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Covering the continuing story in Japan – six months after the Tsunami

By Matt Allard

I have spent more than 100 days so far this year in Japan covering a range of stories. Most of them have been related to the Earthquake and Tsunami that devastated the country on the 11th March. I’ve already posted some of the stories from there but wanted to take the opportunity to talk about a few more which were shot on my Sony PMW-F3.

My Sony F3 now has the S-log upgrade. Other pieces of kit recently acquired are the Small HD DP6 monitor, Zacuto EVF Flip, Lectrosonics 400 series radio mic kit, Genus F3 baseplate, Berkley Systems top plate and a set of Zeiss ZF 2′s (21mm f2.8, 35mm f1.4, 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4. I also purchased a Manfrotto 509HD tripod, a set of mini tripod legs and a Blackmagic Hyperdeck Shuttle. I know – a lot of new kit! I won’t go through it all in this article but I hope to review some of the equipment in future articles. I’m also aiming to write a more comprehensive review about using S-log on a F3.

The first story I want to talk about was done only a week before the Tsunami happened. It is a story about the high level of judo deaths in Japan and the controversy surrounding making it compulsory in schools.  This is one of the first stories I ever shot on the F3 and I was still getting used to the camera and settings. I am blown away by this camera every time I use it. A lot of the judo shots were shot in very contrasty light which would test any cameras – the F3 performed admirably. I used a variety of tripod and hand held shots as well as one shot with a GoPro HD.

The Fall Of Judo from Matthew Allard on Vimeo.

The next story is a story about how people are coping 6 months on from the Tsunami – and what has changed . It features a man who has continued to search for his wife every day since the disaster. I wanted to shoot this in a way that not only showed his struggle but also the passing of time and the solitude of his search. I shot this story almost entirely using Zeiss ZF2 lenses (apart from the first two shots). I absolutely can not rave enough about Zeiss glass. They provide a beautiful image with fantastic color and contrast. I was lucky enough to have fairly good mid morning light. There was not much left where this man lived so I needed to be creative and set a mood that matched the story. There are a couple of slider shots in this story (I hardly ever use a slider) but I think they worked well in this piece. Natural sound also plays a big part for me in stories. It helps the story flow and it allows you to hear the sounds that surround the pictures. I left an Electrosionics 400 series radio mic on the talent for the entire time I filmed with him. I wanted people to hear the sound that was around him, not the sound from near my camera. I shot most of this story on the Abel Cine Normal picture Profile and a few shots on the Abel Cine Highlight profile. Minimal color correction was done.

The Search For Solace from Matthew Allard on Vimeo.

The next story is on the mounting concerns of radiation levels in Japan. Six months on, the nuclear crisis is still on going and the government and TEPCO (operators of the nuclear power plant) haven’t been open about the real amount of radiation that has been released.

Steve Chow and myself on location

This was a story that was going to be visually hard to tell and potentially boring. I tried to add slight movement, nice lighting conditions and some abstract shots to help the story visually. There are quite a few shots with very shallow depth of field from using Zeiss f1.4 lenses wide open. The interview with the the government radiation expert was shot straight back into a window with very harsh afternoon light. You can see how well the F3 handles these conditions. It was also shot wide open as the room the interview was in was no longer than 3 meters.

Japan’s Radiation Fears from Matthew Allard on Vimeo.

The stand up was recorded on the Black magic Hyperdeck Shuttle. This records 422 10Bit Uncompressed Quicktime files and requires a super fast SSD drive to capture at a bit rate of more than 1000Mb/s! A 250GB drive will last you 25 minutes! The level of detail and the cleanness of the image is remarkable. It is not something you would use all the time as the file sizes it generates are enormous. I’ll review it further at a later date.

I also used Sony S-log (a paid for upgrade) on a few of the shots in the story – the shot of the Tokyo skyline and the people walking across the bridge as well as the woman sitting against a window in the late afternoon where the outside light was extremely bright. There were no lights used inside the room and the amount of detail you can see in the shadows while still holding the background window is something that can’t be done without S-log. I will also do a long article on using S-log at a later date.

Having spent so much time in Japan this year I have learned and seen so much. The Japanese peoples approach to dealing with this disaster is nothing short of amazing. Even through unimaginable sadness and loss they continue to display a dignity and strong resolve. I have seen and heard first hand people whose stories grip your heart and fill your eyes with tears. The way they have welcomed us into their homes and lives in such traumatic circumstances still amazes me. Going into evacuation centers where people have very little – they still want to cook for you or give you food or water. It is this sense of community and looking after your fellow man that has stayed with me. The devastation is still there in a lot of places as a constant reminder of what happened. Every time I see it it still moves me. The amount of destruction and loss of life cannot be viewed lightly. It is hard as a cameraman to not become involved in what you shoot. I try my best to convey what I see and experience through my pictures without trying to get too emotionally involved. This is not always possible – it becomes more than just a story because you meet incredible people along the way who become your friends.

About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Senior Field Cameraman, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for more 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 is a multiple ACS (Australian Cinematographers Society) award winner. His Sword Maker story that was shot on a 7D won the prestigious Neil Davis International News Golden Tripod at the 2011 ACS Awards. He has covered news events in more than 35 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, the Sony F3 as well as new Canon DSLRs.

Posted on September 20th, 2011 by Matthew Allard | Category: DSLR video news |

3 responses to "Covering the continuing story in Japan – six months after the Tsunami"

  1. Bmanphoto Says:
    September 20th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Wow amazing stories, well shot and cut.
    The camera is amazing.

  2. Rabonour Says:
    September 20th, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Beautiful footage. The first interview in the radiation piece is wild.
    The audio on the stand ups in the first two pieces is majorly messed up, though.

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