#364MC // Professional Experience // Research & Development // Camera Op

Ever since studying Media I have always loved the visuals, which might be something everyone would say as it’s the thing we see first. What camera angles are being used to display an emotion, event etc. For almost every university project I have been camera assistant or Director of Photography. My inspiration stemmed from Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch – two people who have influenced my work and what I want to portray through film ever since I started studying film.

I will always remember Kubrick’s ‘One Point Perspective’ which I’ve tried to embody in some of my own work. Below is an example of his technique:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/48425421″>Kubrick // One-Point Perspective</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/kogonada”>kogonada</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Whilst researching into the role of a camera assistant I came across a book titled ‘The Camera Assistant’s Manual’ by David E. Elkins (1991) within the first pages I discovered some of the history behind the technology used before camera’s became more complex and required individuals to learn this skill “The process of motion picture photography started when George Eastman introduced the first 35 mm film in 1889, and Thomas Edison, along with his assistant W. K. L. Dickson, designed the Kinetograph and Kinetoscope, also around 1889. Various reports indicate that the patent was applied for in 1891 but that it wasn’t granted until 1897. The Kinetograph was used to photograph motion pictures, and the Kinetoscope was used to view them. These early pieces of equipment were very basic in their design and use. As film cameras became more complex, a need developed for specially trained individuals to work with this new technology and equipment. Two of these individuals became known as the First Assistant Cameraman (1st AC) and the Second Assistant Cameraman (2nd AC).” Billy Blitzer, one of the first well known cinematographers who worked alongside Director D. W. Griffith was assigned what they would call back then, a Camera Boy, which is today’s Camera Assistant role – to simply carry the equipment and make a note of the shots for the day as there was no Script Supervisor back in 1914.

When you start looking for that first professional job, any experience, even if it is on a student production, increases your chance of getting a job. ” It is true that getting experience on a film set whether that being a student production or a professional production it will increase the chances of landing the job in media which you desire. I found that my opportunity on a real film-set came from working with individuals who had made connections doing the same routine – working on student projects, contacting professionals and then landing experience even if it is volunteer work. There’s something very humbling and more rewarding when working on a set you have volunteered for – I found myself working extra hard to prove my worth of being there whilst on the set of ‘Sustain’.

With this in mind I decided to do a little research on how to go about applying for a role as Camera Assistant:

  • have good colour vision, and good hand-to-eye co-ordination
  • have a working knowledge of how the relevant camera equipment works
  • have good communication skills and show diplomacy and sensitivity when working with artists, production staff and crew
  • be able to take direction and work as part of a team
  • be able to carry out instructions with great accuracy and attention to detail
  • be able to work under pressure and in stressful situations
  • be able to frame and compose shots after you’ve gained some experience
  • have good IT skills
  • possess physical stamina for working long hours and moving heavy equipment
  • understand the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures

Intensive industry experience is the best route into this role, having gained a grounding in the basic camera skills and knowledge required. You could begin your career as a Camera Assistant, and then work your way up through the ranks of the camera department over several years.

When searching for job vacancies a lot of free-lance work was cropping up over the place as well as trainee jobs – which is inspiring to see as most people would assume media jobs are sparse. Just by searching ‘camera assistant’ into a job search website like Indeed.co.uk pages and pages of jobs were displayed under that same criteria.

References

“Camera Assistant (Studio And Outside Broadcast)”. Creativeskillset.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 5 Apr. 2017.

Elkins, David E. The Camera Assistant’s Manual. New York: Focal Press, 2013. Print.

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#364MC // Professional Practice Portfolio // Work Experience // ‘Sustain’ Final

The time has finally come where we wrap up on the set of ‘Sustain’. It has been one hell of a journey and I have learnt and experienced so much more than I ever thought I would. Three months of working 24 hour weekends in all weather conditions and till late hours and I wouldn’t of had it any other way.

‘Sustain’ was my first ever time on a real film set and also as Sound Assistant, before this I had only dabbled with Sound and kept myself to camera op but I’m so glad I challenged myself with Sound as it has quickly become something I am very passionate about and would love to pursue further in my journey as a media creative.

To say that this was easy would be false, to say it was extremely fun and rewarding would be more accurate. It was one of the most difficult things I had ever put myself through but it never felt like ‘work’ – around talented, fun, encouraging and enthusiastic individuals made every day feel like we was just kids making home movies with a lot better equipment.

From this experience I have come to understand that to make a master piece you need a lot of hands and creative vision – each persons opinion and talent was put to good use and learning how each person had a certain role which would overlap into other roles was exciting to see. Often on days we would have people helping Sound who usually work as First AD or even Editor. Everyone was knowledgeable in each area which I feel confident to say I am now too. I have mingled and experienced first had what it’s like to be a DoP, Editor, Director and so on and couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity.

I have included some photos from our shoots and I can’t wait to work with these incredible artists in the future.

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364MC // Professional Practice Portfolio // Research & Development #1 – Sound Assistant

During the months of January to March I was fortunate enough to get some work experience on a real film set for Birmingham Filmmakers as Sound Assistant. My main role was to operate the Boom Pole and Zoom Mic.

It was a very insightful experience, I’ve never really been sound op before as I tended to stick to camera work throughout university projects but the more I was in control of sound the more I fell in love with that role. It has opened my mind to the possibility of not just limiting myself to camera work or becoming a DoP.

A Sound Engineer makes a salary of £16,000 to £35,000 per year and works variable hours per week. There are no initial requirements to becoming a sound engineer, but some knowledge and passion for sound is essential.

The types of courses that help with experience would be music technology, sound engineering and media production. I have learnt a lot about sound throughout my three years at Coventry University and even more from being on the set of ‘Sustain’ as Sound Assistant.

The skills required for this type of career are as follows:

  • excellent hearing
  • excellent practical skills
  • a high level of attention to detail
  • the ability to cope with long hours and tight deadlines

After working on ‘Sustain’ I feel as if these skills have enhanced for myself, I have very close attention to detail when it comes to sound and working 12 hour days has given me the ability to cope with working through being tired and deadlines.

Through more research there are many avenues a person interested in a sound career could take:

  • production sound – recording sound on set or location
  • post-production – putting the final soundtrack together in an editing studio

On a production sound team, your day-to-day duties may include:

  • setting up equipment to suit the acoustics and the sound designer’s instructions
  • selecting and placing fixed microphones
  • operating the boom (a microphone on a pole, used to get close to the sound source)
  • checking sound quality
  • recording sound onto digital devices
  • servicing and repairing equipment
  • playing music or sound effects into a live programme

On a post-production team, your duties may include:

  • following a sound designer or sound supervisor’s instructions
  • mixing and balancing speech, effects and background music
  • editing speech to fit the action on screen
  • creating extra sound effects and adding them into the soundtrack

The progression with this chosen career could start from freelance work to working for a large company or a station locally or nationally. The first steps into this role would be taking a trainee position/shadowing someone already in the industry through Creative Skillset I found a ‘Trainee Finder’ program that helps allocate people looking for experience in certain roles in the media industry by helping them with course in all locations and roles. This is something that I’m signing up to and hoping to gain after university a long side any job roles I land.

I looked into Sound Engineer roles as I felt this was crucial to understanding sound itself and how to excel in this career. Mark Linett started his sound career whilst at college by starting his own PA Company. While running the company, he began working with artists such as Seals & Crofts, Sha Na Na, and Livingston Taylor. He later than worked for Warner Bro’s Studio, although he specialises in music sound engineering and has produced many well known tracks. He was also nominated for best engineered album which he recorded and mixed for Brian Wilson who won his first solo Grammy in 2005 for “Best Rock Instrumental Performance” for “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” from his best-selling SMiLE album.

Whilst looking for job roles in Sound there is an abundance of opportunities, most of them located in London which is perfect for me as this is where I aim to end up. A lot of the jobs are positions for candidates with transferable skills such as this role at London Live https://www.indeed.co.uk/viewjob?jk=896888109b0d70ae&q=Sound+Operator&tk=1bci88mf491dhalb&from=web the role includes sound, camera and lighting experience.

References

“Looking For Film Trainees? – Trainee Finder”. Hiive. N.p., 2017. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

“Sound Assistant”. Creativeskillset.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

“Studioexpresso – Producer Mark Linett”. Studioexpresso.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

“TV Or Film Sound Technician”. Nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk. N.p., 2017. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

#364 Work Experience – ‘Sustain’

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(Sustain (2017) promotional poster)

A fellow student on my course posted a couple of weeks a go about needing help for a new feature film coming out titled ‘Sustain’ the new film from Midlands Director David Hastings & Producers Troy Dennison and Keiran Bowers (Checking In, Brink, The House of Screaming Death). A Birmingham crew with amazing talent and even more amazing personalities.

On January 14th I was fortunate enough to be picked as Sound Assistant and start my first full day on a real film set. I have been to 3 shoots already lasting 12 hours each.  I’ve learnt so much already from these first few days, about sound, about cinematography and editing. Director David is truly an inspirational man with a lot of experience under his belt and his crew have been so welcoming and informative with any questions I have.

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(A slightly awkward shot of me with the boom pole…)

The filming goes on until March with a week long shoot in February, being Sound Assistant is a lot more taxing than it sounds but it’s hugely rewarding. Considering I’ve never been the one to choose sound as my role in previous productions with uni it’s become one of my favourite things to do and has opened up my skills in the film environment. I’m loving learning different positions and get to experience a piece of everything on set.

One of the difficulties with filming that I found during these past few days was that trying to record sound outside is almost impossible. To make it even more challenging we had wind and rain and was on a busy street with cars and planes constantly flying/driving past. We managed to make it work and Sam, the editor, is incredible with sound editing and can work with the material we got.

On  Sunday 22nd January, Karen the first for sound, had to leave to film something else at 6pm so as sound assistant I had to fill in the role and take charge. At first I was intimidated and nervous to speak up but after the first couple of takes I found my voice and was able to really take charge in my area – giving the director the nod when the sound was perfect or the shake of the head when it wasn’t and discussing what works best and what doesn’t. It was really satisfying knowing that I had some sort of power during this production, if the sound quality is awful then it has to be re-done. In a sense I felt like a mini director of sound saying when to cut and when to go, cause if sound isn’t ready no one is.

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(The first official production still from Sustain featuring Brett Drewsbury as Keiran Flank and Laura Evenson as Kara Marshdale.)

I’m really excited for the next couple of months to see where it takes us and meeting more cast and crew. I’ll continue to blog about each shoot with what I’ve learnt from each session. Watch this space…