Camera Ops Diary – Entry 1
> choosing actors
> planning locations
> making it all work
We use actors all the time and they can transform regular footage into a terrific shoot in many ways.
Actors bring real people situations to life – they show the subtleties of interpersonal reactions eg. in a store with a customer , reporting an accident, or contractors on a construction site, or retail staff in-store
With actors you get exactly what you want and the final footage can act as a more powerful alternative to vanilla library footage.
So what are the processes we use to get the best out of an ‘actor shoot’
Sourcing actors can take hours – it isn’t a matter of just glancing at actor headshots.
You have to look at previous experience and watch any samples they’ve appeared in – ensuring they will fit perfectly into your scene and pair up well with supporting actors.
Our Studio Manager is tasked with casting for shoots and it’s a job that requires a lot of thought.
So if you can get someone specifically to spend time sourcing actors – do so!
Choice of location
Finding an attractive set helps bring actors to life.
It generates a believable scene for the actors to become immersed in.
Lighting has to be considered when choosing a location – if outdoors you have to think of the time of day – not to mention you have to be a little lucky with the weather.
If the shoot is indoors there must be good lighting – if not – great lighting.
Post production isn’t intended as a rescue mission for poorly captured footage. It adds to the great footage you have already captured.
Scouting out a location or ‘recceing’ gives you a chance to visualise the scene before the shoot takes place.
A recce can be weeks before a shoot and it means taking some photographs and possibly getting some test video shots.
You may do this at a few different locations letting you compare and pick the best film set for your shoot.
Location set up
Once at location a little set-up is in order – this includes positioning actors, rehearsing their motion and working props into the scene.
Wardrobe is something to brief actors on so it isn’t something you have complete control over.
So choosing the right actors is part of this – ensuring they don’t have a crazy dress sense is one thing to look out for.
The brief is important for the actor as they will probably bring their whole wardrobe to the shoot if they are undecided on what to wear.
That isn’t something you, or they, want to do – you want them to concentrate on their performance not what they’re wearing.
So when they’re all suited up – tell them they look great and fit into the scene well – this will relax them and get a better performance in the long run.
Of course, if the shoot involves PPE such as hivis or safety glasses, make sure you get these too.
Transport is usually an afterthought at a time when it’s too late – it can drastically affect the shoot if the actors or crew can’t get from one location to the next.
A bit of planning put into who is carpooling and who needs a train ticket across the country is vital because the last thing you want to do is cancel the shoot because someone can’t get to set.
Feed the crew!
Everybody loves their food and people get grouchy when they’re hungry.
It’s a small comfort but it keeps your actors lively and alert knowing they will have good food at lunch time.
The least you can do is tell everybody before the shoot that you can’t provide food – that way they can bring their own.
No heavy lunches or performances will drop.
What it really takes to film three actors on a sunny day
The purpose of our latest shoot was to build our own library footage stock.
This shoot was unique as it was inhouse and we were free to do whatever we wanted.
Of course we had a schedule and knew we needed certain shots to fit future projects – but the beauty of having three actors on fantastic locations on a sunny day was perfect.
90% of each shot focused on looking cinematic – every shot had to look impressive so there are a few aspects we had to consider to make sure this happened:
> 3 great actors
> Impressive locations
> Good quality lighting
> Precise composition
Overall don’t forget to look after your actors.
They are what will make your shoot come to life – so keep them alert on set.
If you’re one of the crew who has a rare 5 minutes break from the chaos of filming – go chat to them or get them a cup of tea.
They will feel much more important and you’ll see it their performance – you’ll instantly build a better working relationship and the positive attitude will rub off on everyone else.
> allow time to source the right actors
> check your locations in advance and take photographs for reference
> get wardrobe & props right
> plan transport & food
> make your cast feel important – they are!
Here’s samples of footage that uses actors playing the part of contractors in an induction