Ziv Koren has been a successful photojournalist for over 20 years and his work has been published in Time, Newsweek, The Sunday Times, Stern, Paris Match and Wired among others. Now Ziv is combining still images with video, and the results are powerful multimedia presentations that give a new insight into the decisive moment when the camera shutter button is pressed. CPN spoke to him about his recent work using a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III SLR camera in conjunction with the Canon HF10 1080 HD camcorder.
How did the idea of combining stills photographs with video footage come about?
I started about four years ago, trying to play with the idea of how I can show the background of my work and give the viewer the ability to see where my decisive moment was by pressing the shutter.
It was extremely complicated four years ago because I had this miniature ‘lipstick’ camera and attached it on my still camera. And then I had a pouch with a video recorder – on tape obviously – and I had this box that I had to plug in about 10 different wires for video, sound and power. The power source was separate from the camera, so it was very complicated, and the quality was a disaster compared with what I have today.
For my project More Than 1000 Words, I had to work with engineers to build this video camera ‘box’ and shoot video onto cumbersome tape with the camcorder attached to my lens, but this was bulky and complex equipment. Today, the product is on the shelf – it’s just: 'pick it up and hook it to your still camera, press the record button and you have it.' It’s so simple and the quality is unbelievable.
The solution was for me to create a completely new visual language; to shoot video from the same perspective as my still camera’s lens at the same time. The question I needed to answer was how to simplify the process and the equipment. Today that’s much easier with the latest compact high definition Canon camcorders being so portable and affordable. Now there are none of the technical issues we had then - all I need to do is make is the decision to shoot since the modern HD camcorders are so much more compact and lightweight - they’re 10 times easier to use now. For this I made a bracket to strap the camcorder alongside the lens and that means I can capture video clips and still images simultaneously, the moment the shutter is pressed.
How did the idea for photographing and filming Israeli military training exercises come about?
Doing stories with the military is part of my DNA and I thought it would be a good one to show for two reasons. First, this is what I usually shoot, and second, it has the exact kind of movement that I need in order to create the decisive moment. If something doesn’t move, you will not be able to feel the video. So, because there’s a lot of movement, I thought that would work perfectly to show the ability of the camera. And I was able to do a day shoot and a night shoot in order to show how it works in low light conditions, on the one hand, and the daylight quality of the camera.
Can you explain how the combined EOS-1Ds Mark III and HF10 camcorder set-up works?
I basically have a bracket, two pieces of metal that hook up to your camera and then I added a small photo head to them and I just play with it so they are completely parallel. It’s very simple – there’s nothing high-tech about it. Then I open the screen of the HF10 and I look at the screen on my camera back (which I’m able to do with Live View Mode on the EOS-1Ds Mark III), and then I look to see that I have the exact same frame. I adjust it a bit just to have it perfectly matched, and when that happens I know it will be much easier for me in the post-production to do the editing and get the final cut in place.
Are there any technical barriers you have to overcome when shooting stills and video?
I always plan the still shoot first; first and foremost I am a stills photographer and I always have an idea of what I want to shoot before I start. I’ve changed the way I shoot in that I move the lens around a little after the still shot to give time to capture more video, just like a pan shot.
My still camera doesn’t change, but I started recording video on tape and I was waiting for digital recording to start in order to make it much easier, mainly on the post-production - editing and working on the final cut of the product. Having a smaller and a lighter camera, and recording on digital makes it much easier.
What is useful about the HF10?
First of all, it records on cards in a digital format. Secondly, it’s small and it’s light – it’s unbelievable how small it is. It doesn’t really bother me while I’m focusing on my still photography – my workflow is not being interrupted. And the last thing is the quality of the camera. It’s small but it gives you full HD, high quality footage, which is unbelievable.
Were there any particular features of the HF10 camera that you liked?
Basically I’m not a videographer. What I really like is that I just do a very basic setting at the beginning of the shoot, I press the record button and that’s it. I want to forget that the video is there and focus on my pictures. I don’t zoom in and out and I don’t do multiple exposures or anything. I wanted to keep it very simple and just give the best quality possible. That’s what I’m looking for. This camera allows me to just press the button, and get the best quality out of it.
How does the editing process work?
I don’t do the editing myself. I have a professional editor – Solo Avital - who I work with.
We sit together and try to build the sequences that will tell the story, and find the match frame. This is the main part of the combination. It’s basically having the exact same frame on the video and the still, and matching them together. Then the freeze frame on the screen will be the image. That part takes time - finding the exact split second when they come together.
There might be a music soundtrack or some of the sound that was shot on the video camera. So you really need to combine these and take into consideration how you can tell the story - what kind of footage you have and how long will it be?; what kind of music will go along with this story?; it’s like editing a movie. The post-production is very complicated and it sometimes takes more time editing it and putting it together – so that it has the right tempo and rhythm and tells a story - than the actual shooting.
Is there particular editing software you use?
The editor I work with uses Vegas software. But I have to admit that even though we’ve been sitting together for long hours, I haven’t a clue – he works so fast. It’s like he’s playing the piano with four hands! The only thing that needs to be taken into consideration is to downsize the file size of the still pictures; otherwise it crashes the computer because the files are so heavy. But other than that, I think it works perfectly well.
What future plans do you have for combining stills and video shooting?
We are entering an era where we are showing still photos and video on the web like never before - this is a new form, a new language, expanding as the demand grows thanks to sites such as YouTube. A traditional magazine can run the still image and the same magazine’s website will probably want something that is much more colourful and which moves. I think it gives you the opportunity to have the still image but to add some sound and motion to it. It’s basically giving additional value to the still image.
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