“Being run-and-gun is about always being ready for the next shot, because in many of these situations, you only get one chance. It’s about having 3-4 people performing the duties of 10 conventional production roles while also being quick to adapt to any situation changes. But most importantly, it’s about getting footage that exceeds your clients expectations and making it look like you had an entire production team with you, despite operating with a small crew at a super fast pace.” - Jeremy Carey, Founder + Director at Ironclad.
You’re talking with a client, finding out about what kind of shots they want for their next commercial or promo video. You’re told that their talents are going to be constantly moving, and decide that your entire setup will have to be completely mobile too. No tripods, no cables, no video village.
Run-and-gun cinematography is really common these days. Where traditional shoots have the luxury of a fixed set, filming on the go requires you to capture the same cinematic quality while being constantly moving from one location to the next.
Luckily, with the rise of tools like gimbals and body rigs, being mobile isn’t as challenging as it used to be. Steadicams and MoVIs allow filmmakers to keep cameras steady while wireless camera control allow for performing key camera functions from a distance. Even wireless video has allowed Directors and DPs to monitor without being bogged down in video village, making run-and-gun cinematography not only very feasible, but also very popular.
So what kinds of strategies can you employ on your next run-and-gun production? Our friend Jeremy Carey at Ironclad share with us how, since 2010, they’ve built their reputation as the go-to production house in tactical and sports cinematography, with regular clients like the Navy SEAL Foundation, Under Armour, Reebok, and much more.
Perfecting the Run-and-Gun
“Our clients come to us with an expectation, which the producers make a general layout for us based on what they want. From that layout, we develop our strategy on how to achieve the best video for them, taking into account factors like location, crew, gear, budget and everything. But what makes run-and-guns different is how we incorporate the fast pace into the equation.”
“Unlike traditional sets, our run-and-gun sets usually run on 3 to 4-man crews, with no ACs, no video village, no grip truck. Having a small load frees us to be as mobile as we need to be on these sets. The challenge is being able to balance everything we do have so we can still create a good product for our clients.”
“Run-and-gun shoots can pose a gamut of challenges. For example, if its an outdoor shoot, heat, rain, snow, locations failing, and client needs could change at any moment. But the one thing to keep in mind is to always prioritize team and gear. We know we can rely on both of those in all scenarios which gives us the flexibility to adapt quickly.”
Tip #1: Backups Are Your Best Friend
“A lot of run-and-gun shoots are done on-the-road, and in these cases you want to make sure you brought backups of everything. Always have backup cables, batteries, chargers, storage, antennas, velcro, gaff tape, etc. You don’t want to be the one holding up a production, or worse, missing a shot that won’t be repeated.”
“Our shoot in Haiti last year consisted of an entire week of non-stop filming. We were on the road for Reebok with Ashley Horner, a fitness model, to document her 230-mile run through the country raising money for an orphanage in Haiti. We were just a 2-man crew so we were forced to pack super lightly, but at the same time that made it harder to pack the essentials.”
“Our entire gear set was untethered. Two RED cameras with one handheld and one on a MoVI. The truck we traveled in drove slowly behind Ashley as she ran her journey, making stops every once in awhile for short amounts of time. At every stop, we were charging all of our backup batteries even if just for 10 minutes. We had batteries running low all through the shoot, but since we had so many backups, we never missed a single moment of it.”
Tip #2: Invest In Your Gear
“This one can’t be overstated enough. On our shoots, we continually push our gear to the limits, and having equipment that stands up to the elements and everything we throw at it is a must. Remember that on run-and-gun productions, there’s no time to be gentle with your gear. Always go for the best of the best, even if it costs a bit more. This will actually be a better long term investment as you work on more projects.”
“For the Compassion shoot to London and Uganda, all of our current camera setups were out on production and AbelCine was able to procure a RED Monstro and lens set for us under an extremely tight deadline. They got it express shipped to us just in time for the shoot and we were able to execute.”
“Here’s what we use on the majority of our productions:”
- RED Epic Dragon on MoVI Pro
- RED Monstro outfitted with a Tilta cage
- 2x Teradek Bolt 1000
- 2x Teradek RT follow focus systems
- 2x Bright Tangerine matte box
- Teradek/SmallHD 703 Bolt
“Don’t just get the cheapest stuff out there. In these situations where something goes wrong and you don’t have access to a rental house, you’ll want to know that the company you trust has your back.”
Tip #3: Invest In Yourself
“We worked on a project with Compassion International which had us traveling to Uganda for a run-and-gun shoot. Our mission was to film the journey of a family in the UK who’ve been sponsoring a child in Uganda for the last 10 years. Compassion wanted to make a commercial out of them meeting their child for the first time. For a week, we had to prep our gear, travel and sleep all inside the back of a Toyota Forerunner.”
“These are the situations you’ll face as you get hired to do more shoots that involve traveling. You have to be able to perform long days with heavy payloads, sometimes hiking into remote locations. It’s grueling on your body and mind, so make sure you train like you fight!”
Tip #4: Prepare
“On run-and-guns, pretty much anything and everything can go wrong. The best suggestion we could give is always be prepared. Our pre-production has been pretty tightly laid out for us so we go in knowing our must haves, with a flexible outline to follow on set. From there our crew adapts to the environment and needs of the client.”
“Take into consideration how small of a crew you’ll be working with, what environment you’ll be in, transport, accommodations, and budgets to decide what kind of gear and shots you could accomplish within these parameters.”
Check out more of Ironclad on their Instagram: @thisisironclad