Keeping up with reality is hard enough for cinematographers who have to trudge through the wilderness or navigate other difficult environments to get their shot.
But making sure the shots and the final show look great is another challenge entirely.
Simon Reay, the nominated d.p. on Discovery’s “Man vs. Wild,” says his approach to the show stems from the idea that viewers should feel like they are experiencing the show’s extreme situations alongside host Bear Grylls.
“You do sacrifice some potentially great angles,” says Reay. “If I wanted to rappel to the bottom of the cliff and get him coming down, I could do that, but it wouldn’t look very real, and so that’s really eliminated.”
“Dirty Jobs” d.p. Douglas Glover and camera operator Troy Paff earned their nom for an episode in which they were suspended 60 stories above the ground with shoulder-mounted HD cams to shoot host Mike Rowe learning to wash windows on a skyscraper.
Such challenges — Glover covered the episode with cameras on the ground, minicams attached to helmets and aerial shots from a helicopter — are typical for the series, he says.
“The look is very important to me, and on a show like this, it’s really difficult to maintain a look per se because every day is different and we really don’t get much of a scout — and we move very quick,” says Glover, who received his second nom on the series. “That’s a lot of the fun of it, also.”
In the random conditions of the outdoors, a la “Survivor,” experience counts for a lot — especially since reality shows rarely tweak anything in post aside from the normal color grading.
Bertram van Munster, co-creator and exec producer of “The Amazing Race,” says he developed the show’s style himself as a d.p. and producer on projects ranging from National Geographic films to Fox’s long-running series “Cops.”
Van Munster says he pairs his camera crews with specific contestants to get the best match — and then will change up those teams as the race progresses. Van Munster says the look of the show, which is shot entirely in real time, rests largely on the shoulders of his experienced shooters, led by d.p. Tom Cunningham.
“I allow my cinematographers to tell the story,” says van Munster. “They have a lot of freedom and they deserve to have a lot of freedom.”