by John Pokorny
MLB, PGA, NFL. What do all three (and more) of these amazing sports organizations have in common? That's simple, the work of Technician Films. Tom Wells of Technician Films in Atlanta tells us how he combats mundane and mediocre television production, with all star, hard-hitting projects, one sporting event at a time.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your company? Along with what you specialize in?
A: Technician Films primary focus is providing field production services to broadcast and commercial clients. Our typical client comes to us with their script, storyline - or even just an idea - and looks to us to handle the field production for them. Many of our clients are sports centric, although the footage we capture for them is often ubiquitous to all clients.
Q: How have you landed such amazing sports gigs like the World Series, Super Bowl and more?
A: Word of mouth is everything in our industry. The TV production world often feels like it’s really, really small. I think we all just gravitate towards certain interests over time and gel as production teams. My first paid gig was producing a sports reel for my Alma Mater. In the last 15 years I’ve shot commercials, documentaries, news, and everything in between, but over time I’ve won more clients in sports production and that success has grown on itself. And now It’s so easy to share media with current and potential clients online that our circles have grown larger than they could have even 5 years ago, which brings more people together with like-minded ideas, which in TV production ultimately leads to a better product and more of those larger gigs.
Q: What kind of equipment do you use?
A: Currently we own and primarily shoot on the Sony F55 because its workflow has proven to be flexible in the field. It has a beautiful picture and can fill just about any role for us. We often have fast turnarounds at live events where delivering a manageable 1080p file is paramount, but we’ll shoot a promo for the game 2 days before where 4K is preferable. Of course we also shoot on RED and ARRI when the project calls for it. Personally I love all of them.
Q: What trends in technology do you see on the horizon?
A: I think we’ll see the smaller camera platforms continuing to explode and develop. The chip technology in cameras like the A7S and the BlackMagic Pocket Cam have come such a long way in the last 18 months that we’re seeing them used seamlessly in conjunction with the larger format cameras. They still have a long ways to go with codecs and the annoying little things like battery life, but smaller cameras are easier to manage. You can carry more, move them differently, and put them in places you can’t put a large camera. Of course big cameras are always going to be around because there will always be more technology to pack into them. I’d wager that in 20 years cameramen will still be carrying 25-30 pounds of technology on their shoulder, but the smaller cameras have opened up so many creative options now. There’s even technology to put cameras inside of soccer balls - it’s exciting to see where it will all go.
Q: Do you think 4K is over-rated? Why or why not?
A: 4K is not over-rated, it just isn’t needed all the time. Some manufacturers have used it as a marketing gimmick to sell otherwise lousy cameras and TV’s, so some people are annoyed with the ongoing 4K discussion. For a filmmaker who wants to put their work on the big screen 4K is mandatory. For the broadcaster who wants to color correct, crop, stabilize or “future-proof” their footage like the Super Bowl…. it’s wonderful. For the client down-converting it straight to 1080 without much post production enhancement it’s maybe unnecessary. But some people just like the look of the RED or Alexa or F55 and in that case higher resolution comes with it. It all goes hand-in-hand.
Q: Can you tell us one of the challenges you faced when covering the World Series?
A: The biggest challenge to covering the World Series is purely logistical. We’re contracted by FOX Sports to focus on shooting features for the pre-game show, commercial promos to be used throughout the week, and game footage to be used for in-game bumps and rollouts. We can’t wait to shoot everything at the last minute, so we start following several teams a couple of weeks early, moving around the country gathering footage and the stories as they build. Some of our sets have to be moved from city to city at the last minute, and we have gear and crew on hold in multiple locations too. Often we don’t know what city we’ll be in the next day until a game finishes at 10pm, then we jump on a chartered flight at 4am and we’re shooting again at 10am that morning on the other side of the country. We work in small crews and transport a dozen or more cases of camera gear with us the whole way. It really forces you to simplify and focus on just what you need to get the job done, which I think helps our approach to other productions throughout the year.
Q: Can you share any future gigs you will be covering in the near future?
A: We’re excited to be contracted for coverage of Post Season baseball and the 2014 World Series on FOX again. It’s my 4th year working as DP. Even as the month begins we’re busy researching new technology on the market to take advantage of for our client, while of course figuring out how to put it together with what’s worked in the past.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: Hire us! ;-) Learn more here