Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Broadcasting, Bitrates and Bollocks.

So now the updated BBC Approved HD Camera list for 2011 is out, i find myself looking at comments, articles and tweets about the merits of having a broadcasters 'elitist' approval list for cameras. Surely, with the plethora of cameras filming in perfectly good HD out on the market, who gives a shit...?

Kraft cheese slices fit perfectly if folded... Panasonic P2.

Well, if you are a freelance TV News Cameraman like me, you will come to realise that if you want to get hired, both you and your camera, you will have to conform to what your client wants. That's right, your client. That is what the BBC News and other broadcasters are to me, my clients. Valuable, fee paying clients. Time was, not so very long ago, all news broadcasters were filming on Betacam SP. ITV, BBC, you name them, they all went with the same format. And believe me, it was the best of days as a freelancer because we all knew what was required of us, no matter what channel you worked for. But look at the broadcast TV Camera market today and you will find a multitude of cameras, DSLR'S, Handheld cameras, shoulder mounted cameras, formats, recording bitrates, hard disks and other bollocks that have flooded the market. And the updates and changes are coming thick and fast for many of us to wonder whether it is worth buying a camera before it goes out of date.

Personally, i welcome the approved list. It lets me know what is required of me when working for the likes of the BBC, but the BBC only. Sky for example went with the Panasonic P2 Format quite a while back, it looks likely that at the BBC, Newsgathering are going with the Sony PMW 350. So which camera does a freelancer buy...? I can't afford both, but the BBC, which is my biggest and most regular client will likely win me over. So, i have read other articles, asking what is the point of the approved list.

'My camera records stunning pictures but it isn't on the approved list...'

My DSLR is the dogs bollocks...' etc, etc.

They all have a point. Many small HD Cameras out there today are taking stunning pictures, better even than my DVCam unit that i film with today, or my Digibeta for that matter. But it matters bugger all to me because the people at the end of the phone, my client, wants it filmed in DVCam. So DVCam it is until they tell me that they want it in HD from a particular camera, and in a particular format, with a particular bitrate.

Digibeta... rapidly going out of date. If not already.

In newsgathering at least, if you film something that is news worthy and the broadcasters want to broadcast it, it won't matter what you filmed it on. It never has. Film it on an old Hi8 for all i care, it will get broadcast if the story warrants it. But if, like me, you rely on a steady, daily stream of freelance work from a broadcaster, then you had better get to grips with what they require. I could shout all day about having a particular camera, but if my local BBC Region require me to film in a particular format then that is what i will supply. It's either that, or watch them hire someone else....

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

www.media-attention.co.uk