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Just returned from week-long trip filming in Japan

Building a new community center in Sendai

I just returned from a week-long trip filming relief and re-building work on the eastern coast of Japan. We traveled well over a thousand miles to capture stories of churches working amongst those who have been displaced by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. This trip was part of an ongoing video project for longtime client Asian Access. Previous trips with them have taken me to Sri Lanka (after the 2004 tsunami), Mongolia, Cambodia, and other countries throughout Asia.

Interviewing a pastor surrounded by donations for tsunami victims

Here’s a breakdown of our gear:

  • Sony Handycam
  • Canon EOS-7D with 4 batteries and 3 lenses (18-55mm, 55-200mm, and a 50mm fast lens)
  • Zoom H4N for audio recording
  • Sennheiser G2 wireless microphone
  • Audio-Technica AT897 shotgun microphone
  • Manfrotto tripods
  • Kessler-Crane Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly (4-ft. slider)
  • Lots of Compact Flash and SDHC cards
  • MacBookPro laptop
  • G-Raid Mini 750gb hard drive

Plots still being cleared right next to brand-new houses

I could have used more than one G-Raid. As it was, I had one set of captures on the laptop and one set on the G-Raid. I think I should have had both on separate external drives (I started to run out of space on the laptop’s internal drive).

The Kessler-Crane slider was great for getting really smooth motion for b-roll, and even during some of the interviews. I was worried that it was going to be a pain to carry around and get through security at airports, but it wasn’t (and it’s still under the weight restrictions, so bringing it along didn’t cost me any extra).

The water in some places has not sunk back to pre-tsunami levels

The rest of the team was Joshua Clayton, Jeff Johnston (of Asian Access), and Takeshi Takazawa (also of Asian Access). We were a good team — we have all worked together before — so we got a lot of footage and some great interviews.

One issue that came up very quickly was the challenge of language. I felt that we would honor the interview subjects best by conducting the entire interview in Japanese, and then figure out what they discussed later. I don’t understand Japanese, so I had to get a synopsis of the interview from Takeshi before determining what b-roll would be needed to tell the story for each interview. We’ll see how well that went as I cut the pieces together over the next week or so.

Joshua capturing a small shrine to honor those who died in the tsunami

But all in all a very productive trip. I was happy with the portability of my kit (both audio and video) and how well everything worked. Can’t wait to show you all the footage as it gets finished…

(photos by Joshua Clayton & Loren A. Roberts)

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