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Back in the saddle…

It has certainly been a while…so it’s high time this site got itself up and running again.

Not that I/the company has been idle; in fact the past 2 years have flown by and work in hand has had to take priority over everything else, sometimes even over personal sanity.  I’ve always known I’ve had a work/life balance which teetered on the brink of disaster, but it was only reading Philip Bloom’s superb post on the matter back in January when I truly recognised the extent of the problem.  Being fairly new to the freelance/self-employed worlds hasn’t helped; it’s easy to say yes to every job going and before you know it you’re working double the hours you were back in a staff job just in case the work dries up.  And frankly when you’re working so many hours on the actual job, the last thing on your mind is keeping a new blog going when you know it has yet to establish itself and find an audience.

So I’m going to give it another go; initially I’ll be getting the website updated with recent projects and then hopefully I’ll find time to blog more regularly (and more relevantly) in a bid to find my voice and an audience.  Recently I’ve found myself with a lot to say on YouTube, digital video and production in general so let’s see if I can keep it up and put fingers to keyboard more in future!

Neil – September 2013

I shot: A Taste of Spain

So if you read my previous blog you’ll have heard me mention that I’m not afraid of hard graft. What I am afraid of is finishing a 13 hour shift at Wembley at 9.30pm, nannying the driver with the best route back to Surrey, and then leaving home again at 3.15 the next morning for my next job. I suppose I’ve done it now, I survived, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

The day (I use the term very loosely) started badly when the driver who’d come to pick me up considered it normal to arrive 10 minutes early (at 3.15 in the morning that’s not a virtue), leave his engine running outside my house (my street is so narrow you can touch a car in the road by leaning out of the house either side of the road) and to talk to his mate on the phone with his window open. I repeat, at 3.15 in the morning. That said, there’s something quite intriguing about getting up that early; if someone asks you to get to work at 7 it’s a pain, but a 4am start is altogether more of a challenge and therefore almost…fun. Driving to work past the fleshpots of south London when they’re kicking out after a solid Saturday night is an eye opening experience, and ordering sober at 5am from a 24 hour McDonald’s almost righteous.

Again the job was with/for an old Soccer AM/Channelbee chum, this time the bearded wonder that is Robbie Knox. We’ve embarked on a similar journey so help each other out by hiring one another when we need an extra pair of hands on a shoot. His client in this case was the agency for the Spanish Tourist Board, organizers of the now annual ‘A Taste of Spain’ extravaganza which takes over Regent Street offering food, drink, entertainment and sport with an Iberian twist. The event was due to kick off at midday, leaving us 8 hours to pick up shots of the preparations. The main idea of the early start was for us to pick up a great timelapse of the street being transformed into a fiesta but in reality (and I haven’t seen Robbie’s shots yet) we’ve probably got an hour of Saturday night dregs relieving themselves outside Uniqlo and then 7 hours of vans delivering scaffolding.

Regent Street, London, 5am before A Taste of Spain

The sky looked nice though, and McDonald’s did well out of us (except Jamie the runner who inexplicably for a young bloke who can get away with it has made a pact not to eat fast food throughout 2011).

Midday came and so did the throngs. I had mega rig with me

Canon 7D shoulder rig

which is never easy on the move in a big crowd but I did my best. Our brief was to capture as much of the event as possible but with a focus on the sports zone, a pretty impressive collection of stands offering golf swing analysis, an F1 simulator, the World Cup, basketball matches and more. Robbie got the job of filming the massive paella and sangria stalls, for some reason, maybe because he was the boss.

That’s pretty much it really. It rained and we didn’t get any paella or sangria (well, Robbie says he didn’t and we have to take his word for it) but we did get a few pints in at the end of the day (whilst we were transferring the rushes from my camera to his laptop, in case our wives are reading this) and Jamie the runner got to guard our bags behind the motor sport stand all afternoon. We got closer to the World Cup than we probably ever will do again, and I can say I saw Regent Street sober at 4am. As for the film of the event, we’ll have to wait until it goes through the various channels but if it reflects the effort many people put in it should do the trick. I’ve long since been sold on Spain but anyone getting their first taste on Sunday will have had a treat.

I shot: Brother and England at Wembley

Due to my commitments on GoalMouth and also to the fact that he’s got more staff now, I haven’t done much for Sheephead at FATV recently. In fact those who knew Channelbee will be happy to hear that Joe’s not only got Jon Dyson but also Tony ‘the Hammer’ Watson on board now which is great news as he’s a top bloke who knows his football even if you can’t understand what he’s saying most of the time. So naturally I was happy to get the call to do a day with the team up at Wembley covering for Dyson who was on U21 duty.

FATV seem to be growing as an operation and now have tv giants Endemol behind them so I fully expect them to go from strength to strength; think of the assets they have at their disposal (England players/footage, FA Cup) and the huge fanbase (pretty much anyone who’s interested in football) and you can see I’m hardly going out on a limb there. Joe and his team have the access, they have the creative experience and vitally they have the trust of the hierarchy at the FA and the end result is a great example of what branded content should be; it engages the audience whilst promoting the product. They’re not taking it easy either; on Saturday at various times I think I counted 8 pieces in production. That’s a lesson to any brands seeking to get into video; one glossily produced corporate or brand promo does not a digital audience make, unless you get lucky with one of those elusive ‘virals’. In my humble opinion little and often is the key to building brand awareness and eventually loyalty through video.

8 pieces on the go in one day also meant I was in for a pretty full-on day’s graft. First up was a 3 camera acoustic set and interview featuring Brother, hosted by ESPN’s Richard Lenton. Lighting conditions weren’t ideal and it was a fast turnaround in edit so it’s pretty rough and ready but we prioritised getting the piece out before kickoff rather than making it look and sound prettier:

Channelbee trivia point about Richard Lenton: he appeared as a guest in the original pilot show for the project. Back then he worked at Sky but not on camera, and came to us with a brilliant clip he had of him when he blagged his way onto an African channel as a presenter during the World Cup. During one game his co-presenter was caught short whilst he was on air…cue a lot of jiggling in his seat and an eventual panic dash off camera whilst Richard tried to hold the fort. Wish I could find the clip on YouTube…

Back to Wembley, and Brother duly edited and uploaded, next job was pitchside to pick up whatever I could for a low angle perspective on the game. I may have been 10 feet away from the Swiss keeper but I can tell you, crouched behind the goal isn’t the way to watch football. Stuck without a stool, hunched over a tripod just high enough to peek over the hoarding but low enough not to attract the wrath of the fans in Row A, sweltering under the mid-afternoon sun wrestling with temperamental kit…so I couldn’t tell you how we played but it was certainly a buzz. Then a mad dash into the tunnel for half-time, a desperate swap of cameras and off out onto the pitch with the England Women’s team for their official send off to the World Cup. Back into the tunnel for interviews with some of the Women’s team, back pitchside for midway through the second half, another mad dash upstairs after full time and another hurried edit to get the pitchside cut up on the site for 10pm. Again, priority for the edit was to get it up as soon as possible rather than creating a masterpiece, but I think it’s always interesting to view action from a different angle and here it is:

Today I edited the interviews with the Women’s team so that’s up now:

A pretty full-on day but as I say, I really believe in what FATV are doing and it’s a pleasure to put the hours in with them. Looks like I could be heading out to Germany to be the videographer for the Women’s team at the World Cup which if it happens would be a real honour.

I shot: Gareth Edwards, Jonathan Davies and Shane Williams

Back in January I was privileged to meet and shoot three generations of Welsh rugby icons: Gareth Edwards, Jonathan Davies and Shane Williams. I wouldn’t claim to be the world’s biggest rugby fan but I know enough to appreciate the quality of the lineup; it’s like getting Sir Bobby Charlton, Kevin Keegan and David Beckham around a table. Old Soccer AM mucker Robbie Knox and I were on hand to record the interview for the Jaguar Academy of Sport, who wanted to get the guys together to discuss how rugby has changed over the generations. Because of the timing of their careers it made for some fascinating insights; Edwards’ era was staunchly amateur, Davies played both as an amateur and professional, famously also swapping codes, and Williams has enjoyed the trappings of the modern game for the majority of his career. The way the game has progressed is epitomised in the way Wales have prepared for internationals over the years; in the 70′s they’d meet up on a Friday night for what seemed to amount to a team talk and a pint, and nowadays players have their training, nutrition, weight and even sleep monitored 7 days or so in advance of a big match. From my point of view it was also interesting to hear how modern media has affected the game and the ‘celebrity’ status of today’s players, although we probably would have heard a bit more about that had Gavin Henson been there…

Jaguar wanted a short edit of the group interview plus some more individual profiles relating to players’ highlights, heroes etc, plus a final video on the current state of Welsh rugby.

You can watch the group interview here:

And you’ll find the individual pieces on the Jaguar YouTube account.

Robbie and I shot on Sony EX1/3; location was the Miskin Manor outside Cardiff. Rather lovely, actually, and certainly rather more lovely than the Legacy Cardiff International where we stayed. If you’re thinking of staying there, don’t. It might encourage you to throw yourself onto the fast lane of the M4 just outside the window.

I shot: Matt Le Tissier (again)

Matt Le Tiss is one of my favourite footballers. Pure class on the pitch in his day, now pure gent off it. I had the good fortune to meet him a couple of times back in the Soccer AM days and our paths have now crossed twice more in the past year, first for an 888 video pre-World Cup, and back in February for an FATV shoot. Partly due to his experience on the box and undoubtedly equally because he’s generally a top bloke, you know that when you’ve got a shoot with him, he’ll give you exactly what you need without any fuss.

We were at Warsash Wasps FC, regional winners of the FA Charter Standard Development Club award last year, to help launch this year’s nomination process for the FA Community Awards http://www.thefa.com/yourgame and after a tour of the (very impressive) club he gave me an interview on his early days, influences and memories in football:

While we were there I picked up a few more bits with him including his fantasy 5-a-side team (edited by FATV):

It was the first outing for my new rig including my new Canon 70-200mm F4 IS lens which was pretty essential for the football action, and all in all I was pretty pleased with the result. Part of the problem with filming mostly ‘run and gun’, reality style pieces is that it’s tough to get those perfect shots and there’s always a degree of compromise but I think the key is to have a plan. Yes, 90% of the time that plan will change with the weather, the schedule and usually the talent, but a plan is a good place to start!

I’m going to Grand Rapids

Sorry to break the silence with news of someone else’s work, but this has just been tweeted by Mike Butcher of TechCrunch Europe, and it’s the best thing I’ve seen in blummin’ ages.

According to The Daily What, Newsweek recently declared Grand Rapids, Michigan, one of USA’s ‘Dying Cities’. Understandably the good people of Grand Rapids weren’t overly happy with that so they decided to do something about it. Something positive. What resulted was this astonishing video. Now I’m no fan of lip synching videos; I think they’re one rung below cats playing the piano, but they clearly do it for some people. But this is a lip synch with a difference. Watch this, marvel at the preparation involved and then imagine trying to get your town to do the same. Then imagine the pressure of filming it, and the discipline involved.

Go on, watch it to the end of the song; you’ll thank me for it.

PS I’ve been taking another break from the site because of my involvement with GoalMouth but I’m back on it now so more to follow shortly…

I shot: Rio Ferdinand

It’s been a while.  Far too long, but I’ve had a few months of solid work and haven’t had the energy to keep this up.  It’s a poor show and defeats the object of starting the site in the first place but I’ve had to forego forward planning in order to meet all my deadlines.  I will catch up though and will try to do a blog covering recent jobs but restarting where I mean to go on, this is what I was up to on Sunday.

The England captain took a trip back to his boyhood club, Eltham Town

Rio Ferdinand at Eltham Town FC

to promote e-on’s ‘Energy Fit’ campaign, in particular their ‘Club Makeover’ competition which is offering amateur football clubs the chance to get an energy saving makeover worth around £40k.  The e-on team decked out the club’s facilities with swanky stuff like solar panels, energy saving lights and even hot water, and Rio was given a tour before hitting the mud and coaching the young pups outside.

Rio Ferdinand and young players at Eltham Town FC

I have to say I didn’t know much about the club beforehand but I was really impressed with their setup, fancy lights or no fancy lights, and I couldn’t help thinking that the national game can’t be in that bad a state if there are clubs like Eltham Town around.

We then had a quick chat with Rio

Rio Ferdinand speaking to FATV at Eltham Town FC, Nov 2010

about the e-on project and the France game, where he revealed that he can’t contemplate losing because of the stick he’d get from Evra when he returned to training.  It was the second time I’ve interviewed him in 6 months and although he clearly didn’t remember me, Rio was professional as ever.  I’m a big fan of his because he’s clearly got more in his locker than booting a ball around and I genuinely believe he cares about the projects he gets involved with.

An unexpected bonus of the day was catching up with old Soccer AM and Channelbee mucker Fenners in his new capacity as tv personality, complete with showbiz scarf.  Always good to see him and I’m so happy he’s back in the Sky fold as on-screen talent.  I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t seen his new show Take It Like A Fan yet but I’ve only just signed up to Sky Sports again; must do that this week.

I’m editing the bits and pieces today so I’ll post a link when they’re up.

(Shot on Sony PMW EX1)

Slacker

So the idea of starting a blog is to keep it going.  You know, the odd musing here, a great link or video you find there.  Oops.  Must do better and will do better when I’ve got this pilot done.  Yeah I know, I never mentioned a pilot because I haven’t been keeping this going but I can’t really talk about it anyway.  I have been doing other stuff as well and I also went on holiday so…you know how it goes.

I’ll write something vaguely interesting soon, anyway.

Oh, and I did stop watching Seven Days after ep 1.

Tipp-Ex cellent video

Have you seen this superb new interactive Tipp-Ex online ad?  I won’t spoil the fun, I’ll leave you to discover what you can do with it so have fun finding all the different combinations of things you can do with the bear…

Just goes to show that with a bit of thought, a decent coder and presumably the help of YouTube, you can produce something a lot more engaging than a linear video.  Will it persuade me to buy Tipp-Ex?  No, I’ve got a backspace key now.  But it’s gone a long way to putting the brand name back out there in the blogosphere and beyond…