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How Be Inspired Films Shoots Conferences the TED Way

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“The TEDx events vary massively in terms of the quality, to be honest, because obviously they’re organized by volunteers and then it depends on the budget they have and so on and so forth,” Chambers says. “Whenever we’re involved with a production we use really good cameras. We can do a live stream at multiple bitrates; depending on the Internet connection we can do an HD stream; we can do a high quality, medium, and mobile stream, all simultaneously.

“The general format is we’ll start on a wide shot for each speaker coming on stage, cut in to a mid-shot and then a close-up, and then if we can in a big venue like the Royal Albert Hall, we’ll have a camera behind the speaker so we’re looking back out, because, I mean, the Royal Albert Hall is a magnificent venue. We’ll have two cameras in the auditorium, sort of left and right about 45 degrees: We’ll have one on ground level at the back, we’ll have one up high at the back, if we can, cutting between the shots to keep it engaging. Mostly, you’re going to stick on the speaker because that’s what it’s all about. If they have slides or videos we can cut that in, as well. But I think sometimes, if the venue’s really beautiful and they’re watching all around the world, then it’s nice to show a bit of the venue, as well, do some nice big wide shots and shots looking back out at the audience.”

As for camera placement and lighting, TED again gives the local production team some latitude.

“They have suggestions I believe, but there’s no set kind of rules for that,” Chambers says. “If you look at a lot of [TEDx events], depending on the theme and the colors of the theme, they’ll put a light blue wash across the audience so that you can actually pick out the people in the audience if you want to get audience reactions. The lighting needs to be quite bright on the stage, particularly in the area often marked with a red circle carpet where the speaker stands. It varies a lot.

“There’s guidelines but within that there’s freedom for people to put their own spin on it, if you like,” Chambers says. “Mostly you’re going to be focused on the speakers. Sometimes they only have enough money for one camera. We don’t tend to do those ones. But like if you look online at TEDx events, they vary hugely in terms of the quality: They may have one camera, two cameras, three cameras, whatever. We’d probably have four: We’d have three manned cameras and one safe which is unmanned. So we’d have a safe wide-shot which is framed to the stage, and then two cameras on either side of the stage, so you cut between them and they’d be zooming in and zooming out, reframing all the time according to the director. And we’d have one shot which is kind of closer to the stage, which we can get a side profile on the stage or we can look back at the audience and get audience reactions. You’re basically positioning your cameras to get a nice variety of shots in terms of close-ups and wides, and also in terms of different views, looking back at the audience. So essentially, you want to bring the viewers into the room and almost give them a sense that they’re in the space.”

While Chambers focuses on the technical elements, it’s the ideas behind TED, and the people that create TEDx events, that keep him motivated.

“We’ve met some really, really cool people and heard some great talks,” he says. “On any given day in the year there might be four or five different TEDx events going on around the world at the same time. It’s a real igniter for great ideas and bringing people together to be inspired on particular topics, share really interesting ideas. I think we really enjoy doing it because it’s food for thought, it’s good, and all very, very positive.”

For someone who formed a company called Be Inspired Films, Chambers has found TEDx to be an inspiration.

“When people are inspired they can do amazing things,” Chambers says. “I guess that’s one of the things we’ve learned.”

This appears in the June 2014 issue of Streaming Media under the title “Shooting Conferences the TED Way.”

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