One of the more intense shoots this year for my Professional Practice Portfolio came in the form of an invitation to film the Coventry Blaze ice hockey team from a friend, whilst I was just simply queueing to hand equipment back into the university! I took him up on the offer for one main reason – I’ve not got any sport-orientated videos on my showreel at all (despite being involved in a variety of sports and societies during my time here at university!)
The shoot was simple enough – I was a camera operator using a Z1 camera, and I was to be set up at one side of the ice rink. I knew next to nothing about ice hockey, and didn’t do any research prior to the event itself. All I knew was that Coventry Blaze are a team that are well-respected in the sport. The ice rink (also known as The Skydome) was also more or less opposite my house – a prime location!
Several things struck me about the sport – first, it all seemed very ‘Superbowl’ (that is, ‘American’ in nature). There was lots of booming music, lots of drums, lots of chanting, and then when the sport began, it was brutal! People skating around at speed whacking a puck into each other’s faces at high velocity with sticks, and occasionally skating into huge groups of people and smashing them into the side barriers.
My role was simple – follow the puck. There was a ‘safe shot’ that I established early on, just of the goal area. If the puck got lost amidst the hockey sticks near the goal entrance, I moved to the safe shot in order to capture the goal as best I could. Following the puck was difficult because there was a lot of glaring white ice to film through. When the puck went to the other half of the rink opposite my position, it often disappeared into the white on the screen, meaning I’d have to take my eyes off the video screen to try and see what was happening in the game with my own eyes.
There were also several blind spots to contend with – notably any shot taking place in a far corner, as the posts that connected the different parts of the barriers blocked a straight shot. During these periods, I was relatively helpless to do anything else other than try and predict where the puck was going to go next.
Over the hours of filming, I gradually got better at the job though – if I lost the puck, I’d follow the general movement of the players (as they were usually making a beeline for it!). I also realised that if the puck hit the side of the rink hard enough, due the circular shape of the rink, the puck could effectively ‘orbit’ around the goal posts, being shot to the left of the goal, and appearing at the right a moment later.
I was complemented on my skills by Chris, the man who ran the shoots (which is always nice!). The main key with filming sport is to have the white balance sorted. This is even more important than usual, as if it’s off then the whole thing just looks… odd (and it also hampers your ability to follow the puck on the video screen).
I enjoyed filming it, as it was a new experience. I’m not much of a ‘sports’ fan myself, but I did enjoy watching the games unfold over their sets. You could tell that the sport meant a lot to the fans in Coventry – the city isn’t known for all that much, so to have an ice hockey team that is feared and respected throughout the country no doubt gives people an uplifted spirit.
I filmed two days, both of them Saturdays in February. On the second shoot though, I was the only camera operator on the ice rink level, which no doubt gave the editor a bit of a headache. I was only called in initially because camera operators hadn’t turned up, or had let my friend down. This is a shame, because although this was a very simple thing to film (or could be as complicated as you made it), it was certainly a memorable experience. It tested me more on my endurance levels of filming than anything else. This style of filming doesn’t develop you creatively, but it helps you get a job after graduation. For this module, who could ask for more?
Coventry Blaze – This video shows snippets of just one of the two games I filmed. Note the blind spots, and how my ability to follow the puck gets better over time. Also note the ‘safe shot’ of the goal nearest to me, and how I shoot the score board after any goal has been scored.
As mentioned, there was a lot of loud, booming music played during the games. Here are two tunes that were played that sum up the spirit of the game and the experience pretty well!