When Richard da Costa from Dramatic Solutions got a call from Fighting Films asking him to make a series of videos featuring world-class judo masters, he guessed it would be an action-packed assignment.
He’d already worked with Fighting Films to make a documentary about the build up to the 2009 Judo World Championships using Canon 5D Mark IIs and had captured some live judo action with his existing kit.
However the half-hour documentary, for the Dutch Judo Federation, had mainly concentrated on the behind the scenes workings of the tournament – rather than fast-paced shots of judo athletes in action.
This time, his assignment would be to interview the top athletes from the 2011 World Judo Championships which were held at Bercy stadium in Paris from August 23-28 2011.
“Having worked on the documentary I could see that judo is a fast-paced sport. I’d also done interviews with judo athletes for Fighting Films in Azerbaijan in January last year, at the International Judo Federation Masters in Baku, but these were relatively static.
“This time they (International Judo Federation) wanted a jib to capture the action with flying shots, so I decided it was time to invest in a jib,” said Richard, whose Bristol-based company Dramatic Soltuions makes corporate dramas, adverts, trailers and documentaries.
He decided it was time to invest in a Polecam Starter Pack (PSP) Plus, which comes with battery plates, an elbow, Pelicase – he also added a pair of PAG batteries and a charger.
“I’ve used jibs before but because this job was going to be a nine-day shoot and I wanted to get plenty of flying shots and movement, I decided to invest in a Polecam Starter Pack,” said Richard.
Over the nine-day shoot he interviewed the top 56 athletes from the competition in a green-screen studio.
But it was ahead of each interview that the Polecam crane came into its own.
“Before each interview we asked each judoka (judo master) to go through their own personal warm-up routine – basically their pre-fight routine. We wanted to see how they psych themselves up for a coming judo bout,” explained Richard.
“We put them on a turntable and used the Polecam for high and low angles so that we got loads of movement in multiple dimensions.
“This combination allowed us to film atheletes moving through 360 degrees and at the same time we were able to jib up and tilt the head, so that we had a sense of movement in every possible orientation.”
Sound bites from the interviews have been overlaid with the Polecam shots from the green-screen studio – the first to be released, an interview with world middleweight Georgian-born champion Ilias Iliadis, is being used by the International Judo Federation as a YouTube trailer for forthcoming judo tournaments.
While much of the footage has yet to be released, the plan is that each half-hour interview Richard’s team carried out will be either edited down for use as a mini-biography of each athlete or output to DVD for the International Judo Federation to sell via its website.
Other interviews and clips will be broadcast on Sky Sports and Eurosports TV later this year, said Richard.
With a background in theatre production, 10 years ago Richard moved into media production, directing his own corporate films and mini dramas for clients. His Bristol-based company, Dramatic Solutions.tv, makes corporate films and documentaries for clients in the energy, health and financial sectors.
The company has always been forward-thinking in its choice of equipment to do the work.
“We were an early adopter of the new D-SLRs and people thought we were mad when we first bought a 5D but now they’re so popular we rent them out.
“Similarly I’d wanted to get a jib for a while to raise our production values and as the Polecam Starter Pack is suited to D-SLRs, it was a perfect fit for us. I figured it would be a wise investment for a nine-day shoot as it could give us an edge in corporate work.”
Steffan Hewitt, Polecam’s inventor and managing director, said: “The Polecam Starter Pack is designed to suit D-SLR users and provide an easy introduction to the use of camera cranes. That’s why it’s perfect for people like Richard who already have a thriving production business and want to take their work to a new level.
“The Polecam is easy to get to grips with and you can be producing flying shots in no time. That’s what will set you apart from others in your sector,” he added.
The Starter Pack kit comes with Polecam back end, three carbon-fibre poles (giving a reach of 10 feet), rig wiring loom, joystick and pan and tilt head. The PSP PLUS pack, which Richard bought, includes battery plates, an elbow, specially-designed Pelicase.
Richard said, “The shots the Polecam produces are much more televisual and, since buying it, we’ve used it quite a lot, where it’s justified. For example on a shoot for BP recently we were able to get a shot of someone coming up the stairs which we wouldn’t have been able to get without it.”
He and his handful of staff have also found the crane system easy to adapt to using. “It’s very natural for people to use. Someone who’s got experience of using track or a steadycam and is used to moving cameras can easily get used to it. The Pelicase it comes in is also great – it travels well – and the kit is pretty quick to set up.”
But it’s in raising production values that Richard feels the Polecam has been his best investment.
Richard explained, “Sometimes it’s difficult to explain the technical aspects of a shoot to a client, to give meaning to the benefit of high-end production values, so it’s quite neat to have something like the Polecam which they can easily understand brings – quite literally – the possibility of new angles.
“Basically it helps us get that establishing shot that sets us apart. And getting those money shots is what enables you to differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd,” he added.
For more on the Polecam Starter Pack see:
To see Richard da Costa’s video interview with Ilias Iliadis with Polecam shots overlaid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0Iuo3P4yZw&feature=related
For more of Richard’s work see: http://www.dramaticsolutions.tv/Viewing_Room.html