Phil Peel

Film, video, photography, sound and story

Filming Rolling Stones

Posted by Phil On July - 17 - 2013

Why I don’t really like the Rolling Stones.

I recently watched the Rolling Stones performance at Glastonbury on BBC  IPlayer and read that the BBC/ Stones negotiations had been difficult.  Finally only a very much shortened version had been allowed to be transmitted, without the best numbers    This brought back memories of similar problems I’d had directing the  filming of  them years ago for the Beeb.

Rolling stones logo-small

My Rolling Stones sweatshirt

After months of negotiations we arrived at the football stadium with the film crews  (this was actual film not video) to discover that we were only allowed to film three numbers from their set. 

It was a very hot day and I remember sitting in the dusty  lane outside the turnstyles with the irritated cameramen as we waited to hear what we were going to be allowed to shoot.

Various Stones flunkies appeared and disappeared. as we sent messages.  “Satisfaction?” …”no”  “Brown Sugar?”  “no?”
“This was before the days of emails, so we showed copies of the correspondence, none of which had given any limitations in what we could film, but it transpired that the Stones were deeply suspiscious of  BBC crews as they  didn’t want the BBC to build up an archive of  all the Rolling Stones tracks.

Dave Pritchard, the producer,  was furious and at some level in the Stones management, they accepted that we had been misled. So they came up with a placatory offer. “How about an interview with Mick Jagger”

Dave was delighted, but we had no presenter with us. “Phil, can you figure out what to ask him?”
So I sat in the dust and weeds and tried to work out what to ask him.  What do you ask someone who’s been interviewed so many times.? I hadn’t any idea what they had been doing recently or even the names of recent albums.   It would be terrible to get a great opportunity like this and blow it on crass questions.

Moral – Always do your research!

It was intensely hot, we had no water, as we stuck in between the outer and inner security.

1. “How’s the tour going? ”  No..far too obvious.  He must have been asked that a million times.
2. “Do you still get the same excitement performing live?”

..and so on.       

I eventually worked out 10 questions.   ..just as the news came back.  “The interview’s off.”

So finally ringed by security we trudged though under the stage as they played above us. I had a splitting headache  from the heat. It felt like we were going to a public execution .

Setting up in fornt of the stage , the music was so loud, the cameramen couldn’t hear anything I said. Our minders wouldn’t let us film the audience.   They didn’t want me to go from camera to camera. We hadn’t been allowed to see the stage before, figure out good angles .  So the cameraman just busked it. The stage was so huge you couldn’t get a shot of the whole band.  So we mostly ended up with multiple shots of Mick Jagger. From my point of point of view it was a complete mess.

We used the footage. It wasn’t great.

So the Rolling Stones are not my favourite band   …but I did buy  a T shirt  ……..and kept the list of questions for years after.


Update: I found a couple of photos I took that day.

Mick Jagger at Bristol 2Mick Jagger



Multicams – hot and cold

Posted by Phil On December - 21 - 2012

I can remember when the time used to be when doing a multicamera recording used to involve a large truck which drove to the venue.

The director, technical manager and engineers sat inside in air-conditioned comfort. The camera took several crew to lift them onto the tripods. Now not only have the cameras shrunk in size, but the OB truck can be replaced by a small rackbox and laptop.

All can be carried in a small van, but now you have to find a place to put the vision mixing equipment.  …and it’s often in a cramped small store room or even a corridor. (Haven’t done one from a toilet yet)

It’s often not very comfortable. Either too hot or too cold. The recent “En Masse” Rock choir concert at the Point in Eastleigh was of the “too cold” variety.

Here is Ruth (as PA) and I  swathed in overcoats.  …and we’re still cold despite having a radiant heater under the table.


Supper was multiple pizzas.


..and I discovered a good use for the fact that Macbook Pros run hot. I could use it for keeping my pizza warm! But luckily I had eaten the pizza before I needed to use the Macbook again.


The filming went well…with the ATEM mixer and Balck Magic Intensity Pro running into the MacBook via thunderbolt. Seems very stable

First time I’ve used my new jib, with the underslung head. It worked well.


…..but unfortunately we had to clear the theatre quickly and didn’t have time to properly coil the cables, so I ended up next day with over a half kilometre of tangled cables in our kitchen …and hall ..and sitting room.

Untangling cables is best done in a large space. So you can pull them all out and coil them separately. Once they are tangled it’s a bit of a nightmare in a small space. So extracting the first 50 metre length took an hour and a half! ..but as you clear more and more it gets a bit faster.









Thursday night was the annual “turning on” of the Christmas Lights in Salisbury, which I’ve been covering on multicamera for at least the last 10 years.

Salisbury Xmas video screen and fireworks

When doing live multicamera events I always have technical backups, as it’s surprising how often equipment goes down. I think probably the new generation of digital computer controlled systems that can do things we only dreamt about a few years ago are amazing,  but have a nasty habit of crashing when you least expect it.  Gareth Henderson from River Studios told me today that he’s gone back to using analogue audio mixers for live events because of similar problems.

I was using the new ATEM Television Studio HD mixer. It had arrived the week before and immediately failed, so this was my second one in a week. This one also had been showing some intermittent faults, but I didn’t have time to return it. I hoped it would be alright on the night.

Well it wasn’t. After  all the cameras were set up and we ready to go,  the mixer locked up and decided it was going to show green   …and nothing else for the rest of the evening.

ATEM HD Video mixer


So onto plan B. I had brought along and set up an standard definition mixer, as a back up. I knew that the large LED screen, though impressive is actually only standard definition. Of course all the cameras had been originally cabled for High Definition SDI, but I had put in extra sd composite cables for this eventuality.  I didn’t really have enough preview monitors, to be able to preview all the camera  feeds, so the vision mixing couldn’t be quite as slick as I would have liked. But the audience didn’t know and it looked great on the huge LED screen.

Here’s Paul vision mixing. Bit of an untidy monitor stack. Smile

Vision Mixing


The show included Salisbury Rock Choir, singers Jamie Eldridge and Steph Murray,The Delorans and the mandatory celebrity…this year Keith Chegwin, who counted down to the fireworks.

Keith Chegwin Multicamera OB


My natural tendency when directing is to point all the cameras at the action, which at the end of the show is the fireworks, but I realised that this is a bit pointless as the audience can see the real thing, so I point the cameras at audience and do an artistic mix of faces and fireworks. The kids in particular love seeing themselves up on the bit screen.

audience on multicamera OB monitor

Robin on camera in front of the Guildhall.


Here’s Paul Witcombe on camera

Paul on camera


Terry resolutely ignoring the wonderful display behind him!

Terry on Camera


..and the view from the audience

big led screen on multicamera OB




Meeting up with the student crew from Solent University.  A really keen group. I seem to be doing my normal trick of waving my arms around a lot.  🙂



Going through the script with Will, who was  vision mixing.


I had worked through the script, doing the normal analysis, highlighting who was speaking when, so I could work out which cameras could cover what. But though many scenes had 2 or 3 characters in, some had  6 to 8  and one had 13 different speaking roles.  As a scriptwriter my instinct would be to cut the number of characters, but this was the Last Supper.  Not a scene were you could suggest cutting the numbers of participants!   🙂


So on the Thursday afternoon, after some debate, we worked out the camera positions. With 5 stages and 8 cameras to cover them, it might seem a lot of cameras, but  with 3 stages at one end of the square and 2 at the other it meant less than 2 cameras for each stage. So the solution was to have the cameras fairly central at each end, so they had clear sightlines and could move across to cover each stage as needed.  The difficulty was that some of these moves were very fast.


Friday morning,  we went through a fairly haphazard rehearsal, which highlighted the problems of moving the cameras around quickly to get decent sightlines. Not helped by having spare staging blocking our camera positions.


But more critical was my inability to simultaneously direct and read my script notes.


Unfortunately there was no-one available who could act as production assistant.  So the VT operator offered to help.  Sorry I can’t remember your name


So we went through the pages of script.


P1020262-1 P1020263-1


The way I mark up a performance script is to highlight the performers on the script and then add info on where they are standing and moving on the facing page.  For the Last Supper scene I ran out of different highlighter colours !



Solent’s OB truck is slightly oddly designed for vision mixing. The front is filled with the most enormous spectacular wall to wall audio mixer, custom fitted, but the vision mixer is tucked away at an angle on a side table. The output monitor is little too high to see in the same sightline as the mixer without neck ache  and there isn’t a lot of space to put scripts on.   Still after a bit of re-arranging the furniture we got a workable compromise.  You can see me peering at the monitor.



VT play in was from an Ipad, which you can see at the bottom here.


First off was the warm up band



Anyway dead on 7:30  the square was filled with people and we got the the OK to go and played in the first opening VT.

…at which point the was a bang and everything went dead.

Coming out of the darkened truck, everyone wondered what had happened. I could smell burning and it was eventually tracked down to a burnt out power cable, which had been left coiled up under the truck.

A good example of the effect of running power through a coiled up cable drum. It gets very HOT!


It was actually quite fortuitous that it had blown before the main performance had commenced.

So having powered up again, (it would have been saved a few headaches if the truck had had a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) everything seemed OK so we  started again. Unfortunately the Audio mixer hadn’t fully rebooted.  …and that took an age. then the “Stageboxes” needed rebooting.

Everybody was hustling the poor guy on the audio desk “How long long?”   but he did a great job of staying cool and working his way through he menus.


(It seems you can’t switch on anything  technical nowadays, without it having to “boot up”

There are some disadvantages to computers. )


You can see the audio desk in the background here.


So as the large audience were waiting, we decided to go ahead with the vision only and PA people would play in the sound for the opening VT independently. So we ran the VT pix and  Phil le Clem ran from us to PA desk counting out loud to get the  sync right. 🙂



The plan was to get OB truck  sound system sorted out as we were “broadcasting” the programme.



This worked fine, except we couldn’t get the on stage sound out on the OB truck internal speakers, which meant I couldn’t hear anything. Not easy to mix complex multi-character scenes when you can’t hear the dialogue.  So we opened the door and I listened to the sound from the main PA!    🙂

Not easy to identify who is talking, when you’re listening to an echoing PA.  still it seemed to work.



So we started with the 3 stages at one end of the square.  then a procession covered by wireless link camera through to the other end



..and back to the first stage.    …and then back and forht a few times.


The only other problem was a short VT play-in from the Ipad of a nicely filmed dramatic scene.

When we came to play this the sound was fine but no pictures!   I decided that as we were right in the middle of the most dramatic parts of the play it would be best not to stop. The audience could hear what was happening and hopefully think it was a deliberate artistic decision.

When the sequence had finished, we discovered that all we needed to do was unplug and replug the Ipad and it ran the video pictures fine.  Must have been very frustrating for the film crew after all the time spent producing the sequence. but that’s what happens with live TV.


So apart from these technical hitches, it all ran fine. The camera crew and I had all learnt to work together and from the feedback we got the organisers were very happy too.


So  a good day.