My First Location Shoot In The New Coronavirus World

23rd April 2020 No comments
My First Location Shoot In The New Coronavirus World

Note about COVID-19

This article talks about the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in a global lockdown in 2020. Please bear in mind that attitudes have changed dramatically throughout the lockdown period, and the content below may not reflect current views or practices.

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I spoke about my first post-coronavirus lockdown filming experience in an episode of our podcast “Are We Rolling?”

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What I was doing, and why…

Last week I went up to London for a couple of days to provide evidential filming for one of my clients in the cleaning industry. They were running an autonomous cleaning trial at a large school, where the results of the trial will open up further opportunities for cleaning spaces like this while allowing for social distancing, ultimately making it easier and safer for these spaces to re-open after coronavirus. This work is very important right now; enough so that on this occasion my involvement was considered essential.

As the title alludes to, this was my first shoot following the coronavirus lockdown, as most projects I work on wouldn’t be considered essential right now, and (above all else) I’m not prepared to put my life or the life of my colleagues at risk for something that isn’t vital at the moment. We need to respect the guidance from the government and take this virus incredibly seriously, which is largely why I haven’t posted anything about this shoot on social media or anything until now. I didn’t want a short throwaway post to be taken out of context, as I strongly believe that we should be staying at home as much as possible, and I don’t want to encourage people to do otherwise.

So, with that framing, I’d like to share my experience of my first video shoot in this new coronavirus world. I hope that sharing this will help my colleagues in the video industry who are looking at how they can continue operating going forward, by giving them some ideas for their own operational and to start a conversation about how my own can be improved too.

I also hope it reassures my clients that we’re taking every necessary precaution to ensure that we’re not going to become a negative factor in this pandemic.

Social Distancing and PPE

As it currently stands, the most important thing right now is social distancing. I made very clear to my client at the start that I would be doing all I reasonably could to maintain 2m distance from any other person, as the government recommends, and advised them that if I started moving away from them it wasn’t because I was being rude or anti-social, just trying to stay safe. I certainly didn’t want to catch the virus, and equally I didn’t want to risk giving them the virus. Until we have widespread testing that can catch asymptomatic cases, we must all assume that we have it, and at all times.

The school I was filming at had a small skeleton crew operating, consisting of a few school staff, cleaners, and the team running the trial (including myself). As a result, maintaining social distancing was easy to do. We were mainly working in the school hall, atrium and sports hall, which were large, open spaces. We were never forced into close proximity by the location.

Apart from a few minor breaches, I was able to maintain distance the whole time I was there. The only times I broke distance were when I walked through a door that someone was holding open for me. I was carrying a lot of equipment and it had a security system I couldn’t access – a note for improvement.

There were also a couple of times when people walked a little bit too close as they were trying to get past me. We had plenty of space, and I certainly wasn’t blocking the way, but I guess they weren’t paying attention or just weren’t personally bothered about maintaining distance. It was no worse than passing someone in an aisle at the supermarket, which is by no means an excuse, but it gives a point of reference.

Choosing the right PPE

With respect to PPE, I wore gloves but chose not to wear a mask. Filming requires a lot of communication, so obstructing my mouth would have made it hard to give clear instructions. With social distancing in place, I felt comfortable not wearing one. If I was in a smaller space – even my studio – I would have considered it necessary to wear one.

The gloves fundamentally didn’t do anything to protect me against coronavirus as (as far as anybody is aware) it’s not hazardous to skin like a chemical and it doesn’t enter/exit through the pores. However, the gloves were an important reminder not to touch my face, which is why I chose to wear them the whole time I was on location.

Limiting use of shared equipment

Although I wasn’t sharing any equipment with anybody else (we did one interview, which I recorded using a boom mic, not a lapel mic like I normally would, reducing any need for contact), there were a few shared-use door handles on site, and scratching an itch or wiping my brow after opening a door could have put me risk.

Additionally, the gloves also helped me keep track of what I had touched and when. I made sure not to touch any camera equipment (including bagged equipment) without gloves on as this would be going onto site. Things that were staying in my car, like my lunch, were only touched with clean, gloveless hands to limit any contamination.

Each time I ate lunch or let for the day, I took my gloves off and washed my hands. I also wore a hoodie so that I could use the sleeves to open any doors between the toilet (where I washed my hands) and my car. I took the hoodie off before driving home to avoid spreading any contaminants inside my car, and I changed my shirt too for good measure. I’d also made a mental note of which door handles on my car should be opened with gloves, and which ones should be opened with my hands. (Driver’s door with my hands only, naturally.)


Speaking of travel, because I was driving and I was alone, I felt like my journey was very safe. In fact, the client specifically suggested I drove independently rather than getting a lift with them – which is sometimes what we do to save on fuel/emissions. I got into my car after loading kit at my office and I got out of my car at the location. There was no risk of contracting coronavirus from the travel. (Naturally, I didn’t even consider public transport, which is usually how I’d travel to London. Too risky.)

The only thing I was conscious of inside my car was my phone, which I needed to use on site to operate some of our camera kit (like GoPros), but also needed to use in the car as my satnav. Thankfully I could use Siri to start my route back to Southampton without touching the phone at all, and I disinfected it when I got back so that I felt comfortable using it when my hands were “clean” again.

Additional efforts

A couple of additional efforts made; I consciously took a packed lunch with me (probably the first time I’ve done this since I was at school) so that I wouldn’t need to leave the site to get food. Alone, I ate this in my car.

I also took a spare key for my car so that I could have a “clean” key for driving (which I did gloveless with clean hands), and a “dirty” key for opening and closing the car as I offloaded and reloaded my kit with potentially infected gloves on. Each key was kept in separate pockets to remove any risk of cross contamination. The car key thing may be a bit overkill, but it was convenient for me to do it and it’s all in an effort to reduce risk.

Minimising risk upon return

Once I got back to the office, I offloaded my kit and stored it in our studio, which I have mentally designated as a “contamination” zone. By contrast, our office and edit suite are “safe” zones where every effort needs to be made to ensure that there is no possible risk of infection in there. (It should be as safe as my home.)

This meant washing my hands when moving between rooms, and only taking items that would be coming home with me into “safe zone” rooms. Under no circumstances did I want to risk bringing the coronavirus home, so the list of things I brought into the “safe zone” rooms was small. It was really just my phone and the media from the cameras.

Managing camera media

One thing I hadn’t considered on site was that the camera media (SD Cards) would be touched by gloved hands when putting it in the cameras, but would also need to come home with me so that I could edit the footage. (Transfers can take a long time, so doing it at home made more sense. I had another early start the next day, so I left the computer copying files overnight.)

For a long time we’ve kept a pair of tweezers in all of our SD Card packs to help pull the cards out of one of our cameras which has a finicky design. When I was at the office I washed the tweezers with soapy water, dried them, then took the cards out of the cameras using the now-clean tweezers. I placed them in a clean storage pouch and took them home with me.

Once I got home it was time to throw my clothes in the wash and have a shower. Once I was clean, I used tweezers again to put the SD Cards into a card reader (with moderate difficulty), and then into my laptop. This way I didn’t touch the cards with my hands. The risk of getting coronavirus from an SD Card is minuscule, but it’s still a risk.

Once the transfer was finished, I removed the SD Cards from the reader with the tweezers again.

The “new normal” is all about managing risk

Finally, speaking on risk – something that I completely forgot to mention at the start.

Before the shoot I prepared a coronavirus specific risk assessment, and everything I’ve described in this post was carried out in accordance with it. We’ve also made our COVID-19 Risk Assessment template available for you to download below.

Because of social distancing, the risk was low enough that the shoot was able to proceed. If social distancing wasn’t possible we wouldn’t have proceeded with the shoot at all, no matter the commercial implications. If it’s not clear already, we’re taking this really seriously.

Download our Coronavirus Risk Assessment

Take a look at the risks we assess when carrying out filming during the coronavirus pandemic. You can download our COVID-19 Risk Assessment in PDF and Apple Numbers formats below.

Download as PDF • Download as Numbers

As you read this post, you may be thinking that all of this sounds like a lot – and frankly, it is. There’s a tremendous amount of additional cognisance required to dance around coronavirus. But it’s very much necessary right now, and will be for a long time to come.

However, by taking the risk seriously, I was able to complete the work in a way where I can confidently say (one week later) that we were successful in not contributing to the spread of this awful disease. And, as per the current lockdown situation, further proves that if we’re willing to go to this level of effort for an otherwise fairly simple shoot, it’s because the work is absolutely necessary right now.

How are you handling the COVID-19 pandemic within your business? Have you made any changes to how your business is operating? Has my post inspired you or given you ideas, or do you have feedback about something I might have missed or overlooked?

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. I’d love to hear from you!

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