Government Communicators: Know Who’s Who In a Field Video Crew – By Ann Ramsey

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.

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.

If a national news organization wants to create a magazine story, your press event will essentially become B roll, with the content of the story likely interview-driven (interviews make up the A roll). B roll is typically gathered by a three-person team (a producer, camera-person and sound recordist). The crew will want to go to the home or workplace of one or more of the interviewees, or possibly arrange additional locations representative of the story. The lighting and shooting style of A roll and B roll will be consistent with the look and feel of the series. Raw footage can be hand-delivered, shipped on a hard drive, or fed via a local satellite service to the studio, where it’s screened and edited. The final product may be aired in a matter of days, weeks or months, depending on the broadcast schedule.

In short, EFP usually has higher production values and slower turnaround than ENG. As the government communicator, you want to assist the EFP crew to make a terrific video, one that’s assured of getting aired. Help them with: scouting locations, securing interviews, and accessing the venue. For unloading, look for alternatives to stairs (since they usually put all their equipment on a rolling cart, EFP crews need elevators or ramps). For set-up, allot them at least an hour to light the interview set. EPF crews will want attractive interviews, so they need extra room (“throw”) behind the interviewee to blur out the background. They also need to minimize disturbances and light and sound interference. For multiple interviews, you might want to arrange a separate room that can be pre-lit. You should also accompany the crew to B-roll locations, to ensure they get access and can get the variety of shots they need. Don’t be surprised if a five-minute finished piece requires a day or more of production time. At the end of the shoot, ensure the crew was able to get signed appearance and location releases, and give them adequate time to pack up and load out.

Different animals

Because ENG and EFP crews are different animals, they demand different care and feeding. To complicate matters, it’s possible you’ll find both types of crews covering a single event. So you need to:

  • Understand that ENG crews, although more self-sufficient, are concerned about their deadlines. So if they request something, they need it on the double! As appropriate, you will be directing your ENG crews to one or more designated press areas from which they can cover the main podium, plus any immediate follow-ons, such as press avails or facility tours.
  • Understand, in contrast, that EFP crews will likely need pre-arranged, one-on-one interviews and multiple set-ups, so they’ll require additional space, time and attention during, as well as after, the formal event. Don’t begrudge them the time and trouble. The compensation for the extra effort you give EFP crews will show up in the end result: a high-quality, in-depth and compelling video.

ENG, EFP Crew Roles:
Normally these roles are combined varyingly amongst a small crew.

Producer/Reporter – directs crew, conducts interviews
D.P. – Director of Photography, chief camera-person

Videographer – camera-person, e.g. 2nd camera

Sound recordist – acquires & mixes audio

Boom operator – sound recordist using pole-mounted mic 

A.P. – Associate Producer, assists producer with logistics 

Gaffer – lighting director

Grip – assists the D.P., sets up camera rigging 

Dolly grip – operates a camera dolly

P.A. – Production Assistant, manages gear

Media Manager – relays or transfers video/audio files 

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PHOTO CREDITS:

(ENG B roll shipping dock) – Creative Commons Patty Mooney 2014
(ENG A roll London mayor) – Creative Commons Alex Row 2014
(EFP B roll school yard) – HHS TV Ann Ramsey 2016
(EFP A roll interview set) – HHS TV Ann Ramsey 2016