Author: Ann Ramsey
You probably deal with field video crews often in your role as a government communicator. For example, you host press conferences and other media events that broadcasters want to cover. From the broadcasters’ point of view, any shooting done out of the studio (i.e. covering your event) is considered “field” or “remote” shooting; they will send specialized crews who are equipped to do that. However, it may not be clear to you the taxonomy and makeup of these crews.
From your point of view, why is it some field crews seem to sail into any situation on their own, shoot it, and pack out with hardly a word? — while others can’t be satisfied without detailed advance support, and extra time, space, access, and control on site?
The answer lies in the differences between two types of field crews: ENG versus EFP. The two types of field crews have considerably different purposes and needs. Understanding the differences can reduce your headaches and improve your media coverage.
ENG–Electronic News Gathering
ENG refers to a field news team covering a current or breaking story. The term derives from TV news in the 1980s, when field footage was first electronically transmitted to editors, instead of being handed off to them on videotapes.
ENG footage is recorded for editing and later airing, or for transmitting live. Today’s ENG crew could be a lone reporter, operating her own camera with a headset and microphone; or, it could be a reporter with a one- or two-person crew. If the latter, the crew captures the audio and video, while the reporter concentrates on interviewing or narrating.
For high-profile or unfolding situations, a satellite uplink or a microwave truck might also be dispatched to the location for live transmitting, and to serve as home-base for multiple ENG crews. Regardless of size, ENG crews are used by TV, web and radio broadcasters to cover press conferences, crime scenes, public events, accidents, rescues, storms, court trials, and battle zones. ENG crews are “on call” day and night for immediate deployment to “get the story.” Some stories–a hostage situation, a major fire, or a riot, for example–may attract dozens of crews, who vie for position as the event unfolds.
For an ENG crew, the emphasis is on speed, agility, and fast turnaround of short-form stories, usually for airing the same or the following day. Their set-up and tear-down process is fast; they need minimal B-roll footage (“covering shots”); and, since they are reporting at public or open-press events, don’t need to get appearance releases signed. You will hear them use the term “run-and-gun,” which is the signature ENG style.
As a communications professional in charge of a government event such as a press conference, you and your team will need to accommodate each broadcaster’s ENG crew: give them the event rundown, and let them know how to get into the venue. When crews arrive, show them to the area where they can set up; and let them know if there will be press availability time with the VIP for individual questions.
Crews will usually have batteries, but show them a power source for backup. Tell them if they will need to acquire audio using their own mics; otherwise help each crew plug into to your “mult box” for a direct audio feed from the podium or soundboard. (A mult box is a single audio source with multiple outputs. Mult boxes are commonly used at press conferences in small spaces, so that umpteen mics are not all in the speaker’s face at the same time, and so that reporters can all get the same, clean audio.) Crews will want a couple of minutes to run a sound check before the event starts and cameras begin to roll. If your event is happening someplace with local color or visual interest, you should also arrange a few minutes for the cameras to shoot some B roll. After the event, ask the crews if there’s anything else they need, and show them the best way out.
EFP–Electronic Field Production
The EFP crew works to create a narrative, rather than reacting to an unfolding story in real time. Whereas short-form news packages or live stories are the norm for local reporters, longer-form, in-depth stories are covered by national news magazines. In addition, you may want your agency’s in-house video production team (or a crew that you hire) to make a video out of an event as an edited package, or as “Bites and B roll” to be made available to broadcasters for their use. Any of these more complex situations will call for an EFP crew.
According to the Herbert Zettl’s Television Production Handbook:
[Electronic Field Production] uses both ENG and studio techniques. From ENG it borrows its mobility and flexibility; from the studio it borrows its production care and quality control. EFP takes place on location (which may include shooting in someone’s living room) and has to adapt to the location conditions… Good lighting and audio are always difficult to achieve in EFP, regardless of whether you are outdoors or indoors. Compared to ENG, in which you simply respond to a situation, EFP needs careful planning.
Typical uses of EFP are: industrial videos (i.e., non-broadcast, which includes government videos), documentary, broadcast magazine interviews and profiles, and promos.
An EFP crew is unlikely to consist of one person (a “one man band”), although some documentarians operate that way. Most often, the crew is sizable. EFP done on a large scale (for example, the Olympics, the Oscars, or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade) are called “remotes,” and will require crews for multiple-camera setups with videography, photography, advanced graphics, sound, grips, gaffers, and camera motion rigs such as Steadicam, drone, action camera, dolly, crane, and jib. In government’s sphere, something like a large town hall or political debate would require so large a crew, but in everyday practice you find most EFP crews needed to cover speeches or press conferences will consist of three to six members.
Typical EFP crew members could include a producer/interviewer, one or two cameramen, a sound recordist/mixer, a gaffer (lighter), and a production assistant or grip. They will bring an audio mixer with several types of microphones, and probably a couple of cameras, a case full of lenses, field monitors, and some camera set-ups (a tripod and dolly for example). Most conspicuously, an EFP crew will arrive with numerous cases of lighting instruments and accessories. All of this equipment needs to be staged where the crew can get access to it as they move through their shoot.