On a recent trip to Edinburgh to film a couple of interviews, I had to put half my kit in the hold to meet the hand luggage rules. I didn’t have a huge amount to take – camera, lenses, a light and stand, audio kit and a tripod – but it was too much to hand carry so, the night before, I deliberated for far too long and swapped bits around to keep the fragile stuff in my backpack, the less fragile stuff in the hold bag. Simple.

Somewhere over the Midlands I wondered what I’d do if my hold bag didn’t make it to my destination. How would I get the best results with far from the best equipment? It was a tight schedule so there would be no chance of hiring or buying replacements – I’d have to make do with just my camera and lenses from my hand luggage.

So what would be the plan?

First I’d explain to everyone involved what’s happened. Better to be honest from the start so expectations are set – it’s going to take longer to get everything ready, we may need to try a few things out, we may have to deal with some unconventional setups.

Audio first, video second. I’d ask for the quietest, deadest room available and set up two iPhones using the Voice Recording application. It’s surprisingly good, and without doubt better than the in-camera mic. They’d be placed as close as possible to the interviewee – in a top pocket, mic up, or on a table that’s just out of shot. Why two? Always have a backup. To help the edit I’d clap at the start of each take so there’s a visual clue on the audio timeline to help sync up the sources.

For the video side, I’d want the brightest room possible – I’d rather close down the aperture if it’s too bright than raise the ISO if it’s too dark. Whether I’d use the practical lights in the room would depend on what style they are – if I’m lucky it’ll be nicely diffused constant lighting, if I’m unlucky it’ll be harsh ceiling spots. The weather will play a part to – ideally I want it bright and constant, so clear blue or overcast, what I don’t want is a patchy cloud day.

In place of a tripod I could use a stack of books on a table or chairs, a bookcase, whatever’s available in the room (or somewhere in the venue – I’d alway ask the staff for help). I’d position the subject near a window to give a good balance of light across the face. If there’s a whiteboard in the room I may use that as a simple reflector.

Once everything’s ready, I’d double check the iPhones are running and the level is good, hit record on those and start filming, not forgetting to clap to provide a sync point. Every 10 minutes or so I’d ask for a quick break to stop and restart the iPhones and the camera; it’ll make the footage more manageable in the edit.

Only when the session is over and I’m on the way back to the airport would I think about shouting at the airline.

Leave a Reply