Agreeing to use a new Camera – Part 1 of Ged’s new blog…

Recently I agreed to film a one hour documentary for BBC ALBA, the Gaelic language channel in Scotland, on the topic of patronymics. In the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, the heart of Scottish Gaeldom, many people share the same name due to the tradition of naming after family members such as fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers and mothers. For example, on the Isle of Lewis where I live in the Outer Hebrides, there are a huge number of people with the surname Macleod with a lot of Donald’s, Calum’s, Alastair’s…the list goes on. It’s all rooted historically in the Scottish Clans. To avoid confusion many end up having a nickname, making it a lot easier to identify individuals. Even my own background, which is not Scottish, follows this naming pattern. I was born in Manchester to Irish parents and given the name Gerard. My father was named Andrew but known as Gerard because his father was also Andrew, get the idea? It was to help distinguish them in their daily life. In fact my grandfather and father were both called Andrew Gerard and I was called Gerard Andrew so my full patronymic is Gerard Andrew Andrew Gerard Andrew Gerard. You can probably see why the use of nicknames in Celtic cultures makes life a lot easier. So this was the background to the documentary, how peoples nicknames came about. It turned out some were logical explanations and others had no rhyme or reason.

We decide on an informal shooting style as there were going to be a lot of casual conversations rather than formal interviews. I’m still recuperating from open heart surgery I had in early 2016 and have done quite a few jobs since returning to work last September on the Sony F800 camera. Though my health and stamina are much improved I found I was beginning to dislike the F800 and not enjoying working with it. It just seemed bulky, heavy and used a lot of power plus I’m not getting any younger. As is fast becoming the norm these days, the budget was tight for the documentary but of course one still needs to earn a living as a cameraman so something had to give.

Some of the planned conversations were likely to be very open ended and as we definitely wanted a loose casual feel with natural conversational flow on screen there was going to be a lot of hand held camerawork on this job. I had considered using the FS7. However, knowing also the budget was tight and if I’m honest, I have a bottom line fee without kit I won’t compromise on, I ended up agreeing to use a supplied camera. I was actually very interested in trying out this camera anyway and knew how much income I would get for the job so I wasn’t unhappy with the scenario.

The camera I ended up working with was a Panasonic DVX200. After a lot of discussion it was agreed we would shoot in 4K (well UHD really) for an HD edit. This would theoretically help with edits on the conversations as the shot could be reframed to make the dialogue cuts visually smoother. Another advantage was the camera was very light with small but powerful batteries. On board recording at 4K resolution (UHD) was nearly six hours, far more than I would ever need in a day’s filming.

The DVX200 is perceived as a GH4 in a video camera body but has the restriction of a fixed lens. I felt the ergonomics would be more beneficial when doing a lot of ‘on the hoof’ filming and the audio handling would definitely be a lot better than a GH4. I was very much looking forward to using the DVX200 after years of using full size broadcast cameras and as I recalled my first 3-tube Betacam camcorder back in 1988 I found myself marvelling at how technology had moved on and what was now available for around £3000 UK Pounds.

So there I was on sub-zero January morning well before dawn loaded up with all of this brand new shiny compact 4K kit in the car. As director Liz MacBain and myself drove onto the Stornoway to Ullapool ferry heading for the Scottish mainland for our first few days filming in Sutherland, everything felt good, what could possibly go wrong…

to be continued….

Ged Yeates, Isle of Lewis, Scotland


 

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