The essence of an auction is the bidding. Will anyone bid? Will there be a flurry of late bidding or perhaps a hard-nosed contest between two determined bidders until one finally drops out? We try to catch all this on camera, to portray the thrill of the sale.
Capturing everything on camera can be tricky. Filming for Homes Under The Hammer is done with two cameras, with one camera operator and a sound recordist. The camera operator sets up one camera - locked off on the auctioneer. This films the auctioneer as he or she sells the lots crucial to the programme, which will only be a small part of the sale.
The camera person then operates the 2nd camera which searches the room for bidders. This main camera has the tricky job of spotting people actually bidding on a featured lot and filming them as they raise their hand, nod their head or wave their auction catalogue to attract the auctioneer's attention. In this way, if someone is seen on screen bidding for one of the featured lots, you can be sure that that is exactly what they did. But if you've been to a sale, you will have noticed that it is difficult to tell exactly who is bidding because the professionals do it very discreetly. So this camera operator has the hardest job of all and might have another member of the production team also on the lookout for bidders to help him.
In the past, programmes would then use the time between their featured lots to film people bidding on other lots in the sale. These shots were then used to show people bidding whenever and wherever was required, to make the sale feel dynamic and entertaining. But some people, quite understandably, objected to being shown bidding for properties for which they did not actually place a bid, so we no longer do this.
When the lots not being featured in the programme are being sold, any of the cameras can be used to shoot general shots around the room; the auctioneer in action, big close-ups of the gavel falling, wide angle shots of people watching the sale etc. These all add to the atmosphere as the auction is introduced on the programme or can be used in music montages of various saleroom shots, which are helpful in breaking up the individual lots appearing on the show.
Many editions of these programmes are repeated and so the earlier methods of production can still be seen on air from time to time; but all new episodes are produced with no shots of people bidding for properties when they did not.