Sharpshooter: From Hastings To Helsinki
"There was mud up to our knees and tanks rolling by every now and then. Very cinematic and I got some really nice shots. Awesome."
Finnish cameraman Jonathan Rankle shoots ice hockey and horse racing. What is the piece of kit he most wants? A better pair of gloves.
Name: Jonathan Rankle
Languages: Finnish, English, Swedish and some very basic French.
Occupation: I run a one-man video production company which, depending on the day, can also involve editing and producing. But mainly I work as a freelance DP and cameraman for larger production companies.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Hastings on the south coast of England, famed for William the Conqueror’s victory in 1066. I lived there until I was about nine and then moved to a small village in southern Finland called Vääksy with my sister and Finnish mother.
Where do you live today?
I’ve lived in Helsinki with my girlfriend for about five years now.
What education have you had? Any special training in camera work?
I did my bachelor in media studies at the Tampere University of Applied Sciences in Finland. It was not really centred on camera work alone — more on all round media production. I concentrated mainly on camera operating because it interested me the most and seemed a good bet for the future. Before that I also completed a one year course at the Voionmaa Institute, just outside Tampere. It was like a crash course in short films and music videos and really cemented what I wanted to do.
Current assignments. Where, doing what, shooting for whom?
I currently work fairly steadily for three production companies. One covers mainly horse racing events at tracks in and around the south of Finland. Another is ENG-camera operating at the Hartwall Arena for the ice hockey team Jokerit (Jokers). And the third is for a company who produce brand content videos for Internet distribution. Along with this, I do some one-off gigs with people I’ve worked with in the past and some smaller productions for clients via my Web site.
I love the DSLR scene and what it's done for the industry
Have you been busy?
Very busy, yes. It took me a while to establish a network in Helsinki after moving here from Tampere. Finland being a country with a relatively small population, the media industry is very competitive. Once I got my first few breaks it sort of escalated from there. Also when I was getting started and wasn’t working as much, I used a lot of my time to practice shooting and editing techniques to be confident when I was offered jobs.
With the Finnish climate in mind, are you ever hampered much by winter conditions?
It can definitely be a challenge sometimes when shooting outdoors. Good quality winter clothing is a must. Equipment generally holds up pretty well though. But winters don’t seem as harsh as I remember them as a kid.
What types of productions have you usually shot?
Mostly multi-camera productions for TV and Internet streaming. Smaller scale DSLR projects come in second.
What types of production would you prefer to work on, given the chance?
I most enjoy smaller scale shoots where I can influence the end product. In the future I'd like to be able to gradually switch more to these kinds of shoots.
Is the amount of gear you have to carry around a hassle?
My DSLR setup is pretty compact and I try to bring along only what I need for the shoot. The bigger productions often require a half to a full day of setting up before the actual event, so they can require some heavy lifting.
What was your first ever shooting job?
One of my earliest jobs was a multi-camera shoot of the Leningrad Cowboys performing live at the opening of a shopping centre. I remember being really nervous but once we got going, it literally rocked.
Most recent, interesting assignments?
A recent job that was a great shooting day was a TV show called Teknavi, basically about tech gadgets, cars, et cetera. We were out in the woods at an army training area shooting a segment about a military transport vehicle. Finnish cameraman Jonathan Rankle shoots ice hockey and horse racing. What is the piece of kit he most wants? A better pair of glovesI was on B-roll with my Canon 5D MkIII and was given a free pass to pretty much do whatever I wanted.
What camera equipment do you currently use?
A lot of the time the equipment I use is provided by the production company and varies from job to job. I use a Sony EX3 with a wireless transmitter for the ice hockey arena shoots which consist mainly of interviews and B-roll. And various TV cameras like the Panasonic HDX900 for other stuff. My own equipment is DSLR-based. The Canon 5D MkIII is my number one.
And what is your editing set up?
I switched from Final Cut Pro to Adobe CC just after Final Cut X came out. So most of the software I use is Adobe. As for the hardware I have a late 2013 Macbook Pro 2.3GHz i7 with 16GB memory and an external reference monitor. I've definitely put emphasis on camera operating as opposed to editing, but I get by OK with that too.
Other gear you have access to?
You can rent pretty much anything you want in Helsinki. I sometimes need additional or specific lenses and other such equipment for my DSLR shoots. I get a good deal with colleagues who work in the same circles.
What is your wish list for equipment in the future?
I’m looking forward to making the jump to 4K. I buy new equipment mainly according to demand and there hasn’t been a great need for it as of now. But I have been eyeing out the options. I love the DSLR scene and what it's done for the industry, so something like the Canon C500 would be a huge upgrade and in a way an extension of that. I’d better start saving!
In what direction could DSLR gear be improved for video work?
I've been waiting to see what Canon does next, especially considering Panasonic and Sony already moved into inexpensive 4K territory with the GH4 and the A7S respectively. I've tried to avoid camera hacks, but Magic Lantern have been at the forefront of improving the video capabilities of Canon DSLRs and I'm hoping the guys at Canon have been taking notes.
What useful piece of gear do you wish someone might make?
The perfect pair of winter gloves that are super warm but don’t in any way restrict camera operating.
Best thing about your job?
I get to meet a lot of different kinds of people in my job, and no day is really the same as another. One day I can be setting up for a quite an intimate promo video shoot and the next I'm in the middle of an arena doing a live interview in front of 20,000 people. It's kind of crazy when I think about it, but pretty great too.
Worst thing about your job?
The long hours and irregular schedule. It can sometimes effect your social life to the point of non-existence.
Probably just my first jobs when I was getting started in the industry and not having a lot of experience outside of school projects.
What country would you most like to shoot in?
A wildlife documentary about animals indigenous to tropical islands would be nice. But seriously I think just being involved with a production abroad is going to be an experience in itself.
Interview by Barrie Smith