Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Three remarkable films shot on a Digital SLR

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on February 3, 2010

If you occasionally peer out of your journalism cocoon and hang out with camera operators, directors and film makers, you might have overheard some buzz about the potential of digital SLR’s for shooting video.

In particular I’m talking about the Canon 5D Mk II and the Canon 7D: both capable of shooting High Definition video as well as taking photographs.

So what?

Well these cameras beat even some of the best video-only cameras in several places:

  • they’ve got bigger and better lenses, allowing for beautiful images
  • they’ve got detachable and therefore interchangable lenses, meaning you can shoot wide angle and telephoto with the same camera
  • they’ve got bigger apertures allowing for extraordinary depth of field
  • they’re smaller, lighter and allow a photojournalist to shoot video without changing cameras

…essentially what I’m talking about is in 1 second of video you have 25 individually beautiful images which could be photographs in their own right. It’s seeing the the dawn of an exciting new aesthetic – wouldn’t it be great if documentaries and TV news looked more like these?

Three remarkable films shot on DLSR

Sri Lanka Tamils by Mark Allard

At the Races in Singapore by Dan Chung

Battle for Hearts and Minds by Danfung Dennis

For more great examples of the potential of the DLSR check out DSLR News Shooter. And I got to see some of these great cameras in action at the Canon Expo in London last autumn – the details are right here.

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War reporting – on crack

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on October 15, 2009

Here’s  a snippet of war reporting…as you’ve probably never seen it before:

Danfung Dennis‘ upcoming online feature Battle for Hearts & Minds resembles the sort of thing Michael Bay might have put together if he’d decided to become a journalist rather than a movie director.

First of all, his access is quite extraordinary: the trailer suggests he’s been given some quite rare access to frontline troops, and allowed to film and publish what he wants, without censorship. Presuming he had an attached media-ops officer with him, they seemed not to mind him running ahead of advancing troops with a glidecam.

Secondly, visually it is extremely impressive. It’s a great example of the elegance the Canon 5D Mk II allows. The DSLR Newshooter blog has published an interview with Dennis in which he explains his rig in more detail:

I used a Sennheiser ME- 66 shotgun mic and G2 wireless system running into a Beachtek DXA-2s (I’ve since upgraded to a Juicedlink CX-231 with the Magic Lantern hack) which converts professional XLR mics into a minijack suitable for the 5D. I built custom aluminum ‘wings’ in a workshop to hold this audio setup…

I mounted my whole system onto a Glidecam 2000 HD with custom rubber pads on the mount and a foam ear plug to suppress the vibration of the the lens.

The combination of the 5D Mk II with the Glidecam is quite effective – and quite affordable too.

Third, no doubt the storytelling will pack a punch too…but what kind of story will this tell of the war in Afghanistan? Although we can only go on the trailer at this point, does it glorify war? Is that something journalists should do?

The use of the music in this trailer, if anything else, seems to serve that purpose.

I know from my own experiences of being embedded, I felt a pressure within myself not to glamourise conflict, or perpetuate The Old Lie, as gung-ho as it can be sometimes.