I Ditched the Rig

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It was New Year’s Eve and when my neighbor’s almost endless ear-damaging ‘Sinturon ni Hudas,’ a series of about 10-meter-long firecrackers meant to ward off evil spirits, and humans as well, subsided, I dozed off worrying whether my motorcycle parked outside would survive the night while monitoring fire alerts. It was this time last year when a huge fire broke out leaving 4,000 families homeless and three dead in Apolonio Samson district in Quezon City.

2015 NYE fire in Apolonio Samson, Quezon City

8 AM–I checked my Android. Boom! A fire broke out just right after the world faded to black for me at 2 AM. One dead on the initial reports and a thousand families affected. It was too late to run and get the footage which my news agency in Berlin would probably need. But after a couple of hours, an email came in.
When I went to Apolonio Samson last year, I had a big rig with a 21-inch-long shotgun microphone and mattebox attached.
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It was difficult to get spontaneous shots as people cannot seem to help it goofing around a news camera. This time, I decided to bring just my Canon EOS 60D camera body, my good old 18-55mm kit lens for the wides, a 300mm zoom and my newest special, a vintage 1977 Japan-made Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f2.0 prime lens.

Just like I thought, when I got to the still hot and smoking rubble, almost nobody waved a hand for the news. It was easier to capture the true mood of the area.
2016 NYE fire aftermath, Tondo, Manila
I used a wired lavalier microphone for the interview, of course, but it was difficult getting it right. Leaving my rig means I did not have a matte box to cover my lens. Keeping eye contact with the interviewee, guarding the shot and audio levels while trying to get the right story is hard enough for a solo video journalist and then to top it all up, keeping the lens covered from sunlight with a hand, to keep my contrast as crisp as possible, makes it a whole lot harder.
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My camera also got wet when I was hit by the firemen trying to put out the smoke coming from just a little behind my spot. I used to put a trash bag around my rig in these situations since it has this aluminum brackets that act as the shotgun mic holders and cage at the same time. With this experience, I am now planning a smaller rig setup. 🙂

One thing I like about filming news is the unique kind of high that I get while trying to get the right angle, picking the right person to interview, getting the right images while trying to protect yourself and your equipment in the midst of the overwhelming drama unfolding before me. Making a film out of a script is great but making it out of a real-time chaotic setting under a hairline of time frame is crazy and amazing.
See the breaking news

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From a Missing Airplane to Houses in Ashes

Burnt houses by Ruptly

My best buddies on this assignment:

  • Trash bag – it protected my camera and rig from remaining water cannons and water sprouts from broken pipes and rain.
  • My pair of Converse shoes – it stood hot piles of debris and the murky puddles of charred wood, earth and ashes.
  • Rain coat (which I gave out to evacuees)

To get to the core of this burnt 2.5-hectare settlement, I had to get through a still-hot and smoking remains of a house, come out of a window to the river dike and get through another rubble at the end of it then go through isles of debris. Everything is hot and smoking, if not wet, and the result–surreal.

See the fire.

Documercial in the Countryside

Just finished filming a documercial in Tarlac for the United Kingdom.Documercial Production

In this project, we followed a day in the lives of a single mother living in a shanty converted from half of a duck shelter big enough for a bamboo bed that she shares with her two children and of a wife and mother selling fish in the villages with her blind husband on a pedal tribike, a few days before Christmas in the countryside villages of La Paz, Tarlac, Philippines.

With my wife Marvie doing the interview, my Canon and Magic Lantern buddies and sweaters, I was able to capture as much angles as possible, without disrupting their normal work, from dawn to dusk.

The biggest challenge in this job is the limited time we have to film both subjects that conflicts with their daily routine as one has to continuously sell her perishable goods all day while the other one has to check on the draws of small town lottery she books and tend to her little children and the small window of opportunity to film in the busy village store giving us a hard time setting up the interviews but we pulled it off.

Although this work is probably more of a documentary for research and product development, it was by far the closest I got to humanity as a video producer.

Adrenaline Shot

Project: RT Ruptly “Philippines: Protesters burn effigy, get hit by water cannons”
Credit: Video Journalist

I got the best shots of this rally dangling on to a safe gap of razor-wire-adorned iron fence. It was a sweet concoction of art, passion, endurance and a bit of insanity but when finally people at the other side of the world see them–ahh, that’s when my lonesome work becomes an awesome adventure!