Written by Alan Brett Category: Programmes
Published on 10 November 2005


Every year hundreds of people gather for a series of sporting events. They seem like ordinary people - fit, healthy and enthusiastic - but they have all had an organ transplant of some sort. It might be a new heart, liver or lungs that have transformed them from previously very sick people, often being kept alive by machines.

ImageThe Games take place every year, running through from a Wednesday to Sunday. We at Harefield Hospital Television cover this event if we possibly can and this year we made the journey to Loughborough University.

Our crew this time consisted of Chris Watson and Stephen Norris on cameras, Len Kerswill presented the programme and I directed the shoot. I was also to do the editing and post production work. This of course concentrates the mind on what and how it all needs to be shot.

The equipment list looked like this:

  • 1 Sony  DSR-370 DVCAM camcorder and tripod
  • 1 Sony  PD-70 DVCAM camcorder and tripod (borrowed for the day)
  • 1 Sennheiser radio tie clip microphone kit
  • 1 rifle mic in a Rycote wind gag
  • 1 fish pole
  • 2 sets of headphones
  • 3 walkie talkies for crew communications



Blank DVCAM tapes are very expensive to buy; sometimes we're able to get some second-hand ones - but there's always a risk of them having tape damage. So we used consumer type mini DV tapes. On this occasion TDK DV 60 tapes were used. These 60 minute tapes only run for 40 minutes when being shot for the DVCAM format. We took six tapes on location.

On arrival at the site I decided to get the opening piece to camera out of the way first. A three story building was located opposite the athletic stadium - this had a spiral staircase that would make an ideal vantage point for us. Len would be picked up by his radio mic and on the other channel we would have background sound via the rifle microphone.

Inevitably at this sort of event a radio microphone will be in use at the venue. We always make a point of checking now that our equipment is on a different frequency to theirs. Some years ago at a car show our "Testing 123" was heard by several thousand people around the main arena!

I explained to Chris (on camera) that I wanted to start with a close up of Len and then towards the end of his words we would zoom out as wide as we could go. The picture of Len (taken from the final programme) and the wide view (left) of the track and grandstand show how this looked via the impressive 16:1 range of our zoom lens.


Image Then it was into the stadium to get cracking on some interviews. This is where having two cameras really works well. Traditionally when using just one camera we would shoot the interviewee as they were asked questions. Then we would do an over the shoulder 2-shot that just showed the back of the head of our interviewer while the other person would just be looking at them, and finally we would shoot reverse questions - close-ups of the interviewer repeating these questions, followed by 'noddies'. That's a close-up of the interviewer just looking at the person they were talking to and then nodding and smiling. All of those extra shots are quite difficult to look realistic and fit together convincingly into the finished edit. A two camera shoot makes a big difference.

The picture (left) and the two below are taken from one of Len's interviews. You can clearly see the two different camera positions. Each camera operator is free to alter their shots - providing that the other camera is not doing the same. The only cheating here was the close-up of the medals, done after the actual interview.

The problem is getting the two cameras synchronized together at the editing stage. With some equipment the time code running down the tape can be copied from one camcorder to another by cable at the start of the shoot. This is then removed and the two camcorders will stay synchronized for several hours. So at the edit you will just match up 2 sets of numbers.


Image We could just cut between two cameras but the audio quality will be very different. Feeding the same audio that the first camera gets to the other one is not impossible but requires a lot more radio gear.

So we can use a good old fashioned clapper board but this sounds a bit like a starter's pistol - not a good idea at an athletics meeting! So we got someone to clap their hands together, visible and audible to both cameras.

The day went well and we got some great interviews, together with excellent footage of people running, doing the high jump etc. The final picture shows us at work. Each camera shot about an hour's worth of material. 120 minutes of rushes to be edited down to my aim of ten to fifteen minutes. An 8 to1 shooting ratio is not too bad. Now the long drive home!









A few years ago most of our shooting would be done on U-matic. This three-quarter-inch tape format was becoming ever more obsolete. Editing involved copying one tape from another, with consequent loss of quality from an already poor original.

Then we were given 2 used Sony VX-1000 miniDV camcorders. In conjunction with editing on computer we had jumped to a new quality level - and where none of it was lost along the way. At the Transplant Games this year our much newer equipment was at least as good as the 2 professional crews there.

At our studio we can either edit on Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. It's called 'non-linear' editing which is really just a fancy way of saying there's no tape whizzing around anymore. Of course you still have to get it from tape into your computer and back again afterwards. To avoid wear and tear on the camcorders we normally use a separate DVCAM machine for this.




Image I won't attempt to go into the editing process in any detail - let's just say it's a time consuming and quite intricate process but which is ultimately very rewarding. I copied across just those bits of the original footage I thought would be needed and got down to work.

I didn't keep track of how long it took but it's often said that it takes an hour to produce one minute of finished footage. So that will give you an idea of how long our fifteen minute programme took. There are shortcuts - but at HHTV we try to work as close to professional standards as possible.

An example of this are the 'Astons' or captions showing you people's names. The pictures of Jade and Len show the translucent orange strap which helps to give clarity to the wording. We generally have credits at the end of our programmes and these can be scrolled across the screen horizontally or vertically.

Finally the finished programme was transferred back on to tape ready for broadcast. We are close to the point where an evening's programmes will be compiled onto a special computer and played out from there. Whatever happens along the way, with digital there is absolutely no quality loss - what was shot in the camera is what the viewer will see.

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