Events Coverage

Last week I was filming a fundraising event at the House of Lords for the charity Fishing for Forces (www.fishingforforces.org) and it got me thinking. Events coverage seems to be an all-encompassing term to include everything from major sporting events to small private functions. I’ve been wondering if its possible to define certain qualities and techniques that apply when covering any event, or is the range simply too diverse?

As a freelance camera operator, I’ve covered a pretty varied range of events, from large outdoor venues like The Millennium Stadium or The Royal Bath and West Show, to extremely intimate and private ‘events’ such as funerals and formal ceremonies. Although the spectrum is broad and it goes without saying that each event is unique, I think there are certain skills it is vital to have for successful Events Coverage.

1. Expect the unexpected! When filming a live event, its almost a guarantee that it wont all go to plan. The ability to think on your feet, quick reactions and a flexible approach are all essential to cope under any circumstances.

2. Discretion is the better part of valor. OK, I don’t think valor is particularly necessary but discretion certainly is. Although it is more important  at smaller, more intimate events like weddings, the ability to blend in is always an asset. It enables events to unfold naturally in front of the camera and is the best way to get candid, relaxed shots which offer a realistic representation of the event. Obviously at events like lectures, exhibitions or sport this isn’t that relevant, but in those circumstances being discreet probably applies more to not getting in the way and blocking someone’s view – or a fire exit!

3. The customer is always right. As well as a diverse range of venues and types of event, the purpose and output is often varied as well. You might simply be providing a straightforward, no-frills record of the event – for example you might be filming a lecture which needs to be distributed to nationwide employees. Alternatively you might be creating a once-in-a-life-time, all-singing, all-dancing DVD package for newly weds. Whatever the event, its vital to establish the expectations and this requires plenty of pre-event research. This enables you to make sure you have the right equipment for the job and focus on what is important to whoever has employed your services.

I think that’s probably enough to be getting on with for now. As ever, there is room to add your own ‘must haves’ to the list…

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Filming in Africa

I have recently returned from spending two months filming a documentary on conservation in Malawi for a charity called Purple Field Productions. As anyone who has worked in Africa will probably agree, it presents some unique problems and challenges but also provides wonderful rewards.

Below are a few observations and tips I picked up during the project. Feel free to add any of your own or dispute any of mine…

1. Getting there: we took a very small, light and compact set of equipment with us. Not only does this keep expenses down for excess baggage allowance but it also much easier to get through customs at the other end. Sadly, in many African countries (and in other parts of the world) corruption is rife and carrying expensive, professional looking equipment invites trouble. For the trip to Malawi we took the Sony A1E which is a really nice little HDV camera that’s discreet and fits easily into hand luggage and we didn’t have any problems. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to minimise on equipment. On a trip a couple of years ago to the DRC I was filming for ENG and had a Panasonic AG SPX800E. We had a considerable wait at customs until our local contacts were able to help us out. That also highlights another must – the importance of good planning and good contacts, so that you are not completely alone in a foreign country for when it inevitably all goes wrong!

 2. However… Hakuna Matata! Learn not to sweat the small things or you’ll   have a nervous breakdown. It might sound obvious but problems with basic infrastructure and a laid back approach to life means that facilities, standards and timeframes you may be used to at home just don’t apply in many parts of Africa. Especially in rural areas. For example, severe diesel shortages in Malawi resulted in long delays and last minute changes to the timetable.

3. Dust, sun and sweaty fingers – all bad for cameras.

  •   Dust was a big problem for us and we had to be extra careful to keep all equipment clean. Air duster and chamois are essential parts of the kit.
  • Strong African sunshine poses both technical and creative problems. It can obviously damage lenses and overheat equipment – including reducing the life of batteries. Aesthetically, midday sun can burn out pictures and create a flat, bland look to a shot, whereas, although early and late sun gave much greater depth and a beautiful golden hue to the shots, you can’t rely on using it alone – both for logistic reasons and because you’ll end up looking like your whole film was shot at dusk! Filters helped a lot – both UV filters to protect the lenses as well as polarizers and ND filters to enhance the shot and allow more flexibility with the depth of field. 
  • Filming in Africa, the contrast of the dark skin tones to the strong sunlight is also problematic. We found, especially during interviews, that the reflector was another essential piece of kit to get decent, natural looking lighting onto people’s faces. Any other tips for working in harsh lighting conditions would be appreciated…
  • Sweaty fingers were an even bigger problem for us in Malawi as the Sony A1E has a touchscreen menu – one of the biggest downsides to the camera in my opinion. We had to be extra careful to have clean fingers when operating it and copious amounts of wet-wipes were used when we were out in the field – I wish I’d packed more as I nearly ran out! Although we were incredibly careful with the screens, both cameras developed a fault with them towards the end of the trip. Luckily we could work around it but this was a let down on an otherwise handy and versatile little camera. 

4. Enjoy yourself! I love Africa and I especially loved Malawi. The people are friendly, the landscape is stunning and the lifestyle and culture is unique. Being able to do what I love, in such an amazing location and knowing that it’s also for a good cause – what more could anyone want!?

Purple Field Productions is a UK based charity that works with local organisations within developing countries to produce films for educational and humanitarian purposes. To find out more visit the website www.purplefieldproductions.org or find them on facebook or twitter. 

It begins…

Welcome to my blog, I hope you find it interesting…

I’ll start with a short first post to explain a bit about who I am and what I do. I am a camera operator and video editor working for the MoD and available for freelance work –  from ENG, broadcast and documentaries to corporate, event coverage and charity projects.

I’ve decided to begin this blog while I work on completing my new website. The website will allow people to find out more about me and my work, find out when I’m available for projects and hopefully get in touch if they are interested in working with me. This blog, however, is a more informal way to share with like-minded people more about the projects I am involved with.

If you are a producer or film maker interested in collaborating on a project, this blog will help to give you an idea of whether you’d like to work with me. Likewise if you are a potential client with an event or project you need a camera operator or video editor for. It is also a chance to swap ideas, opinions and tips with fellow freelancers.

Check out the ‘About’ link at the top of the page to find out a bit more about me, or take a quick look at a sample of my work at www.youtube.com/user/oliviaprutz which is a temporary site for some of my videos while I sort out my website.

Thats it for now I think – just a short intro to try out the software. Keep an eye out for my next update which will describe the trip to Malawi I’ve just come back from and debate the pros, cons, trials and tribulations of filming in Africa – opinions welcome!