Full screen it here – http://www.vimeo.com/11349060
On location in – Hong Kong
Music by – Radiohead, Karma Police
Equipment – Panasonic GH1, anamorphic LA7200 adapter + 10-22mm EF Canon, Super Comat F1.9 c-mount, kit lens (14-140mm), Zeiss 85MM F1.4, Canon 35mm F2 SSC FD
Look… I’d like nothing better than to go to a beautiful old-world place, clear my head of all other thoughts, and write, photograph or plot something – I’d love to sit on a beach in Spain, or travel to a mountain top.
Unfortunately Hong Kong was not the place to do it!!
It’s such a challenging place to film. Because it’s such a densely packed city, it’s an interesting challenge to photograph as well. It’s not that it isn’t photogenic – some of it’s sights are just breathtaking. But it’s a bit like being an ant with a camera in a hive with millions of other ants, and trying to get a clear shot of the ground. In filmmaking as well as photography I like to compose simple non-busy images, but in the bustle of Hong Kong this was a big challenge. It was also difficult also to not produce something which looked like a tourist promotional video. There are a lot of iconic scenes in Hong Kong, which had to be treated differently (or not at all) to avoid being cliched.
I travelled all around the city, learning as I went. This was the 2nd time I’d been there, but the first time lasted just a weekend so I was going there still pretty fresh. There is a tranquil area in the south of Hong Kong island which has an old market, British style pubs and some beautiful beaches. At the historic Repulse Bay you can find a Buddhist statue park and a local temple, which is one of my favourite parts of Hong Kong. The statues were paid for by wealthy figures of authority, and businessmen – which is kinda ironic given their treatment in the video – as karma giving gods in a hyper-capitalist dystopia. I wanted to leave it open to your interpretation however, whether the gods were on the side of normal people or on the side of the bankers!!
I had a song in my mind from the start this time. Usually I make something and just browse my iTunes afterwards and select what I feel matches the mood best, or just clicks. But this is more a case of the film being made FOR the song. I wanted to capture the essence of modern Hong Kong, which is – good well behaved society, an insane level of commerce and consumerism, big business and trade, big gap between rich and poor, along with the sensory overload you get from such a overpopulated city.
“Filmmaking is all about the content” I hear again and again on forums, by people forgetting that it’s actually about both technology and content! Having a big interest in technology does not disqualify someone from the content side of things at all. The challenge is to master both.
I wanted a menacing feeling, something which went well with the lyrics.
I had with me my GH1 plus a few lenses and a fluid head tripod. That’s all. Easy to carry around and allows me to shoot quickly, shoot the stuff I spot it an instant! I believe this to be very important with ad-hoc stuff like this.
The footage is a mixture of cropped 16:9 and proper 2.35:1 anamorphic stuff shot with the Panasonic LA7200 and 10-22mm Canon EF. I love this combination, absolutely love the cinematic look it gives especially in B/W
For the first time I had a c-mount lens that I actually like! Seen so much promise from these, but never quite able to reproduce it in my own hands on the cheap. The prices for some of the c-mount lenses out there is getting quite silly. But I managed to find a very good condition Bell & Howell Super Comat 1″ F1.9 from an eBay seller based in New York – which works out around the 25mm mark, similar to the Lumix F1.7, but with some interesting attributes you don’t get on modern lenses. First, the lens coating really is pathetic. This can be good artistically because you can get some really interesting hazy shots especially wide open. At F1.9 it’s very soft, but actually very sharp when stopped down a bit. But the main reason I like this lens is the radial bokeh you get, although to really notice it you have to focus quite closely to something and really knock out the background to extremes. Some of the trippy shots in colour with a shallow depth of field were done with this lens and I love it.
Also with me, was the Zeiss 45MM F2 for Contax G mount. An excellent lens but somewhat let down by the rubbish adapter, made in Hong Kong coincidentally. This was a premium priced adapter by Kipon, with a geared focus wheel (the G lenses don’t have a manual focus ring, instead they have a drive slot for the Contax G’s AF motor). These adapters need improving, at the moment the implementation is totally lazy. The focussing method gets smoother after a while – at first it’s unusable, it really is that lazily designed – maximum profit, minimum charm. A bit like parts of Hong Kong itself!!
The Zeiss 45MM F2 has the least flare of all my lenses, it is the sharpest I have at F2 and the all-round feel to the images that it produces are Leica-like. But because the focus is such a pain, I don’t remember even using it once in the making of this video. One for the future I think.
Enjoy the video.