Those of you living in London may have heard of the newly established television channel London Live, a channel available only in London, on Sky / Virgin or online. As a new channel they set out to produce original content which is why in turn they commissioned Renowned Films to create the 14 part Television series – F2 Kicks Off.
F2 Kicks Off follows Billy Wingrove and Jeremy Lynch (two football freestylers) around the capital displaying amazing tricks and using their skills to complete challenges. As the channel was very new the budget for the show was a lot lower than similar shows, however this did not stop us from committing so much time and effort into the success of the show. As director of photography for this show, my first task was to advise the production company on what equipment to use. I found that slow motion in this show was essential so chose to go with the FS700 as a super slow motion camera.
Shooting a show of this style requires you to have the right shooting tools for the job. On a standard day we shot with 3x XF305’s and a Sony FS700 (which was my camera whilst shooting). Of course the FS700 was not broadcast quality, however we were allowed to include 25% of the footage in the final edit. Having the FS700 added so much to the final product for such a low cost. We could remain at 1080p and go to 200fps (it was much more beneficial to stay in PAL mode) which came in very handy when shooting fast moving football tricks. However the main killer on all of our shoot days was the buffer after every clip. The company attempted to buy an Oddyssey 7Q but by the time it came out the show had already been shot, also you have to pay an extra $795 for it to work at 200fps with the FS700. Overall I have no regrets about choosing this camera for the job as it performed brilliantly and has such a broad breadth of abilities. For example when shooting GV’s for each location I was able to go from 200fps slow motion down to 1fps timelapse in a matter of seconds, this not only made it easier for the editor but it is proves that as a run and gun camera you have a shooting mode for most situations.
With the FS700 I used the Sony 18-200mm lens, which was very versatile for the run and gun shooting conditions that we endured. Originally I asked for a metabones adapter with Canon L lenses such as the 24-70mm and the 70-200mm. In a way I am glad I did not go with those lenses, firstly because it would have slowed the shoot down drastically. On a couple of occasions whilst filming the talent walking through a certain area I would use a Samyang 85mm f/1.4 on a cold mount. Secondly, whilst shooting the trick shots we had to zoom in with the football so I had to keep the focus fairly deep around f/8 so the shot did not go in and out of focus whilst zooming. Of course if you are shooting more setup shots with the right time and crew at your disposal you can have everything done properly, but the run and gun aspect of this lens makes it very handy. One really annoying thing about this lens however is the servo focus, which makes it very hard to follow focus precisely because the faster you move the focus ring the fast you get to your mark and vice versa. The quality of the lens is also questionable, at 18mm it is fairly sharp but at 135mm onwards it becomes very soft. This said all of the pros of using this lens for a project such as this certainly outweighed the cons.
Another tool I found was essential for the job was my skateboard, which I used to film tracking shots and I didn’t fall off once! I have a filming skateboard which is a thick board and has soft wheels so it has a bigger surface area and glides over bumps. I even skated inside the Foreign Office which I don’t think has ever been done before! Having a skateboard instead of other tools such as a steadicam or track allowed me to instantly have a smooth extremely long track setup within seconds. We actually told one of the editors that we had a 50 metre track, which he believed until the camera tilted down once to reveal a skateboard. Of course I wouldn’t go as far to say that skateboard should be replacing all other stabilisation equipment, but as mentioned before it’s about having the right tools for the job and this was perfect for what we needed to shoot in the time allowed. The skateboard did have it’s own limitations, for example it can only be done on a hard surface that isn’t too bumpy.
Overall with this project I have learnt that you must assess beforehand which tools are best for the job, and I am looking forward to my next challenge.