By Dan O’Reilly-Rowe, 2009.

It’s not a good look to have an interviewee (or your crew) sitting around while you fumble with the gear. Speed and precision are both valuable when setting up a camera/sound kit, but it takes practice to get comfortable with your gear to the point that you can achieve a smooth set up. This relay race activity is a fun way to get a group familiar with the set up of whatever gear is available, with an eye to encouraging speed and precision, teamwork and communication.

Goals

  • Promote teamwork and communication
  • Familiarise crew members with equipment

Participants

4 – 20 (more if lots of equipment is available)

Duration

2-3 hours

Equipment/Materials

  • At least 2 identical camera kits, ideally containing all or some of the following:
    • Video camera
    • Battery
    • Tripod
    • External Microphone
    • Headphones
    • Cables
    • DV tape (if required)
  • Butcher’s paper
  • Markers
  • Set-up and pack-down checklists.

Instructions

  • Begin by discussing care of equipment. Today’s activity will be about speed, but there’s no point being fast if you’re not also careful. Broken equipment will cost you more time (and money) than a careful set up. Emphasise the idea of precision of speed.
  • Divide the group into two teams (more if you have more identical camera kits).
  • Give each team a camera kit, packed neatly. Emphasise that this is how you want the equipment returned later.
  • Have them take turns identifying the equipment in their kits, and describing its function. Record the responses on a piece of butcher’s paper labeled INVENTORY.
  • If necessary, give a step-by-step instructional of all steps that will later be the steps in the relay race (below).
  • Re-pack kits as teams first received them.
  • Place kits on one side of the room, and have the two teams gather behind a line on the other side of the room opposite their kits.
  • Post two checklists, one for set-up, and one for pack-down, next to each of the two kits. These lists will have to be modified, depending on the equipment you are using. It is very important to do the set-up yourself before making the checklist to ensure that the sequence you put them in is actually possible to execute. The sample below could be used for a kit containing a DV camera with a shotgun mic, connected via XLR cable through an XLR to phono adaptor, mounted on a tripod:

Set-up

  1. Set up tripod
  2. Connect base plate to camera
  3. Attach camera to tripod
  4. Attach battery to camera
  5. Turn camera on
  6. Remove lens cap
  7. Open flip monitor
  8. Connect headphones to camera
  9. Connect XLR adaptor to camera
  10. Connect XLR cable to XLR adaptor
  11. Connect XLR cable to microphone
  12. Turn microphone on
  13. Bring sound level display up on the screen
  14. Label tape
  15. Insert tape into camera
  16. Record 10 seconds of your group going nuts

Pack-down

  1. Eject tape
  2. Copy protect tape and replace in case
  3. Turn camera off
  4. Turn microphone off
  5. Disconnect microphone and replace in kit
  6. Disconnect XLR from camera, roll, and replace in kit
  7. Disconnect XLR adaptor from camera and replace in kit
  8. Close flip monitor
  9. Replace lens cap
  10. Disconnect battery from camera in kit
  11. Remove camera from tripod
  12. Return baseplate to tripod
  13. Replace camera in kit
  14. Pack down tripod
  • Only one team member can cross the line at a time, but if they’re in trouble they can call out to their team for advice. Teams can shout out advice, but cannot cross the line.
  • As each stage is completed, team members should cross off that item on the checklist.
  • Facilitators act as referees, and should ensure that care is taken with the equipment.
  • The first team to finish wins, but only if their tape plays back the image and sound of the team going nuts. If not, they are disqualified. If this occurs, take time to trouble shoot why there is no image or sound on the tape by trying to identify which stages could have resulted in that outcome.

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