Zacuto

Piedra Sola – A Filmmaking Adventure in Argentina with Zacuto

by Alberto Balazs

In early 2017, Director Alejandro Tarraf and I, along with a fantastic, small crew, embarked on a journey to the northern highlands of Argentina.

We went to Jujuy, at 4500 meters of altitude, to start the development of our first feature film, Piedra Sola. The film tells the story of Ricardo, a llama herder, a real man who lives with his family in the remote village of El Condor. He is on a journey to recover his lost soul and encounter his ancestors.

Alejandro wanted to capture the intrinsic relationship Ricardo and his communities have with nature, and honestly and respectfully portray the reality of their culture.

Piedra Sola filmmaking in argentina with zacuto and red camera

His goal was a minimalistic approach that would allow us to connect. For that reason we decided to work in Anamorphic, with Round Front Lomo lenses, and a RED EPIC camera. These tools combined helped us to capture a highly sensory and cinematic experience.

Piedra Sola filmmaking in argentina with zacuto and red camera

Creating a Cinematic Documentary – the right tools

We worked with real characters, non actors, creating a bridge between fiction and documentary. Our small crew of seven shared our lives with the characters for two months, learning each day from their culture.

We rarely had access to a telephone or the Internet and sometimes had no light to work with at all. We knew from the beginning that anything that we brought to the North had to be essential and that every single piece of equipment would be tested to the limit. We were moving mainly by foot or in the back of trucks. We needed equipment that was able to work perfectly under those circumstances.

Piedra Sola filmmaking in argentina with zacuto and red camera

Once we had decided on Lomo Lenses and the RED EPIC we needed a rig and EVF to complete our kit. We worked closely with Zacuto and decided on a Recoil Rig with Gratical EVF. Zacuto really helped us bring this film to life.

Our Zacuto Kit Breakdown

Gratical HD
The Gratical HD was our first choice for an EVF. The quality of the image and the size of the frame really allows us to have an immersive experience while we’re filming. Director Alejandro Tarraf actually preferred to watch the takes from the EVF and set up each frame with it before each take.

The Gratical EVF became famous during the shoot with the kids we met! Some of them had never seen cinema before, and that EVF became a little window to a different perspective on their own world.

We experienced incredibly high contrast situations between night and day, often up to 40 degrees Celsius temperature difference. We would start filming with incredible high sharp hot sun, and end up filming in really cold blue sunsets, and stormy clouds. The temperature and humidity changes were constant. The Gratical EVF performed in every condition; it became an essential tool.

Piedra Sola filmmaking in argentina with zacuto and red camera

Recoil Handle
A surprisingly necessary kit piece was the Zacuto Recoil Handle. When you’re in humid caves, or climbing rocky hills at 5000 meters of altitude and zero degrees temperatures, the Recoil Handle starts becoming your best friend!

The wood keeps the temperature of your hands, and its shape and size makes it really easy to hold the full weight of the camera, lenses, and all the accessories. Crossing a river, jumping between rocks, and travelling in the back of trucks becomes easier. As long as you are holding that wooden handle, the gear is safe.

VCT Pro Baseplate
When you work handheld with RED cameras, or any other camera that has custom accessories, it is really important to balance the weight of the camera in relationship to the lenses and accessories. The VCT Pro makes this easy.

The baseplate allows you to get the Red Camera quite far back in your shoulders – and has a comfortable cushioned pad. The plate is fully adjustable, so you can perfectly counterweight your camera depending on the lenses.

Piedra Sola filmmaking in argentina with zacuto and red camera

Lomo Round Front Lenses vary in weight and are quite large, so you end up having a heavy front set up. With the VCT Pro you can bring the body of the camera behind your head, and adjust the EVF to your eye level with the Axis Mini EVF Mount. This way, you have an incredibly steady hand held set up. The camera is balanced and feels lighter.

If you need to make tilted shots that require more or less counterweight, you or your assistant can change the camera position easily while the padding of the VCT plate is still perfectly sitting on your shoulder. I think we would not have been able to pull off those hand held shots without the help of Zacuto!

Piedra Sola filmmaking in argentina with zacuto and red camera

Piedra Sola filmmaking in argentina with zacuto and red camera

Piedra Sola filmmaking in argentina with zacuto and red camera

*****

We are really grateful to the Zacuto Team for helping us bring this film to life. The Recoil accessories and Gratical HD were an essential set of tools that allowed us to bring the best performance of the RED camera in any situation. We’re excited to keep working with Zacuto on the second part of the film, this upcoming summer.

Cinematographer Website:
albertobalazs.com

Film Facebook Page Piedra Sola:
facebook.com/piedrasolafilm/

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About the Author


Alberto Balazs was born in Buenos Aires and graduated from ESCAC (Barcelona), with an MA in Cinematography. He is based in London and works internationally. In 2012 was selected at the Berlinale Talent Campus, with the film Inner Valley. This film has been shown internationally and was premiered at the IFFR in Rotterdam, and won the Excellence Award at Busan Film Festival. In 2016, “Body Rites Dance” was commissioned by the ICA in London and Channel 4, and was shown at the BFI and Nowness. In 2017 he made his first Feature Film “Piedra Sola” directed by Alejandro Tarraf, with the Support INCAA, the Biennale of Young Artists, and the Argentine Film Commission. Interested in human stories. Social and environmental issues. His work is characterised for a natural and narrative approach to lighting. Working at the boundaries between documentary and fiction, collaborates with each director to learn from their language.

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