There’s rarely any planning when I shoot video – the fleeting nature of the news and feature stories I cover doesn’t tend to allow for it. That was certainly the case when I wound up on the set of a 3D porn movie recently.
I had initially rejected the idea of shooting video of the project in anticipation of the (copyright) complications which might be associated with gathering footage. But it became clear that the makers of the film were laid back enough to allow me to publicise their latest creation in whatever medium I wished.
And so myself and a reporter spent the afternoon observing the rehearsal and subsequent takes of a fairly tame love-making scene in a faux cave-turned-love-nest adorned with erotic artwork and constructed around a giant phallic fountain.
World’s First 3D Porn? from Ed Jones on Vimeo.
My video equipment is efficiently basic – a Canon 5d Mk II, a tripod and a Sony URX-P1 wireless lapel microphone for interviews. I don’t carry an LCD viewfinder, follow focus rig or external microphone for ambient sound, essentially because I haven’t found the need for these things yet (though I’m sure I may in the future). And for the moment I’m keen to keep my setup minimal, which makes things easier when rapidly switching between stills and video.
I went back and forth between the two formats constantly, trying to build a rough mental storyline for the video while simultaneously censoring what I shot in anticipation of the cultural sensitivities of AFP‘s global clientèle. I didn’t intend to document two and a half minutes of pixellated bodies writhing around the love-cave in its entirety, but hopefully to capture something more subtle and tongue-in-cheek.
As usual I successfully managed to ruin a couple of great shots by being indecisive and pressing the shutter in the middle of a video sequence for fear of missing an endearing photo – but once I got myself in check I was able to methodically gather the material, helped by the repetitive nature of the rehearsals and takes.
Once the safe shots were out of the way and I knew I had enough video to construct something watchable, I turned my attention to capturing more candid moments and began planning the positions for the interviews.
In the past I have conducted the interviews myself, but this time I coordinated with the reporter and we agreed an interview method. We would pause in between questions, allowing me to change camera angles, and the interviewee would start the answers with the question, providing more complete soundbites.
I have tried this approach before and found that too many interruptions can impede a natural-sounding interview. But for my Japanese adult video subjects, accustomed to fornicating on film, the sight of my less-than-intimidating lens was no cause for a sudden bout of self-consciousness.
Sony Radio mics were all that was used for sound
Despite the noisy surroundings, the URX-P1 wireless lapel mic I had brought along was more than sufficient to isolate excellent sound quality from the interviews; I had adjusted the levels in the camera manually first. Ambient sound quality using the camera’s built-in microphone was not really a concern, as I knew that the eventual voiceover would be the more prominent sound.
In any case, the relatively narrow dynamic range of the built-in mic was actually helpful in cutting out some of the less welcome low and high frequencies found on a busy film set in a reverberating warehouse.
Upon return to the office I immediately turned around a ‘webclip’ of the day’s footage, as the text and photos were slated to move to clients with the following morning’s features. A ‘webclip’ is a short, simple, 30-60 second series of unvoiced shots featuring descriptive captions that clients can embed within a website or cut with other footage to supplement a story.
The final video would be sent to broadcast and internet-based clients two days later on Monday, which left me the weekend to write a script and prepare three versions of the video: one voiced (complete with voiceover), one for natural sound (for foreign language translations), and one for web clients – the version which affords the most creativity because it is not likely to be altered or re-edited (like the previous two), but rather embedded within websites.
After ruthlessly culling all unnecessary information and sound bites from the script, it was sent to the news desk for subbing. Then I recruited two colleagues to provide the English language voices of the actors in my interviews and added my own voice to the rest of the sequence.
Ed Jones with his Canon 5DmkII kit
From the camera, the video files were downsized into a more manageable and editable 720 x 1280 format using the pro-res codec. The footage was edited in Final Cut Pro, using almost no colour correction, grading or ‘looks’. Minor levels adjustments were made to some shots, and compression was added to the voiceovers. Finally the sequence was exported using Final Cut Pro’s Compressor, keeping the dimensions but changing the codec to H.264.
Once this was done, a dopesheet detailing dates, names, a shotlist, and a transcription of the script and interviews was embedded in the IPTC information of the video file, before being handed over to the AFP TV department who checked everything over before beaming the package to the agency’s subscribers.
As the video hit the wires, I was able to watch the climax of a frantic weekend, as my own low-budget production popped up on websites, and hopefully TVs around the world. Other AFP bureaus in Europe, South America, and the Middle East were able to translate the feature for clients in their regions, giving added momentum to my two-minute insight into what is probably the world’s first 3D porn film.
Ed Jones is a staff photographer with AFP.