Christchurch Earthquake-cam We are in Christchurch with Joe Morgan from Broadcast Media Limited and Mike Symes from AVA. Now there are two parts to this interview, because I know Joe was very involved in the Christchurch earthquake, mainly as a stringer for TV3, but also the everyday side of his business. Having a look around the premises here, there are lots of stories to be told I’m sure. Ed: Let’s start with the big one Joe, the February earthquake – what was the first you heard of it? Joe: I was actually in the city at the Convention Centre working for a client, a bunch of neurologists as a matter of fact, who later on became well known in New Zealand for helping with medical stuff. We were having lunch when the earthquake hit the Convention Centre. We were across from the Town Hall and a colleague and I headed out the door … Ed: You grabbed your camera I hope?
“Now if I’d been 2m to the left!!” thinks Joe.
Joe: No, the cameras had all gone. They’d fallen over in the Town Hall … but that didn’t matter so much, because I always keep a camera in my car anyway. It’s always in the vehicle and since September I’ve never parked the vehicle in parking buildings either. So I walked next door, grabbed my camera, tried to get on the radio to call my wife, but no-one was answering, the phones were hopeless – and just started walking with my camera. I figured the convention probably wouldn’t carry on, seeing as the earthquake had hit. Ed: And how was that emotionally? seen some pretty unpleasant sights?
You must have
Joe: Yes I did, I did. Not initially, there were just lots of people panicking and looking upset and crying and then
someone mentioned to me that the Cathedral had fallen down. At this stage, I was still on Kilmore, so I walked down Columbo Street and it was like a scene out of all the stuff that we’ve seen on television when the Twin Towers came down. That’s what it looked like to me; there were swarms of people coming towards me and I was heading in towards the central city. Ed: Did you meet any other cameramen doing what you were doing? Joe: Yes, there were a number of them … the TV3 crews were about; TVNZ crews. I ended up teaming up with Jeff Hampton from TV3 and we just walked around basically shooting what we could and interviewing and doing bits and pieces. I came across a camerawoman called “Becks” Rebecca O’Sullivan. She had teamed up
Go www.finnzed.co.nz and follow the link to NZVN for more news. P13 Decisions in Christchurch P16 Ken gets a Gong P28 4K and other things at DVT
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with Hamish Clark, and we both saw someone calling out to a person who was obviously trapped in a store in Columbo Street and recorded a little bit of that, then we split and moved in our different directions. Ed: And since then – I mean that was sort of Day One and then as the days progressed, what did you find yourself doing?
audience. You’ve got to think on a global scale when you’re shooting for international crowds. Ed: Because the international audience is more detached; it’s not as though they’re the people next door? I guess it’s just like us watching images from China of thousands killed in an earthquake or disaster; it’s sort of a little bit different if it’s at home?
Joe: We got multiple calls from overseas companies wanting crewing for anything – they needed to get shots of it, they needed to get live crews up and running and at that stage ( this is later on in the piece ) we had generators running and we could keep our systems going. We had satellite phones and also the Telecom Internet system didn’t fail, so we could still FTP and send pictures out. Now a side note to this is that in the first hour Ange, my wife, got multiple calls from overseas networks wanting a camera. She kept on saying “Yes, yes I’m trying to get hold of him” and then she finally got upset and broke down talking to one of the networks and said “Hey, I don’t even know if he’s alive or dead because I’ve heard that people have been killed in the city and I haven’t heard from him and I can’t contact him.” In the latter days, we would have had I think six crews, and all our cameras out, going constantly, including one crew that was doing purely Sky News 24/7 at a live position outside the Art Centre. I initially kept myself independent from anybody, including TV3, but I would assist TV3 by giving them vision as they needed it; however my first and foremost job was to work for Associated Press who I work for in the South Pacific – APTV or APTN. They somehow got through to me – I don’t know how they did it, but they called me and wanted to know what was going on, so I gave them a voice over the phone and then I filed the first pictures that I could within the first 90 minutes I suppose, because they needed those pictures urgently to get them out.
Joe: That’s quite right, and it is different. When I work for APTN, which is probably 3-4 times a year, I have to think from the international side of things. My first job was to get those images out, so of course, I think a third of the world’s population gets to see those images, and you’ve got to make a good job of it to show that we had a problem here. Ed: How long did this last for? I mean, at some point, the international interest must have died down – did it suddenly happen or did it just sort of dribble along and then finally trickle to a stop? Joe: No, it didn’t dribble, it suddenly happened. There was just a new story overseas somewhere else that was more important; and so the international attention here ( at least from my point of view from AP ) lasted for four days and then it was back into other normal stuff; because another story comes along that’s bigger, a war story perhaps …
Now my idea of filing is quite different to our national networks, because the stuff I had to file was probably more of the worse stuff that I could find. The reason for that is because the international networks think very, very differently to local networks. They don’t care that the infrastructure isn’t working or anything; they’re looking at death tolls. So the one thing I thought of, and I thought about this in September as well, because I worked for them also in September, was that I’ve got to show some reasonably heavy looking images to the world, to tell the world that Christchurch has had a hell of an earthquake and we’re probably in quite a bit of trouble. So I sent out some reasonably heavy images I suppose, of what was going on – some stuff that people probably wouldn’t like to see. But there was a reason for that, and it was because of the international
Ed: Okay that’s it – so for the Christchurch crews and you especially, after those four days, did it go back to normal or, because so much of the infrastructure was damaged, did you not have as much work? Joe: No, no we had just as much work because, for me personally, it had switched off the international side of things and then it was on to the local networks that were after images; there was MTS – everybody, Prime, TV3. There were a number of people who wanted images and there were still overseas companies that were coming to town that needed assistance, like Seven, ABC and the American networks and so forth that were finally getting here. First off, typically, they want the images from the ground then, as they bring their crews in, they want assistance. So our work load probably lasted for six weeks. It was very, very busy for six weeks and then it started to peter off. We got so busy we hired a random gentleman, Stuart Coutts, a great guy, an Aussie – he turned up in town because he heard of the earthquake. He was a cameraman and we gave him a car and a kit and said “Go shoot.” He literally arrived … he was in town for about two hours and he called us up and we said yeah, go. He worked for us for 3 weeks solid, as a crew, and just kept on filing stories. Ultimately he started working for Maori Television through us.
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Ed: Okay, but now – is there still any interest in the earthquake and the rebuild? Joe: Yes there is. We ourselves are doing a lot of work that’s earthquake related. Quite often there’s vision … of course when I shot my vision, I own the copyright for it so there’s been quite a demand for vision. It’s all compiled there and as production companies ring up and want an aspect of it, I’ll see if it’s available and I’ll get it. The fictional show that’s being made by Gaylene Preston has taken some footage as well – they’re using it for research and they may use it in the drama itself, we’ll see. Another thing I did was live crosses for CBC by Skype, so at one o’clock in the morning I was Canadian Broadcasting with Skype connect and then I’d go on air and give them a report. I did that for about 5 or 6 days in a row. Good technology. Ed: Yes, I see quite a reasonably sized server humming away there – that’s how you keep all your material?
Mike delivers some XDCAM discs.
Joe: Yes it is. We’ve got backup off-site and backup onsite. The onsite backups are on Dell USB drives, we’ll transfer them and they go into a safe in case there’s a fire; off-site supports as well, but the off-sites aren’t backed up equally as well as the onsite, so we’ve got to watch out for that. And the server – that’s an FTP
server for clients and it’s a streaming server as well for video when we want to use that. Ed: So that’s all the earthquake footage and I guess those connections and the safety aspect is necessary to preserve all the material that you’ve taken, but what about going forward? I see around the building here,
there’s lots of “legacy equipment” shall we call it … I even saw a U-matic in the corner. What’s “going forward” for Joe Morgan? Joe: Well the old gear that I’ve got lying around, it’s just quite nice to have that because it’s slowly dying off, no-one wants it, but the tapes are still around. So if someone comes and wants a tape converted, which happened only yesterday – someone turned up with Betacam SP and wanted it converted to something – so I just hang on to those things, I can’t bring myself to throw them away. We’ve got all formats, we’ve got everything. As far as digital formats go, our main acquisition is XDCAM optical disc and I’m really resisting at this stage going to card cameras, because predominantly news and current affairs is our main job here, our main work and that’s the fastest way to transfer all the data and it’s easy for me to give someone and the guys that work for us and the freelancers to give someone the disc and say “It’s your problem, here it is.” Ed:
No “on location” data handling by you?
Joe: Not at all by me, no. Overseas clients, well yes we make a backup and we FedEx or even FTP – we’ve FTP’d 10, 15 Gigs of data across to them, but there’s always a backup done. And it’s happened … we’ve sent the disc away before and they’ve got it the other end and somehow it’s not all there – this is a hard drive that’s gone away. It just happened recently and of course we just sent the backup files that were missing. But I don’t know – it’s not perfect this data transfer … I don’t know, it’s just me, thinking about it. Ed: So rather than send a hard drive, why wouldn’t you send an XDCAM disc? Joe: This particular company were insistent on a hard drive, not the disc. Ed:
Aaaah – they learnt?
Joe: Yes. Ed: Now I see on your shelves a box full of Go Pros – where have they come from? Joe: Well as a matter of fact, I’ve bought those second -hand and we use them for all sorts of things – predominantly for time lapse; we’ve got a few of them in the city that time lapse at present.
Joe with his location kit.
Ed: There’s one particular building that you use them in? Joe: Of course, yes, I forgot, sorry. We used the Go Pros extensively to film the NewsTalk ZB building that was imploded here in Christchurch. We had a total of 12 cameras on that building, eight Go Pros in and outside the building. Mark Loizeaux, the expert who brought it down, told us where to position the cameras and the spots looked pretty close to the building. Now we positioned these cameras on tripods and on the building and bits and pieces and that building fell down within two metres of where those tripods were. The only thing we had to replace ultimately, is they got hit by the wind and the dust and it scraped the lens on the casing. We just replaced the lenses in it. They all still work and they’re all great. Ed: What about DSLRs – do you have an opinion? Joe: Yes. Oh yeah, I’ve got an opinion. I can’t knock the quality of the pictures alright, they do make beautiful pictures, but there’s a particular look that those things have and it’s all this depth of field stuff, which is fine, but sometimes I’ve seen a whole show shot on depth of field and it’s just too much. You have so many things you’ve got to hang off them and really I don’t think they were designed as a video camera. There’s audio which on some of them has to be recorded separately. No, I’m not a fan and I wouldn’t consider a DSLR. It’s video cameras, you know the full size cameras that have the audio tracks – four audio tracks and all that sort of stuff – that’s me. Ed:
Better to shoot with a DSLR than shoot 3D?
Joe: Oh yes, yes, for sure. That is something I haven’t actually dealt with too much, is 3D. I haven’t had much request for it. We never got requests for HD but now we do quite frequently for corporates and so forth, but not for broadcast in the stuff that we shoot. But 3D – no requests for us yet and I’m not going to venture into that area, not yet. Ed: Okay, but what about jobs going forward, apart from stringing. You’ve obviously got some clients in the Christchurch area or in the whole of the South Island? Joe: Yes, we’ve got clients all over the place. Some of our clients are the likes of Fulton Hogan, the BNZ, the Christchurch City Council … we’ve only just recently started corporate film work instead of broadcast, but I’m a little bit picky and choosy on that because I kind of prefer broadcasting. But those clients, they’ve got their budgets and they’re happy to work with us and we’re happy to work with them and we just do the work. As far as what we’re doing in the future, I’m currently shooting, of my own accord, of my own costing, a documentary on the Red Zone in the city, because we got access to that in the early days – 11 months ago we got access to the Red Zone. So I’ve concentrated on Ward Demolition – that’s one of the demolition companies – and Southern Demolition for a local one, following them around, inside and outside the buildings, to show people just exactly what did go on inside those walls. Ed: In terms of your corporate clients, still optical disc? Joe: Yes, still optical disc. We film wholly and solely in optical disc and with the corporate clients, we’ll edit it here and we’ll send them rushes or send them
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whatever they need by FTP. We’re doing a lot of stuff by FTP now. Even TV3, we don’t bother to go into the TV3 studios these days when we do after hours or news gathering. We come back here or just send it from the office, where we used to go into TV3. Ed: I see you’ve got an Avid Media Composer. Is that just cutting for your corporate clients, or do you do your compiles in there before sending them off?
off and got fixed. I think it died at about 18 months, but since then I’ve also bought another XDCAM as a wreck, to have parts, just in case. Ed: Is there anything particular about what Mike supplies you, apart from the fact that he’s always there, that makes you stay local rather than try the Internet? Joe: Well I talk about tapes and old school stuff … I’ve been doing this since 1990. I met Mike in the early 90s and he helped and supported me when I started getting into this industry. I was a one man band. Geoff Mackley and I were in town together chasing ambulances and fire engines. Geoff Mackley was my boarder …
Editing on Avid.
Joe: Yes, we do the compiles at either of the machines – we’ve got two Avids. For the corporate clients, we’ll use Avid Media Composer but we don’t do any heavy graphic oriented stuff. If we need that, we get it done out of house. Ed:
Ed: There are still a few ambulances with Geoff’s bite marks on the back I know! Joe: Oh yes, I’ve been on tour with Geoff a number of times overseas chasing storms and stuff with him … it’s an interesting lifestyle. Ed: You’ve decided on a more sedate life now? Joe: Yes, I’ve got a family. I’ve definitely decided on a sedate life … although Geoff and I quite often talk about the old days and we do occasionally talk about possible things we could do in the future together. But we’ve taken different roles. Geoff likes being in front, I
And the cameras – they’re the Sony 700’s?
Joe: No, no – we’ve got a Sony 355 which we’re going to replace … well we’re not going to replace it, we’re going to add to it, and I’m looking at the 680, because it’s an optical disc camera with the very expensive viewfinder, as a replacement. The very expensive viewfinder … that’s what I’m trying to get over. The other option is the card camera, of course, the Sony card camera, but I’m still not that convinced on card technology. Ed:
And where will you get your new camera from?
Joe: Well I’ve bought most of the cameras from Mike Symes at AVA, so I think I’ll probably be going to see Mike Symes again – although I must confess I have bought a second-hand standard def 530 from a chap in Rotorua, because news is still SD, it’s not natively shot on HD. News is one of our bigger contracts, that’s for MTS, Prime and TV3, so we’re still happy to shoot with those cameras and this one was coming up cheap, so we use that as well. Ed: So you’ve obviously bought quite a bit of gear from Mike – is it important for you to buy local? Joe: Yes it is, because if I call Mike up – if there’s a problem – he sorts it out. You know, if we need disc or tape stock, just little bits and pieces, just 1 or 2, he’ll sell it to us. We don’t have to buy 10 and 20; and lost bits and broken bits. Quite often I’m ringing Mike up – we break bits quite often on cameras. Our cameras definitely look very second-hand by about week 6. Yes, we look after them, but they do get beaten up; they’re news cameras. That’s our main job, so Mike is good at supporting the likes of that. We had a camera – actually one of the XD carriages died, so that was sent Page 10
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don’t – I like being behind it. I’m going to move from being a cameraman to more producing and directing; and I’ll tell you one reason and I must tell everybody this. The old guys out there will be saying “Yeah, yeah, I know” – my shoulder’s gone. You know, 22 years of lifting the big cameras, the old Sony 7s and things like that, and not doing any physio for it, and my shoulder is getting tired.
I’ve got a young fellow who works for me now and I’ve told him all about it – look after your shoulder. But I do – I want to take on a role of more producing and watching stuff and trying to make stuff as opposed to being part of it being made, but not having control of it … which is why I am going to do that documentary about the demolition workers. Ed:
We’ll look forward to that Joe. Joe: Absolutely. I’m going to give it to NZVN someone, so they can play it for me.
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Decisions, Decisions As part of my visit to Christchurch, I went with Mike from AVA out into the countryside where it’s raining but beautiful. We are met by a very wet dog ably guarding Kelly Williams from Vidpro. Ed: Now Kelly, last time we saw you, you had a thriving business in the city centre of Christchurch. What’s happened?
Ed: In what way? I guess the logistics of everything is much different now? Kelly: Yes and mentally it’s been quite difficult. Going from having like a 200 square metre building with a studio to now being in your parents’ lounge is a bit of a comedown, but at the end of the day we still do the same work, and our skills are still the same. Fred’s
Kelly: Our building did survive enough for me to get the equipment out. I ran back in when there was water coming in through the roof of the foyer and got as much electrical stuff out as I could when the earthquake happened. Then we moved into my parents’ lounge and garage temporarily … Ed: But that years ago?
Kelly: Not quite two years ago … and four containers later, but we can’t make the decision where to move to, and we quite like the surroundings out here. Ed: And Mum’s quite happy having you home? Kelly: Uuuum … aaaah … she likes the assistance with the computer work! Ed: She doesn’t need a lounge really does she?
Kelly in Mum and Dad’s lounge.
commuting distance is now considerable but he seems to be coping with that.
Kelly: No, not really. Fortunately my brother and I moved out some time ago, so I’ve taken over both our old spaces. Ed: And what about your clients – they don’t mind coming out here to pick up rental gear? Kelly: No, not really. We do deliver to our clients if they require it; either we drop it off and they drop it back or they pick up and we collect. Now the first stage of the Southern Motorway is finished, it can take as little as 12 minutes to be in the heart of Sydenham, where many of the sound and lighting logistics guys are. We do have an advantage in being quite close to the airport as well. It’s been really hard to manage at times, and overall our business has changed a lot.
Ed: And your clients shouldn’t notice the difference because you’re covering all that for them? Kelly: Well yes, and I think they quite like the homemade biscuits, or the cup of coffee, that they get out here and they get to look out at the nice surroundings. Ed: But one day, you’re going to have to find some premises? Kelly: Oh yes and we have been seriously looking, but it’s very hard in Christchurch, because there are limited options and I’m not just going to go anywhere. Ed: So is it going to be bigger and better or are you going to try and keep it much the same?
Kelly: Probably much the same. We’ve started doing some OB stuff for CTV and some big screen stuff as well because they lost everything in the earthquake. We have helped them out with rugby and Fight for Christchurch. Our business has changed as we’ve adapted to the changing market. I don’t know whether it will be bigger and better or stay the same and enjoy the surroundings. Ed:
Exactly, because those biscuits …
Kelly: Oh yes, and I quite like the fact that I can go out and ride my horse at lunchtime actually – I’ve got a bit spoilt now. But our service is still the same as it’s always been and we’ve really focused on making sure that our clients still get delivered what they want.
Kelly: In many areas, work has dropped away since the earthquake. Business has changed and so we really need people from outside of Christchurch to support us when they come, and be using Christchurch crews if they can possibly do that. Ed:
And it’s a big family down here?
Kelly: Oh it’s very much a family and if we haven’t got something that you need, we can generally find it or source it from somebody else and so take the hassle out of it, and give everybody a bit of work. Ed:
That’s got to be good.
Ed: Now for those of us outside of Christchurch, or in fact in the northern part of New Zealand, just tell us – your business, it is a rental business and I guess you’ve been very busy providing equipment for crews that have come from overseas, but of course you can provide a whole range of equipment for crews within New Zealand? Kelly: The people who know about us, often they’ll be bringing their camera with them but they won’t want to carry lighting gear or a tripod / jib arms or other bits … accessories really. That’s where we think we can help the Auckland, Wellington – those out of town crews. If other television production companies need some pickup shots or they need a cameraman or whatever, we can supply. Ed: So that’s it, it’s all about the Christchurch network that is still up and going?
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Ken gets a Gong! At TVNZ, I met Ken Dorman, camera team leader for Current Affairs. Now Ken hasn’t come to my attention for many of the many years that NZ Video News has been in publication and, as he says himself, he tries to keep a low profile, but sadly Ken, that’s all over now mate, the Queen’s been in touch. Ed:
What did the Queen have to say?
over many, many years. You don’t find too many coming and going. Maybe there are not too many other jobs for us. Having said that, I’ve done lots of things over the years … I mean I started in film when television was in film, so I’ve worked in dramas and documentaries. I was in the documentary department for a long time, so I’ve done a lot of things besides just News. Most of my time in the last few years has been involved in Current Affairs; I was first cameraman on 60
Ken: Well it surprises me, I’m not quite sure how the Queen knows what we all do, but anyhow it’s certainly very nice. I mean it’s nice to be recognised after what really has been a long time in the industry; I’m probably coming out the other end of the industry having been involved for about 40 years behind a camera. Ed: It’s not quite a Knightship or a Lordship though is it? Ken: No, it’s pretty much down the bottom of things … Ed: Well you’ve start somewhere?
Ken: I think this is about my lot of recognition, but it’s certainly very nice and I feel quite humbled and honoured really. Ed:
Well it’s a QSM?
Ken: QSM yes, Queen’s Service Medal for services to television and the community. Ed:
Ken with his kit and HRH’s Queen’s Service Medal.
In what way?
It’s obvious for someone like (the late) Paul Holmes getting a Knightship for being there in front of the camera, doing all those things and having a high public profile, but behind the camera, you don’t have a public profile? Ken: I don’t personally like to have a high profile, I like to be behind the camera and I certainly don’t want to be in front of the camera. Paul Holmes and people like that are fantastic and I just look up to them hugely, but I suppose there’s people behind the scenes who actually make those people as well … Ed:
Behind every star there’s a good cameraman?
Ken: Possibly, yes. A good cameraman behind everybody, but we all need each other really … they need us and we need them. We’re pretty much the silent little group, we don’t have much of a voice, so it’s quite nice to have somebody who is down the pecking order being recognised. Ed: Was it anything specific – did you rescue a child from a raging river or anything, still filming? Ken: No, not really. I think it’s really just being here for such a long time and not giving up! Ed: Do you think that that’s a employment at TVNZ – not giving up?
Ken: I think it probably is in some ways. The camera area is quite a stable area generally and it has been
Minutes when we had it and I’ve been pretty much involved in the Sunday show and, basically, being a team leader you’re helping other cameramen on their journey through this business. It’s been lovely to have a bit of feedback from people – it’s quite surprised me actually – where they’ve rung up and said “thanks for helping me” or being a mentor or whatever. It’s been lovely. Ed: That must have been a big part of your years of service, the giving back. You can spend many years behind a camera just taking the shots and handing over the tape, but you must have done quite a bit of mentoring? Ken: Oh it hasn’t been my fulltime job, but I’ve certainly helped people a little bit on their journey, like a lot of other people have, and I’ve enjoyed that as well. I suppose it’s just making people look good on the television and I’ve just really enjoyed that side of it. Ed: So as well as your camera people, I guess you also help the talent … the people who you’re recording have not necessarily been in front of a camera before. You must be good at putting them at their ease? Ken: There’s an element of that. They say a “cameraman” but the job shouldn’t be just a cameraman in that sense. We’re very involved in the story, we’re involved in people’s lives and we spend a lot of time on the road away with reporters and more on page 19
Ken: No, not really. I always liken it to a builder – you can have a handsaw or an electric saw. Obviously there are challenges technically, but a story is a story is a story and, basically, I suppose even in my early days at school, I just loved telling stories with pictures and it’s really an extension of that. So it doesn’t matter whether it’s on film or … Ed:
So you started with photographs at school?
Ken: Well drawings, photographs … I’ve always been involved in photography, right from an early age. My dad gave me a camera when I was about 8, so it’s just been an extension of what I love doing really, telling stories with pictures. Ed: So what do you say to a young cameraman who’s just come along and puts that camera on his shoulder … what do you tell him to do? Ken: Well I suppose you’ve really got to have a love for it. I mean, it’s not just a job is it? You’ve got to have a love of what you do, and if you just love taking photographs, love telling stories with pictures, love getting out there with the community. I mean I half joke to people that I must get a real job one day – it’s a little bit like that. We come to work and it’s fantastic. We have our moments and the real hard times as well, but generally it’s really not a hard job. Ed: You’ve got a director or a reporter there telling you the sort of feeling they want. Do you get involved in those decisions too?
Ken in the early days when ...
producers and so there’s a whole range of things that we have to get our heads around really. It’s not just a matter of getting the pictures. It’s very much sharing people’s lives. It sounds like we just push the button on the camera, but it’s a lot more than that. Ed: I guess that is the difference between constructing a great programme and shooting a piece for News? Ken: They’re just different. I don’t think any one’s better or greater than the other, but we probably shoot a huge amount more material than they would just on News – although I’ve done a lot of News. I love News, because I love its instant way of just being there with the story. Current Affairs is just a little bit more methodical and working through it and jacking things up and sorting it out in that way, but they all have their great moments. It’s just that you shoot a whole lot more stuff on Current Affairs … you’d be shooting hours of material compared to, say, half hour on News.
Ken: I probably wouldn’t get too much involved in the editorial, but we’re out with people who probably are pretty green to directing at times and they rely very heavily on our visual input. They’re involved in editorial where they think a story is going, but they pretty much leave it up to us on the look of it at times. And the other thing is that I have to make sure, as cameraman, that I’ve got all the bits there for the editor. Basically I’m making sure that all the bits are there for the jigsaw and I would certainly know about it when I get back and I’d be called into the editing room pretty quickly and asked “how am I going to put this rubbish together?” Ed: There are not so many nodding head shots these days I’ve noticed? Ken: No, they’ve learnt to not do that really. We don’t want “Noddy” sitting there just nodding away, but the people I work with are incredibly professional. Most
Ed: In terms of your work with the cameras, obviously you started in film, you’ve had many technical production changes over the years from file to tape to solid state, etc – has the technology ever been a problem for you?
… there were no gyro stabilisers. Page 19
Ken: I think it’s very hard for young people coming into the camera area now. It’s pretty tough, they don’t get the range of things to work on. Years ago, younger people starting out would spend two years on a drama shoot as a clapper loader or something like that. There are some very good people now but they just don’t get the opportunities to work on other shows. They’re not doing big shoots with dollies and young people coming in these days are pretty much on a live truck for a while and maybe hoping to get a little camera job somewhere, and there aren’t all the range of programmes that are out there anymore. There’s not a documentary department, there’s not a drama department, there’s not too many lifestyle programmes … it’s pretty restricting and it’s very tight moneywise. Now we’ve remembered a story from way back when Ken was stuck on Papeete working for David Lean, supposedly making a documentary. Ed: David was fairly precise in what he wanted, is that right?
Wooden legs and chemicals.
people in Current Affairs have been around for a little while, so they’re not new to the business. Ed:
Do you have any favourite decades?
Ken: I was trying to think about that in the last little while … I think the business has changed a lot. It’s become very money driven now and everything’s a dollar sign. Once upon a time, I think we used to head out the door because it was a worthy story. They didn’t really think about ratings a great deal and maybe they should have thought about them at the time, but there’s many, many things over the years that I’ve thought were fantastic and they were just a good story to do. But a lot of those stories would never go out the door now, because they just wouldn’t have the return moneywise on them. So everything’s just tight, tight, tight in the sense of making money and then we’re on to the next story. Ed:
Ken: Yes, well David Lean was a master at his craft of filmmaking, but he hadn’t really done a documentary before, so documentary making to him was a bit of an eye opener. My idea of documentary making at that stage was “fly on the wall” and when he saw the first film rushes, he said “no, that’s not what I want” and he just took over and directed every shot from then on. We were doing a
Does that make you sad?
Ken: It doesn’t make me sad. I love this business and I love shooting stories, I love telling stories – I’m the happiest when I’m on the road shooting stories. But it’s just a different way of looking at it; we’re in different times. I don’t tend to look backwards and go “they were fantastic days” that would be dreaming, they probably weren’t. Ed:
You remember the good bits?
Ken: I remember the good bits, yes, but especially the days on film. It was carrying huge amounts of gear around and it was very slow and laborious, whereas I think it’s much more spontaneous now. It’s a different style of shooting, a different way of being more spontaneous, good shoots. We still spend a lot of time on lighting, getting the look, especially programmes like Sunday or 20/20 or other shows, they have a particular lighting look, so we’re very stylistic in how we want it to look. So the cameramen who work on those shows know how that look should be and so we just keep the quality up with the look of the show, which I think helps. Ed: Do you find there’s more and more material going to air that, in the old days, certainly wouldn’t? With money constraints, time constraints and people not going through apprenticeships, getting that training that you and your compatriots went through? Page 20
story on Captain Cook’s anchor and Kelly Tarlton, who was a fantastic diver in New Zealand, a very nice guy, came up and was going to do the diving. David Lean took one look at him and said “no, no he doesn’t look like a diver to me” and he got an actor in to dive, so I could film this so-called muscly looking guy who looked like a diver. From then on, it was day after day after day with David Lean – just hours and hours waiting for the right clouds over the coconut palm or … there was one stage, where because David Lean couldn’t dive himself to get down there, because it was very deep water, he actually got the local villagers to build an anchor on a little atoll on the sand, and I had to go with him, behind David Lean as he pointed out – they had an underwater cameraman, I didn’t do the underwater stuff – but he got this cameraman and myself to go around on land, with a make-believe wooden anchor, with him saying the shots that he wanted so the other underwater diver could get those shots and show me the shots that he would like to have of the anchor. He said “will that be okay?” and I said “well it’s pretty good to me, but you’re the boss” and it went on every day like that. Ed:
So what started out as a two week shoot …?
Ken: ... took about 10 weeks. It was a bit of a learning curve because it was a very isolated area in Tahiti, where this was, but it was fantastic working with David Lean. It was one of those special moments I suppose in life where you just go wow, I’m working with this fantastic director that most people now wouldn’t have even heard of. Ed: Now back in the present, in terms of taking shots, or taking the shots that you need, sometimes the perfect picture is not necessarily the one that you want, or in fact the one that’s going to be used later. You’re shooting a moving target?
Ken with David ( Dr Zhivago ) Lean.
Ken: Yes it is a moving target. Most of the time, the best light is either in the morning or late in the day, but all of a sudden the sun is blazing down and something is happening right before you, and that’s the shot they’ll use and you go “oh, where were the lovely pretty pictures” but you can see exactly where they’re coming from and that’s the way it is sometimes. What’s happening in front of you is what really tells the story and they’re the best pictures at the time. You can spend hours and hours and hours getting some great material and then that never sees the light of day, and that can be frustrating. Ed:
But that’s television?
Ken: That’s television yes, that’s television all over. It can be a frustrating business – a lot of hurry up and wait, and a lot of hanging around and all of a sudden it’s about to happen and that’s your shot. We do a lot of interviews as well, so there’s a lot of master interviews … so we could be doing lots of very long interviews, maybe an hour interview, and at the end of the day, there’s probably five answers come out of it and you go “where did all the other stuff go?” Ed: Can you give us an example of a shot you’ve missed? Ken: A shot I’ve missed … I try not to admit to anything like that. Ed:
Come on, it must have happened?
Ken: I’ll probably think of something … there was one time many, many years ago ( I don’t like to admit to it ) when I was a younger cameraman, I had a terrible flu and it was a hot room. I was doing a long interview with somebody and I sort of slowly dozed off ( very boring interview ), and woke up to find that all I could see in the frame was the top of their heads and I thought “oh no, how long’s it been like this?” I just quietly said “can we maybe just go back about six questions, could you reask them, there’s a slight technical problem. I don’t think anybody was any the wiser – probably the editor was the only person. Ed:
Ken with bodyguard in East Timor. Page 22
Well you’ve still got your job?
Ken: Hmmm. I do remember a couple of times leaving the tripod. I remember going to a place not far out of Auckland. Fortunately, it was only about half an hour and I got all the gear out and realised oh no, there’s no tripod, I must have just left it back at base. I said “I’ve just got to go to the car and get something, and I’ll be back in a minute.” “Oh yeah, okay, that’s no problem.” So I went out to the car, screamed back to work, got the tripod, came back and they were still having a cup of tea and I just set up and they weren’t any the wiser. Again they just quietly carried on as though it was quite normal. You can tell that Ken is more used to telling stories by his pictures than his words ( or it could be rubbish questions ) which prompted me to ask his boss, Lindsay Chalmers, GM Ops, News and Current Affairs, how the team took the news of Ken’s award. Ed: This is a bit of a kudos for Ken and the department Lindsay? Lindsay: It’s fantastic. We’re thrilled, really thrilled that Ken’s got that honour given to him. Very much, I guess, the way we see it is it’s actually a recognition of the professionalism of our crews over many years, so it’s great news. We’re thrilled to pieces. Ken’s involvement goes well beyond News and Current Affairs. He’s definitely a force out there in the community. But also, the many, many young cameramen that he’s nurtured and mentored through the years who have become experienced and sought after cameramen now. That spans beyond TVNZ … we know that we have cameramen at TV3 who have been tutored by Ken and have become good cameramen, as have Sky and Prime and so on. He’s been a great contributor to the broadcast community, and I think Ken may have said this to you, but very much in the same way that Paul Holmes felt that yes, he got the knighthood, and that was a personal thing, but also he saw it as a recognition of broadcasting as a whole. Ken feels much the same – that it’s a recognition of the fact that broadcasting has an important role to play and that he’s been a large contributor to TVNZ over all these years. Ed: I would also think that it’s very important that the experience that Ken has gained over the years is maintained within the organisation, so he has that experience to pass on to the younger members – and not just cameramen but I guess also young reporters? Lindsay: Yes, you’re absolutely right. The mentoring that he does definitely plays a role for reporters, producers – they might be new at their trade but not necessarily. You know, it’s like a live active thing in the field. He could be out with a very experienced reporter, but he can add something and perhaps give a perspective that changes the whole story through his experience. That is pretty vital and we see it play out in the stories that he’s involved with. As you know, he’s in Current Affairs and has been in that role for quite some time now, leading the team of Current Affairs cameramen. He definitely brings his experience to bear there, on shows like Sunday and 20/20, Fair Go. He’s a major asset. Ed:
Ken and Lindsay.
So plenty of life left in old dogs?
Lindsay: I think there’s plenty of life left in Ken, in fact I know there is. Ken is one of the hungriest cameramen I know and that’s without a word of a lie. He loves his job, he’s hungry for the work and that’s a fantastic tribute to him – to be in the game as long as Page 24
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he has, but to still want to get out of bed in the morning, come to work and shoot that story, and lead his team to do the same kind of thing, which he does. He’s got that aspirational leadership aspect to him which is kind of rare to have: the skill base, the leadership, genuinely liked by everybody … you know it’s quite a rare bundle. Ed:
Next is an Oscar?
Oh next is a knighthood surely!
Has he taught you anything?
Lindsay: Ken and I have worked over the years together. You know Don Cunningham – both Ken and I worked to Don for many years, Ken looking after cameras and myself looking after editing and postproduction. I’ve known Ken for as long as I’ve been in Auckland, which is 20-odd years now I suppose. It’s still only a fraction of his career, but I’ve known Ken that long. A great guy, we’ve got on well, we’ve worked well together professionally, challenged each other from time to time, you know, all good healthy stuff. Ed: That must be good for you in your role running this section, that you’ve got people like Ken to rely on to keep things in check?
Lindsay: Oh absolutely. I trust Ken – it’s as simple as that. If he says that something can be done or it needs to be done in a certain way, I just trust that, he’s right, he knows what he’s doing. One of the interesting things about Ken too, of course, is that he’s not tied to the past, in that he’s always thinking forward, he’s always thinking “future”, particularly when it comes to technology. He’s always thinking about the next camera. He’s always thinking about what’s the next thing that we need, what would make the job easier, what would give us the ability to get either better shots or quicker shots, you know – quality, speed, all those sorts of things. He is genuinely thinking of the future in that way, which I think is great. All too often we do see that people get to a point where there’s nowhere further to move forward – that this is the best it will ever be, and Ken is always striving for that next step. What’s the next thing we need to be doing? He’s editing, he edits on Mac. I don’t know how to run a Mac, but he will field edit, he’ll shoot, he does the whole thing, so I’ve got a lot of respect for Ken. Ed: As obviously have including the Queen?
Lindsay: Well the Queen’s a good lady – good on John Key for bringing it all back. No, look, I’m quite humbled at times, to be honest, by our crew and our editors. I genuinely believe we have a very, very good operations team here at TVNZ. That’s exemplified by the fact that we cover a big chunk of the day and there are significant operations involved in that, from live SNGs out in the wops from 4.30 in the morning, through to covering exactly the same stuff late at night. And we’ve got a broad range of experience from chaps like Ken who have been in the game a long time, right down to young fellows who have been at it six months, and that’s the lifeblood of what we have in operations. We have to have that continue on the fresh and new, wise heads, you know good mentoring and continue to grow operations. Ed:
And keep the Kens?
Lindsay: Keep the Kens … how long do you think we can keep him for? I don’t know, hopefully a long time yet – but no, absolutely … I hope you heard that Ken! “It wasn’t me!”
4K and other things It’s always good to start the New Year with some predictions so, here we are, 2013, we’re at DVT and we’re questioning Stuart. Ed: Stuart, as soon as I came back from Great Barrier, I went to see The Hobbit 48 frames, 3D, loved the technology. What do you reckon? Stuart: I think it’s a fantastic innovation and shows how even little old New Zealand can push the boundaries of modern movie making technology. It’s a phenomenal result, and the quality and smoothness that they’re now getting has moved ahead in leaps and bounds. I remember it was only 4 or 5 years ago when James Cameron was on a panel and they asked him, as a filmmaker, what would you like to see in the future, and he said “two things … I want a higher resolution and faster frame rates” and that’s exactly what The Hobbit has delivered on this production. Ed:
So it’s actually a little bit over 4K isn’t it?
Ed: And speaking of technology advances, at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas ( I viewed on-line – didn’t attend ), I was impressed by the number of manufacturers who have come on with 4K television sets, but I was also interested to see there’s a new codec out that supposedly replaces H.264 and they’re calling it H.265? Stuart: I haven’t heard about that. Ed: Well you’d better look it up. Stuart: I will. Ed: OK, now, DVT – technology advancing – what’s going to be happening in the year 2013? Stuart: There’s going to be a lot of excitement around 4K – certainly a lot of people will be having a look at that technology, evaluating it over the space of this year. We’ve definitely had a lot of interest in the Sony 4K cameras, the F55 and F5 … I think they’re now down to a price point where people can afford to do 4K production. Also the postproduction tools that support that 4K workflow are available now, so we’re really finding high end cinematic tools becoming extremely cost-effective. DaVinci Resolve, which is effectively a free package, can grade 4K, give you a 4K output and is fully compatible with the ACES Colour Space editing workflow, so there are some amazing developments in technology. Ed: In the years gone by, camera manufacturers would come out with something and then it was a catch-up game for the editing providers to produce something that would edit it, and sort of vice versa, there was a “leapfrog” game. Now everyone seems to be in the same space?
Stuart: Yes. Everything happens faster now, there seems to be a lot more parity between the software developers and the hardware developers and the production developers as well, so that everything Stuart, Bryce, Chris, Joanna and Elijah ( Catherine absent.) is now coming out, more or less, in sync and, today, it’s pretty easy to have an established Stuart: No, The Hobbit is actually all done in 2K 48 4K workflow using the existing tools that you’ve got. I frame stereo, but that is a pretty amazing technical mean, Adobe have been editing 4K in Premiere for quite innovation, because that’s 96 frames per second in 2K. some time, and the 4K workflow has been well I’m sure they’d love to have done it in 96 frames in 4K, established with the RED cameras that have been out but that’s currently a little bit over the boundaries of for the last few years, so it’s not too hard to do that what was practical for this particular production. stuff if you want to. And the new Autodesk Smoke Certainly in the future, that stuff is on the cards, and 2013 can do 4K editing, grading and effects as well. with recent announcements from Sony of their 4K Ed: And in terms of training and demos and all that cameras that can shoot up to 240 frames, that’s pretty sort of thing, something coming up in the next couple of exciting. months? Ed: So you’d bet the farm on 4K rather than 3D into Stuart: Yes, we’re just making plans at the the future? moment, but we’re expecting, pre-NAB, to do a 4K Stuart: Yup 4K, 3D at 96 frames per eye! I think workflow seminar where we’ll be talking about a range all of these technologies will have their own place in the of different hardware and software products, and marketplace. Look at 3D … I The Hobbit is a stereo production technology that you can use to do 4K production that just sold a billion dollars at the box production today, and all the different workflows that go office. There’s a big future ahead for 3D, whether it’s in around that. So that will be great for anyone – the home or at the movies; I think there’s a big future producers, directors, cameramen, all the way through for 4K production as we move ahead. Who doesn’t to postproduction supervisors, editors, compositors, want higher frame rates; who doesn’t want higher graders – this will provide a good broad idea on the resolutions; who doesn’t want cleaner images? different ranges of both software and hardware that you can use to do 4K production today. Everybody wants that stuff, so yes, as that technology becomes available and as it becomes cost-effective, it Ed: And I guess if somebody’s looking for a camera, will become the mainstream standard in the future. they now have the added question – “do I stay with 2K, more on page 31
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do I go 4K?” but within that 4K, they can still either go for a video camera or a cinematographic camera? Stuart: Yes, there’s now plenty of options around for doing 4K production, whether it’s the traditional RED camera that’s been around for quite some time, or whether you go with Canon or Sony, and Sony have got multiple cameras, both in the professional and broadcast area, and now features film cameras that you can get with the F55 and the F5. So there’s lots of choice and I think the real key thing is having a close look at the type of productions you’re doing, who your customer is at the end of the day, what your budgets are, and then determining the best solution; not just in terms of the camera technology, but in terms of how you’re going to manage the data, how you’re going to do your postproduction, and how you’re going to deliver the content as well. Ed: It’s all got more complicated? Stuart: More complicated, more flexible, with lots more options and I think providing you design your workflow correctly and talk to people like us here at DVT, we can help you make a very quick and efficient workflow. You can exceed the productivity that we have in the past, whether it was HD or SD gear. Ed: And talking of productivity – Smoke for Mac 2013 – it’s now out, it’s shipping, it’s in place and people are happy with it? Stuart: Yes absolutely. The long awaited 2013 release of Smoke for Mac which has a completely redesigned user interface and was announced last year at NAB, was shipping just before Christmas. We’ve got lots of customers taking up a special promo deal that we’re doing at the moment, to get into Smoke for Mac
2013. So it’s very exciting times for that product, with editing and effects all integrated together into one package, it makes a very compelling story and of course it’s 4K compatible as well; it’s got stereoscopic capabilities, it does 2K, 4K, HD, SD – everything. Editing, grading and effects seamlessly integrated together in one package, so that’s pretty exciting. Ed:
Exciting times coming?
Stuart: Absolutely and it’s the productivity that these sorts of products provide … you know we are still waiting on the latest iMac technology. These new iMac’s that were announced late last year should provide a true workstation level of performance. We can put 32 gig of RAM in them, they’ve got a CUDA based graphics card in them that’s got 1500 CUDA cores, so that will help accelerate everything from Adobe to Nuke to Smoke for Mac to DaVinci Resolve. Pretty much every creative finishing application that is available today, so we’re pretty excited about that new hardware technology as well. Ed:
But when can I get that on my phone Stuart?
Stuart: Well you know Apple are working hard on getting the iPhone and iPad cranking in terms of its resources, and Android aren’t far behind, so there’s plenty of options for that. Ed: Do you ever see that possibility, of actually being able to edit on your phone? Stuart: I can edit video on my phone now, but with high performance workstations you can do so much more than just editing. Ed:
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