Freelance DP Simon Glass has recently been working on the production of Biggleton for CBeebies, the BBC’s pre-school children’s channel. Because the show is still in post, NDA prohibits us from discussing content. However, we were able to get permission to talk about the technical side! Here's Simon's awesome camera and monitoring setup.
“We just finished filming on the set of Biggleton about 3 weeks ago, so the show is in post-production now,” said Simon, DP for Biggleton. “I can’t say much about it, but one of the key things about it is the child actors had never acted before, so the director needed to be close to the talent in order to guide them.”
Filming a children’s show comes with some unique challenges, particularly when it comes to working with fresh talent. As first-time actors, the children were unfamiliar with on set processes, needing extra guidance to get the right shots. In addition, because sets are typically cluttered with wires, having children moving around with too many wired systems was a safety concern.
Simon needed a solution that would make filming more efficient without the high footprint of traditional monitoring systems. When he first learned of iOS monitoring with the Serv Pro, at NAB this year, he knew this was the answer.
The Serv Pro is Teradek’s newest innovation for on-set monitoring. It allows up to 10 iOS devices (iPads, iPhones, iPod Touches) to view the video feed at just 2 frames of latency. Connected via SDI or HDMI to camera or monitor, it broadcasts a WiFi signal that you connect your iOS tablet or smartphone to. With the free companion app, VUER, the feed will automatically populate in the app’s control surface.
For filming the program, Simon and the team employed a wide range of equipment. The main cameras were 2 Sony F5 cinema cameras with Canon CN7 lenses shooting in HD. One F5 was primarily handheld with the other either on a tripod or track depending on the required shot. They also mounted the F5 on a Ronin gimbal and used a Polecam with a Sony A7S II for high angle shots of the set. Attached to each camera was a Teradek Bolt 300 transmitter sending the video feeds wirelessly to receivers connected to Sony Trimaster EL OLED monitors. The Bolt is a zero-delay wireless transmitter/receiver set which transports video feeds using RF to monitors 300-3000 feet away.
Simon had 2 Serv Pros on set, each connected to the monitors’ SDI output. Because every device and iOS client needed to be on the same network, Simon incorporated a Teradek Link, a wireless access point that extends the range of iOS monitoring to 1000 ft. This was placed high up above the set to give maximum coverage across the whole studio. With all devices on the same WiFi network, the crew members with iOS devices were able to pick up the feeds in their VUER app and view both monitors using the dual-camera selection.
A Perfect Solution
But VUER was more than a simple monitoring app for the team. VUER comes with a complete set of professional tools like waveform, vectorscope, frame grab and more, allowing every member on set to customize their own iOS monitors.
“Costume, design and hair & makeup especially liked it because they could frame grab straight from the app and save the shot on their ipads camera roll, which was great for continuity” explained Simon. “For me, as I was DP and the A Camera operator, I was able to pull up the waveforms, or check B Cameras shot on my iphone without needing to go back to my main monitors at video village.”
Aside from seeing the shot though, iOS monitoring had other advantages for the Biggleton production. Instead of having to monitor from behind the cameras, which can be intimidating for the children, the director could monitor each camera’s frame on an iPad, meaning they were able to work much more closely with the children on set. This was especially important as this was their first time on TV.
The second benefit was being wireless. Being wireless meant not needing to lay out miles of cables around the set that could be a safety hazard, especially when children are present. The set had to be safe enough for the entire crew to work. It also meant they were very flexible and could relocate the equipment to a different part of the set very quickly, giving them more time to spend on camera.
Lastly, monitoring through iOS meant saving money on traditional monitors. Where professional field monitors and transceivers could’ve set Simon’s crew back in the high thousands, the Serv Pro allowed them to monitor from devices they already own, all with only having to purchase 1 unit per camera.
While iOS monitoring isn’t an alternative to zero-delay systems like the Bolt or wired monitors, which are required by focus pullers, it does provide a cost-effective solution for members of the crew who didn’t need a live feed. Hair & makeup, costume, producers, clients and others can simply see the shot without having to interfere with acquisition, making everyone’s job easier on set.
“Serv Pro was quite a revolutionary device for the project. It allowed much more flexibility and safety on set than we would normally have, because on iPhones or iPads, everyone could move about freely without limiting themselves to positions. This was so important because the studio was quite large and we were moving from shot to shot all the time. It’s a valuable piece of my toolkit now and I can’t wait to use it again.”