I love shooting HD video. Always have. Always will. There’s something about focusing all your concentration and energy on a small rectangle of action. It’s intense.
The majority of videos I shoot are for either events or short videos for brands and businesses wanting to connect with their audiences via video across social media or internally with staff within their organisation. Both have their own specific challenges, especially when you operate with a crew of one. Erm, did I say one?
That’s right. I’m the scriptwriter, location finder, director, producer, cameraman, lighting man, focus puller, dolly grip, sound recordist and editor. Two arms, two legs and just the one head. No expensive or cumbersome crew, just me.
Covering all angles
It’s amazing what you can achieve on your own. I film with two cameras (with the option of a couple of HD Go Pros and a Sony 4K mirrorless) shooting simultaneously so I can cut between them in the edit. Shooting days are usually long, especially if they involve travel, but most of the videos I produce are shot over one or two days.
Before I shoot anything though, I meet the client and discuss exactly what we want to get out of the shoot. Who do we want to feature? How long will the video be? Are we intending to use vox pops? Will there be any music? Have we got clearance with the event organiser. I then create a shot list and running order – maybe even a storyboard – that ensures I cover off the key sequences. Meanwhile, in the days running up to the event, I get all my batteries on charge, sort out my equipment, check everything is ready and get plenty of sleep. And re-charge more batteries, just in case.
Stealthy and light
If I can travel light I will, but I usually drive and take everything I might need in the car and access it as and when it’s required. If the client or a member of their team there and wants to muck in with some light sherpa-ing, who am I to stop them?
At the event itself, in my experience, it’s a good idea to have a healthy rapport with not only the event staff but also the organisers. They have enough on their plate without being bothered by some guy with a camera.
My shooting style is very much about capturing the vibe of an event and the genuine interaction between visitors and the exhibitor. It’s those priceless split-second moments that I try to capture. I use lenses that enable me to melt into the background and be unobtrusive, yet create up close and personal results. Funnily enough, people tend to react more naturally when they don’t have a lens shoved into their face.
Little glances. Impromptu giggles. Knowing looks. Warm exchanges. Surprise and delight. Confusion. Trying to style-out mishaps. These are the cinematic nuggets I concentrate on capturing.
When I’m confident I’ve got what I need in the can (on the card), I disappear like a thief in the night to get back to base and back up the footage.
The Edit Cave
Then it’s hours in a dimly lit editing suite (the dining room) painstakingly reviewing the rushes to identify the best clips to pull together into sequences in my editing software of choice… Final Cut Pro X.
Music, dialogue and sound effects really bring a video edit alive. I either use royalty-free library music or sometimes compose a simple bed track in Garageband. The dialogue is auto-synced and carefully adjusted for levels. I’ll pop titles on at this point, too.
Then I export an offline edit, for the client to view, usually hosted privately on my YouTube channel or sent via wetransfer.com for them to review and come back with comments like “Brilliant”, “I wouldn’t change a thing” or “We’re paying you far too little”. Okay, so there may be some changes. But generally, once the client is happy and I’ve made the necessary tweaks, I export the final film luscious HD and ping it over to the client for them to show off the film they produced.
I make it sound like it is. It’s not, but filming gives me a big adrenalin rush and it’s pretty damned satisfying when you see the finished film on a big screen.
I’ve shot at The Oval Ground, in windswept North Yorkshire in the middle of nowhere, at Camp Bestival, ExCel London, basement bars and behind the scenes in factories where clients’ magic happens.
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