Opinion / Chris Peterson

Capturing the referendum debate on camera

By Chris Peterson (China Daily Europe) Updated: 2016-06-17 08:31

Expanding my horizons at China Daily, and learning how to shoot a video

There are two sayings in English that are profoundly relevant to what I'm going to write about this week, with your indulgence.

One is, you're never too old to learn, and the other is, when in doubt, wing it.

These two phrases were in the forefront of my mind when I set about the latest challenge to confront me here at China Daily.

Capturing the referendum debate on camera

The assignment seemed pretty straightforward. Let's produce a two-minute video for China Daily to run on its social media platforms and websites, to complement our planned reporting of the momentous EU referendum facing Britons this month.

Oh no, I hear you cry, not more stuff on Brexit. Well, this is not so much about whether or not Britain will vote to remain in the European Union on June 23, but how Chinese, English, Australian, Polish and Hungarian ingenuity combined to produce what I personally feel is a cracking video. And we had a lot of laughs along the way.

I contacted Samantha Vadas, a freelance Australian-Hungarian who occasionally writes for us, and who I happen to know was a video reporter and television anchor back in her native Australia. Yes, she'd give it a shot.

So next up, I wrote a script. Easy. At which point a colleague asked exactly how we were going to shoot it. My airy comment to shoot on an iPhone was dismissed out of hand.

Enter two enthusiastic web editors, colleagues from Beijing, coming to the end of an assignment here in London. Song Wei and Liu Jing ended up wielding two heavy Canon DLR stills cameras that can shoot professional videos.

Next up, a check with the marketing department to see if they had a backdrop carrying the China Daily name. No problem, according to Tymon Strzelczyk and Jiang Shan, which meant they spent nearly an hour wrestling a canvas and aluminium frame into position in a cramped studio.

Capturing the referendum debate on camera

All the time I'm sitting back in the director's chair, with a slightly bemused expression on my face. The enthusiasm level, I may say, was terrific.

Now what do we need? Well, we had two camera tripods, onto which the Canon cameras slotted perfectly. Samantha, who'd been doing her own makeup and running through the script, asked politely where the autocue was. The what?

The autocue, that screen located just by the camera that presenters read from. It has to be at eye-level, she said sweetly.

A quick check with the indefatigable Alice Chen, our highly capable administrator, produced another tripod. (Alice, what else do you keep in that drawer behind your desk?)

Samantha, in the meantime, found autocue software online that allows you to read the script on your iPad as the device's camera is filming your face.

Now, how do we fix the iPad at eye-level so it doesn't fall over? Alice! Blue tack and sticky tape, please.

Crunch time. Samantha read through the script a couple of times, and then it was time for recording. Yes, readers, I did say "Action!" And yes, I did say "that's a wrap" at the end. And a wrap it was, after Tymon, our senior marketing manager, proved himself an adept video editor. Using two cameras proved to be a stroke of genius.

So forgive this indulgent bit of self-publicity from China Daily, but I wanted to say a public thank you to everyone who proved that when East meets West, it really does work.

The author is managing editor of China Daily European Bureau, based in London. Contact the writer at

Most Viewed Today's Top News