IFSEC 2018 and pain free video shooting

My feet are killing me, my left heel hurts from where my apparently ill-fitting shoe was rubbing all day and my back aches. No, I haven’t been down the gym or playing football, I spent the day at an event in London!

Usually this list of minor ailments would be enough to put me off repeating the exercise, but I have to say that attending IFSEC 2018 at ExCeL London was a lot of fun.

This year, our client, Seagate, had a fantastic stand and position – surrounded by all of their partners. Which was great, as it made shooting the video we were there for, much easier

The sun was blazing down on Londinium Town, so we had a perfect excuse to travel on most modes of transport the city has to offer, including the fabulous DLR. Last time I had the pleasure I was on my way to shoot London Comic Con. This was a somewhat different crowd. How I wished they were attending IFSEC – I gazed around the carriage at the plethora of suits and polo shirts emblazoned with company logos and tried to imagine what they would make of someone dressed up as Spiderman, the Mario Bros or a Space Marine.

The doors opened and I found myself walking along the side of the Thames in East London, happily finding my way to the vast space that the ExCeL is.

The right gear for the job

Heading to an event for work purposes means a whole lot more luggage. On this occasion though, I had managed to cram everything I needed into one rucksack (apart from my tripod) and a camera bag. Thank God for the digital revolution – it’s so much easier these days to shoot an event on more lightweight and smaller equipment.

We shot the whole thing on an iPhoneX and a DJI Osmo Mobile using a Zoom H5 to capture sound.

The iPhone camera is great, can shoot real-time in 4k at 60fps if you need it to and the battery is pretty long-lasting. If you are doing more lengthy shots, you might want to have a power brick with you that you can plug it into over lunch. Obviously, shooting with just a hand-held phone means you may encounter a more jerky outcome, but this is where the Osmo comes into its own.

The Osmo Mobile is what’s called a gimble – think of a motorised, gyro controlled, glorified selfie stick. The clever tech inside makes taking a smooth video shot, easy. It can also be told to pan between points, time lapse, etc. Because the mobile version has a cradle for your phone, just download the app, slot it in, turn it on and you’re away.

It makes the job of capturing great looking video much more accessible than purchasing overtly expensive kit that most people just don’t need for their purposes. All you really need is some basic understanding of framing shots and what your required output is so that you can cover off a shot list to ensure you get those all important cutaway footage.

Obviously an iPhone captures sound, but to make a great video, you really need to have somewhat professional quality audio. The Zoom is a lightweight bi-directional, 4 track recorder. It’s a doddle to use and really does the job for this type of vox-pop interview style of video. It also has 2 line-ins to link up to sound boards if you’re capturing a panel or key speaker event.

On this occasion we did not need to get stills, but if that were the case, then you obviously have your phone strapped into the osmo. A tap on the screen and you’re into photo mode. However, if you have a Cannon 5D (even the Mk2 body would suffice), then you have a DLSR at your disposal, and one that shoots great video (with depth of field rather than the iPhone’s ‘everything is in focus’ approach) and can take a myriad of lenses to play around with.

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Planning is key to a good outcome

Prior to the event we had created a shot list with the client. We had about 30 – 40 shots to get, including 7 interviews. The morning was spent making connections with those companies that had been identified as interview candidates.

Events are busy times for those who are manning stands and exhibiting. So I always think it best to get some times booked in as early as possible. Leave it late and you might not get what you need. Even with this planning, we were kept waiting until we were the last people still in ExCeL.

This early networking with your intended interviewees, also allows you to get some good shots of their stands. Ideally you want stands looking busy, but not so busy that people constantly get in the way of what you want to shoot.

Being accessible opens opportunities

Not everyone wants to be filmed. The thought of being captured on camera whilst everyone watches is the stuff of nightmares to most British people. If you are lucky enough to be able to talk a member of the paying public into answering a few questions, then making them wait whilst you set up your lights and sound before pointing a camera the size of a 1st world war cannon directly in their face, is hardly welcoming.

Apart from not having to lug all of this equipment around, the best thing about going lightweight is that you don’t intimidate. In fact, with the Osmo and iPhone combo, you have a genuinely interesting talking point. Especially when you’re at a tech type of event. The Osmo actually breaks the ice and gets people walking up to you, just to find out what you’re using. Then before they know it, they have recorded an interview.

Being able to record, literally in a matter of seconds, means you can capture a lot more as it happens than people kitted out professionally can ever hope to.

We had one exhibitor stop us to ask about the kit we were using as we were just shooting some general event shots. It turned into an interview with us capturing his latest product; an integrated AI system that captures faces an depicts details about them  – if they are known to the system, if they are wearing a disguise (I wasn’t, although I wondered what it would make of the Comic Con crowd), their mood, sex and age (I was displayed as a youth and whilst this overjoyed me, I am not too sure what it said about his AI).

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Be smart – be early

I always have other bits of kit with me other than that I have to carry around. I will always have a laptop and charger, spare batteries and their respective chargers, power bricks, etc – and all of this needs a home for the day.

Seagate had a lovely stand at IFSEC, one of those stands with a built in glass meeting room. Fancy! I had let them know that I would need a place to set up.

I got there at 10am, when the event started. I may have been able to get there earlier, but it was a nice day. The event started at 10am too, so by the time I had a coffee and got to the stand, the meeting room was in full swing already. The room I had was off of the meeting room. Luckily, on this occasion, being late meant I avoided getting my equipment stuck in a never-accessible room.

Being late did mean that I had to make do with stuffing it in a cupboard in the reception desk. It was under lock and key, which was great for security, but not really so great for getting bits out of it when I needed.

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Surprised by surveillance

You may not think that a surveillance expo sounds that interesting. It’s certainly no Comic Con, but at the same time, it was a good show with plenty to see.

The Drone Zone was a good watch as various companies showed off their airborne flymos. There was a Red Bull F1 car on display. I am not overly sure of the relevance, but perhaps the fact that it had not been stolen (yet – this was day one) was all they needed.

Obviously there was a lot of AI on display. I know, it’s the buzz-phrase of the moment. And like with GDPR, I fear people are becoming numb to it. Still, it was everywhere, and there were some really interesting examples.

There was a little police car that drove around a road as barriers raised for it automatically. Sounds pathetic, but the eternity that everyone waited between loops for that perfect photo op said otherwise.

One company, Secure Logiq (one of Seagate’s partners) got it just right. They make servers for the surveillance industry. Interesting, right? They had 3 holographic fans on their stand. Not anything to do with surveillance, but they did draw crowds. They had two huge surface tables that they could pull up screens on, spin them around and push them towards you. And just when you thought you were in Minority Report, they could turn them into virtual air hockey tables. Completely useless. Utter genius.

There was an Ice bar there too. Although it seemed to be severely lacking on one all-important substance. I am not sure the drinks even had any cubes in.

That said, the most amusing point of the day was when we had a break outside. Some poor man waited for what seemed like hours, just to get an flake 99 at an ice cream van. Now surely, we thought, there was a very real work need for cameras to be used. Although, as was pointed out to me, perhaps they were in use and the ice cream people just had a very warped sense of humour.

One stand had a police car sat on it. I don’t know why, apart from it screams security I guess. I managed to convince my colleague, Michelle, to sit in it whilst I took her photo. There she sat as I pointed the camera at her, giving the camera her winning smile. Totally oblivious that I had decided to shoot a video to see how long she would sit there for. 25 seconds as it turns out.

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Such a thing as too secure…

The afternoon went without a snag really. All that planning and prep you see. We managed to capture all of our interviews, although the last person kept us waiting until 5.30pm. The show shuts at 5. It was great though – one take – just like the rest of them. All that was left was to have a few well-earned beers as we shot the Seagate after-show VIP party.

Unfortunately, the cupboard that my kit was securely locked in, was, well…locked. With nobody left on the stand, it meant I sat there waiting for someone…anyone to come back with a key. The irony that we had been so security conscious at a surveillance show was not lost on me, as I sat there, all alone in the vast and empty void of the ExCeL. Surrounded by AI systems, their cameras all pointing at me, I could only guess how they saw me now.

Male. Unhappy. Thirsty. Idiot.