I’ve just finished packing the kit away after three fantastic days working for Dilip Patel of Double-Barrelled as a freelance cameraman at the European Congress on Epileptology at London’s Excel.
Apart from hearing many, many words I’ve never heard before (and still don’t understand), this was a really interesting and engaging few days. The job at hand was filming presentations to camera delivered by various key people involved in the diagnosis, treatment and research of Epilepsy. With around 4,000 delegates from all over the world this was a major event. By the end of the three days we had over 20 presentations and promotional vox-pops about future events organised by the ILAE (International League Against Epilepsy) in the can – and of course a very happy client!
Dilip originally approached me about the job earlier on this year at which time the plan was not to necessarily use me as freelance cameraman but rather as the operator of the tele-prompt unit that was going to be used by many of the presenters. I would of course be expected to jump on the camera if needed – but the original client brief did not include a 2-camera shoot. Whilst Dilip asked me to bring along my Canon 5D the original idea was that this was only there as a back-up for his 5D.
I have used various tele-prompt units in the past (and have my own tiny mobile phone prompter system) and each had its own peculiarity in the way it imported, edited and run scripts. This didn’t really phase me as there would be time on site to get familiar with it, but the news that Dilip was going to be building his own system for this job did make me a little apprehensive. I needn’t have worried though as Dilip’s engineering skills are way, way, way beyond that of your average DIYer! I don’t think he has any plans of doing this but I think it’s only a few refinements away from being equal to any of the top-notch prompters on the market. If you are looking to hire the services of a prompter system and operator then do give Dilip a call.
It was soon clear that most people were not going to need to use a prompter to deliver their presentations (they really were top people in their field – and very comfortable in front of camera). Others chose to run a PowerPoint presentation as a reminder which Dilip fed back through the prompter so they were still looking straight down the lens. They were also being shot against a green-screen backdrop (also available from Dilip if you need one!) with the idea that when they referred to certain PowerPoint slides these could be keyed on the screen behind them.
Still, there were a few presenters that felt more comfortable running their entire script through the prompter but it was clear that my time would be better spent getting additional cutaway footage. We also had a couple of guys on hand from the ILAE who were more than capable of operating the prompter. This left me free to shoot some big “dirty” close-ups (“dirty” as they showed the lights and parts of the set in the background) that were shot on a Dutch tilt with an occasional pull-focus, light flare, zoom and pan. You know – that style that seems to annoy the old school TV boys!!! This at least gave the editor something to use to break up the otherwise static ‘down-the-lens’ mid shot that could be anything up to 5-minutes long.
I do find this type of work tiring – but at the same time very rewarding. I think some of the fatigue comes from spending three days stuck in an artificially lit box in the depths of a conference centre – not to mention the added tensions that comes from having to constantly think about backing up memory cards, keeping batteries charged and ensuring that we maintain a safe working environment for a constant stream of presenters. However, the rewards come from continually having to think of how to create better and more engaging images – and from being able to work with some very talented and gifted individuals in front of and behind the camera.
I hope I’ll be working with Dilip again in the near future.
Freelance Cameraman for hire
If any other production houses are looking for a freelance cameraman then please do give me a call. Happy to work with or without kit – and anywhere you care to send me. For this particular job I was able to be at the London Excel conference centre in about 30-minutes using public transport from Loughton – so nice and light on the travel expenses!