Magazine article American Cinematographer

Global Village

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Global Village

Article excerpt

High Adventure in The Real Lost World

When producer/director Peter von Puttkamer asked cinematographer Glenn Taylor to return to Venezuela, where the pair had made a tarantula documentary (Spidermania) for the Discovery Channel four years earlier, Taylor did not hesitate. "Little did I know I'd end up in a swamp, up to my thighs in muddy water, shooting an 18-foot anaconda bolting out of the weeds towards me! "he laughs.

The anaconda in question along with a massive lagoon at the base of Angel Falls, a 3-billion-year-old mesa, and a previously unexplored cave system atop a 9,200'-high mountain plateau - stars in The Real Lost World, a two-hour program that will air this month on Animal Planet and Discovery HD Theater. The project was inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle's book The Lost World, a series of fantastic stories about giant ape men and dinosaurs that many believe was inspired by Doyle's impressions of Roraima, Venezuela. The Heal Lost World records the production's epic trek through hundreds of miles of swamps, savannahs, jungles and lunarlike surfaces.

As is often the case with adventure documentaries, logistics had to be balanced with the shoot's wide assortment of technical requirements. Taylor recalls, "I kept telling Peter we were actually packing for five different film shoots. We shot wildlife in the northern wetlands; a river trip through the jungle; dramatizations with costumed actors; a two-week hiking film; and a major cave expedition." Taylor's equipment included two Sony HDCam 730s, a Sony Z1U HDV, two 125-watt Pocket Pars, two Sun Guns, 10 battery belts, splash housings, an array of filters, and as little grip equipment as he could get away with.

During the expedition's six-day ascent to Roraima, the 730s were used in slingshot fashion. Taylor would send B-camera operator Nenad "Nash" Stevanovic ahead to prep the photography of, for example, a lightning storm, while the bulk of the team captured images of venomous insects with the A camera. When the crew reached Stevanovic, a small A-camera unit would hike ahead to the next scenic spot. "Sometimes we would get so focused on finding a spectacular setting that we would inadvertently hike out of radio range!" recalls Taylor.

The cinematographer took advantage of the Z1U to capture the long marches between locations. "We knew we needed a small camera to film vérité-style on the trek, and the advantages of the Z1U were enormous. The inherent style that comes from shooting from the hip with a small, lightweight camera gives the viewer a certain intimacy with the image." The downside of such a system, he adds, is that it's very easy to accidentally hit the shutter speed, auto-iris, auto-white, and autogain controls. "There's a lockout switch, but it's impractical to use when you need to grab and shoot," he notes.

Von Puttkamer has high praise for the 42 porters, local Pemon Indians, who carted the company's 3,000-odd pounds of gear. "Our biggest grip would be put to shame by a 100-pound Pemon woman scampering barefoot over the rocks with a 60-pound generator or Pelican case in a hand-woven basket on her back!" But sometimes, Taylor found the equipment he needed on the trail had been prematurely whisked away to the next campsite. "We soon realized that some of the porters wanted to make multiple trips to increase their earnings," he says. "As we were shooting on the trail, we'd start to see the same porters who'd left base camp early in the morning heading back for a second load!" So the camera crew selected four porters to remain with them at all times.

One porter was responsible for the production's Cambo jib arm, which fit onto a standard Sachtler tripod and could extend up to 14'. Because the device lacks zoom and fol low-focus controls, it wasn't Taylor's first choice, but "after much research, we realized the Cambo had the greatest length-to-weight ratio available to us at the time. …

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