As part of our aim to strengthen the connection between us and our readers, we decided to give our talented audience out there a stage to express themselves and share their success stories in our new weekly TALENT FEATURE. We hope that with time, these guest posts will become a source of inspiration to our colleagues wherever they are. If you are interested in participating, please upload your video to our VIDEOLOG and follow the rest of the submission process by reading the information here. (Intro by Johnnie Behiri)
I am a Vancouver-based documentary-style filmmaker, specializing in cinematic short-form videos. My wife is also a photographer and a filmmaker. Together we run our own business with a focus on weddings, which occupy most of my weekends. During the week, I find myself all over the Greater Vancouver area filming documentary shorts which feature the artisans and business owners who make this city so vibrant. I also have the opportunity to travel abroad to work on a variety of projects, and my experiences living abroad allow me to bring a unique angle to my stories.
Name? Aaron Nathanson
Currently based in: Vancouver, Canada
Language(s) spoken? English, Japanese, Spanish
Occupation? Filmmaker / Photographer
How did you get started in our industry? I often feel like I sort of “fell” into this line of work, like it chose me or something. But looking back, it makes a lot of sense. I found my dad’s old Panasonic PV-950 camcorder under the bed when I was a child, and would often run around the house with it, focusing on different things, experimenting with camera movement, zooming, etc. It started as child’s play, but I didn’t realize that in fact it was practice.
I lived in Japan for three years. It was my dream from a very young age. When I was there, I found that video helped me to connect with the world, especially the people around me. I found that I was more passionate about video than anything I’d ever done before, and I jumped at every opportunity to film, whether it was the cherry blossoms in full bloom, or a master artisan in deep concentration at her craft. For me, using a camera for video is like a form of meditation: holding my breath, moving my feet, pulling focus… it all really brings me into the moment.
I currently run a production company, Koyo Photography, here in Vancouver with my wife, Lindsay. I’m also head of production for a Sydney-based production company that specializes in short films for businesses. I always find myself at some new and interesting place filming during the week, and weekends are occupied by weddings. I go back to Japan for work about twice per year.
What is your dream assignment / job in our industry and what are you really passionate about? My style has always been driven by natural light, and I favour handheld movements with a documentarian feel. I’ve been watching Chef’s Table Season 2 on Netflix, and I know I’m not alone when I say this, but I absolutely love the style, and the way it’s both raw yet refined. There are so many shots that are risky in terms of nailing the focus or exposure; the timing, the setting, the fact that it all comes together the way it does really leaves me with a sense of awe. Being a camera operator on a project like that would definitely be my dream job. Of course, it’s also my dream to return to Japan on a permanent basis, but it’s hard to get residency there, especially as a filmmaker.
In the work that you are presenting us, now that it is done, what would you have done differently throughout the production? I really wish I would have gotten a great video portrait of our narrator, Mr. Kubota, outside in the garden. I only had an hour with the master brewer indoors as it was freezing outside, and I did not have a lighting crew with me. Any shots under the fluorescent lighting in the office of the sake brewery would not be usable. So, I decided to focus on getting some great soundbites which I would use to craft the story later.
What current camera, lenses and sound equipment do you use? I currently shoot with Sony mirrorless bodies, the A7SII, A7S, and A6000. I have an assortment of Canon L glass, with some Sigma Art lenses thrown in the mix, and I adapt them with a Metabones IV adapter. I roll as light as possible, preferring to go handheld most of the time, but my go-to support is the Manfrotto 561BHDV monopod for a wide variety of movements.
What’s is your favorite lighting equipment, and why did you choose that kit over other solutions? I like the Aladdin Bi-flex lights. They’re super easy to travel with, are nice and soft, and are just really reasonable overall. I’ve used a simple three-piece setup for interviews and they work a treat!
Do you use drones/gimbals in your productions? If so, what is the most effective way you’ve found in deploying then? I absolutely love that stabilized look, and I’m really amazed at how fast motorized gimbals are progressing. For now, I tend to just stick to my trusty Manfrotto Video Monopod for most of my tracking shots, and I’ve learned that good form and a little post-processing magic can create the effects I want without adding to my physical setup.
What editing systems do you use? I use FCPX. It’s the most intuitive NLE for me.
How much of your work do you shoot in Log and what is your preferred way of colour correcting? For me it is important to keep things as simple as possible, and that extends to the grading process. I rarely use S-LOG, and instead shoot a flat cine gamma, usually Cine 2 or Cine 4 whether I’m indoors or outdoors. For the grade, I find that a combination of Filmconvert and a secondary LUT, such as James Miller’s or VisionTek, tend to get me to the right jumping-off point. For colour correcting, I mostly find that the built-in FCPX tools do the trick.
How frequently do you travel, and do you have any tips when it comes to packing your gear? I am travelling around the Pacific Northwest regularly for jobs, and I am in Japan about twice per year for work. I also used to live in Hong Kong, so sometimes I am back there for work as well. When it comes to packing gear, I always make sure I’ve done my checklist and packed my Think Tank Streetwalker Hard Drive bag. I’ve tried a multitude of bags from various manufacturers, but this is the best-designed bag I’ve found by far. They key is to have a capacious bag that doesn’t draw any attention at the airport. Plus, it’s really comfortable, which seems like a monumental achievement given how much gear I can cram into it.
If you want to learn more about Aaron creative’s work, head over to his homepage.
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