Mobile videojournalism: Japhet Weeks shoots NYC Climate march protests on iPhone for AJ+

Guest post by Japhet Weeks of AJ+:

The iPhone setup in use

The iPhone setup in use

AJ+, the new digital oriented news outlet from Al Jazeera media network, were at the People’s Climate march in Manhattan recently shooting entirely with mobile devices. We also covered the Flood Wall Street protest and UN Climate Summit the same week and I believe we were the only news organization to use all mobile coverage from the events.

Here is the gear I used:

3x Apple iPhone 5/5s. Each phone had a different carrier: Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile
Manfrotto monopod
Small Rode shotgun mic for input into camera to capture ambient sound.
Audio Technica wired lav mic for interviews.
On board iKan LED light for indoor interviews and night time shooting.
Housing for iPhone with wide-angle lens adaptor – allowing the iPhone to attached to a monopod
Bracket for mounting a Rode VideoMic Pro shotgun mic and LED light.
Two external battery packs for the iPhones. Battery life is a problem for whole day shooting – you will need extra power.

And here are some of the results:

Audio Issues:
With this setup the biggest issue was audio. Initially I planned to use two apps to record the video – Filmic Pro and ProCam. Both allow monitoring of the audio input, but it transpired that both were too buggy to be dependable. ProCam seemed fine at first, but on playback the audio didn’t sync up with the video. Filmic Pro tended to crash. In the end I went for the native camera app, which didn’t allow audio monitoring but was more stable.

Since I wasn’t able to monitor audio, I would fire up ProCam first to test that the iPhone was recording audio through the shotgun mic or lav, then I would go back into the native camera app to record. As this method wasn’t foolproof I would quickly play back the interviews to make sure the audio quality was OK. I’m going to keep looking for better apps that allow you more control of image and especially sound.

The Audio Technica lav mic I was using performed extremely poorly in the wind even with the windshield attached.

Pictures and editing:
The size and weight of the iPhone rig and the monopod allowed me to move fast and get close to the action. This meant I got images that other journalists were simply unable to get. When the polar bear character was arrested at Flood Wall Street I was able to extend the monopod and shoot over the heads of NYPD officers. The weight and size of the phone made this possible.

Before transmitting footage, I edited it, either in the native camera app or in iMovie. This allowed for faster transmission as the bytes were smaller.

Transmitting footage:
Prior to being in NYC, I had experimented with different methods of transmitting what I shot. I tried DropBox, YouTube, Vimeo and email before finally discovering that the best method was sending via Slack’s mobile app, which allowed us to transfer uncompressed footage back to the team in SF.

To ensure the best data coverage I used three iPhones each with a different carrier. These were Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T. I consider this essential for mobile video journalists (MoJos) because different networks work differently in different situations. So many users in one place can cause networks to overload and data rates can drop massively. For this story I found Verizon performed consistently well in New York, even in large crowds.

I was shooting and transmitting video at 1080P. Initially I thought that sending over LTE would require us to compress video to 720P, but in practice the network allowed relatively fast transfer speeds and we were able to send Full HD files. This was surprising considering the numbers at the event.

The beauty of this setup is that it allowed me to shoot and send almost in real-time. This is something that set AJ+ apart from many of the other news organisations at the Climate March and Flood Wall Street.

The ability to transmit video quickly from the field also allowed us to publish moment-of, not just day-of, exclusive footage. There were activists live streaming and journalists snapping pictures on their iPhones, but AJ+ was the only news organization I saw shooting exclusively on mobile.
Shooting on an iPhone doesn’t give you creamy, cinematic shallow depth-of-field look of DSLR, nor super zoom range of a traditional news camera, but what it does give a journalist is the ability to shoot breaking news, file quickly, and then keep shooting. The lightweight set up gives you access to things you wouldn’t be able to get with larger cameras. The rig can always be broken down and made smaller, making the camera even more unassuming.

Things aren’t prefect yet though. The iPhone needs better, more stable professional apps for shooting video that have proper audio monitoring. Hopefully this will be resolved soon enough.

The possibilities for shooting news exclusively on mobile are really exciting and the technology needs to be pushed further.

Japhet Weeks is a senior producer with AJ+ in San Francisco.
Before that he covered political turmoil as a VJ in the Middle East and Russia.

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Posted on October 31st, 2014 by Japhet Weeks | Category: IPhone, Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Production goes social: Movidiam offers new take on online collaboration for filmmakers

By Newsshooter contributor Jonah Kessel

Movidiam: The Promo from Movidiam on Vimeo.

A new social media infused project management platform has opened its digital doors for preregistration. Its called Movidiam and if you’re an independent filmmaker, production company or even brand — I think you have a lot to be excited about.

We’re seeing multiple sites offering creative collaboration project management systems pop up these days, such as and Arc 9. I believe this shows a real hole in the market — a product that’s missing. And based on my work flow which is largely based on email and Google Docs, I see why.

Before you brush this off as “yet another creative collaboration site,” pay close attention to the description above — this is much more than a site to improve workflow. Movidiam is both a social network as well as an interactive project management system made for filmmakers (by filmmakers). Think of it as Vimeo + Linkedin + Facebook + WordPress + Mandy + a project management system.

This system wasn’t made with Steven Spielberg or J.J. Abrahams in mind. Movidiam was created with the much more common 21st century filmmaker in mind: you and me.

“We are living in a connected and mobile world where the traditional agency model is challenged, where remote freelancing is becoming the norm and where the demand for brands to create a constant stream of quality films has dramatically increased,” says co-founder George Olver.

Movidiam was created to address these challenges by providing a streamlined and collaborative production process from concept to completion.”

So: What is Movidiam, how does it work and what can it do for me?” I had these same questions and while I had seen some talk of the upcoming system at IBC it wasn’t until I sat down with George Olver to take a tour of the preproduction system where I truly got a better understanding of its potential power.

On a the most basic level Movidiam connects content creators, agencies and companies. A brand looking for a filmmaker can search the system’s geobased database and see filmmaker profiles, complete with embedded videos, a free blog custom designed for the site and see the filmmakers credentials, history, awards and collaborations.


Down the line, the metadata of your films, projects and credentials will also be searchable. So a company could put out a brief and have it sent to only people or agencies who are actually qualified. Alternatively, a freelancer, producer or agency would only receive the brief, if that brief meets their set financial quantifications and profesional qualifications.

For all parties involved, this can make posting or responding to a brief much more efficient. Instead of having an enormous list of poorly paid jobs, like we mostly see on Mandy, this could potentially cut some of the bullshit out.


From within a project on the site, one can also search production team members. You might see a video with great lighting but a poor story and want to track down the gaffer. This system connects production team members digitally, much like Facebook or Vimeo’s credits. However, you’ll be able to find out a lot more professional information about those crew members with this system.

This is a quick over view of the social side of Movidiam.

While this is great, it’s the production side of Movidiam which I’m more excited about.


The project management system has many of the tools we really need in a single location, in a clean and simply designed user interface. Things like production timelines, budgets, storyboards, crew locations and contact details are all in one place.

One feature I’m personally interested in comes in the form of revisions. Unfortunately, most of my revisions happen via email. Ill send a draft of a video to an editor and they will send back a long list of time codes with comments or issues. And when you get 500+ emails a day and a working on multiple projects you can really waste a lot of time trying to simply update videos and find the information you need, when you need it.

Movidiam allows editors or clients to view videos and add comments in real time and on specific areas of the video. This might be a comment such as “can we get a different grade on the lamp here” where a user would then see these comments come up in real time and on a specific X/Y coordinate, on the video.

Users can then scroll through or navigate through a video via the comments and simply move directly from one comment point to the next.


Furthermore, if you’re like me and usually have 10-20 projects going on at any given time, this system can give you an overview of all of them. A user can see all of their projects and quickly see at what stage in the process they are all at, how the budget is holding up or where deadlines are across many videos.

This is where I see huge potential for video newsrooms. Potentially, an editor or director of a newsroom of 50 video journalists could see an overview of where all of the projects are, see storyboards, scripts, budgets, deadlines or story ID information which might correspondent to other parts of the newsroom. That editor could see current drafts of each of those projects and without having to send a mass email out to all of those 50 journalists, would be completely up to date on where each project was at and what each employee was doing.

This is a basic outline of what the site aims to do. Its a bit hard to tell what place it could have in the industry, but I see huge potential in it from getting gigs to connecting with other filmmakers to simply having more organized and streamlined productions.

Movidiam will have two main options for users: a free site and a paid subscription. The free account allows users to profile themselves, create portfolios and blogs, be searchable and work on any existing project that they have been invited into. The pay wall unlocks all the production management tools and will be on a subscription basis of $25 a month. Its great to note here that even free users can use paid services, if they are invited by a member who has subscription services. Multiple user accounts, corporate, agency and enterprise group accounts will also be available.

I do think the site will be more powerful with a bigger user base. If there’s more filmmakers on it, it will be a more realistic place for agencies and brands to search find creators. Movidiam is offering two free months of full access to those who preregister for the beta site, so I encourage everyone to sign up here, as more users can actually benefit us all, across the industry.

Jonah M. Kessel is a video journalist with the New York Times. He contributed to a Pulitzer Prize winning series and been awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Justice and Human Rights. See more of his work at or follow him on Twitter here.

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Posted on October 14th, 2014 by Jonah Kessel | Category: Journalism, Video editing | Permalink | Comments (0)

IBC 2014 live show replay: Philip Bloom talks about shooting documentary for CNN

By site editor Dan Chung:

Philip Bloom has recently been travelling the globe as DOP on an upcoming documentary series for CNN. On the Teradek/Newsshooter live show at IBC last week Matt Allard and myself had a chance to sit down and discuss the challenges with him.

Phil's A-camera of choice for the CNN doc was the Sony F55. Photo courtesy of Philip Bloom

Phil’s A-camera of choice for the CNN doc was the Sony F55

Among the topics covered were what it was like for him to go back to shooting broadcast TV, his choice of cameras for the series and his use of the MoVI. Philip also talks about the importance of good audio (ironically we had a few audio interference issues during the chat – apologies for that).

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can see the fruits of Phil’s labours on CNN.

Sony cameras including an a7S on a MoVI ready to shoot. Photo courtesy of Philip Bloom

Sony cameras and a MoVI ready to shoot. Photo courtesy of Philip Bloom

Photo courtesy of Philip Bloom

Photo courtesy of Philip Bloom

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Posted on September 22nd, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Brushless gimbals, documentary, IBC show, Journalism, Sony a7S | Permalink | Comments (0)

IBC 2014 video: Robots with Nikon DSLRs give London Live studios a unique cinematic look

By site editor Dan Chung:

Video DSLRs may not be the big thing they were a few years ago, but one of the most interesting gadgets at IBC this year uses them to great effect.

On the Nikon booth they were showing their D4 camera mounted to robotic heads to track a moving object and focus on it at the same time. Several of these robots, made by a firm called Mark Roberts Motion Control, are used with the D4 by UK local station London Live for all their studio shooting.

d4 mrmoco

I spoke to Bryn Balcombe of London Live and James Banfield of Nikon about the setup. While regular 2/3 studio cameras could have been used, Balcombe chose DSLR for its more cinematic look and flexibility. One surprise is that the D4 can be left on in Live View mode for hours on end without failing – something that some older DSLRs would struggle to do.

Below is a great video showing just what a Mark Roberts robot with a Nikon D810 is capable of:

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Posted on September 18th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Journalism, Nikon D4 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to get ahead in video journalism – 10 tips for starting out from Webby award winner Pete Pattisson

Guest post by Pete Pattisson:

In 2000 I got my first photos published in a magazine. Fourteen years later I won a Webby Award for my film exposing the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup.

Along the way I’ve learned a few things about what it takes to succeed (or at least survive) as a freelance video journalist. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I hope one or two of these tips may be helpful to some of you trying to break in to this most competitive of fields. 

The type of work I do sometimes involves breaking news, but more often consists of in-depth investigations, which can take months to film

At the site of the Al Wakrah stadium, Qatar. It is the first World Cup venue to be built.

At the site of the Al Wakrah stadium, Qatar. It is the first World Cup venue to be built.

I currently live in Nepal, where I’ve been focusing on documenting the experience of the country’s migrant workers in Qatar, for The Guardian newspaper. My latest film tells the story of a group of migrant workers who were not paid for over a year, despite fitting out a suite of luxury offices, some of which are currently occupied by the committee organising the 2022 World Cup. 

The Doha skyline

The Doha skyline

So here are my ten tips:

1. It’s all about relationships
Like everything in life, success or failure is basically down to the relationships you build, whether that’s with your editor, your subjects or your fixer. It may seem obvious, but being professional and polite makes all the difference. Building up a network of good contacts is vital, because the key to making a great film is everything you do before you press the record button. Do as much as you can face-to-face, and if that’s not possible, use the phone. In particular, when you’re starting out, don’t email editors; emails are far to easy to ignore. Pick up the phone, or better still, go and visit them in person. However, don’t be too deferential. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a higher fee, or arguing your case about how your film should be edited.
2. Does social networking work?
Having said that networking is important, I’m not convinced social networking has the same benefit. I find it much more valuable to spend an hour talking to a local journalist, than spend an hour on Twitter. Now you can, of course, do both, but it makes sense to focus your efforts on what will have most impact, and in my experience that means producing good material. Almost all the work I have got has come from people who have seen what I have already done. The best way to get work, is to do work.
3. Don’t rely on video alone
I started out as a photographer, then I realised how hard it is to earn a living through photos alone, so I started writing and subsequently making films. This has three advantages. It means you can offer editors a complete package: text, photos and video. It means you have three potential sources of income. And it allows you to tell a story through the most appropriate medium. Not every story lends itself to video, so match your medium to your story.
4. Be a specialist
There are good reasons to start out as a generalist, building up your experience by making films in a range of settings and on a range of issues, but I chose a different route. From the start I specialised in stories about labour rights, and in particular modern forms of slavery. I spent a year documenting different forms of slavery around the world, and then published a book and held an exhibition in central London.

Initially I made a massive financial loss on the project, but it gave me a platform to publicise both the issue and myself. On the back of the project I got numerous articles published in newspapers and magazines, and photos from the project were subsequently exhibited in the US, France, India and at the United Nations in Geneva. And I eventually broke even, about five years after I completed the project.
5. Go and live somewhere remote
Journalism is so competitive, it makes little sense to base yourself in New York, London, Delhi or Beijing when you’re starting out. All the big newspapers have correspondents there and you may struggle to establish yourself. But it’s much easier to get noticed if you’re pitching good stories from a place where there are few other journalists. Furthermore, the cost of living in the remoter parts of the world is often (but not always) much less.
6. They are called newspapers for a reason
Newspapers publish the news. And so the easiest way to get published is to put yourself at the centre of a news story, preferably before anyone else. The first film I ever got published by The Guardian was from Burma, days after Cyclone Nargis devastated the country. I happened to visit a camp for people displaced by the cyclone just as General Than Shwe, the then leader of Burma, arrived in a giant motorcade. I managed to take some photos of him (before I was arrested, and then escaped). I had no problem getting that film published!
7. Shoot actuality
Actuality means things that are happening live in front of you, for example a protest, a funeral or a rescue. This is the stuff that makes for really gripping viewing, and from my experience it’s what editors are most interested in. Seeing the event in real time is much more powerful than listening to someone retell the event afterwards. In other words. ‘show, don’t tell’. One of the best suggestions I ever got (which I think came from Adam Westbrook’s interesting blog) is to watch your film with the sound turned off. If it’s still interesting you’ve probably made a good film. If not, have a re-think.

8. Equipment matters (but not that much)
Equipment matters, but it’s the story that trumps everything. My Webby-winning film on migrant workers in Qatar, was almost entirely shot with a Canon 60D, a Rode VideoMic Pro, a Canon 28mm f1.8 and a 17-40mm f4L. So you really don’t need top-of-the-line equipment to make a decent film, especially as most video journalism is published in highly compressed form on the web.

I would argue that the ideal tool for video journalism is a small camcorder. When you are shooting actuality, you want to at least have the option of auto-everything. Having said that, I’m sticking with DSLRs largely because I can shoot video and stills with one camera.

What’s the best DSLR for video journalism? If you’re just starting out and want to keep costs down, the Canon 60D with Magic Lantern software is not a bad place to begin. I’ve recently started using mine with a Beachtek two channel audio adaptor, which gives me much more control over audio levels.

I would like to be able to recommend the 70D because of its excellent autofocus and remarkably smooth electronic aperture; however, both these features only work really well with Canon’s very slow STM lenses. Furthermore, until we get Magic Lantern for the 70D, there’s no way to monitor the audio through headphones. So if you can afford it, the obvious solution appears to be the Panasonic GH4 or Sony a7S.
9. You’re not a journalist; you’re an entrepreneur
Being a successful freelance video journalist means being a successful entrepreneur. If you can’t make money, you can’t make films. So before you buy anything – a camera, lens, website, software – figure out how many films you are going to have to sell in order to cover the cost. If you do have money to spend, spend it on making films. Think about how to avoid or minimise the really big costs, like flights, hotels and translators. One way around this is to shoot local; you don’t have to go halfway around the world to make a great film. The ideal solution of course is to get an editor to commission you, but in my experience this is quite hard to do when you’re starting out. Conversely, try to diversify your sources of income. As a rule, newspapers do not pay very well, but NGOs and corporates do, so look to them for work too. And there’s nothing wrong in starting out part-time – for a long time I fitted my journalism around working full-time as a teacher.

10. Be persistent
That’s it.

You can find out more about Pete Pattisson’s work on his website.

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Posted on September 8th, 2014 by Pete Pattisson | Category: Journalism | Permalink | Comments (1)

“I didn’t expect it to feel like war”: Covering Ferguson

From original writing by Abbey Adkison for Columbia Visuals, edited by Dan Chung:

The images of heavily militarised police in Ferguson confronting protests over the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by an officer have shocked the world. Even the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has stepped in, urging law enforcement to respect international standards in dealing with demonstrations.
Journalists at the scene in Missouri have faced a double challenge. The first has been dealing with police hostility – including the arrest of veteran Getty photographer Scott Olsen on Monday.

The second has been covering the underlying story: not just filming the SWAT teams, tear gas grenades and angry exchanges, but capturing the emotions and experiences of residents.

Columbia Visuals have kindly allowed us to run extracts from their interviews with three visual journalists on the scene. For the full stories, please click through to read about the experiences of Salima Koroma, a video producer for Time, on her first out-of-state assignment; photographer David Carson, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; and Brent McDonald, a senior video journalist with the New York Times. Carson arrived at the scene of the 18-year-old’s death on August 10, “as the police were washing the blood off the street”, he said.

“This is history. This is something that people are going to talk to their grandkids about. It’s important to have a visual record of what actually happened here.

Salima Koroma said that when the curfew was announced, she knew the response would be angry: “I’d been there the night before, and I could feel the frustration and hopelessness.  We [the journalists] knew that something was going to happen. I didn’t expect the police tear gas; I didn’t think that they would really do it. I didn’t expect it to feel like war. I didn’t expect it to be so scary,” she said.

Koroma also noted the practical problems. She worked with a Canon 5D mkII with a Rode shotgun microphone, putting the Tascam recorder away “just because I knew I was going to be running all over the place” and trying to avoid using a light because it was “imposing” for interviewees.

She added: “I am a young, black woman. A lot of people have been a little more trusting of me, especially because I don’t have these big cameras…I’m very low-maintenance. I’m a one-man band. Whereas you have these big news organizations: a lot of them are white, a lot of them seem to not really care.

“There is a lot of distrust from protestors toward the media. When you’re talking historically, about how the media has covered African-Americans, it has not been great. Think of what the media shows of African-Americans: we are portrayed in the media as thugs, as gangsters, as poor, without talking about the root problems.”

Brent McDonald has also been travelling light: “I’m shooting with a Canon 5D mkIII that I’ve rigged out with a Zoom H6 that’s cabled line-in to the camera. Most of that video I went handheld, but sometimes I used a monopod with little feet. My Sennheiser mic is the MKE 600. I also shoot with a Audio Technica short cardioid mic.”

For him it was important to convey “what it’s like to live in this neighborhood, what it’s like to live with a police force that they didn’t trust, and was, at least this with particular officer, responsible for a pretty heinous act, if indeed it happened as witnesses describe.”

He added: “A lot of the way people cover a protest is when it gets gnarly and shit hits the fan, but there’s a whole progression to a protest when it escalates, particularly when there’s the sort of response we’ve been seeing, and it isn’t just that moment…It’s not just about people throwing bottles and police throwing tear gas, it’s about people coming out and having a voice, expressing their anger and frustration and making sense of them, respecting that.

“These are people, not sound bites.”

Like other journalists on the ground, he said his task had been made harder by law enforcement officers.

“Police did not distinguish between reporters and protestors. They threatened everyone there. They’ve threatened arrest. There were reporters who have been shot at with rubber bullets,” said McDonald.

Carson caveated that while there were police officers who had threatened him with arrest and ordered him from scenes, he had also “run into some incredibly helpful and good police officers who are certainly doing their jobs…[and are] interested in protecting me and making sure I’m safe” – just as, while some protestors were keen to see events documented, other people in the area had assaulted him.

David Carson’s Twitter picture with the Ferguson residents who gave him shelter during the protests Aug 13th.

David Carson’s Twitter picture with the Ferguson residents who gave him shelter during the protests Aug 13th.

He warned students who have asked his advice on reporting from the scene: “They’re not fooling around down here.

“I think it’s very easy to get sucked up into the excitement of it, but there’s not a picture you could make out here that would be worth being hurt for.”

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Posted on August 20th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Canon EOS 5D MkIII, Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Humanoids: Matt Allard explains how he shot his latest Aljazeera documentary using Sony F55

By technical editor Matt Allard:

Humanoids from Matthew Allard ACS on Vimeo.

Shooting documentaries for broadcast television often involves working on a very tight schedule with little to no set-up time – you’re given a very limited time to achieve good results. A recent documentary I shot in Japan on humanoid robots was no exception. It was shot over 11 days in 4 different cities and that time included all the travel. Different methods of getting around, including planes, trains and automobiles, always makes packing and logistics very tricky. To make things even more complicated I had to take two cameras as a lot of the interviews we shoot require multiple angles.

In Japan people’s schedules often run to the minute: If a person says they have one hour of time for you, they mean literally one hour. I encountered this numerous times during the shoot, where I had an hour to not only film a 45-50 minute interview and reversals and two shots, but also shoot all the B-roll. This often meant making large sacrifices in terms of lighting and then how I filmed the B-roll. You need to think ahead and be confident with your decisions. Every second you waste contemplating where you should get your next shot is time you can’t get back. If you try and make every shot perfect, with beautiful lighting, you may end up with only a few shots: not nearly enough when you’re shooting long format shows. Sometimes content is more important than having a nice back light. On the flip side of this, you don’t want to just go with the available light if it happens to be dark, or go hand-held if it doesn’t fit with the style you’re shooting. It is all about finding a compromise between time and quality and often this is a hard thing to do.

Working with the F55 on the Wally Dolly

Working with the F55 on the Wally Dolly

I shot this documentary on the Sony F55 and I used the F3 as my “B” camera. Most broadcasters don’t want to deal with Log or large amounts of data. The usual standard is 50Mb/s and anything higher often results in headaches. The whole push towards RAW and 4K is great but the reality of it actually being used and accepted by broadcasters is a long way off. I shot the majority of the vision in this story in a 50 Mb/s in a standard REC709 profile and there was only a small amount of material shot in any sort of log profile. The show doesn’t get graded and only small amounts of colour correction, if any, are done. Shooting in a REC709 space limits your camera’s dynamic range and gives you a more baked-in look. You really do need to get everything right in camera as you don’t have a lot of room to correct the image if you don’t.

When you’re working as a one man band on a long format show there is so much you have to be responsible for. Not only are you taking care of the camera and the lighting but often the audio too. A lot of the time you have two radio mics running, so you’re trying to monitor the levels and quality of the audio as well as focusing on the shot at hand. I try to hide microphones as much as possible but without a dedicated sound operator it can be difficult and time-consuming. Certain types of clothing just naturally make noise or that annoying rustling sound and hiding the microphone works better on certain types of clothing than others. If I’m having sound problems trying to hide them I’ll move them to the outside – when you have limited time you don’t want to be stuffing around with fixing microphones. It also tends to annoy and make the person you’re interviewing or filming uncomfortable as you’re right in their personal space, fiddling around with their clothes. When I do hide them I usually use the Rycote overcovers and stickies. I find them to work really well in combination.

Why do I use radio mics for my interviews and not, say, a boom-mounted microphone? I am often filming that person after the interview and it saves a lot of time if I already have a microphone on them. Also, a boom would be yet more equipment to carry around and set up. While it would solve the rustling sound issues you often face, it just isn’t practical when you’re working one man band.

As far as lighting goes I used my go-to lights: the BBS Area 48 Soft as my key and the Litepanels Sola ENG kit as my back light and for lighting backgrounds. Both these lights are versatile, easy to set up and can be powered off batteries. I usually light my subject and then, at the end of the interview, adjust my lighting for various other shots. I often find trying to light two people on your own so that it is set up for reversals and two-shots is just too time consuming and compromises your main interview lighting. It would also mean carrying around a minimum of six lights which isn’t realistic when you’re working on your own. In Japan, especially, you are often conducting interviews in very small rooms and to get a nice backdrop for both the interviewee and the interviewer at the same time is almost impossible. I much prefer to focus on the interviewee and then at the end I can move the interviewer into a more pleasing spot.


I used the F3 as a second camera for quite a few of the interviews. I would often put it on the Redrockmicro one man crew which is a motorised parabolic slider. It is fast to set up and easy to use. You don’t have to attach motors or tripod heads to it, you just take it out, put your camera on and plug it in. It allows you to get some interesting angles. The down side I found is that it does tend to be quite noisy if you make the speed too high. In a very quiet room, if you have it too close, the microphones can pick up the sound. It seems to be more noisy when moving in one direction than the other. I had mixed results when using it for interviews, but put this partly down to me using it for the first time. I did however find it very good for getting various B-roll shots and I use it quite a bit for this purpose.

Working with the Redrockmicro One Man Crew

Working with the Redrockmicro one man crew

For other shots I used the Wally Dolly as again it gave me some movement and is compact and very easy to set up. Using a high hat I was able to get some nice tracking and movement shots when I was shooting these small robots.

I’m all for using various ‘toys’ to get different types of shots, but when you have limited time they can become a burden. Setting up a dolly or a slider or any other piece of equipment that is not “core kit” can dramatically eat away at the time you have been allocated. I always ask myself if the shot is really worth it for the time I have. I try not to over-use any of these things but prefer to use them as a complement to the overall story. A lot of today’s shooters get carried away with using toys and forget about the fundementals of film-making: Composition, lighting, and audio.

Shooting documentaries requires compromises, thinking ahead and a lot of hard work. Ultimately it is very rewarding to shoot longer format shows and you constantly learn from doing them. I come away from every shoot with new ideas on how to do something better and what worked and didn’t work – being a cameraman is a constant learning experience. Even after 25 years of shooting I still get nervous before shoots. I think if you walk into any situation feeling overly confident you will end up making mistakes. Keeping an edge is key to improving. Learning to work fast, regardless of which project you are doing, will ultimately make you a better shooter.

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Posted on August 11th, 2014 by Matthew Allard | Category: Journalism, Sony F3, Sony F5 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Gaza through a lens: Sky News cameraman Barnaby Green talks

By site editor Dan Chung:

We spend most of our time on this blog talking gadgets, but the technology is only the means to an end. Sky News have just published a powerful video interview in which cameraman Barnaby Green discusses not just the logistical challenges of filming the Gaza conflict but – more importantly – the emotional challenges. Please watch.

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Posted on August 3rd, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Journalism | Permalink | Comments (1)

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