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Will You Do 1 Thing on Valentine’s Day?

January 09, 2009 by David Bergman

I recently produced a short video about Perry, a homeless young man who is choosing to stay at Covenant House in New York City instead of living with an abusive family. You might be surprised to hear that he’s a talented pianist — completely self-taught — and writes his own music. He has ambitions of going to college and working in the music business.

I volunteered to produce the piece for Do1Thing.org (blog). The nationwide movement strives to raise awareness for the more than 1.3 million homeless youth in America by asking everyone to simply Do 1 Thing on Valentines Day, 2009. It’s a chance to help someone less fortunate than yourself.

This isn’t a documentary. I prefer to call it a “video portrait.” It’s 2 1/2 minutes long and should give you a sense of who Perry is.

(If you’re reading this via email or RSS, you may not see the embedded flash player above. Click here to view it on my blog.)

Do1Thing was founded by Najlah Feanny and Pim Van Hemmen, who have recruited 26 Pulitzer Prize winners for the project. They also did an amazing job setting up the New Jersey Heart Gallery a few years ago. The portraits I shot for them in 2005 led directly to children getting adopted. It was an amazing experience.

David Bergman Heart Gallery

If you’re not interested in the technical details of how I put the Perry video together, you can stop right here. Otherwise, keep reading.

I shot the video with the Nikon D90 camera. I was thrilled when Nikon (and subsequently, Canon) announced that they were releasing DSLR still cameras that could also shoot video. I’ve always enjoyed using motion and sound to help tell a story, but have never liked way that video looked.

Still cameras allow me to make images with a shallow depth of field. Now I can use my Nikon lenses to shoot video that takes advantage of that and gives my videos a “film” look.

The D90 is a mature still camera, but the video side is in its infancy. There are a number of limitations — the biggest of which is its inability to record quality sound. The D90 only has a built-in microphone, so you can’t use any external mics to record.

The best option is to use a stand-alone audio recorder like those made by Marantz or Fostex. I don’t own either, so I used my Canon GL1 mini-dv camera.

I put my Sennheiser lavalier mic on Perry and wired it into the GL1. I shot the interview with my Nikon 70-200 locked down on a tripod and rolled both cameras at the same time.

The D90 can only shoot 5 minute clips, so I started and stopped the cameras every 3-4 minutes to be safe. At the beginning of each clip, I clapped one time to make it easier to sync the two audio captures in post.

After the interview, I asked Perry to play through the song five or six times while I shot it at different angles on the D90 with my 14-24 and 24-70 Nikon lenses.

I brought all of the footage into Final Cut Pro and synched the interview audio. After that was locked down, I deleted the GL1 video and the D90 audio because I didn’t need either. Then I simply did a normal edit like I would for any video.

It was a bit convoluted, but in the end I was able to get the look and sound that I wanted.

DSLR video cameras are still a first-generation product. I’m sure they’ll improve over time, making it easier to produce great looking (and sounding) video projects.

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  • By Jason Burfield on January 09, 2009

    Nice piece Dave, I like it.

  • By Amy on January 09, 2009

    Oh my god, David, that was amazing. I almost have tears in my eyes. (But I’m not really a crier, you know.) Seriously, we should talk soon. That really blew me away.

  • By Marshall Garlington on January 09, 2009

    Such a gentle presentation of a very talented individual.

  • By jan sonnenmair on January 11, 2009

    David, this is beautiful.  I am just wondering why you did not just shoot the whole thing on your GL1.  What benefit are you getting from using the D90?

  • By Bob Davis on January 18, 2009

    Way to go.  This seems like an excellent way of giving back and raising awareness of the need right here in our own back yard.

  • By Jamie on January 20, 2009

    Love the film David, love the use of the D90. Really well put together, I really hope that cameras like the D90 and there future counterparts are going to shake up the DV rebel film industry. Hopefully we’ll see more and more shorts like this coming soon. The video industry needs some more of that photographic eye, it’s all becoming very graphic at the moment. At least over here in the UK. Awesome.

  • By Terri on January 25, 2009

    This brought me to tears because there are so many people in thiis world in the same predicament, & yet so many are quick to judge based on what’s on the surface.
    May God bless him & I appreciate you sharing this young man for all.

  • By Virginia on January 27, 2009

    David, this was so relaxing. That’s not easy to capture when someone seems to be living in less than ideal conditions. Perry’s talent and stance on how he chooses to live his life really help put a lot of things in perspective. I got to your site by viewing your photograph of President Obama’s inaguration onlookers. Its clarity was so impressive that I felt like I was right there with the people. Keep up the good work.

  • By Candy on January 29, 2009

    Loved the inaguration photo ~ saved it ~ came back to it ~ forwarded it ~ then finally watched your video on Perry!  WOW both are so powerful.  Thanks for inspiration!

  • By Shirley on January 31, 2009

    David:  Thank you for sharing Perry’s story.  I am deeply touched by his plight and ambition.  You’ve shown how erroneous our attitude towards homeless people can be.  I know he will succeed and will keep him in my prayers!

  • By Shirley on January 31, 2009

    David:  Thanks for sharing Perry’s story!  I am deeply touched and moved by it.  You’ve awakened how wrongly we look at homeless people!  I know he will succeed and will keep him in my prayers!

  • By Santiago del Río on February 01, 2009

    Increíble esa fotografía, amigo. Realmente sorprendente. Te felicito, che.

  • By Liza on February 03, 2009

    Outstanding work by you and the one’s you portray.  Thank you so much for sharing your talent, and the incredible talent and humanity of Perry.  If only everyone could see the world the way Perry does…

  • By Carrie on February 06, 2009

    Great ! I will add this to my bookmarks. TY

  • By jasoncohen on February 09, 2009

    really enjoyed the video…

  • By Jack Robert on February 10, 2009

    That was a great blog. Most blogs are not even worth reading.

  • By Andrew on February 10, 2009

    Great video. What’s the name of the song he’s playing?

  • By David on February 11, 2009

    He wrote it himself and didn’t have a title yet.

  • By Katie on February 18, 2009

    amazing stuff thanx :

  • By Victoria LaFond From california on March 01, 2009

    Thanks for all …. Your have done something wonderful…

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