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Capturing the Holy Land in 16:9 - #SLPilgrimage

March 9, 2016
Written by Jay Turchansky, camerman
This pilgrimage to the Holy Land has been an exciting and challenging situation for myself as a cameraman. The uncertainty that arises from not having visited the area before requires creativity and perseverance in the face of adversity. Every stop we make is an unknown environment in which to capture light, motion, and sound. And in each of these three aspects of filming I have encountered tests of my abilities.
  1. Light – First of all, some of the sites we entered were incredibly dark. Cameras require more light than required by the human eye in order for the image to appear visible. Thus, we sometimes used a small light which could be attached to the camera in order to make it more visible. Additionally, shooting outdoors requires the sun’s light to be consistent throughout all takes. For instance, if the scene at the beginning of the video was in direct sunlight, then it would look strange if the scene at the end was overcast instead. This required us to work fast and even change locations to make sure the lighting was the same throughout. This issue was especially prevalent during our shoot at Shepherd’s Field.
  2. Motion – Movement makes things exciting. The audience doesn’t end up looking at the same thing for too long and thus appeals to a shortened attention span. While my partner-in-crime for this trip Lou-Kevin was making smooth moving shots with his Glidecam, my camera was on the tripod doing tilts, pans, zooms, and more, and occasionally went handheld when I wasn’t allowed to bring my tripod into some sites. So for me, it was important to make sure the subject was in focus, and then perform the action so as to keep the frame focused on what I felt was important. Moreover, this idea of motion also applies to static shots, because the action needs to be in the frame in an appropriate context. Is it an establishing shot, where the importance is on the setting rather than the people? Or is it intense dialogue that would benefit from the ability to see facial expressions clearly?
  3. Sound – The bane of any run-and-gun shoot. It seemed like there was always something that was picked up by the mics. Jackhammers at Nazareth Village and Cana, a helicopter taking off at Magdala, cats meowing outside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a minaret blasting prayers halfway through a shoot, or locals speaking Arabic in front of the treasury at Petra. With sound, we need to ensure consistency over multiple takes. The ambient sound must match, as should the loudness of the dialogue.
The best thing you need to have when dealing with the above issues is patience. Things won’t always work out the way you intend, but will nevertheless work out eventually. Whether it’s the lighting, the audio, or the movement, you gotta be quick on your feet and try to get the shot quickly before anything goes wrong while still doing due diligence to ensure the shot is as best as possible. This has been an incredible experience for me and I hope you like the finished reflections when they’re released!

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