This is the first of a series of posts I’m calling “Shooter in focus”. It is a chance for top Cameramen and VJ’s to share their work and pass on useful hints and tips to the rest of us. Today I interview Dan Martland who is the New York based Cameraman and Editor for British breakfast show “Daybreak”. Dan really is a class act and I’ve learnt a few things from looking at his work. . .
Chris – So tell us about your background
Dan – I went to College and studied a Btec in Media studies. I knew exactly the field i wanted to be in. In fact I knew what I wanted to do from a very early age. I was always with a stills camera in my hand, I had a strong interest in photography and composition. Growing up, my Uncle worked in the film industry as a cameraman and director. I always thought that this was an awesome job and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.
Whilst studying during the week, I was lucky enough to get a part time job on the weekends working for an outside broadcast company mainly rigging up cables and cameras for Premiership Football games ON Match of the day or Sky sports. I spent most weekends travelling the length of the country (UK) from stadium to stadium, come rain or shine getting my hands dirty and learning the craft from the ground up. This was the best way for me to learn on the job and meet some great contacts along the way. I eventually progressed onto cameras shooting the Live games.
After leaving college I decided to try my hand in the film industry. I started off working for a rental house where I used to prep cameras and grip gear, both video and film for daily, weekly and monthly shoots. I was lucky enough to assist on feature films such as Bridget Jones’s Diary as well as music videos and commercials. I quickly realized that film wasn’t really for me and TV was where my head was at. I wanted to be operating cameras… not spending my years as a clapper loader …focus puller and finally putting my eye to a camera in my 40’s. I then landed my first full time job as a cameraman for Man United TV. So a move to Manchester it was. Spent a couple of years working as multi-skilled cameraman, shooting ENG, editing and studio work…not to mention more Live OB’s
Then another move to work for a company called SisLink. They had/have the contract for Sky news. So my main job was traveling around the UK as a floating cameraman working from region to region doing all their live shots working alongside a Sat truck engineer, living In hotels and constantly waiting for the pager to go off with my next assignment. After 2 years on the road for Sky another job came my way.
I moved back to London and became a multiskillled studio cameraman working for ITV news, Channel 4 News, Channel 5 News and GMTV OB’s This was a great move for me, more money and new skills learned. From swinging Jimmy Jibs for Live TV to pedestal and handheld cameras in the studios. And not to mention the early morning GMTV shifts, traveling around the country at 2am for Live broadcasts – Killer!!! But all great fun and great people to work with.
After 3 years of studio work I was given a great opportunity to work in the Los Angeles Bureau for GMTV as a shoot edit cameraman, covering everything from showbiz to news. Three years of crazy La La Land and then on to New York to cover everything news related from the east coast. Again for GMTV (now Daybreak.) I am Still here in the big apple covering everything from Hurricanes in NY to Tornados in Oklahoma. This job has everything, lots of long hours/days, plenty of traveling shooting and editing to tight deadlines with my Correspondent Lucy Watson. But theres nothing else I would rather do. Its great not knowing what i’m doing from one day to the next. A new adventure everyday with its own challenges, We are a great little team Lucy and I, just getting the job done…and done well.
10 years at ITN and still counting!
Chris – What kit do you use?
Dan – Can you believe it…Still DVCam Standard definition!!!! (Sony DSR 450) Still a cracking image for SD but HD for ITV is just around the corner. They are upgrading in the new year to some lovely new Panasonic HD P2 cameras (AJ PX5000). I can’t wait.
Some of examples of Dan’s work
Chris – I loved the wipe transition from walking man to interviewee in this piece. How did you do that mate?
Dan – I just do this in FCP7 with a 8 pin garbage matte. I try and do this all the time with either people or yellow taxis. As long as the object fills the frame and starts from either left or right and wipes across the frame. You just go frame by frame on the exit end, and garbage matte it out with keyframes on Video track 2 revealing whatever you want on video track.
Chris – Was that a steadicam you were using? What sort and why? How do you approach filming celebs? Do they act impatient if you spend too long setting up?
Dan – Well spotted and yes this was done partly on a steadicam. After being in the studio for all those years getting lovely tracking and jib shots Hand held movement just upset me with all the bumps and wiggles. I do love a bit of movement in a shot as it gives it great production value. I was always interested in steadicam so I bought a used older one from ebay for $5K with my own personal money, I just wanted to better myself as an operator and bring another dimension to the shots. I own the steadicam SK2. Its an older model but the arm can hold up to 20lbs which is great with the heavy Sony dsr450.
When it comes to shooting with the celebs, its all about pre planning…as yes you are correct, their time is very precious and you can’t mess around and have them waiting for you. We edit the piece in our heads before even shooting a VT. So we can bang out an interview and then get the extra (steadicam fancy shots) afterwards. We use to pick 3 different locations and have a plan to shoot each sort segment on the rig. So in this VT, we shot the interview sat down and pre lit. Then we did all the pick up stuff, like the meet and greet at the door. Then a quick walk in the house and then one by the Pool. All usually in one take so no time for me to mess up too badly. When edited together all mashed up, it looked like we where there all day rather the the whole 1 hour we were really there for. Oh the magic of tv. But again you have to pick your celebs wisely as not everyone would be up for this sort of thing but luckily Miss Collins is lovely
Heres another example of steadicam stuff we did on the quickie: http://vimeo.com/67516161
Chris – Love the edit on this. What system do you use and why? Is that magicbullet looks? Was the multiple boxes a preset plug-in?
Dan – Cheers mate. Yes this was all my own creation really. No preset boxes, all made manually by yours truly. And yes Magic Bullet Looks was used on this. A great powerful tool to quickly get a nice stylized look to your VTs.
I still edit on a macbook pro and use final cut 7. Cant get my head around Final cut x, I think that this was a big mistake by apple. ITV is primary Avid based but I personally choose Apple and its FCP7 software. I’m not a fan of windows and have a bunch of plugins which work great with FCP.
This vt again was pre planned in my head. So I shot what i needed for the boxes, especially the stuff with the model.
Dan – This is what we live for – So much to shoot and so many peoples stories to share. It’s amazing how these suffering humans who have lost everything can still be upbeat and positive about life. Everyone helping each other out. Real humanity is a lovely thing to see.
Chris – What was the little camera you were using? How did you do the map graphic? Were you nervous after the woman said “Be careful”?
Dan – Yeah this was a bit of fun actually. Really not my cup of tea being on camera but my mate Nick wanted to do this Rocky road trip as he was obsessed with the movie. He used my Sony Rx100 in movie mode to shoot the footage (mainly of me bitching and moaning)
He edited this on his own and I cleaned it up for him and added the graphic. It was just a case of steeling the map from google and then photoshopping my car on a separate layer, Keyframing it driving down the map. All done in FCP. Map on one V1 and car on v2. Did a digital move on the map and then animated the car with keyframes. Really simple stuff hence it looking so cheap lol. And yes I was nervous when the woman said to be careful. It was a right shit hole with drug dealers on all corners, eyeing up both cameras and my car. We only stayed 5 minutes thank god!