‘One Mic’ Nights

“One Mic. One Love.” 

Those words now forever etched into my mind with regards a club off Fleet Street in a dingy London back alley, where a clandestine nightclub operates underground. This club, every month, hosts an event called ‘One Mic Night’, where local urban artists take to the stage and display their talents to a panel of judges (industry experts, coincidentally). Sound like The X Factor? Yeah, it pretty much is! My friend Abu (who has helped me a lot with my own FMP) chanced across me one day when I was feeling low in university, and gave me the offer to go to London with him immediately.

We took half of the entire university media loan shop equipment down with us, with the intention of setting up our very own ‘TV Studio’ within the club itself. It was to be a mammoth undertaking – luckily we had four hours to set up. Trusted work colleagues Yasmin and Gov (of CVTV fame) were also around, as were some students I hadn’t worked with before. Needless to say, my day went from ‘boring’ to ‘exciting’ in the space of ten minutes!

We had a lot of fun experimenting with jibs, slide tracks and all other manner of equipment during the set-up. Eventually we managed to get a lighting set-up that we liked, and I in turn recommended camera locations. Interviews were to be done at the back of the club, whilst one camera was on the judges, one was on the stage, and one was simply roaming free and getting the more visually interesting shots for the cut-aways.

Despite only being drafted in at the last-minute, I was casually placed on the camera directed towards the stage – catching all the acts of the show was now my responsibility. I was perfectly able to do this, but there were subtle things I did not know that affected my ability to meet certain criteria – for example, I didn’t know we were filming four separate episodes in the same night. I tried to keep my style consistent throughout, until the finals when I changed my style to set it apart from the rest. This was an accidental mistake – one of the problems of using a person fresh into the group I fear.

However, all things considered, the shoot went really well. Given the two hour drive down, the four hour set-up, the four hour filming, the one hour pack-up and the two hour return journey, this was also an endurance test of my media production abilities. As always, I came through just fine (though my lens-zooming abilities became more limited towards the end).

The first shoot was in February, the second in March – before and after my Iceland trip respectively. The first shoot was littered with problems that we corrected with the second shoot – the editor was most annoyed with two main things:

  1. After we’d set up the lighting, the lighting throughout the club changed. None-student staff then moved what dedo lights we’d set up, which clouded the judges’ faces, and made my shots look like some sort of blue Italian giallo film from the 1970s.
  2. Camera formats. It’s hard to know who’s responsibility this was – for argument’s sake, I’ll chastise myself for having not brought this up in time. Every camera filmed on a different format setting for some unknown reason. This quadrupled (at least) the length of time for editing, due to extended rendering times.

Due to these errors, we were sure to do a thorough lighting set-up on the second shoot. This is the first project in which I’ve (almost) used Blonde and Redhead lights (and I might add – they are BRIGHT!) Sadly, they were too bright, and we decided not to use them in favour of not dazzling the stage performers or the crowd. Formats were also set out very clearly before the second shoot began, solving the problem of export settings.

The Interview Area – We used posters to create a backdrop, but the posters reflected the ‘Blonde’ lights we were using to illuminate guest’s faces. We overcame the problem by pointing the beams towards the walls, and reflecting their light off the walls to create a wider flood of light.

Generally, I was on the same camera as before during the second shoot. This time I knew what to expect, and did the job almost on autopilot – not in a bad way, I was still ready to respond to any problems. I’ll say I was more ‘at ease’ during the second shoot, which was probably more beneficial than not!

One problem that constantly arose was our use of the attached card readers. We primarily used ‘Z’ cameras – predominantly tape-based video cameras. Tape uploads in real time, which means when you tape forty minutes of footage, you need to replay the tape to upload the video to the computers, meaning uploading the video takes forty minutes as well. Usually, you’d just swap tapes during a shoot and upload it all for hours when you get back.

However, during my time at university, media production has changed – most notably in the rise of DSLR cameras becoming the new ‘Z’ cameras. DSLRs do not use tape – they use memory cards. You capture forty minutes of footage, upload the files to the computer in about ten minutes, and then wipe the card and go again. The haste could mean you end up wiping a card and losing everything if care is not taken (i.e. it’s more difficult to completely wipe a tape, as it would take your forty minutes to lose on a tape what takes ten seconds to lose on a card). It was a risk we needed to take though, as we needed to upload complete ‘episodes’ at every interval. Upload times were always up the wire, and several times the host comedian had to stall for five minutes whilst the cards finished uploading (another problem here – we couldn’t continue our filming without the cards. We had no spares!)

Food was one of the less-important issues – after such hefty travelling, we were supposed to have chips and chicken ‘on the house’. Unfortunately, others members of staff kept eating our food, so on the second shoot, we kept the food at the interview area at the back to stop people accessing our food table so easily!

‘Urban’ was once upon a time my area of the music scene (which transgressed to alternative through the ‘scene kid’ movement in the late ‘noughties’). As a result, there was a nostalgic feel to this project for me – ‘Dominizzle’ was a great name (albeit for the cheesiest reasons!), and the artists vying for top spot were actually pretty solid performers all round.

Ultimately though, all credit goes to the editor who sifted through all the hours of footage to make the finished pieces – he did a solid job, and clearly demonstrated his ability as one of the best editors on the course. This was definitely a team exercise, and we really needed each other to rely on during these shoots (and I did discover the talents of other students I hadn’t worked with before during this project as well, which could benefit future productions).

All this said though, I didn’t really develop any industry contacts, nor did I develop any professional contacts on the London scene. The glitz and glamour of the urban scene was great, but as aforementioned, this was nostalgic to me. I have moved further afield since my ‘ghetto’ days with the likes of ‘Dogg’ and ‘Slim’.

The shows made it onto OH TV (channel 199 on Sky), making this the first project I’ve ever been involved with to be broadcast on a wide scale (with the exception of previous radio projects). Director Abu also did well to plug his own company Prophecy Media in the deal as well – things are looking up for all concerned with this project.

A third shoot was scheduled, but has been called off due to FMP-related time constraints. However, I will be happy to film for Prophecy Media or OH TV in the future. Trips down memory lane like this are always groovy – especially when new talent are trying to break new ground in the platform.

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