(To Make You Feel Less Like a Virgin)
This week I took to Reddit’s Videography subreddit in search of the most cringeworthy VPV screw-ups made on jobs…because hey, we’ve all been there. Sometimes we still fuck up.
No matter how much you prepare or envision a shoot going smoothly, there are ALWAYS going to be times when you make a mistake (or someone you’re relying on does and you have to cover their ass). And mark my words: those mistakes are the best opportunities to learn and wiggle your way out of video production virginity.
You learn from falling flat on your face and never doing that thing wrong again. It’s painfully beautiful. Of course, at the time you’ll be shitting your pants and kicking yourself wishing you had never been born.
But fear not, Virgins! I’m here this week to make you feel better about yourself, and share some horror stories that prove we’ve all been there.
The Case of the Lost Footage
“Wasn’t me but my camera assistant. Mid way through a studio session recording I asked how much he had shot. On the 5DMKii you use to be able to click the format button and it would say “are you sure you want to format ***GB?” Then you could work out what you had left. (The stupid way)..
Well this one time he clicked yes…Then asked the client if he could borrow his phone to google how to recover data of a CF card.”
“One time I deleted half the footage directly from camera while shooting. I don’t have any memory of it. But when I was editing I realized half the shit was missing. Had to spend $150 to get the footage. Luckily it found everything”
“This happened when I was just starting out: two teams were both working on two separate projects on a single network share. The setup was organized in such a way that new footage, yet to be ingested, was copied into a single folder that the two projects shared. The idea was you would move your footage into this folder so that while it was copying, you could be working on creating new folders and generally figuring out where you wanted to store your footage. So by the time you were done creating the folders, the transfer from the camera would be complete, and you could copy the files into your new folders once they were on the server, deleting the contents of the ingest folder so that it could be empty for the next team. Not everyone was so mindful of cleaning up, though.
So one day I was about to import some footage from that day’s shoot, and I saw that there was still some footage that the other team had left in the ingest folder. Thinking that they had already copied the footage to their project folder for storage, I deleted them without first checking if they had done so. Needless to say, they had not and by doing that I ended up causing them to reshoot an entire scene. Thankfully it was a sort of passion project, so it wasn’t a budgetary hurdle to reshoot the scene and it was no big deal in the end.
The lesson learned is to never, ever delete anything that you’re not absolutely sure is backed up in at least one other place. I learned that the hard way.”
“I would say most of my worst mistakes were a case of thinking I was rolling when I wasn’t. Specifically I was second shooting and missed almost an entire wedding processional. Another time I missed the cake cutting.
We All Go Through That Experimental Phase…
“The worst ones for me come of “expanding” into less relevant media. I had a client that had hired me to record their event for a few years in a row. One year they decided to run a live stream of the event to giant screens in the venue. I figure no big deal, I’ll give them a line out from my wide shot. I tested everything at home in the days before – it worked great.
Nope. The guys running the live audio and projector for the event totally cheaped out on their cabling and the signal kept cutting out. They threw me under the bus with the client. Never heard from that client again.
So I guess the lesson is either don’t sign on for things that you can’t handle, OR eliminate the potential for other people to screw up your project.”
“I was recording an event. I had rented a new camera as I wanted something a little more capable than my personal mirrorless rig. I’d only had around an hour to figure out how the camera worked between when I picked it up and when I had to go to the event, and so while I had worked out the basics like exposure, other features like hot-swapping dual SD cards I still hadn’t figured out yet.
So the MC was in the middle of the welcoming speech. This was the most important part of the shoot – if I didn’t have this, I basically didn’t have a coherent video. I had been recording the setup and beginning of the event, so I already had some stuff on the SD card when the MC started talking. I had two cards in the camera though, and I just assumed that when it ran out of space on one that it would just start recording to the other. I’m sure you can all see where this is going at this point, in the middle of the speech I ran out of card space. I had to run backstage, get another SD card and run back out to get the end of the speech – but I missed it.
At the end of the day though, I got enough of the speech to make things work in the edit, and it ended up being no big deal. What I learned that day was to always, always thoroughly test your equipment before you go on a shoot – especially if it’s new to you.”
The Classic Case of He Said, She Said
“I once had a shoot once that I was told wouldn’t require audio. Turns out it was a press conference (at a flipping mini golf course opening). I had no mic, I just pretended. Also it was 100º and I was require to wear pants. The account manager flaked and I ended up there by myself. Proceeding to shoot a commercials worth of B-roll, by myself. Mini golf.”
“Was working at a 3 day health conference with another guy who was significantly more experienced than me at the time. I was sure that the brief was to shoot a highlights package to show at the end of the last session on the 3rd day and we indeed were doing that…in addition to creating a DVD of every recording of every keynote speaker for the whole event. Luckily the other dude had a wide shot and a mid shot running the whole time so we ended up getting away with it.”
Wait, I Thought You Were Handling That?
“We were shooting a political ad for the Premier of our province. We had 2 cameras. One was set up to fit the teleprompter. The other was not. We drove 1.5 hours to the shoot. Guess which camera we forgot? After an insane mad scramble, we jerry rigged the other camera to the teleprompter.”
“Relying on other people who have a history of being unreliable. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have videography partners whom they constantly complain about, and then I’m just like, “why don’t you just dump them?”.
I went through the same shit when I was starting out back in 2013, wish I had someone around to tell me to tell this person to fuck off, instead I let them fuck things up for a whole year before it all came to a head when we drove eight hours to another state to film a wedding only to find out we were fired because my partner not only was not communicating with them but also never delivered their engagement video.”
Tell Me It’s Going To Be Okay…
“Camera on tripod in middle of the road got run over by taxi. Time froze in the moment of impact. Everyone saw the fall and froze too. All the way until the crash. Luckily the camera was just scratched on the outside, tripod got a little bent.”
“We were moving locations from a cafe to a woodland type area and the two talent, who were meant to be in love, got it in their heads that they wanted to get on set and rehearse before the crew got there. So the two of them took off as I loaded the gear in the minivan. When we got to the location we found out that both of them had walked into stinging nettles and since the male talent was wearing shorts and the female talent a dress, their legs were the sickest shade of red I’ve ever seen.
Solution? Always send a PA with your talent. But that might not even solve it.”
“Well, this one’s a classic.
So it’s a night shoot, more than 40 people on set. We’re doing our 2-minute long-take shot complete with dolly moves, stunts and a practical fireball with the entire cast of the film being included in the shot, all with their own blocking. To say it was the most complicated shot of the production would be accurate.
Our primary light source is an HMI acting as the moon. We’re using an air compressor as part of the fireball rig. The rig was awesome – air compressor line run up into the bottom of a potted plant where a funnel of powdered sugar is set up under a grill starter. When you squeeze the trigger on the air compressor, it creates a cloud of powdered sugar that ingites instantly. Makes it look like the plant was engulfed in flames and smells like marshmallows. I called it “THE VOICE OF THE FATHER”.
Three takes in, the air compressor is too low on pressure to make a fireball and our generator is maxed out. I have to strike the HMI in order to pump it back up.
It was an older HMI, no hot re-strike, so those 40 people all had to wait 10 minutes before we could get the light back on and keep shooting. I stand by my decision, but the director was pissed, and rightfully so.”