Global Eclipse Gathering Patagonia 2020 - Documentary Work

I followed the organisers of this massive event as they visited the site and met with local and ancestral authorities for the first time.
DocumentaryTravel/Lifestyle

I was supposed to leave Argentina on March 30th. Instead, I ended up flying to Patagonia with an adorable motley crew. They came from many different countries to start planning and visualising a big global gathering to share the Solar Total Eclipse that will be seen from the South of Argentina in December 2020. The text message that originated this sheer change of plans happened out of the blue only one week before the travel date. Thankful for the unexpected exciting job and for, once again, being able to change my plans; I packed all my gear tight, borrowed warm clothes (I barely own any) and went on for a professional adventure full of challenges, interesting people and laughter. A project that would require my absolute best at all the skills I had been polishing during my 3 years of nomadism.

A hectic week

Kevin, Bosque and the interdisciplinary team they had brought along together with the local organisers, Jowe and Tuei, had a very busy week ahead of them. I had to capture the whole thing: their creative process, their relationships, the landscape and every possible accident or coincidence that might come our way. There were a few meetings, though, that were of utmost importance: The meeting with the mayor of Las Coloradas, the one with the mayor of Junin de los Andes, and the meeting with the Mapuche Community leader. I also had to find the time to interview the team members about the process, which meant finding 15 minutes gaps in everyone’s schedule and a silent corner to work in. I basically had to be ready for shooting almost all day everyday and whenever I was not, I had to be thinking about gear, storyline, locations and what not. Although we had plans that could help me choose which specific gear to carry here or there, the week was not short of last minute changes or unexpected circumstances that affected how I could do my work. As I navigated these long days of recording, downloading  and logging footage only to format and charge every battery again for the next day; I had to begin thinking about threads for the storyline: I knew they would need the first short video edited fairly soon. I somehow managed to stay on top of my game for the most part and enjoyed every bit of it. The magic of challenges is that they have the ability to reveal a turbo version of yourself. This was true not only for me, everyone was working very hard. Still, the group was having fun and everybody was supercharged with energy out of the excitement of the process. The one week trip resulted in about 500Gb of footage I had the mission to compile into a short video within another week. 

The one week trip resulted in about 500 GB of footage I had the mission to compile into a short video within another week.

Every time I am in this situation, I reflect about the way we access information continues to get fragmented to almost unbelievable extents.

Editing & The Tyranny of Bots

10 Interviews, 3 meetings, a dozen drone flights, car conversations, table conversations around the map, walking conversations, jokes, thoughts out loud, first encounters and so on… I had enough footage to put together a film had that been our intention. But instead, I had to come up with a short storyline that would allow us to share the core of the trip with the Global Eclipse Community within the following 10 days. This timeframe meant I had no chance of properly viewing the footage. I had to rely on my memory and the log I had created each evening. Here’s a scenario in which having the same person record and edit turns out to be crucial. The reason why the first video had to be short was it had to work across platforms. Instagram allows videos of only up to 1 minute. My ideal super short edit ended up being 1 minute 5 seconds, but I HAD to trim those 5 seconds for Instagram. While at it, I also created a vertical version for mobile experience optimisation.

It’s quite hard to compress the experience, the beauty, the hope and the excitement so much, but our attention span continues to shrink. Every time I am in this situation, I reflect about the way we access information continues to get fragmented to almost unbelievable extents. Although it worries me, I have no choice but to play along and find a way to communicate faster and faster trying to keep narrative arcs and room for beauty and emotion in the videos I make. The length cap was by no means the only limitation to my upcoming edit. All along the footage, English and Spanish were mixed up and the end file had to be suitable for viewers of all across the globe alike. Not only there would be subtitles all the time, but we had to have on screen text to convey our message when the video autoplays in mute on mobile. 

Crafted Titles

So I was going to have subtitles almost at all times. Whatever language we chose to create the slides in would have to be subtitled. Whenever someone spoke, it would have to be subtitled to the other language too. This meant lots of on screen text, on top of lots of images and quite some actual content we wanted to communicate. How could I display all this text without it becoming discouraging? I thought that if the slides could feel more like images, I’d have part of the problem solved. How could I make the slides feel like images? I anchored the slides in the shots and had them behave like a physical part of the actual frame by tracking the camera and applying it to them. Luckily, the font the Global Eclipse Gathering uses works well when big and has a casual handwritten feel to it – so that helped too. To finish up the effect, every time the shot allowed it, I rotoscoped one or two elements in the shot to have them move before the actual slide. I was very happy with the result and felt like it accomplished my goal of having the slides be more visual and also telling the story in a way that would work in mute without discouraging the viewers and properly organising the frame for them. From the amount of views and engagements this video has had in less than a week, I am inclined to think it worked. Bring it on bots, I’ve got this!

The Gear

Cameras

  • Lumix Lx 100
  • Sony a7 sII w Rokinon Cine Lenses 24mm, 50mm and 85mm
  • Mavic Pro Drone
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Camera

Sound

  • Audiotechnica PRO 70 lav mic
  • Rode VideoMic Pro
  • Zoom H2 (yesss, it’s ooold and I love it)

Rigging

  • Benro Aero Travel Tripod
  • Zhiyun Crane Gimbal