Camerawork, Case Studies, Covid, Production

How to direct a shoot from a different country

The Challenge

Just as lockdown was happening we had a request from a large consumer electronics manufacturer to film a presentation. Not a big deal in normal circumstances, a day’s shoot and then back to the suite to edit it. However there was one other little detail that made things a bit more complicated: the shoot was in Belgium! I’m based in Farnham, Surrey in the UK and it became clear that it was not going to be practical to travel over to Belgium albeit for a day, to film this content.

Even if we could get over there, we may end up being stuck away from home for a long, long time! So time for a bit of lateral thinking. Could this be done another way? And the answer was – yes, my producer and I thought there might be another way. Although people weren’t able to move back and forth to mainland Europe, courier firms were still transporting packages. Could one of those packages could be kit?

Filming kit test
We tested the whole process from my suite in Farnham

The Plan

I had on my shelf a couple of full HD cameras that were very small and very simple to use. I also had a fab gismo that allowed me to plug any HDMI camera into it and plug it into any laptop and that laptop would see it as a webcam. Once it saw it as a webcam, we could use any video conferencing software to see and hear what the camera sees.

The plan was to get the client to set up these cameras and then plug them into this gizmo and then I could direct them over Google Hangouts. After a few test calls to prove the technology worked, I made an instructional video to explain how to put the kit together. Every component – all 25- were individually numbered and I made what can only be described as a video version of an Ikea instruction manual.

Getting the kit there

Remote shooting kit
2 Cameras, 2 tripods, a panel light and radio mic packed into an impossibly small package.

The kit packed up into two impossibly small packages and DHL duly collected it and a day later I got an email saying it had arrived.

We did a technical rehearsal day where the client set up the cameras, panel light and the radio mic and I checked everything was looking and sounded good from the comfort of my suite.

The Shoot

Remote shoot from my suite
I’m directing the shoot for real from the comfort of my own suite


The client then finalised their presentation and rehearsed and the following week we filmed for real. Because I was able to hear the camera audio directly and because I could see the camera information superimposed on my feed, I was reasonably confident everything was looking and sounding great. To confirm this, after the shoot the client then uploaded the footage to Sony Ci and we downloaded it and checked the footage for technical quality. Once everybody was happy, the courier was booked and the kit sent off on it’s return journey.

The final edits have just been signed off and the client is happy. I have to say there’s definitely an attraction to being able to do a shoot form the comfort of your own home!