Making Movies, Sharing Stories
Vinod Vijayasankaran
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Professional Updates, Personal Humour

Between Twitter, Medium, WordPress, and Facebook do we need "just another blog"?

This page serves to simply document some of my non-random thoughts and feelings about video, gear, or stories. 

Adventures in Fukushima Ft. Samurai

The following post is not a professional guide or documentation of the work, but just my musings over a quick 15 minute period, looking back at the entire project. I might add or remove parts over time.

It's always a strange thing to look at a video I edited in the past, because every time I revisit a project I think about ways I can improve the narrative, pacing, or any of the numerous decisions that go into each frame of a video.

The Samurai Spirit video for Fukushima tourism was shot over three days, with an additional day of voice recording to further personalize the narrative flow. The DHJP team went to Fukushima on the 19th of March, just after wrapping up partial productions on Emmident and iREX.

From the 20th, we started video recording with me on the JVC, going handheld with a shoulder rig setup that I've, since iREX, optimized fairly well to mount the JVC, Sigma 18-35, Ninja Inferno, and a follow-focus. Reno, our Production Manager was on picture duty with the Sony a7s II, with Steve and Natsuki taking care of administration and logistics, so that I could stay silent and point the camera at pretty things the whole way.

Here's the roadtrip video of the entire project:

The initial shoots were focused on capturing Alex's journey in researching about Samurai culture and history. I'm really grateful to Alex for being very calm throughout the entire shooting. As he was trying to take in the scenery and contemplate his existence, I was following him around with the Sony a7s II on a gimbal.

Technically speaking, this was my first production on the Sony a7s II, and I switched to S.Log 2 on the second day, after realizing that this model did shoot in log mode, to better match with the JVC in post. However, this turned out to be somewhat of an issue on day 3, the final day, as I realized I kept accidentally changing the picture gamut to S.Gamut 3, which rendered the blues as green or some such. This was addressable in Resolve 14, but with some of the shots in the normal picture mode and some in S.Gamut 3, I was creating more work for myself.

Lesson learned.

The a7s II was shooting in 4K for the most part, but the run and gun nature of the shoot made me switch to 1080p 120 FPS for some shots, specifically to combat the jerky pans and fast movement. This caused some issues in terms of the crop, since the framing had to be changed quite a bit even with a 12mm on a full frame sensor.

The JVC shot almost exclusively in 1080p 60 FPS, with the sole exception of the interview. Let me just clarify what an astronomical difference having internal ND filters meant. I brought my Variable ND set to slap on the Sony while on the gimbal, which worked well enough but required extra care and time to set up the camera at every location. In the afternoon, the harsh sunlight turned out to be too much even for the internal NDs on the JVC though, so there was a bit of time spent in swapping out the filters.

Speaking of recording on the JVC, we ran into HUGE ISSUES with our rental Shogun Inferno. The JVC records externally at 4K 60 FPS, which I wanted to use for several of the panning shots on top of the castle (where we had extremely limited space, and spent quite a bit of time troubleshooting and setting up a massive slider). After recording everything, we packed up and went down to record some exterior shots of the castle, but when we review the clips they were only a few seconds long, and we realized that every recording had several frames dropped which meant that there were only about 2-3 second of useful shots, which when slowed down to 24p, would last around 5-7 seconds, which wasn't a complete waste, but the whole point of the slider and meticulous set up and planning was lost.

Lesson learned.

Speaking of the slider, we had issues balancing the JVC with the Sigma 18-35 on the mechanized slider, which resulted in micro jitters and tripods tripping, so we switched to manually moving it. One of the key earnings here was to start looking into a proper gimbal for the JVC. My Zhiyun Crane 3 doesn't support the payload that comes with the JVC, Sigma 18-35, and the Ninja Inferno. 

Lesson learned.

Another thing I ought to have looked into more is dealing with the cold. I'm a big fan of getting the shot no matter what. But several times I completely froze up because I wasn't taking care of warming myself up. My fingers were constantly troubled, and I was constantly thinking about whether I was exposing correctly, and if all my other settings were fine. Reno prepared several hot packs for us to stuff in our pockets, but I had mine filled with batteries, so I wasn't all too able to juggle things around.

Lesson learned. 

I think this was a fantastic production for all of us, for several reasons:
1. Government project
2. Roadtrip involved
3. Samurai
4. Alex and Randy were absolutely fantastic
5. The team grew closer as a result
6. I took away several important lessons

Got Questions? Shoot me an email!

 The snow proved to be incredibly challenging when shooting at the Samurai castle, and while the shoulder rig was calibrated properly, it was too slippery and too frigid to trust myself to pan by myself. I spent a good 30 minutes trying to get this shot, and ultimately, we may have ended up not using it. Or only using it for a few seconds. -  Killing them kiddies .

The snow proved to be incredibly challenging when shooting at the Samurai castle, and while the shoulder rig was calibrated properly, it was too slippery and too frigid to trust myself to pan by myself. I spent a good 30 minutes trying to get this shot, and ultimately, we may have ended up not using it. Or only using it for a few seconds. - Killing them kiddies.

 Shooting at the Doujou while Alex practiced his Kendo was one of my favourite moments. The shoulder rig was mounted on the tripod, which was mounted on a dolly. This helped immensely in being mobile, and I was able to get some fantastic shots.

Shooting at the Doujou while Alex practiced his Kendo was one of my favourite moments. The shoulder rig was mounted on the tripod, which was mounted on a dolly. This helped immensely in being mobile, and I was able to get some fantastic shots.

 The fatigue really sets in...

The fatigue really sets in...

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Vinod Vijay