Manchester City have just picked up two of the three most important trophies in football (soccer), with a third possible at the weekend. As with all Premier League clubs, City has a large media & content department, releasing photos and videos of club players on a daily basis across social media.
One thing you might not know, however, is that City also has a specific embedded 1st team in-house "Content Unit" – a dedicated team of three based not just on the Etihad Campus, but in the very same building the first team players train in. They need to make innovative camera choices, and they do.
Man City’s climb to dominance has been a significant story in the last two decades of English football. Since being promoted to the top flight of the English football division in 2002, Manchester City’s performance on the pitch has been there for all to see. City's in-house social performance off the field has also been significant from a content perspective, with Man City becoming the first English Premier League club to 1 million subscribers on YouTube.
City's social is a notable achievement, but a content team must also film content to fulfill broadcast obligations so the equipment required must be flexible and powerful. The 1st team unit of three has been able to build such a close rapport with the team that Josep "Pep" Guardiola even allows them onto the hallowed grass, into the gym, and even the boot room.
Ordinarily, an arrangement like this might not work – a camera lens can be quite distracting, especially for professional footballers so focused on on-field performance. Yet despite working with little space and often with tight turnarounds between games, the team at Manchester City continues to produce both high-quality content and video that feels special...a down-to-earth perspective on global superstars. So, how do they do it?
The number one rule with professional athletes is not to interfere. “At this level, 0.1% disruption is too much,” says John De Caux, Head of First Team content. There is access to get a lot of shoots, and we know the players well enough to get very close without overstepping the mark. The 4D lets us hold the camera right in, follow the action, and share the experience of training with the players. The camera is still small enough that we can pull it out of the way if we have to.
Part of that comes from the classic cinema camera design. The Ronin 4D is essentially two halves; the full-frame Zenmuse X9 is mounted on a gimbal – just like on the Inspire drone – which can capture up to 6K at 60fps. It boasts built-in ND filters and dual native ISO 800-5,000.
In Man City's end-of-season celebratory video, you'll see a clip caught on the run behind crowds which looks like a dolly shot, something the Zenmuse's stabilizing gimbal makes possible.
Lumix S1H / S5ii / GH6
“I love a Lumix” John tells me, brandishing the rig tailored for one-person operation. In order to keep out of the way, there isn’t usually more than one camera in use at a time, but that hasn’t stopped the team from attaching a GoPro to the rig (using something similar to small rig) to provide an extra wide angle option (not to mention a camera of last resort).
Our review of the Lumix GH6 for filmmakers was also positive, noting the high-speed readout of the camera's 25.2-megapixel Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor. The ability to record ProRes 422 and PreoRes 422 HQ, and Cinema 4K at 120fps are useful too, while the solid magnesium alloy frame is robust. Admittedly we didn't ask how John felt about the AF.
This might come as more of a surprise on a list of pro gear, but it offers something none of the others can. Two things, in fact. Because as a 360-degree device the camera can, effectively, be directed afterward in post, it can be discretely held in places that are almost sacrosanct and just the right moment can be captured without the camera interfering.
Secondly, a player can grab the camera on a pole in the heat of a winning moment and effortlessly produce intimate video the like of which just feels right, especially for modern fans who find user-generated content more natural. No need for any moment-spoiling – that can be handled in post.
The Insta 360 X3 camera has a built-in 2.9-inch touchscreen display and is sold in a few bundles including one with a pull-out "invisible" selfie stick. It is positioned on the base, and left out when the images are combined to make the spherical 360-degree video.
DJI Inspire 3
The team has a Mavic 3 Cine which enables them to get establishing shots. The great thing about having a drone of that quality, John tells me, is that you can grab an establishing shot whatever that day’s weather – far better than the established approach for documentaries of booking a helicopter to do one day's aerials "mopping up" at the end. It's more natural if the establishing shots really tell the story.
As a qualified pilot, John was a natural choice for DJI's Inspire 3 pre-release program, and though he was clearly blown away by the device as a whole, there were two takeaways that stood out – that it was certified 8K which meant they could produce material for broadcast and streaming platforms. The other was how usable it was for a single operator. The drone's size and pro case (not to mention marketing) gives the impression a large crew will always be needed, but John has been able to get the shots he needs alone.
We're still finishing our review of the Inspire 3, but we have got some pics of how big the Inspire 3 is already, as well as the other product links above.
The UEFA Champions League Final – Man City v Inter Milan – kicks off at 20:00 BST (15:00 ET) on Saturday 10th June.