After a 2 year break from posting YouTube videos and solely focusing on our commercial careers, we decided to pack our bags with the latest and greatest 8K HDR camera from Red and get back in the game. We couldn't think of a better place than returning to Peru. We feel that mixing work and travel is the best way to experience a place, and doing it through the lens pushes us to meet more diverse people and go places we wouldn't have found in a travel book.
While we are no stranger to shooting overseas (having filmed in over 20 countries, on 4 continents, for more than 300 days abroad) filming internationally still takes a bit of prep and work. Here are some ways that we focus our preparation
Filming in Peru is no easy task. Peru is well acquainted with foreigners filming in their country and permits were required at every site. In 2014, we took Sony to Peru to showcase 4K demo footage with their new F65 camera. There we were blown away by the diverse landscapes, the beautiful animals, and unique culture. Working on this project, we made the contacts to obtain the proper work visas, and the key to unlocking Peru: our Peruvian Fixers at Tambo Films, specifically Paulina C. Her intuition, hospitality, and preparation set the bar for shooting overseas.
We love to use local fixers whenever we film in another country, as they know the in's and out's of their home territory. We found in the past that “run-n-gunning it” often meant lost time and missed opportunities. While our fixer protected us from inadvertently burning bridges, she spoke with the locals to open up previously unforeseen opportunities. In Iquitos, we wanted to film the sunrise from the tallest building in town. Paulina delivered when she tracked down a local priest who let us film on top of the Church's bell-tower for 30 minutes before morning mass. All free of charge. This was one of many times where Paulina's personal connections and local know-how led to secret filming opportunities, translating into some of our best shots that otherwise would've been possible .
A large factor in planning out our trip was the one thing you only get once: Time. We found that budgeting 2 days (or sometimes 1.5 days with a .5 day travel) for each of our major areas was going to be critical. This gave us a little more time to find the perfect shot, wait out a rain storm, or snag another time lapse shot when we needed to. It also allowed for us to stay well rested and on top of our mental game. Being well rested led to us being outward focused on our car rides, looking for awesome shots instead of catching up on sleep. While this extra time does cost extra $, the time is well worth it when beautiful, impromptu shots come out of it.
Another element of time management was in shot selection. Having travelled to the area previously, we knew the elements that would work and what we wanted to film most. Jacob created a portfolio of each area we were going to, and knew what shots he wanted before he even got there. This provided a base of knowledge we would draw on when arriving in an area. If we needed to move fast, we could maximize our number of shots to the amount of time spent there. We spent very little time “looking” for shots in our planned areas and this efficiency on the front end provided time on the back end for those “hidden gems” to pop up.
Knowing we would carry every piece of gear on our backs for 9+ days through mountains, jungles, and lakes, we needed to be very selective in what we brought. First on the list was our 8K Red Helium Camera. Wanting to maximize the variety and amount of footage we got, we outfitted the Red to mount on a Movi, Tripod, Monopod and handheld. To shoot 8K time lapses we brought the Sony A7RII and the Syrp Genie Mini, and the DJI Phantom 4Pro+ for a small, light, 4K aerial camera option.
We worked hard to take minimal gear but we were careful to bring sufficient backups in case a cable, monitor, or battery does go down. Losing your only monitor or power cable can bring a shoot to a screeching halt. We've definitely spent time in India looking for extra star shaped screw driver and it wasn't a fun day.
To hold all of our footage we factored each day at about 2 TB a day, which meant 18 TB with a back ups 36 TB total. Looking for speed and versatility we decided to bring 2x 8TB Seagate hard drives for our main storage, 4x 4TB Western Digital hard drives as the backups, and 2x 2TB SSDs. Every night, we would dump the footage from the Red mags, the A7RII, and the drone onto a 2TB SSD, which took anywhere from 20-40 minutes. From there, we would run a copy and verify the footage onto both an 8TB and a 4TB Backup. If an issue were to arise (because nothing EVER goes wrong with computers), and the copy was unsuccessful, we still had all the footage from that day stored on the 2TB SSD so it didn't prevent us from formatting cards and shooting the next morning. We would then backup the footage up the next night from the 2TB SSD backup.
Preparing to shoot overseas can appear daunting to the traveling shooter. We found that by focusing our preparation into our access, schedule, and gear we were able to approach the shoot in a more manageable way, and cover all of our bases.
Written by Jacob Schwarz, Owner, Director, Cinematographer