I am a freelance DoP/producer/editor/stereographer…. jack of all trades perhaps, that has worked in broadcast television since 1984. I studied electronics to degree level and my first job was helping design microwave links for TV and radio O.B’s. Then I went to work for Aston Electronics in the service department looking after caption generators.
Around this time I started experimenting with fitting video cameras into Rally and Race cars. My hobby was rally driving and at weekends I used to film club events with a JVC KY2000 tube camera and a u-matic portable recorder. A production company called BHP saw what I was doing and offered me a job developing in car cameras and filming motor racing. At the time BHP provided almost all of the BBC’s motorsports programmes. After a couple of years at BHP I went freelance in order to concentrate more on camera work and less on mini-cams. That was in 1990, I have been freelance ever since. Along the way I worked for extended periods as a cameraman and editor for the PBA making sports magazine shows for Sky and Eurosport, mainly featuring windsurfing and snowboarding. I also worked as an editor and ran the edit suites for a highly regarded facilities company called DVA. During this period I used a broad range of cameras and equipment from 16mm film, BetacamSP, Digibeta and the early days of DVCAM.
Then in 1999 I got a commission from National Geographic to produce a one hour special about Tornado Chasing.
The programme which aired internationally (Twister Tours) was a big hit and introduced me to severe and extreme weather. I have always enjoyed watching thunderstorms, ever since I was a child but the combination of adventure, danger and the challenge of getting top quality footage of extreme weather is something I find irresistible. Since then I have specialised in filming natures extremes and this has taken me up to the Arctic in winter to shoot the Northern lights, to the deserts of Arizona for monsoon thunderstorms as well as countless tornado and hurricane chasing adventures. My weather footage is used in all kinds of programmes from kids TV shows to BBC natural history and even a few feature films. It’s quite likely that you will have seen it somewhere tucked away within a TV show, museum exhibition or web clip of some kind.
Don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t just shoot the weather! I continue to shoot occasional motor sports events as well as a lot of airshows and aviation programmes. I produce many hours of corporate videos every year and in 2004 I started working with 3D using a Nu-View stereoscopic camera adapter. For the past 5 years have even been making big budget stereoscopic 3D programmes using my own stereoscopic camera rigs, recent camera developments have made it much easier to shoot 3D well, even with only small budgets. I enjoy the challenge that 3D presents, it is a much more technical exercise than 2D. I now have many highly regarded stereoscopic films to my name as either camera operator, stereographer or S3D consultant. S3D clients include Sony, Toyota, IBM, and Discovery/IMAX. As well as shooting S3D I also run introductory workshops for those interested in getting a better understanding of how it works.
I have consulted on major projects for major museums, worked with the military, provided stock footage to over 30 different clients, produced corporate videos and filmed for the BBC, Sky, NBC, National Geographic and Discovery and many, many others. In between all this I run workshops on various cameras, production techniques and 3D production for Sony, equipment dealers, Santa Fe Workshops, the F-Stop Academy and the VI academy. In addition I am a guest lecturer at several polytechnics and Universities around the world. When I started out as a cameraman I found it very difficult to learn about how to set up cameras. In some respects this is seen as a bit of a dark art, not because it’s technically difficult, but because it is very subjective. Over the years I have learnt a vast amount about cameras, filming techniques and related equipment. Now I wish to share some of that knowledge and encourage others to delve into their cameras menus and get the most from what for many people is a considerable investment.
The Sony Connection: First let me say that I am not an employee of Sony. I have been using Sony cameras since the 80’s and they have always served me well. I have also used and owned cameras from Arri, Canon, Panasonic, JVC and Ikegami. Over the years I have gained a great deal of experience with these cameras. With my engineering background I am not afraid of trying new settings and tweaking my cameras and equipment for the best results. For many years I have written about my settings and methods in magazines, in forums and on blogs. I have often been an early adopter of new technologies. Back in the 80’s I developed some of the very first in-car camera systems using newly invented CCD cameras recording on to specially modified portable Betamax recorders, while others were still using tube cameras and u-matic. In 2005 I purchased one of the very first XDCAM HD cameras to be delivered in the UK. As a result of my extensive experience with this camera and subsequent cameras, from time to time, Sony pay me to help run workshops as part of their ICE programme. As a Sony ICE (Independent Certified Expert) I get paid for the day of the workshop and any travel expenses. I do also occasionally get paid to write reviews of equipment as well as features and articles on workflow and camera setups etc for the Sony web site, a few of which also get published here and else where. Not all reviews are paid for and Sony do not ask me to edit or change the articles beyond technical corrections. I have nothing to gain from glossing over issues or problems, if I did, then no one would trust or believe my reviews and as a result I would be of no value to Sony (or anyone else), so I’m not afraid to point out problems and flaws when I find them.
At the end of the day as a cameraman it is vital to me that I choose the most appropriate tools for my job. I am always on the look-out for tools and equipment that will allow me to improve the quality of my work, from ANY manufacturer. At the moment I am happy to be using the Sony XDCAM and NXCAM families as they offer a range of cameras capable of great pictures at competitive prices. Yes, I am a fan of Sony equipment, but I have a reputation to maintain as an independent cameraman, so I would never put my name to a piece of kit that didn’t do what it was supposed to. I try to be objective in my reviews and look at the facts, pro’s and con’s of each piece of kit and I am not asked to write positive reviews or to leave out the bad bits. The majority of the reviews I write are not paid for. In addition, if I want to buy a Sony camera, I have to go to a dealer and buy it from the dealer just like anybody else. The only concession I get is an effort to get me the kit as early as possible so that I can start to figure it out in order to make end user setup and other info available to other users as soon as possible.
Yes, I have a great relationship with Sony, but that relationship only has value as long as I am honest and my reviews, articles and videos true and accurate.