Freelance cameramen working in news and current affairs were honoured at last night’s annual Rory Peck Awards, with two of the four prizes going to pieces shown on Channel 4.

French freelance photographer and filmmaker Mani was presented with the Rory Peck Award for News for his Channel 4 News report, Horror in Homs, which was shot as Syrian forces began their shelling campaign in February 2012. 

Spanish freelancers Alberto Arce and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova won the award for Features for their Libyan film, Misrata, Victory or Death.

And British freelancer Daniel Bogado was presented with the Sony Impact Award for Terror in Sudan, made for Channel 4’s Unreported World.

Freelance fixers Ghassan Ibraheem from Lebanon and Al Mughira Al Sharif, a Syrian national, were joint recipients of the Martin Adler Prize 2012 for their work in Syria.

The event, which was hosted by BBC’s Lyse Doucet and Tim Marshall of Sky News, took place at the BFI in London.

Rory Peck Award for News – Mani

Two years ago Mani (not his real name) left his job as a primary school teacher in Paris to become a freelance photographer. At the end of on assignment for Le Monde he decided to try his hand at video. “I had been watching more and more documentaries, looking at how they told a story. Hell and Back Again, which is an amazing film, was a particular point of reference, and I just thought, ‘This is the kind of work I want to emulate.”

Mani’s Channel 4 News report, Horror in Homs, showed Syrian forces shelling the city in February.

He shot the piece on a Canon 5D MKII. “Without a grip it’s hard to hold, but working in Syria you need to be light. It also helps to go unnoticed. At first, the military was really close to us and they were checking people’s bags, so I needed to be able to hide the camera,” he says.

Using a DSLR to shoot news footage presented other problems, such as not being able to monitor audio, but it’s a camera Mani is comfortable with. “I might look at moving to a MKIII, or another Canon – the main thing for me is to be able to use my lenses.”

Rory Peck Award for Features - Alberto Arce and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova

Spanish freelancers Alberto Arce and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova’s film Misrata, Victory or Death, was described by one of the judges as “like Spielberg’s Band of Brothers.” The piece, which showed rebel fighters in the besieged Libyan city, was self-funded and shown on VTR/Canvas, Canal Sur and Direct TV.

Arce says Sony’s Z1 has always been his camera of choice. “That’s mainly because I’m physically comfortable with it – it’s like a football player who’s attached to his boots; it’s a personal thing. Besides, the marginal differences between cameras are not relevant – the important thing is what you show.”

Arce estimates he used 60 tapes for the 52-minute piece, and he says the logistical challenges of working with tape could be what makes him give up his cherished Z1. “I arrived in Misrata with ten or twelve tapes, but within one week I had used them all.”

Finding a fresh supply of tapes in a city which had effectively closed down was a challenge. “If you opened the door to a shop yourself you risked be killed for looting,” he explains. “So we had to stop shooting for a few days until we found a shop and tracked down the owner.”

Sony Impact Award - Daniel Bogado

British freelancer Daniel Bogado and reporter Aiden Hartley dodged air attacks and navigated their way through battlefields to file a report from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan for Channel 4. The film, which documents attacks on civilians by Sudanese Government forces, was shot on a Canon XF305 and a Canon XF105. “The 105 was good for shooting at night, and in the hospital where we didn’t want a light shining in someone’s face,” Bogado explains.

Bogado estimates that he shot 25 hours of footage for the 24 minute film. “That was because we had to always be ready, particularly because we needed to capture the planes that were flying overhead dropping bombs,” he explains.

Bogado used a laptop to transfer footage from the cards to two portable hard drives, with Hartley keeping one and Bogado looking after the other.

“After I’d returned all the kit, I got a letter from the hire firm listing what was broken and what didn’t work. But I told them, ‘You know where we were and what we were filming; we weren’t shooting Wife Swap.”

The Rory Peck Awards are sponsored by Sony. The Trust is supported by Al Jazeera, BBC, Correspondents Fund, ITN, NBC News, Oak Foundation, Open Society Foundation, Reuters, Sky News, Sony and WDR.