Podcast 238 : Meguro River Sakura (My First Short Movie!)

by | Apr 10, 2010 | Podcast, Videos | 14 comments

Here’s my first short movie “Meguro River Sakura” as this week’s Podcast episode, along with just a little bit of background information on the project.

The Podcast stream and iTunes will contain only the iPod/iPhone optimized version. You can view the full sized version below, or on YouTube. It’s High Definition video too, so if you select “Full Screen” or hit the full screen button, the video will expand to fill your screen. Turn up the sound too, then sit back and enjoy.

This first short movie started out as practice using my new Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head. I didn’t want to just point my camera at any old subject and waft it around to get used to the tension etc. of the head, so I decided to give myself a project. As the cherry blossom (sakura) was in full bloom last weekend, I decided to shoot enough footage to make a story out of it.

I started from a distance, where you can see people gathered and looking, photographing something from a bridge. The next shot is a little closer, and we can see the traffic of the busy road between me and the people gathered on the bridge. Then I pan across to reveal the cherry blossom. The music starts, and we get another 7 minutes or so of imagery from the afternoon.

I ensured that I got wider shots, long lens shots. Shots of the various ways in which people enjoy the Sakura. I was very lucky too. People turned up on jet-bikes and in boats. There was a group of “salary men” having a hanami, or cherry blossom viewing party, and a lady in a kimono, among other things.

I imagined that I wanted to try to capture people leaving and going home as the ending, but as the afternoon progressed, I realized that if I held on for another few hours, I’d be able to shoot the red lanterns that would illuminate as it got dark, and a few shots of these from various angles could become my closing scene.

On the actual shooting, the Fluid Head took a bit of getting used to, and I was also pulling focus myself, without the aid of any additional equipment on the lens. I did use a Zacuto Z-Finder DSLR Optical Viewfinder to help me see the focus better on the LCD screen. This works great.

I shot about 22GB of video over six hours, and used up two fully charged 1D Mark IV batteries. I edited the video down to 8:29 minutes in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4.

The resulting short movie may not be Star Wars, but I think it all came together pretty well for what was essentially my first bit of practice with video, other than shooting what I call “moving stills”, which are 15-30 second clips while I’m shooting stills, that I intend to embed in still photography slide-shows at some point. On my Hokkaido workshop this year though, one of the participants showed me how to pan with a large thick elastic band around the lens, and I realized just how much a little bit of movement of the camera helped to improve video footage. It was because of this that I decided I really needed to figure out how to fit my cameras and bodies fitted with Really Right Stuff lens plates to a fluid head, like the Manfrotto 519.

I was hoping that some company would come up with a good solution, like a fluid head with Arca-Swiss standard dove-tail plate compatibility, but these are still not available as of April 10, 2010, and there was no information on how to rig this available on the Web either. At least not that I could find. So, I finally spend the time to figure out what I needed to use the Manfrotto 519 fluid head with my Really Right Stuff lens plates, and it works a treat. I’m very happy with my new set up. I can now use all of my lenses and bodies fitted with RRS plates with the Manfrotto 519 now, with the help of a couple of additional parts. I’ll be following up with what you need to do this yourself in the coming week.

Podcast show-notes:

Music created and produced by UniqueTracks.


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  1. Al

    Really enjoyed that. So interesting to see another culture like that.

    The gentleman at 3:28 made me laugh. Reminded me of the times I try and take a photo and then realise I’ve forgotten to turn the camera on!

  2. Martin Bailey

    Thanks Al! I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

    That guy is funny. Filming the entire afternoon, I was able to capture a number of moments that I might have missed if I’d been shooting stills. Of course, the reverse is true. Had I not been shooting video, I’d have got a lot more nice stills. Both is difficult to do fully. 🙂

    It was a lot of fun though either way. I look forward to doing more.


  3. Marcus

    Fantastic short movie !!

    Loved the shots of sakura foreground dof blocking the street signs and the evening shots with the lanterns. Watched it with my new born son Hal – he was born on April 6th – I think he really loved the music combined with the soft sounds of the world.

  4. yeongbing

    Really good short film! I love it!

    Gave me a sense of how the people really enjoying being around the sakuras. I think your eye for composition helped you in finding interesting angles to film.

    Hope to see more movies from you.


  5. Susan

    Hi Martin,
    I really enjoyed your short movie this morning. I have a week off from work this week and you have inspired me to go out with my gear.

    I like the peaceful feel to your work. The music complimented your vision. I enjoyed the way you presented the capture as a story; it was easy to follow and the beauty of the area really came through. It is amazing that this was city and not country.

    Best wishes for further adventures in short videos!

  6. Martin Bailey

    Marcus, congratulations on the arrival of your new son Hal! I new he was on the way, but that is great! I’m thrilled for you both.

    Yeongbing, Thanks! I didn’t really appreciate my eye for composition until I saw the completed movie, then I realized that it had probably helped a lot.

    Susan, I’m pleased you like this, and that it gave you a little inspiration. Thanks for the kind words too.


  7. Jack Andrys


    Thanks for the work you put in, I watched it in HD on a large LCD and it puts my Nikon D90 movies to shame. Thanks for sharing the setup info also.



  8. Tony

    That was so cool. It took me a moment to slow down to the pace of the video, then it was very peaceful. For me the shallow depth of field was really nice. I love the section just before night, very pretty. It was fascinating for me (not of this culture) to see the blossom in that urban environment and the people etc.

    PS its probably my machine but I found if I played it in itunes or quicktime it was stuttery. Nero played it fine though and I seem to be able to play other mp4’s. Might just be my PC though, see what others say?

  9. Nancy Lehrer

    Bravo! That is all that needs to be said.

  10. Andrew

    Dude this is epic! Great choice of music as well.

  11. Mike Byford

    Fantastic short movie Martin – it’s inspired me to learn about the video capabilities of my 5d mk2 to hopefully do a ” fusion” of moving and still images
    Many thanks


  12. Michael Glennon

    mmm beautiful, love your choise of shots and movement through the frame, interesting focus pulling too. I plan to walk the 88 temple pilgrimage later this year so very inspiring.

  13. Martin Bailey

    Sorry for the delay in replying here, but thanks for all the kind words everyone!

    Jack, you’re more than welcome, I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

    Tony, one of the reasons I stopped putting the large video in iTunes is exactly that. It’s very jerky. I found streaming from the Web, or downloading and playing with just about any other player is better. It’s pretty vexing too, because the best encoding method I’ve found is customized for Apple TV!

    Mike, that is one of my intentions too. I have a few nice clips from Hokkaido in February, that I’m going to interweave into a slide-show of still photographs, just as soon as I make time to put it together.

    Thanks Michael! I’ve considered the 88 temple pilgrimage too. I don’t think I’ll get to it very soon though, although I could certainly do with the exercise. Good luck with that!

  14. Stan Dye

    Absolutely beautiful. Really nice to here music that really fits the mood of the subject. I really enjoy all of your work that I’ve seen and heard.


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