Way back in November, myself and Dick Hobbs began the pre-production of a new training video covering the behind the scenes of a television studio for the IABM. Unfortunately for me, it was difficult to pin down a location that close to Christmas and New Year with access to studios, galleries and other areas. Dick luckily got the go ahead for filming at the Corrie studios mid-way through BVE, so prep quickly began after.
My trusty crew was Glen, who operated the AutoScript for our presenter Georgie, and John Harris on audio (from JHWF). Dick made sure we were all in check with the script while I lugged around the camera and prompter :)
As there were three of us travelling up to Manchester on the Monday night, I chose to drive from Surrey, which was pretty straightforward, just a heck of a long journey to make at the end of the day. We arrived after a couple of toilet and coffee stops at 9:30, dropped the gear and headed to the table Georgie and Dick had. Beer was served and all was well!
As Dick and myself had planned the shoot well, I selected just the right amount of equipment needed. We were on a restricted budget so I opted to stick with my camera and audio setup rather than hire in a camera. We also borrowed an AutoScript from Vitec, to relay the rather technically heavy (at some points) script to our brilliant presenter.
The equipment list (rather sparing for this shoot!):
Canon 5D mk III
Sigma 70-200mm F/2.8 OS
Tamron 24-70mm F/2.8 VC
Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 VC
Canon 50mm F/1.8
Zoom H6 audio recorder
Rode Lavalier microphone
Sennheiser ENG-G3 wireless RxTx for lav mic
All of camera and audio kit fitted into the AWESOME Manfrotto Pro Light 35 Backpack: I use the top compartment for the audio gear and accessories, the main sections for camera storage, and the back compartment for my laptop. It's a very comfortable carry regardless of the weight, and if I was walking/traveling for a longer time I just strapped on the waist support to take the weight off my shoulders. The front pockets are especially handy for grabbing memory card wallets and batteries quickly, as that is the most common thing I go to my bag for! Glen wheeled the prompter station around on it's pelicase, there was no way all of that could have fitted in! I did check the other day for AutoScript on tablets, which would be a much more viable solution for me.
In the MF bag for the big tripod I also brought a set of rails (just in case we needed them for the prompter) and the hydrostatic arm with the super clamp attached. You never know when they will come in handy, and when we were there I spotted one on the set!
For anyone working at MediaCity needing to spend the night somewhere, the Holiday Inn right in the center is perfect. From above the first floor is the dock10 studios, offices and editing HQ, but you would have no idea it was there when you reach the 8th - 15th floor for your room. Plushly furnished, executive desk/workspace and a wonderful bathroom. One of the best I've been in!!
We had a talk about the shoot ahead, as it would be hit and miss on the locations we were aiming to film in due to working around the current productions at Corrie (4 different crews filming that day), we needed to make the most of our available time. After a short walk across the quay, opposite Old Trafford stands the new Coronation Street and ITV Studios.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with coffee, then a guided tour of the facility to get to grips with our new location for the next two days. It was quite nerve-racking for me being a tiny video producer in the shadow of ITV, but I was also in awe of the scale and technology that has been used to make Coronation Street such an iconic television program.
We began the filming in what I now know as the 'Windas' flat, capturing some GV and B-roll of the system cameras, microphone booms, lighting setups and the set itself, clips that would be used throughout the video.
I also shot some more material in the Rovers interior set, which has a new LED lighting rig, in comparison to the other tungsten lit sets. It was impressive being in there, and was much smaller in reality, but we pulled up a chair at one of the booths and started recording the voice overs as the prompter hadn't arrived for the shoot yet!
After recording all of the VO, we headed to the lot of the cobbled streets where a scene was being filmed as we overlooked and walked through! I shot some more cutaways of the street and crew in action on the 5D and 70-200. We had a fantastic guide who gave us many technical secrets into the new production facility, it was fantastic!!
The AutoScript had arrived!!! We quickly got set to putting it together, however John, Glen and myself had no experience in putting one together, so to the internet it was! A few minutes later we had the prompter up and running, the camera set, working lights on, microphone levels set and were ready to roll.
As you can see, the normally small 5D and 70-200 filming combo goes out the window when using a prompter. Very front heavy!
Our filming took us all around the studios including Roy's Rolls and the Rovers, showing how a drama program is produced. Our access also allowed us into the production galleries, editing and grading suites for more 'piece to camera' filming as well as capturing plenty of GV showing the equipment in action.
We wrapped up day 1 late that evening which allowed us to capture most of the content for the video: we shot scenes 1 through to 7, great progress and took the pressure off day 2 as we didn't know what access we would have.
When we got back to the hotel, the importing and backing up began. I like to play the 'guess the gigabyte' game, simply guessing the total file size of the captured material. Although we were working loads throughout the day, I think the day 1 total was around 60Gb all in all. I backed up onto 3 drives that night just in case.
We started a little later to recover from the long day before, enjoyed a big breakfast, plenty of coffee and headed over to the studios with our suitcases as it was our last day. We had access to the edit and grading suites in the morning, where I shot plenty of B roll just in case, as it turned out we wouldn't get access to the finishing or dubbing suites so this came in handy.
As Corrie filming had finished on the street, we quickly went out to shoot the final 'conclusion' scene of the training video outside the Rovers and on the cobbles. The prompter required a power supply, so we de-rigged it for this scene, I used the 5D and 70-200 only for these shots. Most of the time I shot at around F/11-16 as it was rather bright outside, but it also keeps some of the background visible instead of blowing it out with bokeh.
The machine room was a challenge due to the heavy air conditioning for the racks and racks of networking, storage and server equipment to keep it cool. Not particularly for the vision, but John did a great job of operating the H6 and monitoring the audio with so much background noise. The gun mic was out of the question, so we captured solely using the Rode Lavalier mic, which worked well for this environment.
As a back up I also captured plenty of B roll, and John captures a voice over from Georgie of the machine room scene just in case the native sound was too distracting. Luckilly, the Rode lavalier coped well!!
I had access to the working production galleries as scenes were being recorded under Tony Warren, Coronation Streets award winning director. It was amazing to watch him and his team work! I'm not allowed to talk about what I saw being captured though :)
That was the last filming stop at Corrie before we departed, saying a massive thank you to our guide and staff at the facility who were so welcoming and helpful. It was a breezy walk back to the Holiday Inn, as I thought I had lost my car keys, before the very long drive home!
The team did a fantastic job over the intense two day shoot, it was Glen's first job operating a prompter and although it was a challenge putting it together he quickly picked up the operation. For me, it was awesome seeing the technology behind a drama serial that captures its programs like live television. Being a completely new facility, the studios had brand new vision mixers, racks, lighting and sound control which was fascinating to see and learn more about.
Highlights/reel of the Coronation Street video shoot coming soon!