How Anna Valley helped STV Productions capture steamy scenes in The Dressing Room
W’s latest factual entertainment series relies completely on the ability of fixed rig filming setups to make cast members forget their inhibitions. Described as a fly-on-the-wall documentary, “The Dressing Room” gives TV audiences unprecedented access to team-sport dynamics off the field of play by inviting them into the hidden world of dressing rooms at venues across the country.
The series of six, sixty-minute episodes features a cast of women’s, men’s and mixed teams from football to water polo and roller derby, and focusses on the dynamic characters and emotional interactions that normally take place behind closed doors.
“The Dressing Room promises a unique insight into the way we relate as people during our most highly charged moments,” said Steve North, W’s general manager. “By taking a pared-down approach with a fly-on-the-wall documentary, our viewers will see the human connections that people make on and off the pitch, making this a warm-hearted and life-affirming series.”
The series is the first project born out of a partnership between STV Productions and Motion Content Group to produce new entertainment, factual and drama projects for the UK and international markets. STV Productions has a record of success across a range of TV genres with programmes like Antiques Road Trip, Catchphrase and Safeword. Motion is part of the largest media investment group in the world, GroupM.
The producers chose Shooting Partners to provide camera equipment and technical support for the UKTV original series.
“We chose Shooting Partners for their experience in flexible, fixed rig productions and because they could provide crew and project management support. They’re also big enough to handle changing requirements, but small enough to still give clients personal attention.”
– Isa Campbell, line producer
Speed and flexibility – essential for sports teams and camera crews
Despite its name, “The Dressing Room” was shot in fourteen dressing rooms across the country – ranging from Welsh village rugby clubs to Leisure Centres in Middlesbrough and Milwall Football Club Stadium in London. The crew were often only able to recce locations a couple of days before the shoot and regularly had just one day to rig, shoot and wrap at a location before moving on.
The main kit components were 8 x Panasonic AW-UE70 remote head cameras, controlled with the Panasonic AW-RP120 controller, recording onto the Quadrus system. Shooting Partners also provided two Sony FS7s for interviews and wide shots and Encapsulite tube lights to boost ambient light levels in a way that looked natural in the tight dressing room spaces.
“Flexibility and quick rig setup time were critical to this production’s success,” said Ash Star, Shooting Partners project manager. “We chose the Panasonic AW-UE70’s, in part, because they’re so easy to set up and designed the system around them to be rigged in under 4 hours. We also provided a temporary mobile gallery setup in the back of a van for locations that didn’t have space to accommodate the gallery inside.”
Campbell adds, “This production had a very fluid schedule and the technical team had an integral part in assessing whether locations were suitable for filming. The Shooting Partners team were very technically competent and flexible to the production’s changing needs.”
What happened when things got steamy
In addition to the challenges posed by rigging the gear in multiple settings over tight timeframes, the crew faced some unexpected complications, unique to these shooting locations. Steam from the showers and rainy weather fogged up camera lenses in some locations, while other dressing rooms got so cold that equipment failure was a risk.
“We solved the steam problem by coating the camera lenses with a product designed for car windscreens,” explains Starr, “and we kept the Quadrus storage running in freezing temperatures by disconnecting the cooling fans and covering it in blankets to retain the heat the system generates.”
One of the biggest challenges to shooting in such an intimate environment was obviously protecting the dignity of the participants – luckily a bit of flesh was the least interesting of all the revelations made in The Dressing Room.
The Dressing Room is one of those ideas that, when you hear it, you can’t quite believe it’s not been done before. It’s so simple but has a unique mixture of the genuinely moving, funny, motivational and, ultimately, life-affirming. Be prepared for the hair on the back of your neck to stand up.
– Senior commissioning editor for UKTV, Iain Coyle