I’ve only just thought of this title and it’s obvious that this would have been a much better headline for yesterday’s post announcing my first proper foray into dinosaurs on TV. There I also muttered about the possibility of doing a post on the experience and this is that post.
I had done odd snippets of TV in the past at various times and also a fair bit of radio and I’ve seen plenty of film crews around in museums so I think I have a reasonable handle on how things go. However, it can vary enormously depending on what the crew wants to film and how, how big the segment is likely to be and what background the researchers have got and how many people are there (I’ve seen crews form 5 to 15 people). About the only thing that is guaranteed is that it will take forever. My Discovery bit was all of about 7 minutes or so, and some of that was studio-based intro and voiceovers of still images. The actual film that was recorded runs for maybe 5 minutes. That took two 10 hour days to record, and all of that was done in one room.
It was quite exhausting, not least because in the summer, Beijing tend to be sickeningly hot and humid. On top of that we were working in the basement. Where the water for the building is stored in an open tank. One of the biggest problems we had in terms of work was trying to stop sweat dripping onto the fossils. Really.
Things can take a phenomenally long time and this is something I have seen may times with film crews. Either they are all extremely bad at estimating how long their work will take or they are very good at massive underestimates. We were told it might take as little as a day and that we would have lots of time to do our work (we were there to look at fossils, not to film) in the set-up times. In fact in the first day we did effectively nothing and in the second (which was not supposed to be needed, and even at the end of day one was supposed to be ‘just a couple of hours’) not much more. I assume this is a tactic to keep things moving but, and this is my only complaint (everyone was exceptionally polite, helpful, good natures, worked hard and turned out a great piece), they really sucked up valuable working time that they had repeatedly assured me would not be interrupted.
As for being on camera, that really just takes a bit of preparation and confidence. Work out the questions in advance and plan your answers and how they’ll progress to make your points. Keep things simple and straightforward and try not to get bogged down in technical terms or get off topic. Oh yeah, and don’t panic.
Coming soon, more Tarbosaurus and a new theropod.