The Art of TIME-LAPSE (Scene Two)

For my last blog, I talked about my visit to Rome to film some time-lapses for my apprenticeship – you can read it here: The Art of TIME-LAPSE. I had been asked to make a video for my coursework, so decided to make one all about Italy. Following on from the Rome trip, I recently jetted off to Venice to film some flat/slow-motion footage to add to the time-lapses.

To capture footage, I brought along my fancy new Sony FS7 camera, Miller Tripod and Sigma Art lens.  With this high-quality equipment and dream location, I was sure that I would come back with some cool cinematic footage that showed off Venezia in all it’s glory.

I managed to get some footage.

The preparation for this shoot was a little rushed, as I had only bought the camera I was using a few weeks before the trip. The Sony FS7 is a top draw camera used by many professional camera operators today. It has an abundance of different settings and modes that can take a while to fully understand, so I just made sure to learn the basics for this trip.

The mode on the camera that I was most excited to use is called Cine EI, which allows you to shoot footage to be colour graded. The reason why this is so exciting to a camera geek like myself is that it’s the mode most films are recorded in. Without getting overly technical, the footage you get from shooting in Cine EI allows you to capture the best dynamic range out of your camera. Shooting this way gives you a huge amount of data that you can use in post-edit, to edit your shots to have a certain look or feel. The footage comes out originally, looking washed-out and bland, but once imported into colour grading software and graded, the footage can look stunning.

Mine didn’t, but honestly it totally can.

I also purchased a Miller compass tripod with solo legs and a Sigma Art 24-105mm zoom lens. The Lens gives me a nice focal range that can be used for most shooting situations. The tripod is very lightweight compared with the weight it can handle, and the solo legs can be used to bring the camera down to ground level or be raised to go above head height.

I also hired a Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens, as my zoom only has an F4 aperture, which isn’t fast enough to shoot at night. This lens is great value for money at £600 and its performance can compete with its (far more expensive Canon and Zeiss) counterparts.

I landed in Venice expecting to see sun-drenched streets and blue skies, but the weather was more Glaswegian than Venitian; grey clouds and drizzle was the forecast for the day. I headed off anyway, determined to not let the day go by without getting anything done. I couldn’t afford to not shoot anything, as I only had a few days to get everything done and I had spent too much money on this trip for it be a failure. Within 45 minutes I was sat slumped in a Burger King watching Latvia vs Switzerland U21’s.

Ciaran - b king venice

(On this trip I gazed at the architecture and sampled the food, but what really made me fall in love with the city was the fact that you could watch live football in a Burger King).

By the time the game finished, the sun was down and the rain had stopped. So I pulled out my Sigma 50mm, and after stumbling blindly down alleyways and over bridges for about an hour, I finally found a shot I liked.

The shot was of a night juice bar that lit up the gloomy street with an interesting red/orange glow. I wanted to make sure to capture the contrast of the warm tones of the bar up against the gloomy street it sat on, so I kept on moving backwards until I got a wide enough shot to do this. I also wanted to capture the sillouette of the guy sitting to the right drinking, as I thought that he added something to the shot.

I shot it in 4k, which means I have more freedom in post-edit to zoom in and crop as I please without a substantial loss of detail. This is the original shot – I might crop it in a bit in the future – but, for now, this is what it looks like.

It’s titled ‘Meh’, because that’s what my supportive sister called it when I showed it to her. She’s sort of right too, but it was a shot and a start at least.

One of the shots I wanted to get on this trip was of people walking past from the view of a tight alleyway. I thought this would show off the tiny nooks and crannies of the Venice streets quite well. So the next day, I set up with the camera facing down a random alleyway, but there were no people. I didn’t just want to keep recording until someone came, as I only had so much space on my card, so what I had to do was wait until I heard some footsteps and quickly hit record before someone passed.

Here is the result of that.

Inspiring stuff.

After, I captured gold – I found a seagull sitting on a mooring post by a canal. I wanted to try some slow motion stuff here so I quickly set up my camera, framed the shot and hit record. When shooting slow motion in Cine EI mode, you take up a lot of room on your card, but I couldn’t stop recording until he flew off. Him flying off in Cine EI and slow motion was bound to look really cool and so I waited.

But he didn’t fly, he just stood there mocking me. I was shooting handheld at first, but I quickly realized this might take a while so I put the camera on the tripod. After what felt like several hours, I tried to scare it off without getting in shot; I creeped around the camera and waved my arms a bit but he just stared at me. I began to hate this bird and for half a second I thought about throwing my ice cream at it, but I know I would have missed and I refused to give the bird that pleasure.

This bird had taken up 16GB of my memory card – I wouldn’t let it take my dignity as well. So I left with an ice cream in hand and my head held high and of course it flew off as soon as I turned my back. This is the shot of him having the time of his life whilst ruining mine.

What a wassock.

After that, I got lucky and stumbled upon a canal with some serious gondola action going down. One of the main shots I had to get was of gondolas going up and down the canals, and this looked like an ideal moment to grab one. I carefully set up my tripod on the slippery surface next to the canal and composed my shot. The sun had come out for the first time time on the trip and lit up the background of the shot nicely. I was still shooting at 150 FPS, as I thought the oars going in and out of the sunlit water would look cool. I also got lucky as the two gondala guys were having a very stereotypical Italian arguement, with lots of hand movement and gestures, which also looked good in slow-mo.

The final shot I managed to get was of a creepy statue sitting in a shop window. I was on my way to to the waterfront, but I was insanely tired after lugging this kit about on my back for the last couple of days – I didn’t think I would make it there. I had walked 19.91 miles in 10 hours according to my iPhone and my body was about to shut down. So, I went with this shot instead as it looked kind of interesting, but more importantly to stay alive.

After that I ate a well-earned ham and cheese ciabatta with my plus-one.

Ciaran - my date

I started to look through the shots I had managed to get as I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anymore – it was forecast to rain constantly the next day. On the hardrive with me, I took back over 1TB of footage that I am still going through. Some of it’s a little rough around the edges and needs some work in post but I know that if I work hard on it and really put the hours in I can produce something that might be considered mildly interesting to a handful of people.

I still have a lot of work to do and a lot to learn about this camera and colour grading as well, but hopefully at some point I will have a film that looks half as good as this:

I stress the “at some point”.

Ciaran Whitfield Video Production Assistant Apprentice & Birdwatcher

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