Jakarta waterfront
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What are you doing in Jakarta?

One of the “perks” of working with international organizations is that — sometimes — you are needed for filming overseas. Last week, I conducted interviews and filmed b-roll for Asian Access at a conference in Jakarta. I have worked with them for twenty years, and have traveled many times with their people, filming both documentary-style footage of relief work and interviews at conferences.

This event posed a few new challenges. I was not given an area in which to film, so I decided to use my hotel room (keeping it spotless!); it is relatively quiet in a hotel room, and I could control more variables. (Outdoor shoots proved sketchy because South Asia rainstorms kept pouring at the most inopportune times.) The next issue: most hotel rooms don’t have much light. Even though I have never been to Jakarta, I was able to locate a local production company [Amazing Productions] that brought in a pair of 4-bank fluorescent lights for the week:

4-bank fluorescent lights

Like my hotel room? We dressed every corner of the room I could think of to get different setups for different interviews.

I wanted fluorescent because I don’t like doing interviews with hot lights, and KinoFlo’s can be fitted with daylight bulbs so that I can use both the lights and exterior light from windows. We needed the lights because I would be filming interviews at all hours of the day and night, so we needed to be able to blast light into the room at any time. Here are just a few of the looks that I was able to get:

chinzo-setup

Late-night setup with 4-banks flooding entire room with soft light

Midday setup with 4-banks as key and window as backlight

“Magic hour” setup with 4-bank providing key light and shooting directly through the hotel window

I am happy with the setups, although I would have loved to have more time and more room. More room enables me to separate the subject from the background more easily; as you can see from the above photos, though, I was able to create quite a bit of separation even in a small (325sf) room.

While traveling, I try to “go light,” even with photo gear. So I left my camera slider and mini jib at home, as well as my Steadicam Merlin and my large Cartoni tripod. All of these are great tools, but for the footage I would be shooting, I couldn’t justify the extra weight. Here is what I ended up with:

  • Sony PXW-X70 camera. The main camera for all interviews and b-roll
  • Canon EOS 7D. I have shot so many stills — and video — with this camera that it has paid for itself over and over. Sometimes used as a b-camera for this project, but mostly stills on this trip. Took along a 70-200 lens as well as a 24-55.
  • (2) Sennheiser ew100 G3 wireless microphones
  • Two Canon flash units, with CowboyStudio radio-remotes to control the flash off-camera
  • Zoom H4n recorder. I used this for years as the primary audio recorder — when I was shooting with DSLR cameras. Now it serves as backup, and I can also do audio recordings for sessions that I’m not filming (which we did on this trip).
  • Two little lights that I got off of Kickstarter called The Kick that are awesome for an accent light, or even a quick interview using the diffuser.
  • Audio Technica AT897 shotgun microphone.
  • Manfrotto 5001b lightweight “anything” stand. I could put a light on the top of this, my SmallHD monitor, or a flash
  • Additional cables, chargers, two camera tripods, my laptop, a bunch of CF and SD cards, lenscloths, and lots of batteries for the cameras and microphones.

This all fit into three bags: my laptop backpack (carry-on), my Pelican 1510 waterproof case (carry-on), and my suitcase. It didn’t leave much room for clothes, but I managed to fit in enough.

Some videos were produced in real-time and posted immediately to the Asian Access blog. Others will be rolled out over the next few months. Some will even be held for a larger event happening in 2017.

We were really happy, though, with everything that was filmed, and look forward to working on a project like this again in the near future.

Blog, business, film/video, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound

New Asian Access video released

Once again we have partnered with Asian Access to bring stories from the heart of tsunami-ravaged Northeastern Japan. This story about Sue Takamoto and the Nozomi Project was filmed in a few hours one afternoon in Ishinomaki, Japan, and edited with help from friend and colleague (and pro storyteller/artist) Greg King in Southern California. The client is pleased with the speed of delivery and the message that we were able to communicate in only a few minutes:

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New video posted

In March 2011, Japan experienced one of the worst disasters in modern history: an earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the Northeastern coast of Japan. One year later, a team traveled to Japan to observe the relief work that Asian Access pastors were leading. Now, another year has passed, and we are able to report on work that has been done over the past two years. This is the first of several (hopefully) videos that report on the use of funds donated to earthquake/tsunami relief through Asian Access:

The team consisted of Loren A. Roberts from Hearken Creative on camera and editing, Joshua Clayton on camera, Jeff Johnston from Asian Access as producer, and Takeshi Takazawa as liaison, interpreter, and all-around wonderful travel leader.

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New short YouTube videos on the Japanese tsunami and rebuilding effort

We’re still working on the main piece — a longer video with lots of interviews in Japanese that need to be translated and subtitled in English for the North American viewers. But today (March 11) is the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in NE Japan, so we rushed to get just a few videos posted to commemorate the horrors and to point towards the hope and vision that many Japanese pastors have for their country in the new reality that is Japan.

First up is a prayer from Mori Sensei, a pastor living 30 minutes away from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. His church wants to help rebuild an entire seaside community, hopefully relocating just a half-mile off the beach up into the hills, so that they can still have their livelihood, but be protected from the possibility of another tsunami:

The next video is a set of reflections from Eric Takamoto, an Asian Access missionary from the Kobe area who was one of the first responders up into the destroyed town of Ishinomaki. Eric’s family is going to relocate to Ishinomaki because they feel strongly that the rebuilding work is going to take time and committed effort, and they want to be part of that long-term process. Eric’s passion for the people he ministers to inspires me:

Both of these pieces were filmed in January 2012 as part of my one-week trip to NE Japan for Hearken Creative client Asian Access. I was accompanied on the trip by Asian Access’ VP for Communications Jeff Johnston, good friend and colleague Joshua Clayton, Asian Access’ VP for Strategic Engagement Takeshi Takazawa, as well as translation and hosting and friendship by Asian Access’ Jeffrey Sonnenberg (oh, and new friend Mike McKay from Cypress Church here in California was with us for part of the week).

Video was shot with A2’s Sony HD Handycam and my Canon EOS 7D, with color correction done in Final Cut Pro with additional color work by Red Giant’s Mojo. Audio was recorded through my Zoom H4N using Sennheiser G2 wireless mics and an Audio Technica AT897. All data cards (CF for video, SD for audio) were captured onsite and backed up to multiple G-Raid Mini hard drives for redundant transport back to the U.S.

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Another nice quick video for a client

We filmed this last week in West Covina. Joe (president of Asian Access) is so smooth on camera. We interviewed him for 45 minutes for another project, and then he did just a few takes of this quick “thank you” before I had to run to another shoot in Downtown L.A.

Great time. Good video, good audio. Great message.

Blog, business, film/video, post production for film and video, sound

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)

Blog, business, post production for film and video, sound

We solved another client’s problem; are you next?

Once again, HCS was able to come through with a fast and quick solution. The president of the organization had a busy schedule, and they wanted the video quickly; I ran out to the corporate headquarters to shoot this little clip. But we didn’t skimp on quality: the lighting was there, the Canon 7D was there, and we used a really nice Audio Technica shotgun microphone to capture audio. Brought it back to the office that evening, and had the footage delivered to the client the next day.

We want to continue to do fun stuff like this for our clients. Do you need some top-notch web video? Let us come and make your next project shine.