12.3 THE CHALLENGE OF FILMING ABROAD AND ABOARD

As an event filmmaker, I’m always looking for new locations and subjects to film. I live in England, so the opportunity to film in the tropics, travel up the Caribbean islands in a boat, and film a project with my brother, who was to photograph architectural subjects for a book, were boxes just waiting to be ticked.

 Anyone who has filmed professionally abroad will know there are many challenges. The first two questions you need to ask are, what end result do I want to achieve and what equipment will I need?

 My aim was to film a series of short pieces about Brian’s photographic work process. We didn’t have a detailed plan, so we thought we’d just start filming him at work on a few of the photo shoots and then we’d put together a few video clips afterwards. Now, in filmmaking you never stop learning: and if there’s one lesson I’ve come away with from this adventure it’s that you have to have a good plan before you start. That plan can change but not having one – when you arrive on location, but not having one – means a lot of extra work in post-production.

 In terms of equipment, I decided I had to travel light: not only because of weight limitations when flying, but also because of the boat’s limited accommodation, not to mention the logistics of carrying equipment from one location to the next in the tropical heat.

 I chose a Canon 5D Mk II as my principle camera, but what other equipment would I need? When space and weight are the issue you have to become very selective. Alas, you know there’ll always be something else you wished you’d taken.

 I opted for a monopod as my main support, because of its lightness and also because I wanted to be quite agile. However, with hindsight I felt I should have gone for a lightweight tripod instead. Although heavier than a monopod, it can act as both, whilst offering rock steady shots when needed.

 I also regret not taking my Glidecam 4000 steady cam, so that I could have introduced more movement into the videos. I attempted using the monopod as a steady cam but the results were often too wobbly to be used. I’ve included a list below of the equipment I took on the trip.

 Working under a hot sun for prolonged periods requires sensible preparation. On our first shoot in Guadeloupe the heat was intense. We had sun block, hats and plenty of water but hadn’t considered bringing a cooler with ice.

 If you are as fortunate as we were to travel by luxury yacht with private cabins, you still have to pack very frugally. Don’t bring hard suitcases, as you’ll need to stuff luggage into tight nooks and crannies. I would like to have filmed life aboard, but being an active member of the crew it was a case of all hands on deck when entering or leaving port, and hanging on for dear life when at sea. I will post a clip of my brother Brian manning the bar in calmer waters.

The project has been very instructive, ticking many boxes, both on a professional and personal level. Twenty-five days may have been a touch too long, but it has certainly satisfied my desire to go to sea for a while.

Have a look at the 1. Introduction video before looking at any others.

Gerry Lewis

EQUIPMENT LIST

Canon 5D Mk II (main camera)
Canon 600D (backup camera)
Manfrotto monopod

LENSES:

Zuiko 50mm f1.4
Zuiko 21 mm f2
Sigma 24-70mm f2.8
Canon 70-200mm f4
Variable ND filter, polarizing filter

AUDIO:

Zoom H1 digital recorder with Olympus Lavalier
Zoom Videomic Pro mini shotgun camera microphone. 

OTHER:

Canon batteries, charger, plug converters
Laptop and separate hard drive for backing up
Seasickness pills
Cooler with lots of ice and drinking water
Good sun hat and sun block 

ADDITIONAL ITEMS FOR THE NEXT TIME

Glidecam 4000
A small light to fill in the shadows
 
Brian’s brother, Gerry started his video business in 2008 and now works with his son Robert in the UK. Gerry Lewis Productions specialises in wedding videography but they also do corporate work, including award ceremonies, lectures, workshops and technology and product demonstration videos.