Automated cameras

Automated cameras

Why hotheads are wonderfulto follow ever switching contestants.

In 2016 I was asked to direct Switch, a daily game show for the national broadcaster VRT. It was a low budget production, they wanted to record 5 shows a day and its format should lend itself to an international audience.

Switch is called “The world’s first quiz show without points”. The show has 5 contestants. They are lined up standing, next to each other. When the contestants answers right, they move a position up. When they answer wrong, they move to the end of the line. At the end of each round, the one who is last, leaves the set.

My challenge was dealing with the high number of contestants (5!) and the switching of contestants. Since they stand up, we could not do it with 5 unmanned cameras. Since the budget was low, we could not put a lot of cameramen on the show.

The solution was using hothead cameras. But that remained challenging, because when contestants switch, we need other shots on two or three positions. What we did is coupling the game software computer to the hothead cameras. Before the rehearsals started, we placed every contestant on each position, a cameraman made the shot with the hotheads and the game software stored all positions for every contestant.

That took 10 minutes of calibrating before the show.

During the show, when contestants switched, we cut to a wide shot to see them switch, giving the computer the time to cue the hotheads. When they arrived at their new positions, we already had the newly prepared shots. The hothead operator only needed to adjust the shots when someone was wobbling to much. We also built in the possibility to store the positions again during the show. Because people tend to behave differently during preparations then when on air.

Besides this hothead operator, we had two cameramen. One for the shot on the host, an energetic guy that you can not follow with a hothead. And one for providing travel shots to make the show just a little bit nicer.

The wall during a retake with floor manager Jeroen

In total, we had 10 cameras with only 3 operators.

We experimented a lot with the construction of the 5 hotheads. We ended up mounting them on a rig, with the same distance as the distance between the contestants. The rig was mounted on eye level to obtain the perfect shot.

Since its inception in 2016, the show has runs successfully, in Belgium and Holland.

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