Alister Chapman is a freelance DoP/producer/editor/stereographer…. jack of all trades perhaps, that has worked in broadcast television since 1984. I studied electronics to degree level and my first job was helping design microwave links for TV and radio O.B’s. Then I went to work for Aston Electronics in the service department looking after caption generators.
Around this time I started experimenting with fitting video cameras into Rally and Race cars. My hobby was rally driving and at weekends I used to film club events with a JVC KY2000 tube camera and a u-matic portable recorder. A production company called BHP saw what I was doing and offered me a job developing in car cameras and filming motor racing. At the time BHP provided almost all of the BBC’s motorsports programmes. After a couple of years at BHP I went freelance in order to concentrate more on camera work and less on mini-cams. That was in 1990, I have been freelance ever since. Along the way I worked for extended periods as a cameraman and editor for the PBA making sports magazine shows for Sky and Eurosport, mainly featuring windsurfing and snowboarding. I also worked as an editor and ran the edit suites for a highly regarded facilities company called DVA. During this period I used a broad range of cameras and equipment from 16mm film, BetacamSP, Digibeta and the early days of DVCAM.
Then in 1999, I got a commission from National Geographic to produce a one hour special about Tornado Chasing.
The programme which aired internationally (Twister Tours) was a big hit and introduced me to severe and extreme weather. I have always enjoyed watching thunderstorms, ever since I was a child but the combination of adventure, danger and the challenge of getting top quality footage of extreme weather is something I find irresistible. Since then I have specialized in filming natures extremes and this has taken me up to the Arctic in winter to shoot the Northern lights, to the deserts of Arizona for monsoon thunderstorms as well as countless tornado and hurricane chasing adventures. My weather footage is used in all kinds of programmes from kids TV shows to BBC natural history and even a few feature films. It’s quite likely that you will have seen it somewhere tucked away within a TV show, museum exhibition or web clip of some kind.
Don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t just shoot the weather! I continue to shoot occasional motorsports events as well as a lot of airshows and aviation programmes. I produce many hours of corporate videos every year and in 2004 I started working with 3D using a Nu-View stereoscopic camera adapter. For the past 5 years have even been making big budget stereoscopic 3D programmes using my own stereoscopic camera rigs, recent camera developments have made it much easier to shoot 3D well, even with only small budgets. I enjoy the challenge that 3D presents, it is a much more technical exercise than 2D. I now have many highly regarded stereoscopic films to my name as either camera operator, stereographer or S3D consultant. S3D clients include Sony, Toyota, IBM, and Discovery/IMAX. As well as shooting S3D I also run introductory workshops for those interested in getting a better understanding of how it works.
I have consulted on major projects for major museums, worked with the military, provided stock footage to over 30 different clients, produced corporate videos and film for the BBC, Sky, NBC, National Geographic and Discovery and many, many others. In between all this, I run workshops on various cameras, production techniques and 3D production for Sony, equipment dealers, Santa Fe Workshops, the F-Stop Academy and the VI academy. In addition, I am a guest lecturer at several polytechnics and Universities around the world. When I started out as a cameraman I found it very difficult to learn about how to set up cameras. In some respects, this is seen as a bit of a dark art, not because it’s technically difficult, but because it is very subjective. Over the years I have learned a vast amount about cameras, filming techniques and related equipment. Now I wish to share some of that knowledge and encourage others to delve into their cameras menus and get the most from what for many people is a considerable investment.
“I specialize in shooting extreme weather, so I never know what I am going to encounter, but one thing is for certain, my Stella lights will always perform, no matter how bad the weather. Wherever I go, wherever I end up, I have beautiful, controllable light from a remarkably compact, self-contained package.”
~ Alister Chapman, DoP, Cinematographer