As the old saying goes ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and so it again proves at WHS. Without being able to get audiences in to see their performances – they needed to be filmed and streamed, and who better to do so than the students themselves! Rosie O’Toole reports on the newly established Film Crew which is bringing the world the concerts, carol services and pantos of WHS!
On Wednesday 9 December, Wycombe High School hosted its annual Christmas Concert. As with many things this year, the event had to be adapted in order to run in a COVID-safe fashion, introducing a whole host of new and unfamiliar hurdles. Whilst not the first live event to be broadcast live on Wycombe High TV, the Christmas Concert was truly a student-run operation. From the musicians to the cameras and the presentation to the sound, WHS students had a hand in the production of it all. I myself served as a camera operator and, during the live broadcast, camera director. The student roles consisted of one floor manager, one teleprompt operator, one sound engineer and five camera operators. Here’s what those involved had to say about their experience.
Gemma Fletcher, Camera Operator
Our job was basically making sure the concert ran smoothly. Another student and I controlled manual cameras, someone was controlling three remote cameras, another was controlling what was being broadcast on the livestream and the director basically told us what to do. I found the experience really fun! I loved learning how it all works and trying all the jobs, especially working the remote cameras. Being the director was so tricky for me as you have to talk clearly and precisely so the crew can understand exactly what you want them to do. I’m really excited for another opportunity like this to come up again, as I am definitely interested in doing a career like this in the future.
Thushita Maheshkumar, Teleprompt Operator
It was an interesting experience and I worked with the presenters and helped them by moving a monitor that they would read off. The only difficulty was in making sure I was concentrating on both what they were saying as well as the monitor itself. Amongst that job, I also helped around with other odd jobs and was able to see the camera crew in action along with all the technology involved. It was really eye opening as I didn’t realise how much prep work would have to be done in recording, and the stress that came with it. I watched the directors annotate the music sheets as to know when to coordinate solo shots and realised how much free reign in stylising shots were given. I also did the odd job during the day, whether it be moving stands around or making notes for the directors and the busy ambience of the day was really enjoyable. The evening of the live filming also went extremely well and the cast and crew handled any mishaps smoothly.
Sophie Prince, Sound Engineer
I had to make sure the sound was ok and you could hear all the instruments during both the live and recorded performances. I also had to set up all the microphones and make sure they all worked so had to test them all and move them into the right places to pick up all the sound. The best thing was probably learning new skills and getting out of my comfort zone as it is something I struggle with. I also really enjoyed learning to mix the sounds to produce the best sound possible and learning how the microphones are best set up to ensure no instruments are louder than others when they shouldn’t be. The hardest thing was ensuring that all the volumes of the instruments were at the correct level and having to adjust them if they weren’t. It was also quite difficult to make sure to change from the ensembles to the presenters relatively quickly but gradually to make sure it was a smooth transition. It did teach me a lot of new skills and developed existing skills further.
Daya Bhangoo, Floor Manager
My experience was amazing. I enjoyed learning how things work in the filming business and I got to see it in action! Being Floor Manager was really fun as I got to do quite a bit of ordering around. My role was to make sure that everyone in the room was aware of how long they had until they were being filmed and when they were about to start filming. The best thing about it was probably counting down when we had five seconds until we were filming and then pointing at whoever was being filmed to let them know. The hardest thing for me was making sure that I didn’t give everyone the wrong information of how long they had until filming because there is a bit more pressure when we were live. Before being a part of the crew, I don’t think I would have considered this as a potential job, but now that I have experienced it firsthand, I would definitely think about getting involved in something incredible like this for the future.
Rosie O’Toole, Camera Operator/ Director
Throughout the day, each camera operator had the opportunity to have a go at every one of the four different roles (camera operator, remote camera operator, vision mixer and director). We had little time to learn as several performances were pre-recorded in the morning the day of the concert, but the professionals taught us quickly and succinctly. So that we might communicate in a non-disruptive manner, we were given headsets, which I certainly found rather novel. I liked controlling both the manned and the remote cameras, although I was far too butter-fingered to enjoy vision mixing as I had a tendency to press wrong buttons. I never pressed anything too disastrous or did anything that was not easily corrected, but I will say I’m glad I was not responsible for vision mixing during the live broadcast. Instead, I directed, which in some ways was most definitely more stressful. Through our headsets, I instructed the operators in how they should film and move the cameras about and which shots the vision mixer should cut to. I certainly made more than a few questionable judgements, resulting in harried corrections through headphones from the professionals, but I hope I can say I didn’t do too badly! It would not be far off to describe the experience as a baptism of fire, but I look forward to another opportunity to show off what I’ve learnt.
The Christmas Concert has now raised a total of £1 362 for Age UK Buckinghamshire and the recording of the live show has reached over 2000 views. I would like to extend a big thank you, on behalf of all the students involved backstage, to the professionals who went above and beyond in teaching us how to operate everything. The concert would not have run nearly as smoothly as it did without them.