I miss having my friend Mike with me on shoots. We were a great team. Mike took the stills and looked after the audio while I operated the camera. This year I have been filming on my own a lot. I feel like one of those one-man bands with a drum attached to my front and a drumstick rigged to my arm, harmonica at my lips, tambourines in between my knees and a horn on my belt. I often wonder if that’s kind of how I look to people when I go out on shoots.
I find it tough to have to think about and monitor all the equipment myself. I’ve been interviewing people while having an ear bud placed in my ear to monitor for interfering background sounds. I am constantly scanning the camera viewer for proper headroom, noseroom, leadroom, light balance, tonal mergers and the audio v/u levels. My mic stand holds the boom now and I’m constantly checking it so that it’s not in my shot, so that it’s pointed in the right direction, so that it’s not placed where someone will trip over it.
Over the next two months I will be flying solo to Boston, Vancouver and the U.K. to shoot my documentary. I’m having nightmares already of forgetting to white balance, charge my batteries, put a battery in the boom, plug my XLR in all the way, forgetting to check for stereo sound and failing to format my SDHC card properly. There’s a lot that can go wrong on a shoot, especially when there’s no one else looking out for you. Just as the airplane pilots will be doing before taking me away to shoot my doc, I’m going to follow a standard checklist. I’ll post it once it’s finished, though it’s specific to my equipment set-up. Maybe I’ll even have a story later on about how the checklist saved a shoot.