The Perfect Brew – Al Jazeera's Matthew Allard in Sri Lanka with the 5DmkII

The Perfect Brew from Matthew Allard on Vimeo.

Sri Lanka’s tea is regarded as the world’s finest. It was also, for us, a way to illustrate the country’s developing economy, which is slowly recovering after decades of civil war and uncertainty. Correspondent Steve Chao and I were on assignment in Sri Lanka to cover the president’s inauguration but went further afield to capture the story of the tea industry, which once accounted for almost 60% of all export revenues.

It is grown in the western highlands, almost four hours drive from Colombo, and we had to leave at two in the morning as I wanted to be there for sunrise. Tea country is high in the mountains and you get great early morning mist mixed with sunshine. I set up on the side of a hill and waited till the sun came up over the mountains. The air and sky were very crisp and provided wonderful natural colours.

I didn’t have my matte box with me so I held two of my 5.6” x 4” 0.6ND graduated filters together upside-down hard against the glass. This basically cut down the light from the sky by 1.2 stops over the foreground. There was no use of Magic Bullet Looks or similar software throughout the story; I don’t like doing things in post. If I want to use a filter, I do it in the field.

The rolling hills and workers provided wonderful opportunities for fantastic visuals. Inside the tea factory it was quite dark and it was surrounded by large windows making it very contrasty. I tried to use this light to my advantage as the 5D handles these conditions pretty well. I tried using a recently purchased Steadicam Merlin but I wasn’t 100% happy with my results so I didn’t include any of the shots in the story. Most of it was shot on a Canon 16-35mm f2.8L, Canon 70-200 2.8L IS f2.8, Canon 50mm f1.2 and a Canon 100mm macro f2.8 (non IS version).

In the end I was happy with how the story turned out. It was all shot in one day and then edited in Final Cut Pro. If you have any other questions about it, please feel free to ask.

About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Senior Field Cameraman, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for 20 years, previously working for both Channel 9 and Channel 10 in Australia. Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year as well as being a Walkley Finalist for outstanding camerawork in 2006 (for coverage of the Cronulla Race Riots) and a Logie Finalist for outstanding news coverage 2006 (Bali 9). He has covered news events in more than 30 countries, from major sporting events to terrorist bombings. Based out of the Kuala Lumpur broadcast centre in Malaysia he is an avid user and follower of new technology, shooting stories on HD broadcast cameras as well as new Canon DSLR’s.


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Posted on November 26th, 2010 by Matthew Allard | Category: Canon Eos5DmkII, DSLR video news, Journalism |

13 responses to "The Perfect Brew – Al Jazeera's Matthew Allard in Sri Lanka with the 5DmkII"

  1. kelseyw Says:
    November 26th, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    so beautiful and inspiring…

  2. Tim Says:
    November 26th, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Lovely pictures. I would really like to know what picture profiles and or filters you use to help avoid aliaising and moire. Black Pro Mist? I struggle getting my 5D to look that good focused on distant detail even with sharpness wound down.
    What lapel mike are you using and have you used the new Rode lav mike with the 5D?
    Really appreciate Steve Chao’s writing. Very nice.
    One criticism. There must be a typo with you name. With the quality you produce you must spell your name with ACS on the end. Seriously!

  3. Matthew Allard Says:
    November 27th, 2010 at 3:18 am

    Hi Tim,

    I shoot everything on the standard camera profile. I don’t get much aliasing and moire because I don’t do moves with the camera that may cause it. The only filters I used on this shoot were two 0.6 ND graduated ones. I don’t wind the sharpness down at all.

    I use a Sennheiser radio mic plugged directly into the 5D. I haven’t used the Rode lav mic as i have about four sets of radio mics.

    As for the ACS at the end of my name I could put that as i am accredited ACS but that doesn’t mean much.

    Thanks for your compliments.

  4. amilalmedia Says:
    November 29th, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Great stuff Mathew. Cheers . .

    Amila C from Sri Lanka . .

  5. Amish Says:
    November 29th, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Amazing footage. It’s grea to see what can be done right from within the camera.

  6. nick76 Says:
    December 4th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Loved the report Matthew; good script and very creative filming. Feel inspired by your work. On a practical point – I would be interested to know how you carry your gear – what bag you use and what you take as hand luggage. Some airlines give you a small weight allowence and one has to allow for the fact that your luggage might not get there at the same time as you! I travel solo and shoot on DSLR. Do you ever get hassled at Customs?

  7. Matthew Allard Says:
    December 6th, 2010 at 4:43 am

    Hi Nick,

    I am used to carrying a lot of equipment on shoots as I use broadcast cameras and associated equipment most of the time. I will take normally 12 cases of equipment that weigh upwards of 150kg. I use a Kata bag to put my stills equipment in and have never been hassled about it. Saying that i also carry on a 13kg broadcast camera in another bag and have never been refused entry on a plane. As for customs i take more than 60 international flights every year and rarely have problems with customs. Some countries we need to organise equipment lists for customs. I would find a camera bag that you can fit a lot into that you can carry on your back. If your carrying it on your back you are less likely to get questioned about it or be asked to get it weighed. In Asia they are normally pretty slack i cant speak for countries in europe.

  8. nick76 Says:
    December 11th, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Thanks Matthew. One more question, when shooting with 5D in a warmer climate do you face sesor overheating issue? I was on an overseas assignment recently and I had to keep stopping in the middle of some interviews due to the sensor overheatimg. The ambient temperaure was around 30+ degree C. This stop-start is hard to handle when working under time constraints. I will be grateful for any advice that you might have.

  9. Matthew Allard Says:
    December 11th, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Hi Nick,

    You will always get over heating problems with DSLR’s. Nothing you can do really unless you have two bodies. Turning the camera off between shots helps.

  10. nick76 Says:
    December 16th, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks again Matthew. Need to find some more money for a 5D body. The charity I work for is not doing well financially at the moment. Moreover, I fear that there might soon be 5D Mk III round the corner! May I ask another question about the on board audio quality? I read in the second thread above that you plugged in your senheiser straight into 5D when shooting for The Perfect Brew. I gather after the firmware update the audio on 5D has improved a lot. I am a 7D user, bought it because at the time 5D didn’t shoot 25 fps. I distrust 3.5mm plugs and since there is no way of monitoring the audio in it, I have been working with dual sound with H4N, which can be tedious at times. Do you use 7D much in your work now? May I ask for your opinion of the on board audio of 7D ? Thanks.

  11. nick76 Says:
    December 16th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    PS. I use either NTG1 or Beyer lapel mic for interviews. I know the audio from the built-in mic is only good for a pilot track for synching afterwards.

  12. Matthew Allard Says:
    December 20th, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Hi Nick,

    The new firmware on the 5D makes audio a lot easier. If you use a radio mic that has a headphone output jack you can at least monitor for audio quality and radio mic break up after you have set the levels on the camera.

    As for the 7D it is still a pain. Either use something like a H4N and sync it up or trade it in and buy a 60D.

  13. cnnphotog Says:
    December 21st, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Hey Matthew,
    I really like all of your stories. I’m trying to lure CNN into buying a full kit to shoot feature stories. I have my own limited kit and here’s my first venture on

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