Burnt Out – Philip Bloom ‘End is Nigh’ Challenge

I did some more filming at the abandoned Spreepark in Berlin last weekend. Usually the amusement park is closed and patrolled by security, but an event took place last week with bands, art and some of the old rides operational again. You can read about that at the Guardian here.

“After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the attraction was renamed the Spreepark and taken over by a colourful West German family – two members of whom were jailed after 181kg of cocaine was found hidden inside the base of the 1001 Nights Magic Carpet Ride.”

It was a fantastic event but I had a choice, did I try and capture the ambience of the empty, haunted amusement park or do a video about the event, the people, the bands? Turns out I shot both sets of footage but decided to use only one, because there is something I love about the empty broken amusement park that changes entirely when you put crowds of people in it. When you do that it becomes like everywhere else!

Philip Bloom is doing is challenges again and this one was inspired by that real-world viral ‘Rapture’ meme which spread around the world last month. From the words of a mad man to global domination. No not Philip Bloom, Harold Camping! It’s an interesting world we live in isn’t it?

Do check out the Challenge group here on Vimeo. What are my favourites on the group at the moment? I think I Saw the End of the World has some really strong images, but the voice over is a little obvious and then it goes into this wind-surfing vignette which really was like a completely different video and very jarring. That bit didn’t work for me but it is down to personal taste and interpretation in the end, so it is not really ‘wrong’! Another I thought was quite strong in terms of the images, not sure why it didn’t get more attention – Dead Men – yes the ‘Darth Vader’ voices are very grating, and it’s a cliche as a piece of narrative, but that location and the costumes were amazing. The image was quite harsh and digital looking for my tastes but you can tell they put a lot of work into it. And of course the Philip Bloom piece Terminus was brilliant, especially so this time – loved the audio and reminds me just how important it is to get the audio bang-on as well as the images. A good friend of mine is writing an audio post processing book for DSLR users which will be released later in the year, I feel audio software is somewhat ignored at the moment. Even if your source material is not perfect you can do a LOT to ‘grade’ the audio, as well as the image.

My little short Burnt Out is shot on the Panasonic GH2 with the 14mm Lumix pancake, 35mm Canon FD F2, Zeiss 85mm F1.4 and Zeiss 135mm F2.8 (both the old Contax Yashica mount).

I am finding crop mode on the GH2 really handy. In some of the shots toward the end it felt like changing from wide to telephoto in a blink of an eye – probably because I WAS doing that! And no impact on image quality. I didn’t want to be half way through a lens change and miss something on quickly unfolding live events. So I imagine for news journalists, video journos and the like, crop mode (ExTele) will be something they’ll use a lot.

In editing the footage, the mood was very challenging to get right because it changed every time I put anything with people into the edit, or a band. In turn, that changed what sound track suited it. I had some really nice footage of the event but it wasn’t consistent with the shots of abandonment, so I, erm, abandoned those shots and may use them in a different version later. It is important to get a flow and not to have jarring stuff which is out of place. Have every shot service the theme or story, otherwise you take the viewer out of the experience and they can not get back into it.

I think the GH2 is doing something funny with it’s 24p mode. Although Panasonic say the sensor output is 60p on the GH2, Vitaliy says that the camera still has a 24p sensor mode. But motion looks slightly different to the Canon 600D in 24p. Maybe because the GH2 has so much extra detail, that hard lines and aliasing become more noticeable at anything other than a perfectly optimal shutter speed. I am always conscious of sticking to 1/50 or 1/60 when shooting on the GH2 even when I haven’t got any NDs and I have to reduce that nice shallow DOF look – some shots do suit deep depth of field, so don’t be afraid to use F16 or something occasionally instead of maxing out on shallow DOF. If you only ever shoot shallow, you are only using half the creative expression available, for example, that famous deep depth of field classic Citizen Kane wouldn’t have looked as good had it been shot at F1.4 on a 5D Mark II!

The Spreepark is a really fun place to shoot. Actually they are supposably shooting a feature there soon, and they have stepped up security even more so there is no more sneaking in through the hole in the fence. I’m going to find out what feature it is they are doing there exactly.

I like Berlin because it still has a ramshackle nature to it, and it is so unique compared to the usual capitalist conformist city. To quote that Guardian article again:

“Duric said Berlin’s ramshackle trademarks were being eroded by soulless capitalist projects – particularly a slick development just upstream called Mediaspree, home to the 02 venue, which is trying to position itself as the new centre of Berlin’s cultural life. “All there is in Berlin is politics and art. People like the cultural landscape because it is chaotic, disorganised. Take that away and what will we have left?”

Indeed. I for one hope Berlin doesn’t change into a giant shopping mall.