We all make mistakes, God knows I’ve made so many that I’ve lost count. Therefore I thought it only right and proper to share a few of the classics that still seem to happen day in and day out across the industry. Hopefully reading the five most common cameraman mistakes here will remind you not to make them yourself.
The five below are the best I could come up with but feel free to drop me a line via twitter (@imagejunkies) or post a comment below with some of your own.
The silent movie
You set up a beautifully lit interview and marvel over the shade of your backlight, you run personal mics out for the guest and your Reporter, everything looks and sounds great. . .And then you have to grab some B-roll or rush off to another big story. You shoot more amazing shots and then after about five minutes you suddenly remember that you forgot to switch audio track two back to the camera mic! How often have all of us made this mistake and come back with mute pictures? These days I’m not so worried because I shoot on a Sony PMW 500 and it has four channels, two of which I always leave on my camera top mic, but if I’m not editing the pictures I know whoever is won’t be happy that I’ve made them mess around ingesting tracks three and four. A true classic cameraman’s gaffe.
The double tap
Quick the event is happening. . . You are all keyed up and hit the record button, only in the excitement you hit it twice and fail to notice. You follow the action for the next ten minutes, stopping and starting the record and think you’ve got great pictures. Then you come to edit. . .and realise all you have is feet running, shots of the sky and and the start of questions – You got your record out of sync. I once heard that an unnamed BBC cameraman filmed an interview with Ayatollah Khomeini on his return to Iran and made this mistake. In a ballsy move he realised what he’ done, owned up to it and asked the head of the Iranian revolution to do the interview again, and he did!
Oh, you mean I just filmed the wrong person?
So you are outside court and have no idea what the person you are waiting to film looks like. Eventually a colleague appears and points them out as they arrive. You throw the camera on your shoulder and record a brilliant tracking shot as they walk into court. “Did you get them?” asks your colleague, “Of course,” you reply, “How could I miss him? He was six foot two with a limp and a pony tail.” Your colleagues jaw hits the floor with a clang, “No,you idiot, that wasn’t him, it was the short guy next to him.”
Another apocryphal story I have heard was of a local news shooter in the Midlands who spent the day filming Princess Anne only to get to the edit suite and be told that he’d actually gathered wonderful pictures of her Lady in waiting.
I thought your hair was meant to look like that. . .
Let’s be honest, many of us shooters are men. I don’t know a good hair cut from a bad one and if somebody asks me how their hair looks I generally think it looks fine. So why do Reporters expect us to notice if a bit of hair is in the wrong place? I learnt the hard way, if in doubt always mention the hair, collar or tie of those you are filming as people get very upset if you let them appear on TV looking a mess.
I wish I’d have done the interview over there
We are nearly always in a rush, it’s the nature of the news business. Don’t you hate the way you arrive in a location and are expected to chose the perfect spot to film an interview in the space of just ten seconds, having never seen the location before? No matter how much I try to act unflappable I always allow other people’s stress to make me flustered and choose an interview spot without always considering some of the less obvious alternatives. Then half way through the first answer I realise that the opposite side of the room is much nicer or the sun is dropping and I’m about to get a shadow descend across their face. . .You think about stopping and asking everyone to move and then your reporter asks the crunch question, the guest begins to cry and you realise there is no second chance to do it, you’ll just have to live with a mediocre shot.
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