People or Kit?

For this blog (my first in a long while) I am going to return to a recurring subject that I have mentioned in the past. That is the on-going debate of what is more important, having good creative, talented people involved in a project – OR having the latest whizz bang equipment.

Let me say right at the very start that I believe the ideal answer is of course BOTH. However I am also a realist and understand that it rarely happens that you can have both – so when budgets are limited what should you prioritize?

Well for me the answer is always the same – prioritise the people/human element – as I truly believe that with great people but average equipment you can achieve much better results that with average people but great equipment.
Recently this was again brought home to me as I undertook at VERY short notice a 2 week LIVE production in Israel for GOD TV (it was called the Broadcast Alert – if you have watched GOD TV at all in the last month you’ll have almost certainly seen some of it).
I have shot in Israel many many times and have some great production contacts out there and can pull together productions on pretty well any scale from single camera to multiple cameras – however this time was different. Due to tremendous budget constraints we were not able to go down the route we usually would – it was simply too expensive. Instead we had to come up with a creative solution for a fraction of the cost we would usually spend. And we did!!
We found a great supplier, a Christian guy who we had worked before and who really wanted to help and make things work – however the equipment he had (though it was a good standard and new) was not at all suited to what we needed and indeed had many limitations for what we wanted to achieve. That said it was good, solid and reliable and didn’t give us any extra problems – it just wasn’t what we would have ideally used.
That is however where the importance of good people kick in, I had decided that even though the budget was tight we needed to take the right people along – including the best Sound Supervisor I have ever worked with and a German engineer – who can pretty well get anything to work – and believe me they proved invaluable. AND let me add at this point it wasn’t JUST their immense skill and talent that helped – BUT their incredible attitude as well.
I won’t go into the technical details of what we had to do to make things work – but it included multiple HD to SD conversions (some equipment was HD and some SD and we had to get it all working in an SD environment), using an on-site conference language translation system as an IFB circuit, no tally lights or video returns on any of the cameras, a makeshift gallery (built in a spare office) and having to work across 2 vision mixers as we couldn’t get one to do everything we needed. It also resulted in the video monitors that we were viewing being about a second out of synch with the audio – I have to say it was not easy to watch and listen at the same time – BUT we did what we needed to do to make it work.
I can honestly say that the quality of the people we had working on the production meant that anyone watching it would not have had a clue on the limitations of what we were using to make it all work – on screen it looked and sounded great (for the most part) – with LIVE TV there will always be mistakes and there were with this – however I know that what the team of people I worked with achieved was nothing short of miraculous – they went above and beyond what was expected and truly delivered some memorable TV – well done to all.
There is also one other thing as a passing comment worth mentioning here – and that is the expectations of the Executive Producers – MUST be managed. I was able to very clearly lay out prior to the production what the limitations were – compared to what the expectations might be and whilst we pushed everything pretty well to the limits we were able to avoid friction caused when expectations are not able to be met by simple, clear communication of what we could and could not deliver – this managed to alleviate any challenges around that.
So, I am pleased to say I have once again reinforced my theory that when money is tight ALWAYS prioritise people over equipment (of course by that I mean the RIGHT people – BOTH in skill and attitude) – as if you do they won’t let you down and will usually surprise you with what you can achieve – and of course as a producer or a director – they make YOU (and me) look good.
What do you think – have you been in similar situations? Have you maybe made the wrong choice in the past – what’s your story? I’d love to know.
Oh and by the way, once we had it all up and running, we had to d-rig it all one night and move it to the Mount of Olives for a Sunrise prayer meeting – then move it all back again for a shoot the same evening…………………………

Article: People or Kit?

Author: Graeme Spencer

About doddle 16509 Articles
Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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