In all my experiences of visiting America I’ve never left the coasts. It seems to be somewhat of a common trend to stay close to the familiar landscapes of Los Angeles and New York. However, I’ve always heard lots of about the southern states of America. The culture, the landscape, the people, the music. New Orleans really seems to be at the centre of all of this. A melting pot of cultures and influences; a physical embodiment of the intriguing and complex history of the south. I’ve always wanted to visit. So when we approached Marriott to help us film a travel series it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Our aim was to travel to three different Marriott hotels across the globe and spend just twenty four hours in each location in order to capture the city and the culture. It was important that each place had a strong visual culture and represented a different part of the world. We decided to start our journey in the United States, then travel to Japan, and finally head to Turkey. Along the way our goal was to capture the variety and contrast between global cultures.
In order to create these videos I decided to use a point-of-view rig. I wanted to capture the intensity of spending twenty four hours in a city from my perspective. I was also set on not using a GoPro – we wanted to push the boundaries of the quality of POV films. So I created something myself. Although it looks like somewhat of a complicated beast its construction is actually relatively simple. The base of the rig is formed by an old bicycle helmet. On the front I mounted a Sony A7S which is Sony’s latest mirror-less full frame camera. I then mounted a counter weight on the back and a wireless transmitter on top. The transmitter would allow a second person to watch what I see via an external monitor and direct the shots. There was also the option to attach an additional microphone to capture improved audio when necessary.
Having assembled our gear, we set off with our team to spend an week of filming in Louisiana. Despite the concept of the video centred on spending 24 hours in a city, filming takes far longer in order to set up shots and get around to everything we want to see. We arrived in New Orleans with a crowded schedule and a couple of containers full of strange looking camera contraptions. I was genuinely pulled aside by security and searched. Luckily, before long I was cleared and walking out into the balmy New Orleans night.
New Orleans was as I had expected. A bustling town full of some of the most colourful, fascinating characters I’ve ever seen. Our lovely fixers, Lizzie and Noell, helped us to get acquainted with the city. We spent our days wandering the streets, watching performances, listening to music, learning about the storied history of the city and experiencing some of the amazing food on offer. We also explored the city by bike, boat, and the slightly unsanctioned method of latching onto the back of a streetcar whilst riding a penny board.
Creating this video was an interesting challenge for a number of reasons. The first is that my shots were limited in terms of view point as the camera was fixed on my head. This reduces the chance to be creative with framing and setting up shots. It’s also limited in terms of focal length. In order to achieve the effect whereby you can see what your own hands are doing we had to shoot on the widest lens we could, the Sigma 11-16mm 2.8. This of course limits the video to extreme wide angle shots which aren’t always the most attractive. Additionally, it’s hard to have a sense of the person wearing the rig as they are hidden behind the camera. Without having a character feature within the POV journey the footage captured can feel somewhat cold and at times confusing as it is removed from the physicality of seeing a person. Despite that it was enjoyable to experiment with a new way of capturing video. The rig did create an interesting effect with passers by as they would often be intrigued by the camera and engage with it, which created a couple of fun shots.
Though New Orleans is the American city of our series it also has its own entirely unique character. We hope we have done justice to it here. To watch our video “24 Hours in New Orleans”, click below: