The DSVP Blog
What goes down the talkback should stay down the talkback…or not.
Talkback is the system used on larger productions so that all of the crew are in contact via a Headset, mainly with the director. Now in an ideal world, it would be strictly business and mostly that is the case but not always…and that’s before the indiscretions. I will share a few that are publishable from over the years
One of my earliest memories 30 years ago, was when filming an amateur dance school, 3 cameras, live mix, loads of enthusiastic and talented youngsters, as well as the bewildered tots who everyone loves but then came the adult tappers. Pot calling kettle black, maybe but 20 middle aged ladies, many beyond their best, in leotards with an abundance of wobbling cellulite is not the stuff that videos are made of.
Chris: vision director “Pete do you want to go in close”, meaning zoom in to get close up shots.
Pete: camera 3 “No thanks”. It was a minute or two before we were all composed- read had stopped laughing!
As we acquired more kit, we would often use an unmanned camera, known as a “lock off”- a wide safe shot that the director could always come back to. The same vision director would often compliment “camera 2” just to wind up the camera crew.
Conferences can be a source of talkback indiscretions as often nothing happens. One speaker at a podium, no PowerPoint, video inserts or interaction. At one such conference the last speaker of the day was a top player from a credit rating agency. He stood at the podium, looked at the audience said “Good Afternoon” and then read from his speech, like a 7 year old might read a Janet and John book, making no eye contact with the delegates whatsoever. B O R I N G. After a couple of minutes the sound operator remarked, “I bet he tried his presentation in front of his minions, but none were brave enough to tell him how awful he is”. (Maybe not quite in those words). One of the audience sitting near my camera, who must have seen me smiling, came up to me at the end and joked that he was glad somebody enjoyed it!
At the same conference from 9.30 in the morning, one delegate spent the whole day on ebay. The camera operator on a rostrum at the back of the auditorium kept the crew up to speed throughout the day on his ebay activities.
At another conference, a local government affair, the sound operator recording the audio, was going “spare” as there was a very strange ringing on the sound. He asked if this could be heard in the auditorium. The speaker at the podium, was a very animated lady, wearing the biggest pair of “Pat Butcher’s” I have ever seen. They were like chandeliers and every time she moved they rattled like oversized wind chimes and this was being picked up on the “tie clip” mic more than the rostrum mic. Only when he looked up at the big screen could he see the problem…which none of us could do anything about. His reaction was totally unprintable! As an aside local government conferences are always packed in the morning and half full after lunch. Make of that what you will.
When talking back to the director on the talkback, it is important to remember to talk quietly. A big planning issue was being debated in a council chamber, regarding the location of a new housing development. Such was the interest from the protest groups, that we had to provide a CCTV link to a packed adjoining hall, as well as video recording. One of the problems was that when someone new spoke, the crew and the director had to pick up who was actually speaking, which wasn’t always immediately obvious. The planning committee chairman, an important contributor all evening, was wearing the most bizarre ill-fitting corduroy safari suit. It was 15 minutes to midnight, the debate continued, it had been a very long day, “Who’s talking?” screamed the director. “Councillor Corduroy” came the reply from yours truly, unfortunately said with so much gusto that the whole chamber looked round…ooops!
Mobile phones. We have all been at events, weddings, funerals, theatres etc where a phone has gone off. I was filming a single camera archive at a “financial regulator”, of a seminar on the impact of impending regulatory changes.
There were 4 speakers sat to one side of the presentation room. The room was full of top compliance officers from all of the financial institutions, banks, building societies and credit lenders. The second speaker, was a power dressed female lawyer, specialising in financial compliance, who looked as though her hair and been crocheted by her grandmother. She strutted to the podium and can best be described as seriously scary. As she told the audience their “fortune”, long in the tooth suited and booted city types, could be seen visibly quaking in their seats. M’s Scary was in full flow when the sound of the William Tell overture could be heard from where the speakers were sat. On my colour monitor her face on my head and shoulders shot became increasingly RED. It was her phone, in her handbag. The Australian female event coordinator, sat alongside me lifted a headphone and with a glint in her voice, whispered in my ear “Oh my god, it’s the scary birds phone”. It seemed that slow motion kicked in as M’s Scary gestured to someone to get it out her bag and switch it off. One of the other speakers opened her bag and attempted to find the phone, adding to her blushes as he delved into the contents, removing various things that I will leave to your imagination before finally retrieving the offending mobile, which just as he located it, stopped ringing.
I love my work, if you can call it that.