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Filming documentary in the African jungle


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#1 Adam Wallensten

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 09:48 AM

Hi!

In mid August I'm going to Congo (DRC) for two weeks to film a feature-documentary. The crew only consists of me and the director and a local translator/fixer. We'll be starting out in the capitol Kinshasa where we're going to get certain permits that allows us to go further. The main location though is a miningvillage deep in the jungle. To get there we will fly with UN-troops to a small village. From there we ride motorcycle for a day and then trek 2-3 days through the jungle. In the mining-village there are some generators so we will be able to get power for the batteries and equipment.

I'll be shooting on Sony EX1. We will bring enough (50 or 60) SD cards so that I won't have to transfer it to a computer and harddrives and overwrite the cards.

It's my first time in Africa so I would appreciate any tips or advice on filming in: Africa, the jungle, in that type of heat and humidity, in "dangerous" situations, filming dark-skinned people against bright sun, tips on equipment handeling etc.
Also any advice on special equipment that would help me out would be great (that I will be able to carry ofcourse ;).

Thanks

Adam Wallensten
Denmark
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 09:55 AM

MALARIA PILLS! Lots of Malaria pills!

I also recommend looking into a solar powered backpack and seeing if you can get the camera to hold a charge.
I was up in Senegal filming, and out in bright sunlight, and it was no problem to handle the contrast, shoot as you normally do. In the deep jungle, though, you may need more light than you have, canopy can eat it up easily. Don't worry too much about highlights blowing. Carry a piece of white paper with you as well, bright white paper, this can be an 'eye light' reflected in their eyes when you need it to be. just seriously, the reflection of something.

SD cards? I am assuming you have one of those SxS to SD converters. Double/Triple check to make sure all the SDs are compatible. Even then, see if you can schedule some time for backups.
Bring lots of BP60 batteries, as many as you can, in order to always have power even if you can't recharge off of the solar backpack.

You may need to have large sums of cash on hand. Euros or USD are best. Watch yourself, but you should be fine. I personally have never had a problem in Africa.

Get a portabrace for the camera, try to keep the rain off of her. It will be very humid, but try to keep covered up a bit, less skin area for bug bites. Bring mosquito netting for yourself. Yellow Fever Vaccination is recommended, and again MALARIA PILLS!
Only drink bottled water (Kirean if they have it down there). and oh yes, MALARIA PILLS!
Also bring yourself some toilet paper.

EX1 is a nice little camera for something like this, robust and should serve you very well. Best of luck!
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#3 Adam Wallensten

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 06:11 PM

Thanks!

I have allready had all of the vaccines for the trip and I've bought malaria pills and several other medicaments. We won't be able to drink bottled water since we're in the jungle, but I've looked into different watercleaning systems.
Good idea with the solarpowered backpack. I haven't tried that before. Will check it out.
Yes, I'm using the SxS to SD converter. The rentalplace promised me that it works perfectly and that they are currently using it on a feature without problems. But I will definetly doublecheck it myself. The problem with doing backups is that, in order to do it we will have to carry a laptop and several harddrives which can be troublesome. But I would definetely feel more safe if I was able to back it all up.

Adam
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 06:42 PM

Boil the water in the jungle and put it in a bottle for later on ;) problems solved!
As for backups; yeah it's a pain. I lugged my macbook through Senegal and it was quite the pain! Good luck!
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#5 Chris Millar

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 08:14 PM

I did Liberia with an EX1 ...

Dont count on the 'official' power supply or plug to be in use - they will have whatever plug they can get their hands on, incl. children playing around 240V flowing through exposed alligator clips.

Water filter, toilet paper, String, Torch - expect your clothes to get trashed and your shoes to be wet

Dont flash or give too much money away or you'll get exposed as an easy target and get rinsed. Batteries, pills etc... might be better to bring for this kind of carry on.

Three of us got through Africa being only bribed once and that was for $1US, heading out of the airport, 'excess luggage fee'.

Beware of officials, they are often harder to deal with than your common criminal - some take advantage of the uniform off the clock and some as you'll learn (or at least suspect) take advantage on the clock also. We were accused of being Nigerian spies, would have been very funny except it was the customs official stamping our exit visa (yes exit visa)... What a **(obscenity removed)**en muppet, basically dont take any **(obscenity removed)**, but try to be respectful at the same time.

ha ha - its all coming back to me !

Expect culture shock - you'll LOVE it
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#6 Tom Lowe

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 08:18 PM

Probably a little late for this, but have you considered replacing the EX1 with a Canon 5D Mark II? The battery life and CF card record times are astonishing with that camera, not to mention its incredible portability and low-light sensitivity. You can record to 32gb Transcend CF cards that cost $70 USD, then dump the CF cards to Nexto portable harddrive devices that do not require a laptop. I would bring a solar unit. Maybe check out Brunton: http://www.brunton.c...talog.php?cat=8
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 11:57 PM

Our poor cabbie got hit with a $20USD fine in Dakkar because he wasn't "Authorized to transport tourists." Poor guy. I went out of pocket to get the $$ back to him.
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#8 Chris Millar

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 02:52 AM

Our poor cabbie got hit with a $20USD fine in Dakkar because he wasn't "Authorized to transport tourists." Poor guy. I went out of pocket to get the $$ back to him.


How do you know it wasn't a scam ? ... in that he planned it with the 'authority' - planning/preying on your conscience ?

And if it wasn't a scam then why was he carrying tourists ? Perhaps he allowed to carry people on working visas ?

I imagine you read the situation correctly but I'm just playing devils advocate for Adams sake ... ;)
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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 07:20 AM

For me, it didn't much matter even if it was a scam (though as we went from one city to another and the cop had many cabs pulled over, I doubt it was). End of the day is I'm happy to give 'em the $20 back he paid out because to him that's nearly a month's salary. For me, well I guess I'm not going to order Thai for delivery when I get back. Question of relativity I suppose.
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