To start we have to distinguish the main difference between two entirely different types of video productions, the ENG and EFP. Many people in the business today don’t even know what these stand for. ENG stands for Electronic News Gathering while EFP stands for Electronic Field Productions. So what’s the main difference between the two. The simple explanation is on ENG assignment you shoot what’s there with none or very little control of what’s happening in front of the camera. On ENG you have for the most full control and you have to know how to create what the camera will see. It’s a bit more involved than that but this is a good start. On EFP the camera becomes a secondary tool, it sits on a tripod while the photographer assemble, create and light what the camera will see.
Many assignment are a combination of both, ENG and EFP. We might spend two third of the day creating EFP sets and the last third shooting b-roll to go with what the person being interviewed was talking about it.
Needless to say, ENG is much easier for most videographers to do than EFP, so when you send a reel to a producer that contains a lot of concerts, scenics, convention floors activities or anything else that the photographer had no control over it but all it was needed was somebody to point and shoot, you can very well see that it has very little value to a producer or decision maker.
The most common type of EFP type assignments are interviews, the same interviews we seen on TV everyday. This is where the most career’s fatal mistake is made by most TV photographers today, and that’s underestimating the importance of interviews skills. This is the first and most important skill that most producer look for when selecting a crew. It’s the barometer to gauge just about every technical skill that the photographer has.
Viewers might not see images of landscapes or events everyday, or not enough to judge what’s good or bad, but people see images of people every day, they subconsciously know the difference between good and bad work. Even the least trained eye can walk into a living room and admire a fine portrait created by a master photographer, and at the same time totally overlook a portrait made by Sears studios.
Quality video interview and photographic portraits visually require the same techniques, I refer to interviews as moving portraits. For these all aesthetic elements and skills that create any type of quality images come together. The technique we use to do quality interviews today are fundamentally the very same technique created over half century ago by renaissance artists like Da Vinci and Caravaggio. The chiaroscuro lighting techniques created by these masters in order to give their work the illusion of depth in their otherwise flat two dimensional work is the most used lighting technique today, even thou most people today have no clue on what it is or where it started.
As most video programs created today have talking people in it, the viewing public first impression of the quality of the program that they are about to watch will be determined by the quality of people images as they are seeing because it’s something that they can directly relate to, women are particularly good at this. Of course if the content of the program sucks no quality interview will rescue it.
It only makes sense that when a producer is looking to hire a crew the only thing on his mind is his own career. A skilled TV photographer can make that career while a bad photographer can wreck it.
As I also hire over one hundred crew days a year understandably I get inundated with call from people looking for work. Very very few have what it takes. My suggestion to them is, learn as much as you can about lighting skills, once you know those everything will slowly fall into place. Everybody can shoot videos of concerts, that's what I see the most, all that says is that you own a camera.