From the Shot to the Edit: Getting It Right the First Time


Last Updated: July 1, 2014 6:03 pm GMT
(Boston, Massachusetts--July 1, 2014) Every hour spent in the editing suite has an impact on budgets, and as the industry looks at new ways to keep costs down, camera crews receive more pressure than ever to deliver the right shot quickly. Regardless of the type of production, getting it right the first time, versus capturing massive amounts of content, saves time and money.

Tom Guilmette chooses Vinten Vector 75 to shoot at Fenway Park

“The most common scenarios that lead operators to do pick up shots range from technical issues such as poor framing, camera shake, or the shot being out of focus, to the camera operator not capturing the precise shot the director wants for the edit,” says Tom Guilmette, a Boston-based director of photography and television camera operator who has worked in the professional sports market for over 10 years.

“Good planning at the production stage is vital,” he continues. “The director needs to provide an exact brief, so the camera operator knows precisely what to capture to meet the edit requirements. Secondly, to facilitate the capture of those perfect shots, selecting the right equipment to complement the performance of the camera is crucial. Ultimately, if the equipment doesn't enable the operator to get the shot the director requires, or the image does not meet the quality standards of the production, another shoot will need to be scheduled. Clearly, that is not a cost effective option.”

A lack of full control of the camera makes it more difficult to achieve a precise shot, which can affect transitions in the edit as well as the shots themselves.

“If control is compromised it could mean attempting the same shot two or three times, and even make it impossible to get the right shot at all, which would have to be worked around in the edit,” says Andrew Butler, Applications Manager for Vitec Videocom “This underlines the fact that camera operators simply cannot afford to be compromised by the products they use.”

Andrew Butler, Applications Manager for Vitec Videocom
Andrew Butler, Applications Manager for Vitec Videocom

Following the action and nailing the shot every time requires the right gear. High-quality camera supports can provide the perfect balance and drag necessary to keep an operator shooting without the worry of mechanical issues.

“The most fundamental support in any camera operator’s arsenal of equipment is the tripod,” advises Guilmette. “It is the one piece of equipment that can be used in most applications and helps operators to get the best out of their camera’s lens for the majority of shots. The right tripod should be perfectly balanced with precise control of movement so the camera behaves predictably, thus enabling the operator to be completely responsive in unexpected situations.”

The same applies from selecting the highest performing lenses and lighting to choosing the best power source. The equipment needs to be appropriate for the specific job and make the camera crew’s role easier and quicker. Basics, such as uninterrupted battery power, are vitally important, particularly for today’s 4K camera set ups as well as DSLR shooting.

Guilmette points out that the way cameras are mounted into support systems or handheld rigs can obstruct the battery door from opening properly. Dismounting the camera, changing the battery, and then remounting the camera all costs time. Selecting a battery solution that allows operators to power their cameras for hours at a time from a single source removes the need for frequent changes. Each equipment choice needs to be carefully considered to facilitate a smooth shoot where an operator doesn’t miss any vital action.

The challenge of capturing the right shot the first time varies dramatically across applications. In news reporting, roughly one tenth of the rushes make it through to the program. In every other application, a much larger percentage hits the cutting room floor. Feature film production is the clear winner, with the proportion of footage captured that is actually used in the final picture is nearer to 500:1. With any given application, everything in a scene could be perfect, but if a piece of equipment fails, the shoot will be disrupted or the opportunity could be entirely lost.

“For example, when shooting baseball at Fenway Park where wind is a factor, I choose the Vinten Vector series of fluid heads,” Guilmette relates. “They allow the operator to move very slowly when following a subject super tight, but also give them the ability to whip pan to the next shot. All this can be done without changing the friction level. This results in no surprises, smooth response and expected behavior in the head, when shooting in all conditions.”

Camera operators choose equipment and products they are familiar and comfortable with, but Guilmette recommends they do their research: “Invest in a tripod system that is built to last. The initial outlay will pay off in the long run because it is such a vital tool in your arsenal and a good one can last throughout your career.”

He concludes, “The camera crew know the ups and downs of various support gear on the market. Utilizing this knowledge will increase every production’s chances of getting the shot right the first time.”

Tom Guilmette is a Boston-based director of photography. He has worked in OB sports television for over 13 years. More recently, he has worked on documentary projects that have taken him to the corners of the globe.

Andrew Butler is Applications Manager at Vitec Videocom, a Vitec Group company. Butler joined Vinten as a production engineer. He went on to product management, and today he leads the company’s strategic product planning for the professional videography & cinematography segments of the industry. Butler is dedicated to understanding and assist in solving a wide range of creative and technical challenges, and incorporating those solutions into the Vitec Videocom product portfolio.


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