I travel over the UK and beyond for camera operator work. Mostly as part of a large crew with detailed schedules, a few cars of kit and a well scheduled filming day. I even get a lunch break if I’m really lucky. On the odd occasion, though, I’ll be there as a self shooting cameraman. Which is quite different indeed.
Self shooting is when a one person crew covers an entire filming project.
It’s often a piece to camera, occasionally an interview or in some case an entire event. See my blog on self shooting event films here.
There are lots of habits that successful videographers or camera operators in the corporate video industry need to adopt. You have to be able to handle all manner of complex and time-precious situations, handle clients well, be adaptable to whatever a day throws at you amongst many other things. No situation is these more relevant than self shooting.
Prepare well and always give yourself plenty of time
As a self shooting cameraman I have more responsibility. I’m the producer, director, cameraman, sound operator and gaffer all rolled into one for the day. There’s no car to pick me up and no producer to email through the schedule, so preparation is very important. I need to know where I’m going, who I’m seeing, when to get there – even what I’m doing is nice to know! Some jobs are so last minute that sometimes all I get are an address and a time!
Whatever preparation I do, I always leave plenty of time in advance of a shoot. I’d rather be the guy that arrives two hours early than the person who takes the later train, gets delayed, loses his bearings on the London underground and ends up sabotaging the entire project!
On most corporate video shoots I stick all sorts of pieces of camera kit in the car ‘just in case’. Naturally, most of it never gets used! But when you’re self shooting and you have to carry it all yourself, it’s amazing how much you can do without!
Often when self shooting I’ll take the train, and can comfortably manage three heavy bags with a spare hand for a coffee and pastry.
Bag 1 has my camera, lenses, sound kit and laptop. Bag 2 has my tripod and bag 3 has the lighting. This is essentially the bare bones of what will be needed on the shoot, with some additional kit in case of ‘emergencies’….
…But always take spares!
Touch wood, I’ve never had to use my backup camera kit on a shoot. But I’ve heard enough second hand stories of lenses smashing onto the floor to know that sufficient spare camera equipment eases the stress on a hectic filming day. On a recent trip to London for a 10 minute piece to camera, I took plenty of spares. Here’s the kit I took but thankfully didn’t need to use.
- 2 additional lenses
- Spare shotgun microphone
- Standby LED panel light
- 1 spare camera battery and mains charger
- Spare headphones
- Extra lighting stand
- 6 spare memory cards
- 4 replacement AA batteries
Altogether, this might all seem like too much to take and not use. But as a self shooting camera operator I have a huge responsibility for the client, and I don’t want to be responsible for not doing my job by simply failing to prepare. Mistakes happen and they always do, but as long as I leave for a job knowing that I’ve bought all the necessary kit (and more), planned in detail the filming and given plenty of time, there’s a good chance of it being a success.