Date: Wed Jan 29, 2003 2:14:03 pm US/Pacific
Subject: Slave labour and quality television
Strange, isn't it, how everyone spends the working day on our back, making sure that every shot is a Rembrandt from us, and then send a kid along with a DV camera for a few days or weeks for the same programme and none of their material is criticised when its cut in?
I've experienced this argument in reverse where producers balk at the suggestion of interviews shot on HD (cost aside) because it won't match the rest of the show. When I point out that the same show has DV cut in with digi they seem to say that it is ok to make the pictures look bad but not ok to make them look good!
I surmise that most of the time, the technical and artistic quality control is not forefront in a producers mind. The safest route is to leave it as is, so it is ok to intercut DV with digi because it is an industry standard, but not ok to intercut HD with digi or DV.
The last 6 years of cheap program making some production companies have had huge turnovers with pitiful profits. This initially served to line the pockets of the big players, who then lost one billion £ digital TV in the UK. The management teams were handsomely paid off in the best tradition of big business.
Was it RDF (?)a few years ago that had a huge staff, a turnover of something like £35M but only made £200k profit. It is regarded in the industry as a successful company, it really should be making a healthy profit and taking (and passing on) a bigger slice of the action.
In my experience, the quality of graduates being attracted to broadcast industry is far lower than is attracted to say the theatre or film industry. Boy there are some bright people out there in the entertainment industry, but few in the broadcast world and I count myself lucky to still be able to work with some of them.
Broadcasters may have dug a big hole for themselves, it is a shock to the system for some producers when they explore the true cost of shooting HD, but in reality it is about the same cost in real terms as shooting digibeta with a proper crew 9 years ago!
The budgets were there then to maintain a quality product. I shot some of the early true fly on the wall programmes, like Summer on the Estate, where we rolled 8 beta SP tapes a day total of 500 tapes and lived in peoples pockets with a 2 man crew for six months (and won a BAFTA for it :) I'd challenge any producer who says minidv cameras and a one man band produces a better experience for the audience. Sure if you only have £2000 in the budget you chose between 3 or 4 days with a proper crew or 4 weeks with a spotty DV specialist you'll take Mr Spotty. Next series there will only be £1500 in the budget.
Initially minidv was a cheaper way of staying on location for longer and relinquishing more of the budget to keep the production team on contract longer.:)
There was a period with wall to wall productions where this happened, cut backs on location but no problem blowing the complete budget for camera department (£25k) on a title sequence made at the whim of the producer that was scrapped because the commissioning editor like most of us, didn't like it.
I was subsequently told to shoot some arty shots on location for the new title sequence and was given a few minutes to do it! The beginning of the end came when a production assistant arrived on location with a roll of full cto for me. You charge too much for your cto she said so we have bought our own! I looked at it and threw it in my van alongside the other 15 rolls of gel I used to carry, looked up at the sky and said today we need 1/2 cto :)
MiniDV has made documentaries a producers format. The producer has control because the programm is made in the edit, not on location. An early example of this in my experience was Blues and Twos, the first few programmes were made with one cameraman, a body cam, a car/helicopter cam and two DV cameras back in the control room. The story was pretty much being told by the cameraman though.
As the series progressed, slowly the number of minicams increased. The more cameras the more control the producer had. I gave up on the series when it reached 12 cameras and 18 tracks of audio, just to record a small fire in a house! No need to have a thinking cameraman to get cutaways ect ect with all those cameras. It was cut to shreds in the edit. The series became soulless I remember they had a fast paced scene of ambulance on its way to a false alarm! It died a death by the production team chasing ratings when it could still be on air today had it maintained human interest.
It all started with Mrs Thatcher and the engineer from Breakfast Television who put in the overtime claim for £90k. Thanks matey where ever you are for killing the goose. I came across you at the Zeebrugger ferry disaster, the guy that wouldn't let us feed our material in the scheduled window on the satellite as he was on his lunch break! It is the same greed that is killing television today only this time it is the shiny belted management and not the workers.
In general TV has become a producers medium.
Perhaps broadcasting has had its day and cameramen should focus on narrowcasting. With the lower cost of acquisition and post there are opportunities for cameramen to do there own thing, in a way, working like still photographers do, in other words be your own producer.
like most contributors on this list:
cameraman/credit manager/director/lighting designer/father/husband/driver/gaffer/grip/researcher/producer/marketing manager/web designer/innovator/writer/journalist/saftey officer/aviator/seafarer//hiker/climber/weightlifter/social worker/shiftworker.