Friday, November 19, 2010

"KASHGAR: Pearl of the Silk Road”

The ancient city of Kashgar is the Western Gateway to China at the intersection of the Northern and Southern Silk Road Trade Route. The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is home to 47 ethnic groups, most notably the Uyghur Muslims.

In “The Travels of Marco Polo” he writes: Kashgar was once a kingdom, but now it is subject to the Great Khan (Kubla Khan), it has villages and towns in plenty. The biggest city, and the most splendid, is Kashgar.

On May 12, 2008 a devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Wenchuan, Sichuan Province. Over 87,000 people lost their lives; cities, towns and villages were destroyed. Should this happen in Kashgar an entire culture would be wiped out.

The Wenchuan earthquake was a wake-up call to the central government of China. Realizing that one of the world’s most historic cities stood in danger of total collapse if – and when – another major earthquake strikes, they began a 5-year, 1 billion dollar project to reinforce or reconstruct the entire ancient city of Kashgar. These homes and businesses are built entirely of un-reinforced adobe. Kashgar has been reduced to rubble almost every 100 years, and it has been 108 years since the last devastation occurred.

In “KASHGAR” we observe how these people live, work, worship and celebrate various aspects of Muslim culture. We talk with residents about the government plan, and with local government leaders, architects and historians about the plan to protect nearly 200,000 people from certain death.

“KASHGAR: PEARL OF THE SILK ROAD” was produced by US Plan B, inc. in cooperation with Viewpoint Productions in Beijing, and China Intercontinental Communications Center.

Directed and filmed in High Definition by Marc Curtis
Edited by Larry Frank
Music provided by Arken Abdulla

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Canon T2i Performs in China Documentary Production!


We weren't sure it could be done..or should I say, our partners in China didn't think so!  During pre-production planning it came up that their camera equipment was all SD.  We told them that we must shoot in HD or the finished production would not be likely to air in the US.  Initially they considered renting HD equipment, but we had been doing research on the Canon 5D, 7D, and T2i.  Our early impressions were quite positive with regards to the picture quality.  After purchasing a T2i it confirmed our belief that this camera would be an excellent compromise between "looking like a real TV crew" and "presenting a high quality product."  We convinced the Chinese to take a chance.

The difficulties were:  1.  virtually no budget.  2.  minimal accessories.  3.  operation in automatic mode would not achieve the look we wanted.  4.  It's impossible to see the LCD viewfinder without spending a lot on a good shade. 5.  AGC audio sucks. 6.  I speak very little Chinese, and no Uyghur (Arabic) dialect at all.

1 and 2:  I've been shooting for more than 40 years and have experienced unlimited budgets, and zero budgets.  This would be a challenge, but an interesting one to say the least.  I brought along our DVTEC shoulder stabilizer to make any handheld shots smooth.  There are newer devices on the market now, but budget to buy! 


3 and 4:  I shot entirely in manual mode.  1080p 24fps, shutter at 50.  When shooting outside in the bright sun, it was a battle to keep the light off the viewfinder.  But most of the shots actually came out fine!  99% of the time we used the kit lens, 18-55 f3.5.  It's not the best, but served us well.  Zooming proved a bit jerky but I was able to use my super powers to make that less of a problem.

5:  After researching online I found out that the way to trick the AGC was to feed one channel with a 19khz tone.  That caused the auto gain to suppress the undesirable boosting of background noise while also keeping the levels from distorting at the top end.  I had to build some cables to plug my iPod into the camera for the tone (which I created as an mp3 file using Audacity).  Worked like a charm!  Notice in the waveform below the distortion and clipping on the peaks in the beginning.  Once the tone is added, the peaks don't distort and background noise is reduced.

6.  My crew from Beijing had very good English skills.  Most interviews were done in Chinese, and others in Uyghur.  We hired a translator in Kashgar who spoke all 3 languages.  After each interview I was given a quick, "Reader's Digest" version of what was said.  Now the hard part...English transcripts are being created (and not always easily understood). 

Translation after an interview in Chinese
Marc and Lufei
Translation of Uyghur interview
Murat and Marc

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Documentary "KASHGAR: PEARL OF THE SILK ROAD" completes filming

August 1, 2010

Filming of the documentary "Kashgar: Pearl of the Silk Road" has been completed in Kashgar, China.  A partnership between US Plan B, Inc of Redlands, California. and Viewpoint Productions of Beijing, China was formed to create a feature length film showing the race against time faced by the government to protect this historic ancient city from an inevitable destructive earthquake.

Shot entirely on the Canon T2i digital SLR camera in High Definition (1080p 24fps) the production is expected to be completed by September 30, 2010.  Air dates will be announced at a later date.

The documentary looks at the history of the 2000 year old city and the culture of the Uyghur people who live there, and how their homes are being protected.  The city was completely destroyed and rebuilt after a major earthquake in 1902.

Discussing translation of Uyghur interview