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:
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:
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.