By Randi Altman
In a perfect world, children would grow up in loving and nurturing homes with food on the table and clothes on their backs. Unfortunately, for many that is not reality. AMIT, an Israeli social services organization, was established over 40 years ago offering foster homes and education to these lost children. But having been built between 1935 and 1975, their foster homes are in dire need of renovations, so the non-profit is currently in the middle of a $10 million fundraising campaign.
As part of that campaign, AMIT called on Long Island, NY-based DMJ Digital Media, and its owner David Jasse, to help them tell their story and inspire donations. Jasse packed up his Canon 5D Mark III, tucked away in a Tenba carrying case designed to fit perfectly intoluggage racks on planes, and headed to Israel.
In an effort to travel light, Jasse picked up a light panel, small LEDs and an HD 2000 glidecam from a production company in Israel. While there, he hired a local cameraman/DP and a grip/production assistant. They worked alongside Jasse, who directed and produced two shorts — a seven-minute film and a two-minute promo — for use at AMIT fundraising events and on the web.
Jasse and AMIT wanted to use real children whose lives have been touched by the organization, but they needed to protect the identity of some of the younger kids. That meant that Jasse had to get creative in terms of angles. He opted for over-the-shoulder shots and used a short depth-of-field in other shots to block out the children’s faces while at the same time “not making it look like a witness protection video.”
He credits the Canon 5D Mark III DSLR with allowing him the flexibility to tell the story he was hired to tell. “When it comes to portability, quality and ability to get great images and have control, DSLRs are fantastic. We constantly blurred faces while having other parts of the image clear with the 5D.”
Jasse emphasizes that for the type of work his company provides, DSLRs are a perfects choice. Clients often come to him with very fixed budgets but a clear understanding of what they want their message to be. “Using something like a Red or Alexa with higher image quality isn’t going to help tell our story,” he says. “Chances are it will raise the cost of production, and raise the cost of the post production workflow because of the large files.”
For documentary type work, like the promo AMIT Saves Lives and the main film AMIT Saves the Children, the choice for his company when it comes to cameras is clear: DSLRs. “The versatility on location is perfect for documentaries when you don’t want to be noticed,” explains Jasse. “Plus these cameras give you the ability to achieve shallow depth-of-field without needing a ton of space like with conventional video cameras. These cameras have changed the paradigm and more than pay for themselves quickly. In fact, we generally have two or three on location to add creativity and ensure we’re covered when telling stories that happen live.”
In the field, the team used the 5D Mark III and a range of lenses, from a 14mm to Tamaron 70-200mm, with a few prime lenses in between. “The Samyang 14mm is incredible,” says Jasse. “It gives it a great look, and 14mm is as far as you can go before a ton of distortion kicks in. It’s one of my favorite lenses these days.”
For location audio, DMJ records sound in-camera with either a Beach Tech or Juice Link box in an effort to cut down on the workload in post.
For graphics, DMJ took advantage of MotionVFX and their templates for Adobe After Effects. After Effects artist Michael Grech customized the templates by adding in the client photos, logo and colors.
For music, DMJ’s go-to has been audiojungle.net. “They have a great variety of offerings, and it doesn’t sound like canned music,” reports Jasse. “From the sad stories to the historical sections to the uplifting portions, there was quite a bit of music to choose from.”
The seven-minute main film includes historical footage of Israel, documenting the organization’s work since its founding in 1925. “From scenes of the work AMIT did helping children right out of the holocaust to rarely seen archive footage of the 1967 six-day war to the Ethiopian and Russian immigration in the ‘80s, narrator Brian Haymond brought it all to life,” describes Jasse. “It took careful color correction (in Final Cut) in order to integrate the SD archive footage into the HD masters, but the audience is forgiving when the content is so amazing.”
DMJ edited the pieces in Apple Final Cut Pro 7; they output in HD for showings around the US.
The two-minute promo has been used on the web to raise awareness, and acts as a teaser to invite guests to the larger events where they screen the longer film.