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 again...no budget to buy!
|DVTEC DV RIG PRO Stabilizer|
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