Man-to-man coverage, zone coverage, and mobile free-flow operating are three essential techniques to master as a reality TV camera operator. Camera Op Sherri Kauk breaks down how she uses these techniques to get the most out of her footage.
Sherri first asks herself, will she cover the scene in zone coverage or man-to-man coverage.
Let’s first examine man-to-man. This could mean the number of cameras that you have on hand. For instance, if you have three talent (persons onscreen driving the story) then you have three cameras assigned to each one for man-to-man coverage. Then, your only responsibility is to keep your frame up.
Sherri goes into zone coverage when she feels completely outmanned where there’s, say, one camera for 14 people. So, when you have no other options, you can go into zone coverage.
This is when Sherri starts to visually break up everyone into mini groups of medium-wide shots. This can also consist of individuals standing apart as single shots and conversations among others as standalone coverage for mini scenes.
She can tell some talent to walk into one room from the next and start to separate people from the larger group. So, for example, you may have two individuals here, an individual there, possibly a triplet section back there, and you’re going to want to break these undefined groups into shots.
Zone your players into standalone frames:
MOVE YOUR FEET:
The next step in Sherri’s playbook for unscripted reality is that you must move your feet. With scripted content, there’s blocking and direction where an actor will move, hit their mark, and then you either have a new angle or you can cut and move the camera. However, when you’re live on the floor with unscripted television, you’re the one who has to get blocked and move and perform the live reframing. Simply put, you’re the A and the B camera as well as the wide shot.
By “moving your feet,” that means you need to get inside the action. In the video lesson, Sherri uses a sizzle presentation that she sold for television as an example. There she shows how effective it was when she moved her feet enough to get in and around the character. Then, you can also feel when she zoomed out or stepped back a little bit which placed her outside the action.
|PRO TIP: When operating and you think that you’re locked on to that single shot, just take a couple more steps in to get toward the line of action. It will excite the frame even more.|
Discover more about staying mobile, committing to decisions, stealing shots during distractions, and a few other expert tips from Sherri Kauk!
Meet Sherri Kauk
Sherri Kauk received her Bachelor of Science in Film & Photography from Ithaca College, Ithaca NY in 2005 and her MFA from the American Film Institute in 2007. Her work has taken her on-location to India, Egypt, Mozambique, Mexico, and across the United States. Kauk won an Emmy for Outstanding Lighting Direction in 2019.
“I am drawn to everyday characters challenged to deeply understand themselves through confrontation with self and society. This character journey becomes my cinematography.”
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