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How OTRO Studios turned footballers into camerapeople

TVBEurope talks to OTRO Studios' Claire McArdle about MTV Cribs: Footballers Stay Home

When OTRO Studios pitched a new footballer-focused series of Cribs to MTV, it had one major difference – this time the footballers themselves would be the camerapeople.

The new series, MTV Cribs: Footballers Stay Home, premieres on MTV’s international channels on 1st June. The series features the likes of Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and David Luiz, England and Manchester United Midfielder Jesse Lingard, Brazil and Manchester United midfielder Andreas Pereira, Belgian footballing legend Axel Witsel and FIFA 2017 female player of the year, Lieke Martens.

The whole series has been produced during lockdown, which has meant not only are the footballers in front of the camera, but they’re behind it as well. While much of the footage was shot by the players themselves, friends and family who have staying with them during lockdown were also charged with filming content.

Jesse Lingard

The team at OTRO Studios sent equipment to each of the players’ homes the day before filming. We provided instructions with all the equipment and talked the players through how to use it all in a remote recce before filming,” OTRO’s managing director, Claire McArdle tells TVBEurope.

The players were supplied with a GOPRO 8 camera mounted on a Zhiyun M2 gimbal. “We devised a specially made mount for a top of the range iPhone 11 to be attached to the side of the gimbal,” explains McArdle. “The iPhone was set up with WhatsApp and Zoom so we could use that as the guide for the editorial teams who were working remotely from their homes, we matched the iPhone shot to that of the GOPRO.” All of the footage was shot in 4K and in cinematic log settings to help the production team with cropping in on shots and giving it a full grade in the edit. 

The rig was developed specifically for the show and enabled the production team to see what the players’ camera was seeing in real time. “That then allowed them to frame up the shots properly and meant they could produce the players at the same time,” says McArdle. “Along with the camera kit, we supplied two mic packages in the flight case that we sent to each player which enabled us to mic up the player and the person filming them.”

As well as the filming taking place remotely, everything in post has also been done remotely. “We used the edit house ENVY, who at the request of MTV have facilitated everything in a truly remote fashion,” says McArdle. “Our editor’s logged in from their homes into Avid suites and edit with our edit producers who are dialled in and watching their screens. Viewings can be done by setting up files with passwords and notes then come back in email form. The grade is then done remotely and online/DUB. We then review on a highspeed link and sign off in real time before the file gets delivered on a media shuttle to MTV.”

Lieke Martens

She adds that all of the players featured in the series “threw themselves into the filming. “Several of the players have asked where the cameras were from and how to get hold of them, so we think they enjoyed it! It was also much less intrusive than having a full crew into their home.”

As to how much of the footage filmed by the players themselves have made it to the final edit, McArdle says it varies from player to player. “But a lot of what the viewers will see will have been filmed by the player and their family members or friends they are self-isolating with.”

Asked if OTRO would work this way again, even when lockdown ends, McArdle gives an emphatic “Yes, we would!”

“We have two other shows where we are exploring shooting elements in this way so that the footage is as authentic as possible,” she continues. “The quality of what we have captured has convinced us that this is a viable way to shoot in the future – under the right circumstances. It’s not necessarily a style of shooting that you would apply to scripted, but for factual it works well, and there is an opportunity to capture moments where a contributor wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable being accompanied by a full filming crew. 

“A lot of the talent that we work with are based internationally – even when lockdown finishes it’s still unclear how easy international travel will be to shoot, so this is a great system to be able to deploy and capture high quality footage in challenging filming circumstances.”