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  • Shooting 8 hour field exams

  • Eric Schoonover

    January 16, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Hi everyone,

    I was hoping I could get some feedback or help with creative solutions regarding filming individuals walk through a house inspecting various elements.

    To give an idea of what happens – there’s a trainee and trainer – the trainer has to take notes, follow the trainee, and video tape his progress throughout the home. These are typically 8 hour days. We then send the videos to a certification organization. We are trying to come up with a hands free solution, so the trainer is free to jot his notes down and and perform other tasks while maintaining camera focus on the trainee.

    The certification organization requires the camera be:

    -small and light weight
    -record in low resolution
    -can record for 8 hours
    -external battery configuration
    -have to be able to point the camera, as well as have your hands free
    -have a flexible carrying system or tripod

    We’ve looked at a few different camera options, but with each one, we seem to hit a roadblock.

    We started with Contour hands free camcorders, but have a couple of issues – the people carrying these cameras are not video experts, and we are very concerned that without any viewfinder or visual feedback, they may find it difficult to keep in mind that the camera’s pov is constantly linked to their head, so if they look at notes on the clipboard, they lose focus on the trainee. Also, the current models of Contour cameras seemed to have dropped Standard def support (although the Contour HD’s are still available on Amazon)

    Same goes for the GoPro HD Hero cameras – there is worry about lack of visual feedback. The current GoPro HD mdoels do shoot WVGA though, which puts it above the Contour in what we’re looking for.

    Other than that, we were looking at some basic handheld camcorders, like the Samsung SMX-F50, or anything that records to .mp4, and giving them a tripod and possibly one of these:

    We tested one of those hands-free stabilizers, but were not very impressed, and are worried that it will not fit well on some of our heavier trainers and also be very uncomfortable after 8 hours (although the handheld camcorders we’ve been looking at are all less than a lb.)

    I was just wondering if anyone has encountered set-ups like this before or have any suggestions. There is no one else on site to help the trainers, so we can’t hook up the camera to a monitor for someone to supervise. I feel like it may one of those situations where I’m just over analyzing the requirements and should just go with one of the hands free action cameras.

    I believe I have this in the right forum, but I apologize in advance if I’m mistaken.

  • Nick Griffin

    January 16, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Excuse me for being blunt, but… WHAT???

    Eight un-edited hours of each inspection?? POV (point of view) shot by a non-professional, who obviously will have other things to do during these eight hours? How many of these recordings will there be? Who is even going to WATCH this??? Has this client ever done this before? Have you or they ever seen anyone who has done something like this before?

    I guess the Field Production COW is the appropriate place to ask about this but to most of us “production” would seldom involve a single camera view for eight hours. Maybe a lock-down or time lapse but eight hours of watching one thing from one POV… probably not.

  • Eric Schoonover

    January 17, 2012 at 12:58 am

    I appreciate the bluntness, because quite frankly, “What?” was my reaction as well.

    The people viewing and requesting this are from a certification organization separate from my company, and basically they want videos of all the candidates’ field exams to verify everything was done properly. Unfortunately their requests seem to be built from common complaints they hear from the examiner’s on the field, with little working knowledge of video equipment and some of it’s limitations or challenges (especially when it will be used by someone out of the film/video field).

    A common field exam lasts 2 hours, but if a candidate is going for multiple certifications, it can be an 8 hour process.

    What we have done for submission in the past is just use an inexpensive handheld camcorder with some high capacity batteries, and have the person running the exam carry it around, with the ability to set it up on a tripod when they will be stationary for a while, or need to take notes. There were a lot of complaints, not just from the crew in our organization, but nationwide, that the handheld cameras were slowing the process down or interfering, so the certification group came up with new guidelines requiring hands free operation.

    So when I saw the new guidelines, I was at a loss, and after looking through multiple options, all with strong downsides, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t completely overlooking something or having a dumb moment.

  • Bill Davis

    January 17, 2012 at 1:28 am


    This is a case of someone who “thinks” they know what they want but doesn’t.

    You could probably get somebody to rig up a pinhole camera in a hard hat, run the feed to a hard drive recorder – and generate “real time” footage of someone doing an inspection.

    On it’s face, thats what your client THINKS they want.

    The reality, however, is that watching even two hours of shaky “point of view” video is pretty much guaranteed to make an audience want to get sick.

    You see in the human brain, stuff like bending over is visually compensated for by the ability to focus your eyes on a fixed point – combine that data with other sensory stuff like inner ear position and muscle feedback – all of which which allows your brain to decode the fact that the world isn’t actually tilting.

    Disconnect the images from the eye-brain system and what you get is a vomit inducing visual field that careens around like a drunken pogo jumper.

    NOBODY will want to watch this stuff. Period.

    When you watch a television “home remodeling show” what you’re actually seeing is multi-thousand dollar steadi-cams that make it LOOK like someone’s walking through a home – but those shots are, in fact, the result of big money equipment and serious camera operator training.

    You can’t get that strapping a camera to your head – nor, typically from handing an untrained inspector a camcorder and telling them to leave it on while you inspect things.

    It just doesn’t work that way.


    “Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions.”-Justice O’Connor

  • Eric Schoonover

    January 17, 2012 at 1:46 am


    Thanks to both you and Nick for the feedback. I think the best thing I can do at this time is to contact them tomorrow and advise them about the concerns mentioned above. I’ll offer the best I can do under the requirements, but just be very frank about the problems they (and those in the field) will encounter with the guidelines set forth. Unfortunately, we don’t have any direct control over what is required of us.

    Thanks again,

  • Mark D’Agostino

    January 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Is it possible to have several cheap cameras set up ahead of time in each of the rooms so that as they enter each room the examiner just has to hit the record button, (or trigger remotely)? If the exam takes place in the same house always they could be permanently mounted. The trainee could wear a wireless and each camera could have a receiver tuned to that transmitter.
    This makes for boring production value but I do understand that that’s not what the certifiers care about. They are simply needing to see the process. Of course the best of all worlds would be to have the budget to hire someone to follow the trainer & trainee with a camera. You could probably find a college student to do this cheaply enough.

    Mark D’Agostino

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