I haven't written any blog posts in a while as it has been a busy month. At the end of October I had the opportunity to head down to Haiti and film a little promotional video for two friends of mine who have started a non profit, The School Sessions. They are raising funds to build a school in Haiti that was destroyed by the earthquake and later a hurricane. She is a photographer and the concept is simple. On one day photographers donate funds from their portrait sessions directly to The School Sessions. They held the the same event last year and raised enough funds to purchase land. The purpose of our trip was to create a piece that will explain the project and inspire more people to book portrait sessions for that day in April. Here is the completed piece.
Here is a little recap of how our trip went and how the editing went.
We left Friday and had a week in Haiti. There was only four of us on the team so that meant we had to keep gear down to a minimum. In one pelican case I packed a tripod, monopod, slider, boom pole and support gear for the DJI Ronin. In one backpack I had the DJI Phantom 3 Professional, ipad mini for flying and the Ronin batteries. I also had a custom made pouch for the Ronin gimbal. This allowed me to attach it to the backpack that housed the Ronin. In the second backpack I had my Sony A7S with the metabones adapter to run canon lenses and my trusty 5DMIII. I brought my Canon 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 35mm and 20mm. I also brought a Rode NTG2, VideoMic Pro, Sony UWP-DP11 wireless lav system, and of course, my old faithful Zoom H4N. Looking back at the gear I actually used, I realized I could have left behind the 70-200mm F2.8. This is a heavy lens and I really only used it once. I could have opted for even the 24-105 F4 and been ok. I also didn’t end up using the Sony lav but it didn’t take up too much space or weight. It is a tricky thing figuring out what gear you need when preparing for a trip….especially when you travel to Haiti and don’t have the luxury of renting or going home to pick something up.
I shot everything, I mean everything, with the Sony A7S. I did bring my Canon 5DMIII and the plan was to use it as b camera for interview or any dialogue scenes. We ended up shooting the dialogue and interviews with the A7S. As per the story, we shot the founders a few times on location doing a few takes. This also allowed me to get a several different shots...a wide shot, medium shot and close up. The A7S was fantastic to shoot with. I also had the wooden camera quick cage that provided an added handle or grip to steady the camera. It was also great to be able to look through the viewfinder to film, unlike the 5DMIII. Before this trip I was debating upgrading to the Sony A7SII for 4K and Slog3. Looking back I really didn’t have any reason to shoot 4K with that camera. I also wanted to finish the piece in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio as I feel it is more cinematic. The Sony A7S does have guides for this aspect ratio which made it effortless for the framing. I also filmed quite a bit with the DJI Phantom 3 Professional. I shot everything in 4K and this allowed me to crop, reframe or add little punch ins as I saw fit. I feel like the drone shots really connect Haiti to the audience. I am very thankful to have this piece of equipment. On a side note, a lot of the children at the school had never seen a drone and when I landed in the school property a few of the younger children wanted to see the man who was inside. It was quite the experience to fly the drone over the rural villages. I did one shot of about 30 seconds, flying about 100 feet over a few farms and houses. I could hear the children yelling to their friends and watched them chase the drone.
The editing is really where the magic happens. I feel like anytime I start a new project I have all these random pieces. On their own they don’t really have any meaning. It is only when you start to put them together, in a sequence, for a certain time, with the right sounds and music. That is when they begin to create meaning. For this piece we really wanted to share the story of The School Sessions. We wanted to tell the audience how it started, where they had come from and how people can become involved. We decided the best way would be to have the founders speak both on and off camera to the audience, on location in Haiti. I really wanted to bridge the gap between Haiti and North America. We put together a brief script and a voiceover and then combined it with what we filmed in Haiti. I am very pleased with the length and the result of the completed piece. As mentioned before I filmed everything with the Sony A7S in Slog2. This meant grading was extremely simple. I have purchased Philip Blooms LUTS for the A7S and find those are pretty good starting places for grading. I normally tweak those and then correct a few of the highlights and shadows to fit my liking. After adding a background music track I also added some sounds of the village and the school. The idea here was to communicate the noise level to show how difficult it was for the children to concentrate while completing their exams.
Overall I am very happy with the result of the final edit and am extremely thankful to not only have friends who are passionate about seeing change, but to also be apart of The School Sessions. You can check out their website at www.theschoolsessions.com if you are interest in getting involved.
I have been posting a few 15 second clips on instagram, and I am hoping to have the final piece completed shortly. I am just working on the finishing touches.