Perhaps you have heard the term ENG? Many of you know the meaning but for those who don’t, it is an acronym for Electronic News Gathering, which
basically, refers to what TV journalists do for location shoots.
But what is involved with ENG? Well, often it is as simple as a single person (the reporter) using a single camera on a tripod, a single Light and a microphone for them to speak into.
Or it may involve multiple cameramen, a few lights, an audio man wielding a boom or a number of lavalier (lapel) mics for interviewees and scrims or reflectors to help corral the light onto the subjects in a flattering way.
There are a number of things to keep in mind when recording in the field:
1) Don’t shoot into the sun. Unless you like your subject looking like a silhouette you should probably keep the sun behind the camera or off to the side. Yes, the talent may squint if the sun is in their eyes so it’s probably best to set up with the sun off to one side but it is not hard to shield the eyes from the sun with a well-positioned reflector or scrim. The problem with shooting into the sun is that the camera will close down the iris to limit the light entering the lens and that will turn the foreground subject( i.e., your talent) into a dark shadowy silhouette; not an ideal look for TV)
2) Beware of background noises. Location shoots are tricky because outdoors there is no way to control the ambient sounds. The loud beeping of a truck backing up can ruin an otherwise perfect take. Likewise, when cars drive by and see a journalist by the side of the road they have a tendency to honk their horns, again ruining that take. Loud jet airplane engines are another intrusive element when close to an airport. A handheld mic is often better than an omnidirectional lapel mic or boom in many situations because it limits how much distant sound can get into the audio track.
3) Shoot ample B-roll footage of the area. Nothing is worse than a long single-camera view so shoot b-roll to intersperse in the final edit and break the monotony. This is also useful to cover up jump edits or other gremlins that WILL emerge.
4) An extra human to keep an eye on the environment is always helpful. They can watch for equipment thieves as well as keep an eye on the proceedings to see if there are any issues that should be addressed (such as that naked man running up behind the reporter for his 15 seconds of fame). Sometimes you just have to go it alone, however, so be ever vigilant to threats and gotchas. It’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN.
5) Do a mic check and get the audio record levels right. I am constantly amazed at how many field reports are plagued with distorted audio because they didn’t take the time to set proper/adequate levels beforehand. Also, a handheld mic performs best when it is a dollar bill length away from the mouth and off to the side a bit. Too close and everything is boomy and possibly distorted by plosives (P sounds, etc.). Too far and you’ll need to crank the level up, bringing the surrounding ambient noise up along with it. And for God’s sake, use a windscreen because even a very slight breeze that is almost undetectable will occasionally blow over the mic and create a nasty distortion that CANNOT be removed in post.
If you are involved with ENG you probably learned all of this in journalism school. But if not, these concepts are great for anybody doing location shooting for video production. Happy shooting!