Shooting in secret


Kieron Seth# TV-Bay Magazine
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by Kieron Seth
Issue 88 - April 2014

Now showing on Channel 4 is Endemols new and highly popular Secret Eaters series. Based round a fixed rig production, the series uses newly developed mobile fixed rig technology and incorporates a number of recently introduced technical innovations, vital for fast turn-around TV.

Secret Eaters is one of a string of current prime time television shows that are made using fixed rig technology. While the speed of installation and the relatively low cost of the equipment are important factors, the programmes shot by discreetly installed cameras are often very intimate, touching and compelling. The absence of a camera crew, long intrusive lens and microphone has seen the evolution of a new genre of television production where participants appear totally at ease with the production process.

For Secret Eaters, Specialist broadcast service provider Minicams installed a range of equipment to record the surreptitious behaviour of the participants. Nick McLachlan, MD of Minicams comments:

Its an intense programme, with 24-hour in-house multi-camera recording, covert filming from cars and studio-based scenes. This means a very quick kit turn-around, no room for technical error and the need for a very wide variety of equipment.

One innovation developed for the show was based around Panasonics small HE2 camera head. Small and lightweight, the unit has a 95o shooting angle and a small minimum focus distance, making it perfect for placing in tight locations. In the case of Secret Eaters, this meant situating the HE2 at the back of the home owners fridge to catch every lapse in maintaining the imposed diet. A motion sensor was used to auto-trigger the camera to record as the door opened.

Set in real domestic environments, Minicams used their new mobile production vehicle, specifically designed for very fast set-up fixed-rig filming. The vehicle provides all the functionality of a traditional studio system in virtually any conceivable location. The portable production unit (PPU) installed in the MPV allowed the producer to monitor each camera, control feeds to the switcher and manage the microphones hidden away into every room. The crew designed automated processes into the PPU in order to ensure audio follows video where appropriate and to route active camera groups to the vision mixer.

Crucially, the Minicams PPU MPV newly developed camera fixings and microphone mounts are designed to be quick to install and de-rig, enabling the Endemol production team to keep to its exceptionally tight schedule.

With 8 contributor houses to rig each in a matter of hours the production uses kit thats built to withstand everyday knocks. The main hot head used was Panasonics sturdy HE120 PTZ camera which is built to a very high standard yet is still light enough to be ceiling mounted.

Even so, this kind of fast turn-around job is a potential minefield: were working in peoples houses so our installation and cabling team has to be very conscious of respecting the properties. The crew constantly has to innovate to work around the idiosyncrasies of every house we work in; its a continual challenge. Ends McLachlan.

The results are touching and revealing, with the miniature cameras giving the audience a real insight into the lives and temptations - of normal members of the public. Critically, the HD experience is undiminished.


Tags: iss088 | Secret eaters | Minicams | Panasonic | fixed rig | Kieron Seth#
Contributing Author Kieron Seth#

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