Only Sky & Water

A short documentary which I shot for Tamara Scherbak in Trinidad & Tobago will be premiering at Hot Docs this May. I am particularly proud of this project because of the “rich cinematography” we were able to shoot came from a very small and limiting camera, the Sony Webbie PM1. We used it because Tamara was competing in a TIFF Talent Lab Emerging Filmmakers competition, and they provided it. It’s a small and low cost HD camera that isn’t really built for filmmaking in any way, but it goes to show that when you use the tools you are given – and know what they are capable of, you can still make beautiful work.

Tamara and I discussed it for a while, and noticed a number of things about the camera. First, the compression is very high, and as a result anything moving becomes jello, or stuttered. Also, it seems as though there is a very high shutter speed when shooting with a lot of light automatically, which I assume is done to lower the light coming onto the sensor rather than stopping down. This is amazingly annoying because it looks as though everything is fast motion (even though it is not) and again stutters and strobes the footage. What we ended up doing to work with that is we went for a super 8 pushed a few stops kind of look (some of that accomplished in color correction) and I think it came out very well. Second, Tamara accented the strobe to add a feeling of desperation in the underwater (or by the waves) shots, which added a sense of uneasyness.  Along with the “haunting musical score” she created, it made the piece really stand out.

We also used an underwater bag which helped us in two ways, one obviously so we could shoot close to the water and underwater, and second, because the plastic of the bag shined from the sunlight and added really interesting lens flares to the footage. The bag itself was about $20, and we got some really nice stuff from that small investment. In fact, we used a bigger brother to that for Mr. Crab’s underwater sequence (and a DSLR), and it worked flawlessly.

Tamara and I will be attending Hot Docs this year in Toronto, so if you are around, please join us at one of the three screenings!

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