With two decades of experience, including work for the BBC, Hugo Boss, and Coca-Cola, David Baumber (aka Multifocus) has perfected the art of creating fantastic footage. In collaboration with his wife and production partner, Helen Fields, Baumber has expertly tackled a wide range of subjects. From their home base in Winchester, England (about 60 miles from London), the pair shoot multiple projects each month, either on location or in their 2,000 square foot studio.
Compelled to start producing stock after Baumber was unable to source sufficiently high-end footage for corporate clients, both contributors have slowly amassed stellar portfolios of original, exceptionally well-crafted clips. We’re pleased that they recently made the decision to contribute to Shutterstock, and grateful to David for taking the time to talk about his development as a producer of stock footage.
Shutterstock: You got your start shooting video professionally while training as a cameraman at the BBC. How did that come about?
David Baumber: I studied media at Chichester College, and on my very last day, the BBC asked us to help lay some cable for their outside-broadcast units at a car rally. They were a cameraman down, so I had an opportunity to step up — on their 60-foot cherry-picker crane filming the finish line! I was offered more work by the same team after that, and ended up filming the BBC's Top Gear series.
Two years later, armed with my camera and a little 3D knowledge, I found myself producing a variety of low-budget corporate films. That work escalated during the late 1990s, and I worked on larger and larger corporate advertising campaigns — including ones for clients like Hugo Boss & Coke.
What made you want to pursue cinematography and production, initially, as a career? Are there things you took away from those days that inform your work now?
I'm an artist who can't draw! I spent many frustrating years feeling super creative but without being able to show it. My father put an old Olympus SLR in my hands, and it was like someone had shone a light on my creative brain. When the job with the BBC appeared, it was ideal for me. I could be creative and get paid! I continue to use the camera disciplines I learned at the BBC, but at the same time I always push myself to go with my own style and a less formal way of working.
What was your very first stock production working with models like?
As I'd shot corporate films and commercials before, working with models and actors for stock was relatively simple. The only difference seems to be that I don't "over" direct them. I'm in control of what's happening, but it's by subtle suggestion, rather than forced. That seems to be the key to the majority of good stock: natural looking scenes. I find it incredibly important to keep the energy in the room up constantly while filming. I give models regular breaks and "quiet time," but as soon as they're back on set, I raise that mood to its optimum level again. I joke with them, I smile, I tell them this is working, this is exactly what I want. If it's not working, I shrug my shoulders and say, “What do you think?” It's rare that a model doesn't have their own idea.
Are there certain shoots in your collection where things came together in a way that surprised you?
It's strange, but quite often the shoots where you feel the location isn't as good as it could be, or your casting doesn't feel right in the morning, by the afternoon you're firing on all four cylinders and going great guns. I think the creative brain likes to be challenged, and it's amazing how it will get you out of a spot when presented with a potential disaster. We shot a business scene outside in a woodland area with the intention of creating a green business concept.
Even though we had a permit to film at that location, we had dog walkers and local residents shouting at us most of the day to get off the land. We politely told them it was okay, and that we were respecting the location, but still, the abuse was a little over the top. Despite the negativity, we found it rather amusing, and the crew and models bonded really well. It's a memorable shoot because we weren't going to let it get us down, and we still joke about it today.
On the flipside, were there situations where things just went horribly wrong, but you were able to salvage the day?
We did have one shoot where a studio light fell from the ceiling and the green screen caught alight just as out main actor phoned to say he wasn't going to make it, as he had a film audition in Paris instead! We used the three remaining actors and some police uniforms to shoot some arrest scenes in the rain instead. There's always something you can shoot for stock.
How do you stay focused when working through a long production day?
I keep my fitness up with intense exercise and realize that my stamina is incredibly important. At 42, I'm no spring chicken, but with strength training I am able to push my body, camera, and creative ideas to the limit. I prefer to go handheld with the Red Epic and allow the compositions to develop themselves. On location, I don't eat for the duration of a 12-hour shoot and my adrenaline level remains high. Last year, I shot footage for 7 days straight, running 100 miles across the Sahara desert with a small team! There's never a dull moment.
What are some of the clips that are favorites of yours, but might be a little less obvious as standouts to the casual viewer?
I really like our sports crowd scenes. The crew and actors we were working with made that day quite special — such a friendly and dedicated bunch of people, especially as it was near-freezing conditions. We were warming ourselves on the HMI lights during breaks. We rented a section of a football stadium and populated about 40 seats. There was an actual game being played at the time, so the reactions were mostly genuine. It's a simple crowd scene, but it works beautifully.
What kinds of things are you looking forward to shooting in the days/months ahead?
I'm torn between shooting the very best business, lifestyle, children, and medical footage with top models and great locations, or perhaps doing more with green-screen and high-speed cameras. Underwater explosions? Why not! Octocopter around a rock climber? Why not? The new MOVI handheld gimbal is going to make shooting really exciting in the next year. Moving the camera more and more and mounting the camera on helicopters, cars, and boats will give me plenty of new creative ideas!