No-budget/low-budget video productions

If you're enquiring about this special offer, mention it when you contact me.  I don't, usually, offer the no-budget options to people over the phone, unless they start to talk about crewing a production themselves.

So you want to video record an event, you want something better than the unstable hand-held camcorder in the crowd recording that you're probably used to seeing, your organisation doesn't like the idea about being recorded by random people in the audience, you want something fancier than a professionally shot single-camera recording, but you can't afford to have your special event professionally video recorded as a multi-camera shoot, or want to reduce the costs of having a single-camera professional video recording, here's one possible solution:

You pay a modest fee for myself and my equipment, but you arrange transport to and from the job (you'll need something like a small courier van for multi-camera jobs, but the equipment for single-camera work would only need a normal car), and you round up some trustworthy volunteers to operate the equipment under my direction (one person per camera, and probably one or two more people for some other jobs—see further below for more details about crew roles).  All the crew wear intercom headsets, so they're directed throughout the production, and they can ask questions.  The camera equipment isn't heavy to use, so even responsible teenagers tall enough to use the camera on a tripod can be your crew.

Or some combination of that (our/your crew, & transportation).  Though we're not keen on trying to mix our equipment along with others, as we already have everything we need, and we know that it works together.  Whereas other people's equipment may not be suitable, or require too much mucking around to integrate it with ours.  Generally speaking, we already have all the equipment that we'll need for most productions.  And I have a strong dislike for having to do inconvenient things to incorporate other people's equipment.  You can, very easily, ruin an entire production because someone thought you could connect random pieces of equipment together, but never bothered to try it out, beforehand.

I'll emphasise responsible and reliable volunteers.  It's not a good idea to pressgang disgruntled people into something they're not interested in, who were hoping to be paid to film it, who can't commit to being available on the day, who're not good at following directions, who won't co-operate as part of a team, who are extremely restless, or they don't have the attention span to persevere through the entire production.  It's fairly essential that everyone has good eyesight, hearing, and communication skills without any language barriers, and are co-operative.  If that discounts any of your volunteers, find someone else.

Yes, people with disabilities can do video production work, but the job has to be realistically within their abilities (e.g. camera operators must have good vision, be strong, steady, able to react rapidly, tall enough, and mobile enough, and able to hear and understand the instructions without any difficulties; the audio mixer needs good hearing and manual dexterity, and able to work without being directed; everyone needs to be able to make rapid decisions and respond quickly, not throw tantrums, etc.).  A one-off job (most probably) won't have enough time to deal with any special needs, especially non-studio productions where you can't repeat something and film it again; it's really only practical with crew who're used to production work, and already used to working with each other.  I'd love to be proven wrong, but I've worked with people who can't focus a camera, or even frame a shot, because their eyesight isn't good enough; and people who are too slow, so they've completely missed what you wanted to film, etc; and people who just stand back, idly watching the equipment, not actually doing anything.  As always, it's the ability, not the disability, that counts.

It may be worth organising one or two people more than you think you'll need.  They can do extra jobs, alternate with some crew, take over from someone who turns out to be unable to do the job, assist some of the other crew, or add to the audience if you don't end up needing them.  Don't try to skimp by planning to have some of the equipment un-manned, or having one crew member do two or more tasks that need the full attention of individual crew members.  I do not want to have to put up with seriously inconvenient working conditions, and a production can completely fail when inadequately equipped or crewed.

Other requirements:  Some training before the event that you want to record (e.g. a bit of instruction on how not to break the gear and how to use it properly, and you'd practice filming a stage rehearsal, or other teams before your match).  Permission to film the people you'd be filming.  Permission to sell copies (if that's your intention).  Permission to film at the location from whoever's in charge of it.  Mains power needs to be available, and you'll need permission to lay cables around for power, cameras, and sound (and, no, we won't be held liable for people tripping over them—if that's a likely scenario, you'll need to organise some isolated space for the cameras, and/or supervisory crew to safeguard equipment and people).  For indoor filming, we'll want an isolated spot to set up as the control area, away from the cameras and microphones, preferably in an adjoining room.  Indoor filming needs adequate lighting.  Outdoor filming needs protection from the wind and rain for the equipment.  Sports recording often needs to be filmed from above the field, such as from cameras mounted in the stands, or on scaffolding, or mounted on the back of a ute parked near the field.

Of course it won't be as good as having it completely done by professional crew, but it will be a lot better than you might think, more interesting to watch than a single-camera recording, and certainly better than the average home video camera recording from someone standing in the crowd.  I have trained people to do productions like this for many years, and it was quite common for students to produce videos in this manner (using volunteer crew with minimal experience).

Yes, it may sound complicated, but it's not really too difficult to manage, and this is the price you pay for doing a low-budget job.  You either do a lot of the work yourself, or you pay for it to be done for you.  Professional video productions are moderately expensive because a lot of work goes into them.

If you're allowed to sell videos, you may be able to recover your initial production and duplication costs.  For sporting events, you might be able to convince other teams to let you record them, too, and spread the costs between all of you.  Video can also be cabled around the location to other television sets, for live coverage.

NB:  If you intend to make money by selling copies of your video, it's best to organise to have people pay for them ahead of time, or on the day.  After one or more recordings have been released, you'll lose almost all further sales to people making their own copies.  People will come up to your crew and ask about getting copies, so let your crew what to tell them before you start.  And, maybe, give them some notes to hand out (pricing, contact names and numbers for placing orders, et cetera).  You could take a receipt book and cashbox with you.

NB:  We can do slow-motion replay for adjudicating sporting events, but watching and debating what happened may add an unwanted delay to proceedings.  You could easily spend several minutes arguing over just a few seconds of video.  If you want to do video judging, discuss it with all concerned.  And let us know before the event, so we bring the right equipment with us.

We usually find that the volunteer crew enjoy the production as an exercise in itself.  It's not often that people have a chance to be a part of a television crew.

No-budget production work done like this, with volunteer crew, can cover sporting events, theatre, seminars, concerts, almost anything you can think of (over the years, we've provided production facilities for filming Adelaide Fringe Festival performances, in this manner).  And it can simply be for people who just want to build up experience, more than an actual need to record something, if they can only get their hands on the gear, with one or more people to train them while they use it.

By the way, “no budget” simply means no money was deliberately allocated for something, and you'll have to figure out some way to raise whatever funds are needed.  It doesn't mean you're going to get it completely for free.  I can stay at home and do nothing, earning the same amount of money, and my gear won't get worn out at the same time.

In business, everything is a cost (labour, equipment, transportation, consumables, et cetera).  You can pay us directly for some or all of it, you can provide some or most of it, subject to our approval.

Taking cost-cutting too far

Occasionally I get people merely trying to be cheap, hoping to pay less than normal to have a job done for them, sometimes lying about the job.  It's not a good idea, as it can ruin your production.

I get people suggesting that it won't need editing, despite them really not having any idea about the production process.  Then, afterwards, start talking about editing, hoping that it'll be included for free (it won't), and thinking that it can be easily done (it's likely that it can't be).  Likewise, they talk about “adding music,” but only mention it at the end of the job.  Adding music is editing, it takes time, using someone else's music costs money and requires their permission.  And, to do it well, requires that the material be filmed, or edited, in a style that lends itself to having music put on the sound track.

When you film something, you film it in a style appropriate to what you expect to be done with the material.  If the intention is to not edit it, then for single-camera filming, you'll do your shots in a particular way, stopping and starting the camera, doing the most basic of editing as you film (eliminating the need for post-production editing, and making it quite difficult to do any further editing of the recording).  Or, for live-switched multi-camera shoots, you'll do the production as a live show, being far more concerned about how each shot fits in, as it comes up, than trying to prepare extra stuff to make it possible to hide any edits.  You also may record direct-to-disc, with the intention of making a DVD directly from the recording, as it is.  But if the intention is to edit it, however you're doing the filming (one or more cameras), you'll film in another way, one that makes the editing process much easier, and makes it so that you don't notice where the edits are put in.  And, it will require that you do edit this sort of filming, because the camera will be started early, so not to miss something, and stopped some time after the shot has completed, leaving you with lots of stuff recorded that you don't want to see.  Plus, you'll record onto equipment that makes recordings that you can edit (DVDs are not suitable as a mastering format, they're an end-use playback format; the quality isn't good enough, they're inconvenient, it's very time-consuming to deal with them, and editing costs are based on the time it takes to do the editing, not the length of the finished production).

Be upfront about what you want.  Sometimes it may not be possible to do what you want, if you wait until it's too late to tell us about it.  And the price is going to go up if you ask for more work to be done, later on.  Quotes apply to what you told us about the job, if you change the terms, the quoted price becomes invalid.

This is why we have packages for things like filming weddings, and other production types, which seem more expensive at first glance, but the package has taken into account all things that will need to be done to complete the job, properly.  The right equipment will be brought along, the filming will be done appropriately for the job, editing has been included in the price, and a fixed price can be stated for the completed job.

Just recently we've had some people hire us to “film a party at a home,” so we took along the gear most suited for filming in a gathering of people in a small space (a small camera, one that's lightweight, one that's good for quick in-camera editing, but not so great for post-production editing, since we didn't intend to do any post-production editing).  When we get there, we're told it's an engagement party, and it's in a hall.  Which changes things, somewhat, as we didn't have the usual sound gear for doing a good job of recording the more formal aspects of an occasion like that (such as speeches), rather than people just “partying.”  Nor did we have the dolly (a wheeled base for the tripod), to make it easier to move the tripod around in a large space, and would have allowed us to do tracking (moving) shots.  Then we find out that it's actually a wedding, and things went from bad to worse.  We don't have the gear with the best lenses for doing prolonged shots from a distance, or for doing any nice-looking moving shots.  We didn't have the sound gear for recording from a distance.  And we only had one camera, which meant that the only way to move from one place to another is to stop the camera, reposition, and not be able to record what was going on in between.  And, then, they wanted editing and music put on, but for the same price as they were quoted for just filming, and didn't mention this until the end of the day.  Which was an hour and a half longer than it was supposed to be, and they actually wanted to pay us less than the agreed amount.

The end result was that they weren't going to get a production as good as they could have, or as good as they wanted, because they lied to us.  This case wasn't just lack of planning, but a deliberate attempt to do things on the cheap, and it made a real mess of things.  Not to mention that my sympathy for the client evaporated along the way.  Productions need preparation and suitable equipment, and we need accurate information up front to do them right.  Related to that is that clients who don't really know much about the production process, need to let us make most of the decisions about what will be the best way to go about doing the job (the number of cameras, which equipment to use, whether editing will be needed, either extensive or just small changes, et cetera).  We make these choices for ease of doing the job, and for doing the job well, not to bump up the price.  Usually our choices for making a job easier to do, will actually bring the price down, because they reduce post-production time (and costs).  Conversely, clients' usual attempts at trying to bring the production costs down, typically, bring the production quality down, and post-production costs up.

The options presented on this page for reducing a production budget (of the client being able to provide crew and take care of transportation expenses), are offered as a reasonable way to reduce the cost of a production, without totally derailing it.  They're particularly suited to those who already have production skills, though not the equipment, but the offer also lends itself reasonably well to things like the local football club, theatrical society, or musicians, et cetera, wanting a production that, otherwise, they couldn't afford.  And, it may even allow you to record something that might have been denied, since you'd be recording it yourselves.

Basic description of facilities

Several cameras into a video mixer, to allow live switching.  We have three 50 metre camera cables, so we can cover fairly large areas.  And other shorter cables, allowing up to six camera coverage of events.

A small amount of lighting gear.  We don't have the gear to light very large spaces, and heat generation and power requirements (a few thousand watts) needs to be taken into consideration.  Lighting isn't always necessary, and sometimes additional lighting is undesirable.

Several microphones, and other sources, into an audio mixer, for live mixing.  You can record live sound, commentate a game, include audio from other things at the event, etc.

Headphone intercom system, so all the crew are co-ordinated together.

Hard drive, DVD, and/or video tape recorders.  Generally, you'd make a master recording at the event, and run off copies later.  But, if you have time, it may be possible to run off some copies straight away.  Or you could record directly to several recorders, simultaneously.  And if you have your own recorder that can take composite video in, and analogue audio, you can hook that into our gear (this needs arranging, beforehand).

Various video monitors, and cabling to connect to video monitors that are already on the site.

We do have editing facilities, but that will cost extra, and it is much more time consuming than you might think.  If you want to edit, you'll have to factor that in, or have alternative editing options.  Yes, you can take a DVD away and do some basic editing with it on your home computer.  But I can't help you with that, because it's not something that I do, our editing suite is videotape based, and DVDs aren't really a good medium for post production work.  Generally speaking, you get better results from a live, directed, multi-camera production, than trying to edit together randomly operated cameras.  And live multi-camera productions are usually cheaper.

Not only can we do a multicamera shoot, we have several audio and vision mixers, so we can cover much more complicated events.

In a nutshell, you can hire almost everything you need, from the one place, rather than run around getting bits from here, there, and everywhere, hoping that it'll all be available when you want it, and that you can manage to connect it all together.  We've set things up so that we have equipment that does go together, and provide the technical support to do it properly.

Basic crew roles

What particular crew you might need, or additional crew you might find helpful to have, as well, depends on the filming job in question.  Some jobs would be completely non-technical.  Below I've outlined most of the jobs that might be done during a production, but quite a few of them are only needed for the really difficult jobs, and sometimes one person will be able to do several of the roles.  I've started off with the control room end, and worked down to the jobs done at the other end of the cables.

e.g. A simple football match might just have two or three camera operators, a director operating the vision mixer, and another person operating the audio mixer.  There might also be an assistant, so that any people that come up and ask if they can buy a copy can arrange it with them, rather than have to wait for the crew to finish recording.

Technical director

This is the role that I usually do, unless I also have to do one, or more, of the other roles, as well.  It's overseeing all the technical aspects of setting up and operating the equipment.  It's not usual that someone else can do this role, unless they're already familiar with all the equipment we use.


This person tells all the other crew what to do.  Not in a bossy way, but co-ordinates what everyone is doing, as a group.  It may be one person being just the director.  Or they may direct while operating some of the equipment.  It helps if they're familiar with what's being recorded, and know how they want the final production to look.  But for recording some events, all they're doing is making decisions about the next shot, based on what they can see happening at the moment.  They don't necessarily have to have directing experience to do the job.  Though, if you don't understand what's involved, even after being prepared, it'd be better to let me direct, and for you to act as a production assistant.

Vision mixer

Under instructions from the director, they switch between cameras, live.  Or, one person may act as the director and the vision mixer, doing both roles.  They watch video monitors connected to each camera, to see what each camera is doing.  It's moderately technical, but basic switching and mixing can be done by anybody with a bit of training.  Operating the gear is fairly easy, it's more difficult to decide when's the right moment to switch.

Audio mixer

Usually this person works on their own initiative.  They'll watch what's happening, making sure the microphones are on at the right time, and the sound levels are right.  If we're hooked in with other's equipment (such as the sound system in a theatre), they'll need to work with them, as well.  Although this is a technical position, it's not too hard to do on a simple level.

For something like recording a football match, they need to do little more than keep an eye on the levels, and listen to the sound making sure that it's going fine, so they may double up as the production assistant, as well.  It's not usually a good idea for them to double up with other technical roles, as it's too easy to make recordings with bad sound, because nobody was listening properly to the sound going through the recording system.

For recording something like a band performance, you really do want someone doing a proper mix for recording.  That is a skilled position, and a quite different job from the person doing live sound for amplified speakers.  Taking a feed from their desk rarely works well, it usually goes very badly (e.g. the relative sound levels, between things, being wrong for recording purposes), and it will be missing the ambience of the room.  It's usually better to do a miked feed independent of them if you're not going to do a complete separate mix (either an intensive separately mike everything and mix it properly for recording purposes, or simply do a stereo miking of the room).

For concerts, theatre performances, seminars, etc., we'd probably directly mike anybody speaking at a podium, mike the room for general sound and ambience, and take an isolated feed from their mixer if they're using any pre-recorded material.  If they're doing question and answer, you'd want a roving microphone, as well.

The audio mixer usually needs to have some level of fault finding ability, so that when sound suddenly stops working properly, they can fix it by themselves.  Such as swapping a microphone and/or its cable with another one; and being able to adjust the right microphone out of a group, without fiddling with all the wrong ones.

Production assistant

This is an optional role, though a very useful one for some productions.  It's generally non-technical, but they may also help out with some simpler jobs, that only need a few seconds work every now and then, where it wouldn't be practical to dedicate another person to hang around and do nothing else for most of the production.  In general, they assist the director during the production.

They may be taking notes, prompting directors about things about to happen in a moment (e.g. they may know all the events happening in a concert, be keeping an eye on the program guide, and can say that a solo is coming up in a moment, so that everyone is more prepared), type a few words into a computer (e.g. on-screen graphics, like football scores, or names of speakers at a seminar), press buttons on the video recorder for slow-motion playback, and may be asked to keep track of paperwork (e.g. handle taking orders for videos from the public, collate permission notes from people being filmed, etc.).

Floor manager

For studio productions, or similar, they're the person who co-ordinates everything that happens around the filming area (otherwise known as the “studio floor,” even if it's not really a television studio).  They can assist with microphones, the cameras, or whoever you're filming, if needed.  They may act as a stagehand.  And they act as a buffer between anybody on the floor who needs to know something, and the director who doesn't want to be interrupted during a production.  It's a useful role for studio productions, complex seminars or events, but you probably wouldn't need one if you were out filming a local football match.

Boom operator

If you needed to have a roving microphone on a location, they'd be the person swinging it around on the end of a pole, or hand-holding it next to someone speaking.  Probably not a role you'd see outside of a studio production, and it's quite probable that a floor manager would handle sorting out the occasional microphone problem with microphones already set up on a stage, or with interviewers trying to bend the ear of sports persons.

Camera operators

Under instructions from the director over headphones, they aim the camera, frame the shot, focus the camera, and may move the tripod about.  More skilled camera operators may find shots for the director without being explicitly instructed.  They need good eyesight, hearing, and steady hands.  They need to be able to react rapidly to instructions, and to what they're filming.  And they need to be tall enough for the filming conditions.  For hand-held, or shoulder-mounted camera work, they need to be strong, and have enough stamina to last through the production.

Camera assistants

If you were filming in a hall, and with mobile cameras (usually a tripod on wheels), you may want an assistant to help with moving the camera cable while the cameraman moves the camera about, or help with moving all the camera equipment through a crowd, etc.  Though it's not always an essential job, it can be helpful.  For sporting events with fixed camera positions, you wouldn't need camera assistants.  But for outdoor events with mobile cameras, you really do want camera assistants to help with the gear and cables.


An optional role that may be useful for some productions, and you may find it hard to stop someone from wanting to narrate a sporting event.  Although the audio mixer could double-up, and narrate at the same time, it tends to take a skilled person to mix their own voice, and other sound levels, correctly.  I'd suggest that if you want a sports event commentated, you have someone do it as their only production job.  Be sure to pick someone who's not likely to blurt out obscene language, or be harshly critical.  Player or umpire bashing is not good, especially if you get recorded doing so.

If you were filming a theatrical production, you might have someone introduce the acts, providing some of the information that the audience would have been able to read from their program guide, as well as pad out some of the waiting around while the curtains are closed.  Or there may be an on-stage host, talking between acts, and all you have to do is make sure they're miked up for it.

For sports, you could do something similar to most television coverage of sports, though I'd suggest that copying the older radio style of coverage is much better.  Modern television commentating tends to blather on about all sorts of things unrelated to what the players are doing, telling us what the players are thinking (when they couldn't possibly know that), and they tend to waffle on continuously, as if they were being paid by the syllable.  It's quite okay for a commentator to say nothing, and let people just watch the game, when nothing really needs to be said.  The older radio style of covering sports tends to stick to describing what can't be seen or isn't immediately obvious, and telling you who's doing what.  Which is more enjoyable to listen to, and helps anybody who can't see the screen.  Yes blind people do watch sports on TV, not everybody can read the tiny writing on the screen when the scores pop up, people do like to be able to keep track of a game without having to continually stare at the screen, and you could be piping the pictures and sound around to other rooms at the venue.

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