Finn O’Hara discusses Video

by Heather on April 29, 2010

I know this is old news but last summer Finn O’Hara bagged a super cool assignment with Canada Tourism which took him on a massive trip across Canada shooting both stills and video. Some work from that series:

(Mmmm, Montreal bagels. And maybe I’m just hungry but notice how beautiful that steaming smoked meat looks):

Iceland has had a tough go so let’s celebrate our Canadian ties to that country with this vid:

Because we’re all curious about how stills and video production can converge, I asked Finn about this project:

Can you describe Tourism and how it came about?

The Canada Tourism Commission (CTC) work was an ambitious project that set out to create small viral videos of top Canadian tourism destinations. I was commissioned by a small, specialized company called Asymetric, who won the CTC job. My responsibilities were to handle both motion and stills using the Canon 5D Mark II. Shot over the summer of 2009, I was part of a creative and production team that profiled the Provinces of Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and British Columbia. We ended up driving 4952 km’s, had 39 shoot days, and ended up shooting a total of 99 individual stories.

On these Provincial tours, we operated as a four person team that consisted of a Director, a Producer, an ‘A’ Camera Operator, and a ‘B’ Camera Operator (me). The ‘A’ Camera captured the interviews & supporting footage, and the ‘B’ Camera captured the majority of the supporting footage. A typical day would involve us shooting 4 to 5 stories, which entailed profiling popular tourist destinations across the Province. Upon reaching a destination, we would meet our location contact, our interviewee, and we would get the lowdown on the location’s tourist experience. The Director and ‘A’ Camera Operator would then find a suitable location for the interview, and I would set off to find shots that would best illustrate the environment’s tourist experience, and reflect visually what would be mentioned in the interview. So, when viewing these CTC videos, keep in mind that my contribution can be generally recognized as not the interview footage, but as the ’support’ footage that is layered over the interview audio. It can also be identified by the vibrancy of the footage, as I solely shot with a Canon 5D Mark II, and as our team quickly found out, it blew the image quality of the ‘A’ camera’s footage (the Sony EX3), clear out of the water. We all agreed that the 5D Mark II’s image was rich and vibrant, while the EX3’s was a little washed-out and duller overall. This has everything to do with the larger sensor and diverse lenses of the 5D Mark II, compared to the EX3, and nothing to do with the operators.

Can you explain how your stills background helps or hinders your ability to shoot motion? Where is the overlap, and where is the disconnect?

For me, my stills background has definitely helped. The understanding of exposure and framing, as well as recognizing the ‘decisive moment’, and shooting a lot of portraits, have all aided in shooting motion.

I would say that the overlap happens with the knowledge of exposure and framing, but the disconnect comes with directing people and dialogue. That is a whole other kettle of fish that I’m trying to grasp.

From your experience, does it make sense to ask a photographer (assuming he has the capability) to shoot both the still and the motion part of a campaign?

I think it makes total sense, as having one director handling the visual direction of a broad campaign helps streamline production, and encourages visual cohesiveness.

If you scan through more of the Tourism videos- you can see exactly what Finn is talking about in terms of framing and composition. After seeing this work, I totally buy a stills guys adding value to a motion project.

In other news, Finn has recently signed on with Sugino Studio which is uniquely positioned in Toronto as a home to both stills and motion shooters. As such, Sugino’s (traditionally) still shooters have access to a huge stockpile of the fancy motion equipment. How would you like to play with a Phantom? Here’s what Finn came up with:

Phantom Camera Axe Test from Finn O'Hara on Vimeo.

I think we’re all excited about how the new technology is encouraging us to tell stories in new ways. The beauty of those smoked meat sandwich shots within the larger context of the story of Montreal are a good example. Those takes have a stills sensibility in a motion platform.

Not that it’s all about my party (consider RSVPing at the Facebook page here) but at HMAb Live! on May 11th, I’m excited to have photojournalist Don Weber presenting some of his new motion work which shows a another type of integration of stills, video and sound.

Back to Finn- without question, he’s had a lot of eyes on him for a long time. For my money, if anyone is going to sort out this stills/motion convergence insurgence, it’s going to be him. He’s got one of the best photographer’s blogs around and you’d be wise to keep it bookmarked.

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