As content creators it’s essential that our content is safeguarded as much as possible. Faulty gear can usually be replaced or fixed, but the content we capture cannot often be replicated, in some cases never again.
I predominantly work for the corporate sector, usually operating on my own. In my experience corporate clients don’t care too much what gear we use, just as long as we can deliver the goods, to produce something they cannot readily create themselves.
These clients rely on us to come up with solutions not problems. But this is the real world and despite all efforts to avoid them, problems do occur. The more often you shoot, the more often gear is moved around, switched on and off, plugged in and unplugged, the greater the chance of something going wrong – the law of averages dictates this!
Clients will often forgive small errors during a shoot, as long as they are quickly and professionally overcome. This invariably means anticipating in advance what can go wrong and putting in place BACK-UP solutions. This is true for both the shoot itself and in post.
The reason I mention all this is because in recent weeks I have had a few equipment issues occur during various shoots, in quick succession. It felt like there was a conspiracy; “not again”, I kept saying to myself! However, in all cases I had a BACK-UP solution and solved the respective issue very quickly.
With every shoot, I make sure there is a dual recording solution of some sort. This is either simply by using more than one camera to record the action; therefore ensuring if one camera proves faulty, the other camera can act as a back-up. Or, if only using one camera I make sure I have some form of dual recording on that camera. To achieve this, on each of my three cameras I use an external recorder, that in one way or another allows two copies of the recording to be made at the same time.
Camera set-up 1: Sony FS700 with Odyssey 7Q+ external recorder. This is my ‘A’ cam set-up. The FS700 will record an AVCHD recording onto its SD card, whilst simultaneously the Odyssey will record 4K or HD ProRes (or raw video) onto its SSD drives. Only once I have had an issue with this set-up in the 2 years I’ve had the Odyssey – on that occasion, for some reason the audio messed up on the Odyssey recording of an interview – but I was able to take the audio from the FS700’s SD card. This saved my day! This occurred just after I purchased it and fortunately it hasn’t happened since – I think it was a firmware issue that has been updated several times since.
Camera set-up 2: Sony A7S with PIX-E5H external recorder. The A7S can record XAVC in HD internally. It can also output UHD to an external recorder via HDMI. However it will not record internally whilst sending UHD out. One of the reasons I purchased the PIX-E5H recorder is because it has dual recording capability. It records UHD ProRes (or HD ProRes) on to its SSD drive, whilst simultaneously recording a HD MP4 backup to a SD card. A few weeks ago I was on shoot with this set-up, recording in UHD, and I noticed after one particular interview that the PIX-E5H had lost connection to its SSD drive. I had no idea why, but fortunately it had made the backup recording successfully to the SD card. Later that same day it did it again, but fortunately I noticed before I was about to do a recording. So I decided to switch cameras part way through the shoot – I explained the issue quickly to the client, went to the car, got my other camera and less than 5-mintes later was able to continue with the shoot. The client made mention that they were impressed that I had a back-up solution on hand and were happy how quickly I was able to continue.
I have since sent my PIX back to the manufacturer and it’s been repaired – they diagnosed a fault with my particular unit and have fixed it. (By the way, Sound Devices, who make the PIX, were excellent to deal with, sending me a loan item while they fixed mine.) My replacement unit is working fine.
Camera set-up 3: Canon 1DX mark ii with Blackmagic Video Assist external recorder. I purchased this camera recently, mainly for stills. For video use I will primarily be using it on a gimbal to take advantage of its 4K 50P and tracking autofocus. However, just to see how it would fare on a corporate shoot (as an ‘A’ cam) I decided to take it on a recent shoot, and fellow S&L member Matt Willsher joined me. It was on this shoot that on one particular interview the camera decided to freeze part way through the shot! Fortunately, the camera continued to output a signal through its HDMI to the Blackmagic external recorder, so luckily the shot was saved. The back-up solution again saved the day! I have since contacted the supplier who I purchased the 1DXii from, and they have swapped it out for a brand new one! Another example of good customer service.
In addition to the above, I’ve had HDMI and SDI cables prove faulty on connections to mixers/displays/projectors, so I always have spare cables on any shoot (live events mainly). Also, I make sure I have spare microphones, lights, memory cards and lots of spare batteries on all shoots. In addition I carry lighting stands, backgrounds and a laptop. Plus all sorts of other paraphernalia for the unexpected random request I may get. My car is full of bags!
I’ll leave discussing my back-up solutions for content storage during post for another blog!
Yes, you could say I’ve become paranoid about always having a BACK-UP, but as a professional it is essential!