different viewing experience. Viewers of Night Moves likely watched it in the background after a night out on the town.
“It’s more like a show where you’re floating along in slow motion, a dreamlike state where you’re walking around in very, very high definition,” he says.
The Sparks Street episode is available on TV1 to all Bell Fibe subscribers in Ontario and Quebec, with future episodes being aired as locations are filmed and edited.