Visual Reality Productions – The Podcast


Turbo: Welcome to Shootzu, the podcast. My name is Turbo, and this is the podcast for photo and video professionals from around the world. We chat to you guys. We chat to those seasoned professionals of the industry, as well as the newcomers breaking in and wanting to scale their business. It’s all about you, and everyone has a story to tell.

Turbo: Today we’re moving into the video production side of things once again, with Peter Liddicoat. He is the founder of Visual Reality Productions, based in Australia.

Turbo: Welcome to Shootzu, Peter.

Peter Liddicoat: Hello, James. Thank you very much for having me.

Turbo: Hey, I’ve been following your journey for a little bit over the past few years, but I must admit my stalking hasn’t been the greatest. Whereabouts are you based these days.

Peter Liddicoat: I’m now on the Gold Coast. 36 years in WA, originally from Melbourne, but now I needed a sea change and have been in the Gold Coast for two years.

Turbo: So you keep moving around a little bit, but obviously I’ve known your story from primarily being based in Perth. What led you from Perth to the other side of the country?

Peter Liddicoat: Just a sea change, pretty much, and more work. The economy in Perth really tanked, so not too many people were booking wedding videographers and event videographers, so the economy just tanked really badly.

Turbo: Why do you think that is? Because, obviously, people are still getting married every day; there’s weddings all the time. Why do you think it’s sort of slowed down over there?

Peter Liddicoat: The mining boom. There was a lot of bookings, but then, when people had to cut back on luxuries, the first thing to go was wedding videos.

Turbo: Moving across to the Gold Coast, that’s obviously changed things a little bit for you. Did you do any research before moving to the Gold Coast?

Peter Liddicoat: I’ve had a connection with the Gold Coast for the last 18 years. I’ve been coming backwards and forwards for events every, like two or three times a year for the last 18 years, so I’ve had a connection with the Gold Coast. Then, a friend said, “Why don’t you move over here full-time?” And I said, “Yeah, it’s about time that I do.” After 36 years in one town, I did need, literally, a sea change.

Turbo: 2001 was when you kicked off Visual Reality Productions as a business, but where did the whole video production story begin for you? It was a bit before then, wasn’t it?

Peter Liddicoat: 1990. Back in the ’90s, you needed a hundred grand to set up an editing suite, a linear editing suite, and 25 grand at least to buy a ENG sized camera, so not everybody got into the business. I was just shooting for a studio and then, 2001, my full-time work went into receivership, so I went, “Blow this, it’s time to give this a shot full-time.” And have been full-time in the business since 2001.

Turbo: Brilliant. How did you go about finding the majority of your own clients once you did establish that business?

Peter Liddicoat: Word of mouth, good clients in a corporate sense, but mostly word of mouth. A few expos, but this was … Now, I’m trying expos, but really, I’m realizing that the marketing now, is Instagram and Facebook, and I admit that I haven’t really got my head around Instagram and Facebook marketing.

Turbo: You have touched on doing more expos these days. How are you finding the crowds at the expos? Are they more just window shoppers or are people coming to book?

Peter Liddicoat: Yeah, window shoppers. You talk to all the vendors there, and they’ll say, “we don’t get any bookings here.” We might get two or three afterwards, immediately afterwards, but it’s about boosting your brand awareness, pretty much.

Turbo: Now, 1991, a long time ago, 1990. What’s been the most exciting change in technology since you started out in the business? Thinking, it’s a very fast-paced world with digital technology these days, and you were mentioning the old equipment and how expensive it was, but what is the most exciting change in technology you’ve seen over the years?

Peter Liddicoat: Somebody’s dubbed me Mr 4K because I’ve adopted 4K. I love 4K. I’ve been shooting 4K for about four years and waiting for the rest of the population to catch up. Now that 4K phones are here, 4K TV’s are everywhere in shops, the world is ready for 4K, pretty much.

Turbo: In terms of your clients, are you getting more corporate clients these days or more weddings? What’s the balance?

Peter Liddicoat: Probably 60/40; 60% corporate, 40% weddings.

Turbo: What do you prefer?

Peter Liddicoat: Weddings. There’s a bit of pressure of you on corporate ones … When I say corporate ones, I mean events, so you’re shooting at events. Usually, I do a next day edit, so I’m editing for the end of the conference, so I’m doing highlights for the end of the conference, so there’s a bit of pressure on timeframes. But weddings, I enjoy the buzz of clients seeing the finished product and the feedback from the clients.

Turbo: We’re going to be back in a few minutes to talk more about your business, and we’ll get some words of wisdom for the newcomers entering the industry from a seasoned professional. But as part of the podcast series here, we do break things up by playing some of your music, and you’ve given us Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars. Why this one?

Peter Liddicoat: When you gave me a choice of music I thought, “Gosh, how do I choose three good songs?” But that one’s just a nice melancholic song that, when you get time to chill, you can just sort of lay back and relax. Every time I hear it I just want to stop the car and relax because I’m so wound up, but it’s a nice, chilled song that has no real purpose, but it’s one of the most chilled songs that I like.

Turbo: In your opinion, what do you think, would be the greatest threat to the video production industry these days?

Peter Liddicoat: That’s a tricky one. Photographers shooting video.

Turbo: It’s funny you say that because I did see a post that you put on social media recently that caused a little bit of controversy. You were actually bragging about booking your first ever photo and video package, pulling still shots from 4K video, Mr 4K. Were you just pulling out leg? Os that a bit of a wind-up or are you actually doing this?

Peter Liddicoat: No, that’s dinkum. Yeah, I’ve been … I like to practice things and work out workflows before I do things, so I’ve been practicing for probably four years. The first time I took a still from 4K was four years at the 1D C. I was sitting on it for a while before I started offering 4K videos, and then I said to this couple, “Would you be interested in taking stills from the video and making a coffee table album from the 4K stills?” And they said, “Seriously? Can you do that?” And I went, “Yes. You can do that.” They said, “Okay, we’re keen to go for it, give it a try, if you are.”

Peter Liddicoat: just to give some background on that, we’re actually doing a pre-wedding photo shoot two months out with the 4K, and I’m going to do some prints for them and make sure they’re 100% happy with the quality of the prints. If they’re not, I’ve got a photographer on standby on the day, but I’m pretty confident I can pull off 50-100 4K stills from the video.

Turbo: Have you been a photographer in the past or is it just video that you’ve been focused on?

Peter Liddicoat: I’ve done event photography for-

Turbo: Personally, I think photography and video are two very, very separate beasts and you’ve got to have a different skill set for each. Do you think it’s going to work for you?

Peter Liddicoat: That’s a million dollar question. Yeah, I think it will. My style is candid, documentary style, so I know that I’ve got to pose the formal shots after the ceremony, like formal shots of families. But, so long as I shoot candidly, I should be fine. I have to take into account the shutter speed as well. I’ll probably be shooting at a hundredth of a second so I can go frame, by frame, by frame, and pull the one that doesn’t have a blurred frame out of it. So, I’m conscious of the shutter speed that I’m shooting, and most of the poses will be essentially still poses. There’s nobody doing the 100-meter dash, so I’m not going to have to try and find a clean frame out of somebody doing a run basically.

Turbo: So you think the biggest threat to our industry is video production is the photographers getting into video, but you’re kind of doing the opposite and trashing their world, yeah?

Peter Liddicoat: Not trashing their world, I just think there’s … that finally the two mediums can meet. Abraham Joffe, when he played with the 1D C five years ago, said, “4K video is here. Is this a photographer killer?” That was literally five years ago, and nobody’s really gone anywhere near it. 4K stills do look absolutely stunning. I’ve done tests with photographers and said, “What do you think of this 8×10? Is it a photo or a video still?” I think 80% of them said … I didn’t ask a lot of them … but 80% of them said, “That’s a photo still.” And I said, ” … It’s a still from video.”

Turbo: It’s going to be an interesting journey to see how all this turns out and we’ll be definitely keeping an eye on your Facebook page. I hope you’re using Instagram, by the way? You mentioned you haven’t got your head around it. Are you actually using it?

Peter Liddicoat: Yeah, I am, but mainly for personal stuff, not so much for business stuff at the moment.

Turbo: Well, we need to change that because we want to see some of the results from these stills from 4K.

Peter Liddicoat: Listening to [Nicky 00:10:41] a couple of weeks ago when she was talking about hashtags, I thought, “I’ve got to get in on the hashtags.” The Instagram hashtags. If I want to shoot in Italy, I’ve got to get onto the hashtags.

Turbo: Exactly. I think that was just a fluke for her, but hey, she seems to be getting more jobs overseas because of it.

Peter Liddicoat: True. Very true.

Turbo: Are you a solo shooter or do you have a team onboard?

Peter Liddicoat: [crosstalk 00:11:05] Oh, solo.

Turbo: Is it just something that you’ve learned to live with or do you think it would be easier to have a second shooter onboard? Why the decision to go solo all the time?

Peter Liddicoat: That’s a good question. Back in the ’90s, you had one camera, sometimes you had two; you had an unmanned SVHS camera. There was a period where I had a good Italian second shooter, but his visa ran out, and he went back to Italy, and I’ve never found a clone of me, pretty much. It’s not so much about dollars; I just want somebody who’s a clone of me. Really, I’ve managed to fine-tune a style where I can run four cameras quite comfortably for a ceremony myself. I know maybe there’d be places where a second shooter is great for the ceremony, but for the rest of the day, I don’t see a lot of use for a second shooter.

Turbo: Personally, I’m a solo shooter as well, but you do get into those situations, and you go, “Oh man, I really wish I had help in this instance.” Especially, the ethnic weddings and the Jewish weddings. The big cultural weddings, it’s just … If you go into them alone, I think most of the time you’ll come out regretting it.

Peter Liddicoat: Exactly. I agree with that. Even time frames, like if you’re stuck with the bride prep and you know you’ve got to get across the other side of town for the ceremony … I rarely get stressed, but when I’m racing against time across town, and you know you’ve got that time frame, that’s where a second person would come into their own by setting up the gear and getting the cameras out and getting some establishing shots of the boys before you get there. So, yes, I know there’s merits for a second shooter, I just haven’t found another me yet.

Turbo: Jumping into some words of advice for the newbies out there. What do you think is the most common mistake that you’re seeing from newcomers entering the industry?

Peter Liddicoat: Probably a lack of respect for the ceremony sometimes. I’ve been a guest a couple of times, and I’ve seen others running around and standing in front of the parents of the bride and the groom. Like, between the parents of the bride and groom and the bridal party, and I’m going, “Are you kidding me?” Also, in church services, and they’re almost running around the altar and getting stares from the priest or the minister. And running around too much to look after three cameras, or to get another angle because they’re doing a five-minute highlight. That’s the one thing I’ve seen that just irks me. Even though they’ve got a job, they’ve got a five-minute highlight to make; they tend to forget the sanctity of the wedding ceremony. Mostly church ones, outdoor ones are a bit more casual, but still, you don’t want to be walking across the front of the bridal party all the time just to change your shots.

Turbo: Do you think that’s why a lot of priests are … holes?

Peter Liddicoat: I think because cowboys have screwed it up for the rest of us.

Turbo: Because nine times out of ten I’ll walk into a church, and luckily I don’t burn up in flames when I do that, but the priest always gives me that, you know, “You can’t stand there,” and he just doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. Even though I go in all polite, pretending to be nice and like him. I’ll go and shake his hand and say, “G’day,” but they just treat you like rubbish nine times out of ten. We’re just there to do a job, and he’s there to do a job, but there’s no need for the attitude.

Peter Liddicoat: I once saw a priest shoot down a photographer who was a friend of the bride. He said, “Do you mind,” because she was using flashes. You could have cut the air with a knife. Then, the photographer’s outside crying because she had upset the ceremony. Well, she hadn’t upset it, it was the attitude of the priest saying, “Di you mind not using flash photography?” So, she didn’t liaise with him and touch base with him because she was an amateur and just doing it as a friend. I’m going, “Whoa.” That was the toughest one to finish off, and obviously, the bride and groom weren’t in a good mood after that.

Peter Liddicoat: But, for the most part, when I introduce myself and say, “Look, I’m going to stand here right beside you as she comes down the aisle. Then, I’m going to move into the aisle. That’s the only time that I’ll move. Those two side cameras, they won’t move at all.” Most of the time I get on well with the priest, I haven’t had too much problem with priests.

Turbo: I wish I could say the same thing. I think it must be a Melbourne thing that they’re all … holes, here.

Turbo: Anyway, moving along, let’s take a quick break. We’re going to do a bit of a speed round in just a second, but you’ve gone all fancy pants with us a Portuguese band and another song selection here, [foreign language 00:16:26]. Have I said that correct?

Peter Liddicoat: Close. [foreign language 00:16:29].

Turbo: There we go. Why this one?

Peter Liddicoat: My wife is Portuguese. I’ve been married nearly 25 years. This band is just very nice. Even though I can’t understand every word of it, it’s just the most beautiful voice … The lead vocal in front of it … and just a very unique style of music. I’ve put it behind a few Portuguese travel videos, and it’s just a very nice band.

Turbo: You’re on Shootzu, the podcast, having a chat to Peter from Visual Reality Productions in Queensland, Australia. Thank you again very much for your time, Pete.

Turbo: Hey, what’s in your kit these days? What are you shooting on?

Peter Liddicoat: Two 5D IV’s and two 1D C. Then, one 35mm lens, 7200 Mark II, 24-70 Mark II, and a 24-105.

Turbo: What’s the lens that you use the most on a wedding day?

Peter Liddicoat: I used to say 24-105 because of the IS, but now I’ve got a Crane 2 Gimbal, so I’ve actually got the 24-70 Mark II on the gimbal. I’m not using it as a gimbal per se; I’m actually using the gimbal more as a image stabilizer, so replacing the image stabilizer that the lens doesn’t have. So, in my bride prep, I’m getting nice stable shots with a faster lens, pretty much.

Turbo: The 24-105 is my personal workhorse. That’s the very first lens that I really got professional with, and it’s still that workhorse today, which I absolutely love the diversity of. But, with the Crane 2, of course, if you’ve got it balanced right you can pretty much pop anything on those beasts, and it looks fantastic.

Peter Liddicoat: Prior to the Crane 2 I was handheld with a [sukudo 00:18:28] eyepiece and the 24-105 most of the day.

Turbo: Are you finding it hard to keep up with all of the new gadgets and gear that’s coming out these days?

Peter Liddicoat: No, for the most part, I’ve stayed away from a lot of gear. I was a non-glide cam gimbal person for a long time. Then, when the Crane 2 came along. and could take the weight of the 5D IV I went, “Okay, now it’s time to get into glide camming gimbal style.” I’d always stayed away from moving shots like that. Plus, there’s a lot of moving shots where it’s overdone. Just because you can move smoothly, all of a sudden every shot is a moving shot. I don’t watch a lot of other people’s work, but when I do watch some. I’m going, “Goodness me, can we have one static shot in there, please?”

Turbo: Yeah, totally agree with you on that. Again, my personal style had always been monopod, tripod, the IS lenses, and you learn to create some amazing content with that, and smooth. It’s just about getting behind it and learning that style. These days I have got the Crane 2, and I don’t bring it out that much still, but there are some situations where it does look pretty cool. But yeah, again, the monopod, the old trusty monopod, has been the workhorse with the 24-105 and I’ve been very happy with it.

Peter Liddicoat: I actually use the Crane 2 on a tripod, as well. It’s my remote control camera, so I can actually control my two side cameras remotely with iPads. So I’m actually using Crane 2’s on tripods and controlling them remotely.

Turbo: You’re finding the wifi connection or the Bluetooth connection reliable enough?

Peter Liddicoat: Yep, yep. If I’m about 20 meters away. No more than 20 meters away.

Turbo: Which is plenty for any situation of a reception.

Peter Liddicoat: So, that becomes my second or third shooter.

Turbo: How do you find the landscape of the video production community in Australia? Do you find it quite collaborative or a bit of competition?

Peter Liddicoat: Well, 2010, Rochelle Morris and Dave [Kelling 00:20:42] got EDU going, Exposed Down Under, and that was a chance for us all to finally meet each other, to come together and meet each other. A lot of us have become good friends and still keep in touch. Now, with Facebook groups, there’s more opportunity to network. I try and get get-togethers with new people. Like, there’s a Perth videographer coming over to Brisbane for work, so I’ve said … I’ve tried to arrange a dinner so he can meet new Brisbane people. This is me; I like to connect people in real situations, in the real world, wherever possible. Wherever there’s a vendors get-together in Gold Coast or Brisbane, I’m always there. I like to … Even inviting newbies, the young kids on the block, to be a part of these vendor groups as well.

Peter Liddicoat: The vendor networks are a great way of meeting others. Also, then, there’s a connection, when there is a collaboration, if you need a second shooter or you need a shooter because you can’t make a wedding for some reason, you can ring up the guy you just met last week and say, “Hey, can you cover this wedding for me?” Because you’ve met him in the flesh and you know he shoots well, sort of thing. I’m all for encouraging networking and collaboration amongst [inaudible 00:22:18].

Turbo: Well, there hasn’t really been any kind of event like EDU for quite a while. Would you be interested in more networking events across Australia, in different states and as national as a whole?

Peter Liddicoat: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. A few of us went to Sydney for PenWedding’s retreat in the Blue Mountains. They wanted to get more people there; they only got 12 there, which … They broke even, but they needed more people there to make it worthwhile. I think the problem with events like that is YouTube tutorials. Like, “I can learn everything I need to learn on a YouTube tutorial. I don’t need to go to an event.” Where people don’t realize that going to an event is also about networking with real people and connecting with real people.

Turbo: Speaking of the wedding film retreat. I think their next one is in Mexico. Are you going to that?

Peter Liddicoat: No.

Turbo: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. February.

Peter Liddicoat: Unless I get my hashtags sorted on Instagram and get a Mexican wedding, I don’t think I’m going to that one, no.

Turbo: Hey, Pete, we’re almost there. We’ve got a bit of a speed round for you now. So, answer these questions as quickly as you can.

Turbo: Other than your camera, what is the most important item in your kit?

Peter Liddicoat: My audio recorders. My Tascam DR-10 audio recorders.

Turbo: What are the two words that describe your style?

Peter Liddicoat: Journalistic and candid.

Turbo: What’s the hardest part about doing business?

Peter Liddicoat: Bookkeeping.

Turbo: The greatest location you’ve ever filmed?

Peter Liddicoat: Lisbon, Portugal.

Turbo: Finally, what profanity do you use when speeches start, and you realize that they’re using the wrong microphone?

Turbo: Peter, thank you very much for your time.

Peter Liddicoat: My pleasure.