Check out this striking travelogue video about a journey through Japan on the rail system.

For anyone that’s been to Japan, you’re probably aware that Japan has a gorgeous and expertly-run train system. I’ve visited a good deal of Asia and can say that most of the other countries do their best to emulate many elements of Japan’s wonderful public infrastructure, but none so much as the train system.

I got in touch with the filmmaker, Brenden Allen to find out a bit more about his project and his filmmaking.

FI: What inspired you to shoot this video in the first place?

BA: I’m a Photographer and I have fortunately spent a good portion of the last few years traveling both for personal projects and “work”. Mostly to Japan and Burma. What inspired me was a love of train travel and a bit of filler to many journeys I had to make while in Japan on a commission via the Japan/Australia Foundation recently.

FI: Which cities was this filmed in? I found the opening shot to be pretty Un-Japanese looking…

BA: To tell you the truth, some I’m not sure of now – lots of “in transit” where i had no idea where I was and plenty of rural/regional areas. This particular trip took me from Miyazaki in the south to Sendai and Fukushima further north and many in between. The opening shot was in a city called Takarazuka, not far from Osaka.

FI: What was your footage to finished ratio like? Roughly how much raw video did you have at the beginning?

BA: I have only just begun using video as a medium and this was my first gig so I shot a hell of a lot! For this little train video I had a pretty good footage to finished but the larger project I was there for will see me holed up in the editing suite for a while to come! Still currently sifting through the footage – the train video was really just a bit of an experiment and excuse to stop trawling through footage for a moment and make something fun for myself – I certainly didnt expect to be answering questions about it (but thank you for asking!).

FI: You got a few really excellent candid shots of people on the trains, especially the mother pacing with her baby. Any tips on how to get those sorts of shots?

BA: Often planning candid shots is part of the process for me. Im not really quick on the draw, given that I am still quite new to this medium, unlike photography where it’s an organic process for me. Often I’d see some light or a scene that I may think will play out and I prepare for it. 

FI: What time of year did you shoot this in? I hear shots of Fuji with visibility and blue skies are relatively rare.

BA: Only last month (Jan/Feb). I was in Japan for the same project (stills only) the year prior during Summer and passed Fuji the same way and it couldnt be seen. As you can see, I got lucky on this one! 

FI: Any tips on how to film on the trains or in Japan that you learned and would like to share?

BA: Just roll tape! The trains are roomy and comfortable (I shot this on the Shinkansen) and being able to stand between carriages and look for different angles is important rather than sitting in your seat and focussing out the window. Perhaps the biggest killer of footage was my reflection or that of the camera in the window under certain conditions. 

I can’t think of too many places where shooting is so easy and the results can be so good. People are tolerant of your motives (ever seen a Japanese person without a camera?) and quirky and beautiful scenes play out on a daily basis. Find a subject and shoot it!

FI: If you could shoot the video again, what would you do differently?

BA: There’s a million things I’d do differently and I learn more each day. Definitely more stabilized shots. Given that I was just having a bit of a play, not knowing i’d make a little video out of it, I would have shot a lot more because I really enjoyed the eventual edit but would have benefitted from more footage options.

FI: What are your plans for your next project? Any more videos?

BA: I love shooting video, really love it so I’d hope to get more options to shoot more as I progress. No plans right now as my current project (the reason I was in Japan) will be in editing for quite a while to come.Possibly there will be more shooting in Japan for the same project if required and funding continues. 

FI: And the inevitable gear question… What’d you shoot on? What’d you cut on? What kind of lenses and tripods did you use?

BA: Shooting DSLR (Nikon D800) with Final Cut Pro X. I like to shoot mostly with 35mm f2 lens (a hangover from my stills shooting preference) but also 50mm f1.4 at times. Manfrotto 701HDV head, Gini rig.

Where can we find more of your work?

Stills at www.brendenallen.com (got a new site being built now but there is still a bit on here) and also a bit of a photo travel diary at http://brendenallen.tumblr.com/

A big thanks for Brenden for taking the time to chat with me. This is a fantastic travel video and I look forward to seeing more from him.

Related posts:

  1. The Brilliant, Beatific Betel Nuts of Kaohsiung

1 Comments

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