Handheld camera work – just say no!

Hey, look at us! We have cameramen wandering around
the stage, just like at Glastonbury!!

Sorry.
Not impressed. …

Question:
What is the number one turn-off for VLOBLIVE
video?

Answer:
shakey handheld camera work that makes everyone
seasick.

It just isn’t ‘cool’ to use a
tripod, or so it seems judging by the number of folk who attempt VLOBLIVE video
with a couple of dodgy camcorders wielded by inexperienced camops who’s only
training was watching the Blair Witch Project a few
times.

I know you see it at ‘proper’
live events, and on TV, and on your DVDs of live concerts, but there is a big
difference. Talent. These guys are trained cameramen, who spend their working
life getting good at doing handheld (or shoulder mounted) camera operating, and
learning all the health and safety rules that make it a safe thing to do on a
busy stage. They also have backup; A cable-basher colleague to make sure they
don’t get in a tangle; Intercom connections to the director to hear what is
going on; an engineer back at the PPU, to do all the fiddly camera adjustments
for them, so they can focus on focus (!) and keeping safe etc. etc.. Don’t
forget that, even at these rarified levels, these guys will have rehersed a lot
of the shots. When was the last time, at a VLOBLIVE event, you had time to
rehearse camera moves with the band, so they knew what to
expect?

So you need to be pretty sure
you know what you are doing before attempting this at a VLOBLIVE
event.

Well it may not be cool, but the
tripod is your best friend. It will make all your video more watchable, and it
will anchor your inexperienced camops in a safe place, out of harm’s way, as
they learn the ropes.

With some imagination
you can pick some pretty creative tripd positions, that will get you almost all
the shots you would get from an experienced mobile camop.

Of course, if you DO have an
experienced camop, then you are fortunate indeed, but there are still some basic
rules to follow:

– check the stage
layout for trip hazards

– walk through
the shots with the camop, planning how they will get from one to the next.

– Keep the amount of moving to a
minimum

– think about cable management
carefully; where will spare cable live? do you need to anchor the cables to the
camera to prevent damage? Do you need to have a cable basher person to prevent
tangling? etc.

– don’t expect a camop
to go handheld for a whole show. Give them a rest, or better still a tripod as
well!!

– don’t hold handheld shots
onscreen for extended periods, as this is quite stressful for the
camops.

And finally, don’t forget to
ask the artists whether they are happy with wandering cameramen. At these kinds
of events many have had bad experiences with inexperienced crews and will
specifically request no cameramen on stage!! Ultimately it is more important
that the artist is happy than that you get your ‘prize’ shots, so you have to go
with that. I have never had anyone object to some carefully placed
tripod-mounted cameras and camops.

My
own experience is that I generally avoid using handheld camops if I can (I
favour static cameras to get those hard to get shots), apart from one of our
team who just happens to be an experienced BBC cameraman, and even he gets a
tripod position to use some of the
time.

Just say no. Your video will
generally look better.

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