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Cameraman Secrets: Practice Makes (Perfect) Unfazed...

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It's not all about the camera. Of course, I could discuss the merits of using one format over another for days, but instead I'd like to talk about the importance of the auxiliary equipment. I have to be able to rely on every piece of my camera kit. I don't always get given an Alexa to shoot on, but the perfect tracking shot or a smooth pan will always add production value.

Not too long ago, I remember Steadicam was the buzz word and every shoot demanded an insanely long tracking shot. Steadicam is a specialist piece of kit, requiring many hours to master. This was a great time for me as I loved using my Steadicam Master as much as I loved the dynamic scenes it could build. However, I am slightly concerned it has made me two inches shorter and added a curve to my spine.

Now, electronically stabilized Gimbles like the DJI Ronin and Freefly Movi are the high demand item for adding production value. They are inexpensive, incredibly easy to set up and use, and they give great results. I do find myself questioning their place in a corporate shoot, but I can reveal that thanks to the DJI Ronin, a well-known high street bank now have an epic in-house health and safety video.

It does all come down to practice though, and the time to learn isn't on set. The demands on camera crew are huge and often seemingly unreasonable. A tracking shot needs to be perfect every time. Every mark must be hit like clockwork, and you must always appear to be entirely unruffled by the whole process, even if you suspect that the Steadicam vest might be the only thing holding your back together.

As a cameraman, I have to be adept across a wide variety of colourful and ever-changing kit, track and dollies, sliders, drones, follow focuses, remote follow focuses, cinesaddles etc. But no shoot is ever going to be without the humble (and sometimes overlooked) tripod. A faulty or unreliable tripod can be more disruptive to a shoot than a wobble on the end of a one shot wonder.

I spend a large amount of my spare time practising, and luckily I do quite enjoy messing around with the tools of my trade. Unfortunately, I don't own all of the items I need to be practicing on. Cue my old friends at Film Store Rental – they have it all and are happy to loan me the kit to practice with or run me though how best to set it up etc. This is an invaluable resource, especially as I often have to work without a Grip or assistant.

"Unfazed" is the look you should be going for and excuses never make up for time lost on a shoot. I would put my success down to my ability to remain cool on the outside even though I may often be crying on the inside. Preparation is the foundation to a calm demeanour on set, and when you have a supplier that you can rely on, like Film Store Rental, you know the kit is all present and correct and that it always works. I'd like to think that I'm regarded as a pretty smooth operator on set, unfazed by pressure and able to produce great results whatever the weather. That said, I do think I may have a Christian Bale rant in the tank somewhere.


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