Covering an event is an art in and of itself. The ‘on the fly’ nature of an event means you need to be planned up the wazoo and have confident shooters who know what pixels they’re out to hunt.
Events are things that occur with great numbers of people and low amounts of control. Event coverage involves covering these events and manoeuvring yourself in such a magical way as to capture everything as it happens with great framing and incredible sound. An event can range from the very small (in which case maybe you have some degree of control) to the very large (in which case you are a mere speck clinging to a camera, cast adrift on the sea of festivity). In either case, being well prepared beforehand and confident, calm and in control on the day, will be your best strategy for the high-octane world of Event Coverage.
Before the event in question it is invaluable to sit with your team and discuss what is going to happen. Get a program for the event if you can and cross-reference the time of certain elements with the availability of shooters. If you only have one camera operator, then good luck, events are best covered with multiple cameras roaming independently of each other to capture simultaneous events throughout the day/night. To that end, ensure your team each have their own camera, tripods and SD cards and are well prepared for the coming shoot. Also, they might each need a camera assistant to carry things and to help set up shots. Prep your micro teams and send them out into the wild to gather.
If possible it can be really helpful to visit the location in advance identify key vantage points, stage areas or thoroughfares. Identify a home base, synchronise watches and exchange contact details. As always, allocate yourself plenty of time and have your gear prepped and ready. Also, check the weather for the day of the event and take that information into account.
We covered the ‘Working on Country’ forum last year, with three roving camera teams, each with a list of interviews and workshops they had to cover. In this way we were able to cover everything that the event had to offer, and grab quick interviews in between. As they shot sequences, the SD cards were ferried back to home base for quick processing and intense levels of media management. WOC
More recently, we covered the ‘Light in winter’ festival. In this case we were able to attend a dress rehearsal of the event on the night before to see what would be happening where and when. This was a great chance for our camera operators to get the lay of the land and to decide what happenings were to be prioritised by which camera team. On the night we had various teams collecting different things, mostly trying to capture the atmosphere and scale of the event, with one team trained on uniquely gathering time lapses (see time lapse). LiW
In Camp Coorong Bush Walk the Ngarrindjeri media team produced event documentation about the cultural bush walk at Camp Coorong, guided by Ngarrindjeri Elder Tom Trevorrow. In just 90 minutes, the team had to follow Tom as he introduced a group of 30 Primary School students and their teachers to the Indigenous flora and fauna of his land.
Sometimes it is possible to film a test run, for example the dress rehearsal of a performance can give you a great overview what will happen the next day on stage – and if you have your cameras running for real, you might find that some of the footage offers you a necessary other angle in the edit later…
If you have control over the event, for example during a shoot for a cultural tour ask the guide to stop at every important point and repeat some of the key elements, so that you can shoot a second angle, close ups and cut-aways. These close ups and alternative angles will be invaluable when you edit your event documentary – and often you can’t re-do the event to shoot it again…
If you know that you won’t be able to ask for repeats or you won’t have any control of the event, for example at a special ceremony or at a sports event, make sure you bring two cameras and discuss with both teams what they each will shoot. If you can’t access a second camera, go through the event and identify 5 key scenes you MUST get and plan ahead.
‘Pre-Production’ is where you start to devise some more of the specifics about your project. No longer in the world of amorphous maybes, or will we/won’t we type discussions, pre-production is your chance to start planning and getting your ideas down on paper.