AMIRA on French climate change documentary
In connection with the COP 21 Climate Conference taking place in Paris from November 30th to December 11th 2015, the France 2 channel broadcast a special primetime show called LES SENTINELLES DU CLIMAT on November 24th. One of the two new documentaries that were aired during the show was LE SIGNAL, directed by Pierre-François Glaymann, produced by Films 13 and captured with AMIRA by cinematographer Simon Watel, whose previous credits include ON THE WAY TO SCHOOL and THE GREAT DAY. Equipment for the shoot was provided by Visual Impact France.
LE SIGNAL takes us all around France to discover those who have suffered the effects of climate change. Through their testimonies a firm conclusion is drawn: the French are already exposed to dramatic consequences. Climate change is a reality that reminds us of our profound vulnerability and that cannot be ignored. But it is also, perhaps, the starting point of a new society.
What kind of a look did you want for this documentary?
With improving broadcast distribution and new TV screen technology, TV channels now want a more elegant image and better definition. Over the years I have used many cameras and the tests that I organized for this shoot quickly oriented me towards the AMIRA. I immediately found a camera with perfect ergonomics and an ideal recording option for this documentary: ProRes 422 HQ in Log C, which offers an optimal ratio of definition to image weight. We were going to be a small crew, so we needed a practical and efficient camera, but with the AMIRA we also discovered an astonishing picture quality and texture that went beyond our expectations. For Steadicam use and other configurations, the AMIRA also proved highly adaptable.
What were your shooting conditions like?
We shot for about four weeks and even though we were only in France, we had to contend with relatively extreme conditions: altitude, cold, sea, sand, sun and humidity, but at no time did we experience any technical flaws such as bugs or overheating. The AMIRA is a quick and easy camera to use; we were able to shoot with a small team of one DP and one assistant for two cameras. This allowed us to do things like shooting at 4,000 meters by simply carrying the equipment on foot to a mountain shelter.
What other benefits did the AMIRA bring to this shoot?
I used the camera at 800 ASA but pushed it up to 3,200 in low light situations without any problems in postproduction. Slow motion footage was shot with efficiency and simplicity for several sequences in the documentary. The incredible latitude of the AMIRA allowed us to shoot scenes in dark rooms with big, bright windows; we were able to capture the full contrast range instead of having to waste time adding lights to reduce it. The interface is also very well thought out; in handheld mode the buttons are where an operator would expect them to be! The menu is just how we want it, both for sound and image.
How did you find the balance and ergonomics of the camera?
I often used the camera on a Steadicam and I found its weight with the Cabrio lens to be ideal. The sliding handle and shoulder pad are extremely practical and efficient for balancing, which is something that has really been missing with previous cameras. The viewfinder has several positions that offer good ergonomics in every orientation and accommodate all body types. We also used the AMIRA on a lightweight crane, a dolly and a slider, and found that it worked well for all configurations.