It’s critical for crews to monitor the shot on set, but sometimes your clients also want access to the shot just to know everything’s going smoothly. If you have a dedicated client monitor on every shoot, you’re in good shape. If you don’t, they’ll either have to share a monitor with video village, or follow your camera around while breathing down your neck. We can safely say that no filmmaker in this world wants to be in that position.
Monitoring can be a tricky thing especially on smaller-level productions. How many monitors are you bringing? Are they wireless? How many transmitters/receivers will there be? Who on set gets priority? It’s easy to just cram everyone onto a single monitor, but that affects everyone’s ability to do their job properly and slows down the production. You also want to be conscious of budgets and not spend too much on your monitoring systems. It’s a delicate balance, just as any other tool in your camera package.
So what options do you have for client monitoring? We share a couple of use cases ranging from major Hollywood productions to small, independent production houses and what monitoring solutions they use for clients.
Long Range Zero Delay
XM2 - Bolt 10K
XM2 is the VFX drone company behind multiple major features: Thor: Ragnarok, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Westworld S2, Pacific Rim 2. Because XM2’s aircrafts are flying 1-2 miles from the starting location, they rely on the Bolt 10K, which gives up to 10,000 feet of wireless range at zero delay.
To do this, a Bolt 3000 is mounted to their drone and connected to the camera. A pilot flies the aircraft while monitoring from a SmallHD monitor on the ground. Because the Bolt 10K is directional, XM2 has operators panning & tilting the receiver to maintain the zero-delay connection all throughout the shoot.
“We absolutely need the instant imagery when we’re shooting. When you have 700-800 people on set, there can’t be any delays, so we need it to be working guaranteed every time. In the thousands of hours we’ve spent on set using it on our drones, the Teradek has never failed us once.” - Stephen Oh, CEO of XM2.Check out how they do it here:
The Magic of Drone Cinematography & Wireless Video with XM2
Jon Belinski - Bolt 3000s
An Emmy-award winning DP, Jon Belinski founded Belinski Media in 2005 and has been working directly with major networks like Fox Sports, HBO, MLB, and NFL ever since. He recently filmed the MLB All-Star Game’s TV commercial “teases”, which aired on national cable TV, as well as projects with Conor McGregor, Sylvester Stallone, Samuel L. Jackson and much more.
For all of his monitoring needs, Jon relies on his two Bolt 3000s. He works with 2 cameras for most of his productions, and whether its in a studio with the MLB or out in the field with the PGA, Jon always chooses zero-delay wireless monitoring over wired monitoring.
“No matter what shoot I’m on we always have the Bolts with us. We don’t have time to be setting up cables on set, especially for shots that need a lot of movement. Clients also want to be able to see the shot so one of the monitors goes to them.”
“Being cable free makes life so much easier. My Bolt 3000s work just as well as any cabled monitoring system, so I don’t ever have to worry when I’m on set. Not to mention when your production is clean, it also looks way more professional to your clients.” - Jon Belinski.Check out how he does it here:
How to Shoot for Major Clients & Talent w/ Emmy-Award Winning DP Jon Belinski
Short Range Zero Delay
Chris Grubisa - Bolt 500 XT
Chris Grubisa is a DP, lifestyle content creator, and co-founder of Chrilleks in Los Angeles & Toronto. For his mostly commercial shoots, Chris uses the Bolt 500 XT on a Ronin II or handheld to always have his clients and crew monitoring while he operates cable-free. On a shoot with Gymshark, the Bolt 500 XT sent video to Chris’ 17” SmallHD monitor on the other side of the studio, where the director, crew and clients watched.
“The footprint on the Bolt is super compact, which is exactly how I like it. It’s lightweight and attached to the Ronin unnoticed. When on my feet with high energy, especially working with gimbals, I don’t want anything tying me down or holding me back. That’s my zone. If I’m limited in my movement I won’t get the best shots for my clients. The Bolt is extremely reliable, and that’s one less concern of mine when I step on set. I’m there to make beautiful images, tell a story, not to troubleshoot.” - Chris GrubisaCheck out how he does it here:
Why I Moved to LA to Pursue My Dreams
MAKE films - Serv Pro
A production house based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, MAKE films works on commercial and narrative films for their local communities, having done commercials for Stauffers (grocery chain), Frontline Education, EBY Trailers and Truck Bodies, and much more. As a smaller film company, MAKE films typically works with smaller budgets to keep client and operating costs low. They rely on the Serv Pro.
Serv Pro takes in any SDI source and broadcasts it to up to 10 smartphone/tablets on set. At just 2 frames of delay, MAKE films’ clients connect directly to the Serv Pro on their own personal devices (iPhones, Android phones, etc.), allowing them to monitor from anywhere within range. This gives the crew the ability to monitor from the video village (which uses a Bolt 1000), and clients to monitor from a distance.
“Our job as filmmakers in this space is to ensure our clients get the best results possible. At MAKE films, we handle all of the creative from start to finish. Oftentimes, we have tight deadlines to work with. Features like Frame Compare and devices like Serv Pro have really made our production more efficient and freed up our time to explore other ways to make our client’s video even better.” - Derek Dienner, Director & Founder of MAKE films.Check out how they do it here:
How VUER’s “Frame Compare” Tool Saves Time on Set with MAKE films
One Vote at a Time - Serv Pro
Traveling can complicate the monitoring setup, but One Vote at a Time found an alternative. Filming documentary-style run-and-gun in multiple states means having to pack lightly and affordably, so instead of bringing heavy monitors and zero-delay systems, the team utilizes two Serv Pros. The Serv Pros are connected to A and B cam, sending video to devices within 300 ft. of range. Devices can pick up both video feeds (up to 4) and displays them on the control surface of the VUER app, allowing the crew and clients to monitor both feeds simultaneously.
“When our directors are working, we all need to be able to see what our DP is getting, with ease, from anywhere. That means the middle of a field, a farm, a fair. We can't constantly set up. We need to be able to move like a doc crew without sacrificing quality and this system really facilitates that. Even just for simple hero shots for B-roll, it allows us the freedom to move around.” - Mara Tasker, Founder of One Vote.Check out how they do it here:
The Best Way to Monitor On The Road
Chris Cavanaugh is a Local 600 DIT based in Los Angeles who works on major TV and movie productions, such as Captain America: Winter Soldier, Furious 7, Magnum P.I and more. As a DIT, Chris is in charge of all of the video routing on set, ensuring every crew can see an image no matter where the camera moves. For his setups, he has all cameras mounted with Bolt 3000s sending wireless video to his cart. These video feeds are routed via hardwired to multiple monitors on set. At the same time, all video feeds are piped into Serv Pros, allowing everyone on set with iPhones and Androids to view the shot without having to be behind a monitor.
“We always need a reliable image that works just as well as a cabled system. With Bolts, I’m getting those feeds to my cart instantly and rerouting them to every monitor and iPad/iPhone on set. A lot of crews love having the Serv Pros too. My DP is able to take his iPad onto set and not run back and forth to the video village. Hair & makeup can also take notes from their stations, and the boom op can adjust his positioning without bothering the crew.” - Chris Cavanaugh.Check out how he does it:
What’s on DIT Chris Cavanaugh’s Cart?