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Soccer AM | Resolution Square

Tag Archive for Soccer AM

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!

Sky Sports 3D behind the scenes, voiceover stars, Soccer AM’s Steve and Jonty

I love a good behind the scenes video. Yes I pick up a lot of work making them (really wish I could have done this one) but watching them brings out the geek in me; I really want to know how things are done. So when I saw @cinescopophilia tweet this today I had to check it out…it’s a pretty in-depth overview of how Sky Sports put together a 3D sports OB:

A few points I noted in particular which may or may not be of interest…firstly it’s always music to my ears hearing the great Bruce Hammal on a voiceover. Now that certain people have…ahem…departed Isleworth, there’s certainly an argument to be had that he should be crowned King of Sky Sports for his long and distinguished service. I had already been a fan, having watched TransWorld Sport for years, so when we started using him for voiceovers on Soccer AM it was an honour. Robbie had the good fortune to be producing him on his sessions and I don’t think he ever got used to hearing that voice behind everyday conversation…so you’re thinking “THE TITLE DECIDER….TWO GIANTS GO HEAD TO HEAD…MANCHESTER UNITED VERSUS CHELSEA, LIVE, ON SKY SPORTS 1 AND HD 1″ and you’re getting “Ah, Robbie, feeling a little worse for wear this morning?” There’s a half decent sketch about living with a voiceover guy – this one the equally great Peter Dickson – here actually:

Sorry, I digress. My second point about the 3D video is that an accusation often thrown at technology is that it cuts jobs; 3D has done the opposite. In this case, Sky Sports now have two separate teams broadcasting two different feeds, and completely new roles have even had to be created; it’s someone’s job to calculate the perceived depth on any particular shot, for example. On a slight tangent, the video explains why the shots chosen on the 3D feed are often very different to those on the standard feed…

…which brings me onto my final point. Soccer Am viewers should notice another familiar voice, if not face, from the piece. If you didn’t, go back and listen to it again when they’re at the OB…

The match director wearing the specs is Steve Smith…of Steve and Jonty fame. We’re going back a long, long time, and I only joined the team towards the end of the Steve and Jonty run, but it has gone down as one of the most fondly remembered items. Top blokes who went on to become two of the most senior football producers and directors in Sky Sports. Anyway, if you fancy a dip in nostalgic waters…

The Badgers v Williams F1…I’d forgotten they used Colonel and Ginger as mascots because we weren’t good enough to play for them. Seem to remember having a decent day out though; had a random love note posted on my car (planted I’m sure by someone on the team), met Dean Whitehead who then was just a young pup making his name at the mighty Oxford United, and then, as always with Badgers matches, had a few drinks with the boys. I do seem to remember this one ending very abruptly when a few local lads turned up to cause trouble but that’s another story, mainly because I can’t remember what happened.

I think I started this talking about 3D technology and ended up talking about a ruck in Didcot but that’s my career for you.

Edit: It almost completely slipped my mind to mention Mr Lovejoy’s hair, more accurately Steve and Jonty’s description of it looking ‘like an onion’, and that penalty miss…think it marked the very start of the ‘Lovejoy’ penalty cry we would hear often over the next few years…

Multi skilling; the future?

I got into tv production way back when because I wanted to be creative. I’m pretty sure it was Chris Evans’ antics on The Big Breakfast which planted the seed although for a few years after I harboured some sort of pretence that I was going to become the next big theatre director by ripping people’s tickets at the London Palladium. But when I eventually jumped into tv I had my career plan worked out: 5 years in the ranks, then producing, then running my own show, running an independent production company and eventually running the BBC.

I’ve always been interested in learning new skills (sometimes at the expense of sense, like my ill-fated and somewhat ridiculous attempt to pick up Esperanto), so the frenetic pace of early life at Soccer AM suited me. Whether it was because we were a small team or because Sky Sports always seemed to encourage a ‘sink or swim’ mentality, we were all called upon to do whatever it took to get the show to air on a Saturday. So we’d be calling up fans one minute, bands the next, sitting in on goal edits, chucking in a voiceover, writing a shoddy gag or knocking up a prop for Sheephead’s flea circus. As the years went by and I moved up the ladder I made less flea circuses and spent most of my time doing producery stuff like writing, checking and sitting in the gallery, but my point in all this is that most of us in the team could quite rightly call themselves multi-skilled. Unlike many productions we didn’t have the luxury of specialised archive researchers, scriptwriters or guest bookers; we all had to muck in and get the job done.

When some of us left to start Channelbee, part of the appeal for me was that we’d need to become even more diverse to survive. We’d all directed shoots and sat in on edits but we hadn’t actually used the cameras or pushed the buttons, and we certainly knew nothing about codecs, bitrates and HTML. Two years on and most of us left as half-decent self-shooting, self-editing tv and digital producers with a pretty good grounding in social media. That’s all well and good; it’s clear that with digital convergence and cost-cutting impacting every budget, production staff are going to need more than a basic grasp of technology to survive. The reason I’ve been able to go it alone rather than sitting waiting for the tv jobs to come in is because I’ve thrown myself into the learning experience, and I’m enjoying shooting in particular far more than I ever thought I would. I also believe that from a personal point of view, sitting inbetween ‘traditional’ tv and digital production is going to be useful; I’m already picking up work because of that particular experience.

There is another side to the story, however, and it’s one which worries me in quieter moments. The more production staff become all-singing, all-dancing Jacks of most trades, the less we encourage the genuine craftsmen who made our media industry one of the strongest in the world. If we’re expected to pick up a new skill every six months, what chance do we have to become the very best in just one discipline? And the more multi-skilled content producers there are, the less the rate clients/employers are willing to pay which in turn begins to price genuine experts out of the market. In the last 6 months or so I’ve had at least 3 conversations with specialists in tv/film/photography who learned and mastered their crafts in the 60′s and 70′s and who now can’t either find the work or can’t work for the rates offered. Add to this the fact that equipment needed to produce content is more accessible and affordable than ever (DSLR technology in particular has brought film-making within the pocket of most of us) and the issue becomes even more complex. I agree with the argument that reducing the barriers to production in this way expands the talent pool and therefore ultimately helps the industry, but I just wonder where we’ll be in 20 years’ time if the whole industry is self-taught and multi-skilled.

Perhaps the responsibility lies with broadcasters/studios etc who could do their bit to safeguard the future by offering on the job training, but I’m not holding my breath. The only training I had in 8 years at Sky was Health/Safety and a day on team leading. I pushed for camera and edit training at Channelbee (which, thankfully, was forthcoming) and I’ve since funded some out of my own pocket.

There’s no real answer to this and as you’ll probably gather I’m not quite sure where I stand; I’m just happy to be surfing the wave right now in order to keep my own head above water, but if you’ve got an opinion, especially if you’re involved in the industry, I’d love to hear it.

I shot: Kasabian

Welcome to the first ‘I shot’ of the site.  I’m still undecided about the title but I’ll go with it for now.  Sure you know what I mean anyway; one week it’ll be ‘I shot…muffins’ which doesn’t have the same ring about it but that’s the beauty of my job at the moment; there’s no shortage of variety!

So yeah, Kasabian.  I was tasked with shooting and editing a few very quick bits to use at V Festival this weekend; their intro and outro messages, basically.  An early start and flight to Belfast to catch up with Serge and Tom before their gig in town that night.  Myself and two P.A. guys got settled in the very swanky Malmaison where we were shown to our rather well-appointed suite where we presumed the shoot would happen:

Waiting for Kasabian in Belfast

All very dark, moody and perfect for the shoot.  Trouble was, the shoot wasn’t happening there.  But it’s a lovely hotel, especially if you like black and purple, so I’d recommend it if you’re in town.

The actual location was an even swankier country hotel outside town, the Culloden.  Lovely place; according to our cab driver it was where England stayed when they last played (and lost) there.  Trouble was it wasn’t nearly as evocative for the shoot as the Malmaison but that’s life.  I’ve realised over the years that just when you think something’s sorted, you often have to resort to Plan B and get over it.

Tom and Serge were top blokes as always although understandably preoccupied by a poltergeist which they (or Tom, at least, if I remember rightly) had witnessed at the hotel.  Anyone who’s about to see them at V are in for a great night (nothing new here because they’ve always come up trumps whenever I’ve seen them, I’d say the best British band of the last 10 years); I’m paraphrasing what they said to P.A. but it was along the lines of ‘it’ll be like everyone’s Christmases, New Years and birthdays all rolled into one’.

The shoot done (I’ll stick one of the vids up after V)

Kasabian's Tom and Serge in Belfast, August 2010

and conversation briefly turned to Soccer AM and Gordon Smart’s recent car park effort:

Gordon Smart's Soccer AM effort

Can’t embed the video, you’ll have to watch it via The Sun here

Pretty impressive by anyone’s standards, but I’m with Serge, it wasn’t a patch on this:

I haven’t watched the show since I left but I doubt anyone’s going to knock Serge off that particular perch; he did it in his rockstar shoes and all.

I digress, but that’s about it.  I’ve since been editing the videos in time for them to get them ready at V, although I won’t be there to see the fruits of my labours as I’ve got a big job on Monday so can’t risk it; I’m off to see the boys tonight in Brixton instead.

For those who are interested in kit and stuff, I used my Canon 7D with the Canon f2.8 17-55mm lens, and recorded sound via a Sennheiser shotgun mic into my new Zoom H4N recorder.  We couldn’t use lights as we had to travel…light…but as you’ll see from the vids when I post them, we could just about get away with it.

Soccer AM

Soccer AM logo

I was lucky enough to work on the production team of Soccer AM at Sky Sports from 1999-2007, starting as editorial assistant and eventually co-writing and producing the show for 4 years.  The best of times…but also the toughest of times!

Soccer AM circa 2001