A New Way of Working
How to adapt video production techniques for a safe working environment.
Since March 16th 2020, which was my last film shoot before lockdown, the world has certainly changed and so has our way of working in film production. During lockdown we have had time to plan and adapt, to create a new way of working, one which is safe for crew, clients and the general public. This article will reflect on my first job back in production on the 14th May and how we can continue to work safely going forward, with the right kit and a detailed approach.
For this project we needed to come up with a way to film people at their homes in a safe way. With the current restrictions we couldn’t be indoors so we had to think of a creative way to film outside. In the pre-production meeting with the agency over Zoom, I pitched the idea of filming each contributor in their doorway which they loved. The first thing we needed to do was research the area, giving consideration to accessibility, the shooting space and the weather. Pre-production is always crucial for a shoot but now it’s more important then ever; ensuring we have a safe and appropriate space for filming prior to arrival.
As well as researching the location and planning the shots, we carry out a detailed risk assessment and provide safe working practices to all those involved. On this occasion we were filming an interview outdoors in a residential location with only 3 of us present; myself (Camera Crew) the client (Agency) and talent (Interviewee).
All camera kit was cleaned with an anti-bacterial spray prior to the shoot.
We now carry a case of PPE and cleaning products with us on each shoot, this includes; face masks, gloves, hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial spray and wipes.
On arrival at the talent’s home, both myself and the client wore PPE and ensured no contact was made with a constant 2 metre distance between the three of us. I unloaded and setup the equipment solo to ensure no-one handled any camera equipment.
I positioned the talent 4 metres away from the camera which was more then enough space. I used a longer lens than I usually would; 85mm rather then 35mm. This achieved the same framing as a standard setup, where I would usually be positioned 1-2 metres from the subject. Radio Mics were not used for close contact and hygiene reasons, so instead I setup a boom mic overhead for sound.
Filming The Interview
For this shoot the interviewee was talking directly into camera. The client was positioned off camera, about 3 metres to the right of me, from here he was able to conduct the interview at a safe distance. Eye-line was not an issue, so the client could ask questions and answers were delivered down the camera lens.
If the client was asking questions and the answers had to be “off-camera” (looking at the interviewer not the camera), then eye-line is important. The interviewer would usually be sat close to the camera so the eye-line feels natural, with the subject’s eyes just glancing off camera.
In this second situation, if the location is long enough then the interviewer can position themselves 2 metres back from the usual position, so eye-line would still be the same. You would have a safe 2 metre distance from the camera crew and 6 metres from the interviewee.
Another alternative would be to use a remote setup to conduct the interview. The client could be in a separate room or even location from the talent and camera person. Using 2 screens (the camera crew’s laptop and client’s laptop / iPad) ensures a safe way of speaking to each other. With correct positioning of the laptop the eye-line is maintained. We can also provide a wireless monitor or remote live feed from the camera to the client so they can see the shot live. I have used this setup on previous shoots and it works great; full control of the interview is maintained just as if the client is present in the room. This straight forward setup is particularly useful if space is tight.
Before de-rigging the equipment I ensure all persons have left location, packing everything away solo and loading it back into the car. Any surfaces which may have been touched are wiped down with anti-bacterial wipes.
Once all the equipment is back in the car and it's safe to do so, PPE is removed and packed away and hands are cleaned with anti-bacterial gel. On returning to the office, all of the equipment is cleaned again with anti-bacterial spray, ready for the next job.
With the correct preparation and a detailed approach, we can continue to work safely and not compromise the quality of our productions. For more information on our safe working practices please read our guidelines in full: Covid19 Safe Working Practices.