Produced by Lion Television and set over eight one hour episodes, the new series of Playing It Straight for E4 is the reality game show that “throws down the ultimate gaydar gauntlet, with money at stake for the man who can ‘play it straight’”.
Arriving on location in Girona, Spain, the contestants, consisting of eleven guys and one girl, are shocked with the news from T4 presenter Jameela that this is not quite the dating show they had applied for. It is announced that some of the men are gay but “playing it straight” in a bid to fool the girl, who must eliminate contestants each week until the final. If she ends up choosing a straight contestant he and she share the £50k cash prize. If she chooses a gay contestant, the full £50k is his and the girl wins nothing.
The majority of this reality show was shot on three Sony PMW-500 cameras, with secondary footage captured on Sony PMW-EX3s with external Nanoflash recorders, all supplied by Pro Motion Hire. Initially, the production had considered using locally-sourced equipment for this six week shoot but for DoP Sean Nolan, Pro Motion was the natural choice:
“I have an excellent relationship with Pro Motion Hire. I have great confidence in their kit, it’s always clean and tidy. I wanted to arrive on location knowing the kit would be what I expected and in excellent working order. And with the strength of the Euro and the fact that Pro Motion were able to ship the equipment to and from Spain, it made it a no-brainer.”
Sean Nolan, DoP, Playing it Straight
Several factors influenced the decision to choose the Sony PMW-500 and the XDCAM format for this production. “We needed a robust camera that was lightweight, had low power consumption and that could record at broadcast quality 50mbps for extended periods”, Nolan explains, “and the Sony PMW-500 fit this bill perfectly.”
For a reality show such as this, the camera crew needed to be able to move freely, often in
challenging rural locations, recording long takes, without the constraints of short battery life or low capacity media. With the PMW-500, which is notably lighter than many shoulder-mounted cameras, they were able to record four hours of continuous footage over two 64GbSxS memory cards, all on one battery. Nolan adds, “The camera was robust enough to cope with the temperature changes throughout the day and night and on one particularly arduous day I was suspended halfway up a rock face, filming the contestants
abseiling, so using a lightweight camera without the need to lug tape stock and loads of heavy batteries up there with me was a massive plus!”.
Overall, Nolan’s experience with the PMW-500 has been very positive: “This camera is fantastic and we didn’t have a single issue throughout the six weeks of filming. This is in part due to the care and attention that Pro Motion Hire take over their equipment but also it was down to the very robust and reliable camera. I will have no hesitation in using it again, particularly on multi-camera setups, and I look forward to working with the format on my next project.”
Of course, shooting the footage was only half of the battle and one of the biggest challenges faced on this production was managing such a large volume of file-based rushes. Each camera team was allocated five 64Gb SxS cards and so were potentially submitting up to ten hours of footage for transfer per day. Lion TV’s Kate Melbourne had the daunting task of managing and backing-up these files each day via Macbook Pro, on to G-Safe Marvel 1TB mirrored hard drives, included in the Pro Motion Hire package.
The process was made considerably easier for her, however, thanks to the intuitive and user-friendly XDCAM workflow which allows for highly organised file storage and comprehensive metadata application.
This ensured that all of the footage was doubly backed-up and properly labelled, enabling Kate to send one hard drive back to the edit team in UK via courier, whilst keeping a duplicate copy safe on location.
“I was able to liaise with the edit team with real confidence that the rushes were properly organised and exactly where they should have been. Without that“, Melbourne remarks, “dealing with this much footage in these circumstances would have been impossible”.