As Shout! Communications’ videographer I have been asked to work on some interesting projects but our recent work supporting the charity Help for Heroes is something I will remember for the rest of my life.
25 ex-servicemen and women undertook the Arch to Arc challenge which included a run from London’s Marble Arch to the white cliffs of Dover, a brisk swim across the English Channel, finishing off with a cycle ride from Calais to Paris.
Shout! provided video production support for the challenge, which meant that we followed the participants from start to finish, providing broadcasters with B-roll and online packages as we travelled the route. Covering the run and cycle sections was difficult logistically but, by far the most challenging section was covering the swim.
The boat in the picture above was my home for 17 hours, which I shared with 6 ex-servicemen, a skipper, a first mate and a cabin boy!
Hour 1: at 3am, after filming for the previous 15 hours, we boarded the boat. As space on board was limited, I decided not to take my tripod. Once I boarded I realised that that was the correct decision as there was nowhere to set it up! Using the shoulder mount over the tripod also enabled me to get a steady shot quickly – this would become increasingly important under the circumstances!
Hour 2: in advance of filming I worked with Natalie, my producer, to identify what would be the most important parts to film. It would be too much to film everything, but I had to make sure the footage I did capture included the very best shots. We knew that broadcasters would be interested in shots of the very first swimmer setting off from Dover, therefore I had to work quickly and get set up in advance of this.
Hour 3: As the sun had not risen I had to use my camera top light for filming. As it is quite high powered I had to be careful not to startle anyone, especially the skipper!
Hour 4: I was able to get some beautiful action shots during the amazing sun rise. Shots like this are perfect for the online video package that we were going to be editing.
Hours 5-6: now that that participants were a few hours into their challenge, I decided to start getting a few interview clips. I needed to get a variety of different types, as the clips would be used in broadcast news, online promotion and for social media. Normally I’d work alongside a producer, but as there wasn’t enough space of the boat for her she’d gone by ferry and I had to ask the questions myself! This was not the only challenge – I also had to deal with the technical issues of filming on a rather bouncy boat!
Hour 7: at what should have been the half way point the skipper told the team captain that if the swimmers kept going at the same pace then the swim would take over 30 hours! As a result of this the participants decided to change tactics and do shorter, swimming shifts.
Hours 8-10: with working such long, intense hours, rest time was important. As I had filmed everyone at least once, I decided to take a couple of hours for a well-earned rest.
Hours 11: after waking, I got talking to a couple of the ex-service men and found out a little bit more about their life and how being discharged from the army has effected them. I felt that talking off camera in a situation like this is very important as it builds a connection with the people you are interviewing, then when you film them they will potentially be a little more open with you.
Hours 12 to 14: I spent the next two hours filming extra shots of the swim and filming pieces to camera, which would be used in social media. In situations like this you do have to be mindful not to over shoot, especially if you have tight editing deadlines.
Hour 15: as broadcasters would want our footage of the swim very soon after it finished I decided to spend some time editing a B-roll package. Editing in the hull of a bouncy boat really can make you feel sea sick!
Hours 16-17: with the French coastline in sight, and the final hero swimming we were on the home straight. I knew that the shots of this final section would be really important in each of the videos that we were making. As the boat could not go to the coast line with the swimmer, I made sure my focus was on the other team member as they reacted to finally completing the swim.
So there you have it… a brief summary of 17 hours on a boat. While it was challenging and lots of hard work it was a really memorable experience. And as much as it was difficult for me it was nothing compared to the efforts of the 25 ex-servicemen taking part.