Monday, May 03, 2010

Dina Rudick - photographer & videographer

Last week I came across a video piece on The Boston Globe site that I was so taken with that I had to find out more about it. It was produced by Globe photographer Dina Rudick, and Dina was gracious enough to let me interview her about her work.

Dina Rudick has been working as a photographer at The Boston Globe for eight years. Four years ago, when things were already starting to change at the Globe, she began thinking about what might be next in her career. “I’ve always been blown away by putting images and sound together” she says, and though the paper was initially uninterested, she bought a video camera and started playing with iMovie. A year later she’d switched to Final Cut, and the Globe sent her to a television news workshop, “It wasn’t actually what I wanted to do, but was really excellent for learning the visual vocabulary. It’s the opposite of shooting stills.” She then trained the rest of the staff.

Haiti: A Globe journal from Dina Rudick on Vimeo.

Over the next few years she shot with everything from Flip cameras to DV and HDV cameras, but she says she wouldn’t touch them now. “I have been so disappointed with video cameras because there’s no control over depth of field and limited control over exposure. I now shoot with a Canon Mark IV. It’s incredible how you can craft the image as a videographer in the same way as I do with stills.”


As much as she loves the Mark IV, she does think it has one drastic limitation; audio. “The audio from the internal mic is poor and it picks it up noises when you pull focus,” she says. Even adding an external mic hasn’t proved a good solution as she still has to deal with the auto gain control (Canon has fixed it for the Canon 5D in the recent firmware update, but they haven’t fixed it for the Mark IV or the 7D.)

Dina has experimented with a wireless mic, but found the noise floor unacceptable, and she’s thinking of using a separate digital recorder and PuralEyes to sync the audio. One thing she doesn’t want to do is kit out the camera with lots of accessories; “people from the video world are trying to turn it back into a video camera. It’s not made to be weighed down with mixers and monitors. I reject that.” On the recent shoot in Haiti she used only the camera’s internal mic due to the difficult circumstances.

“I’m really good at focusing on the fly, so my fingers know my camera, I’m really comfortable with it, and I can take the camera and shoot quickly, and I only shoot manual, so that’s not a problem for me.” And maybe everything doesn’t have to be perfectly in focus says adds; “We’re so used to everything in focus, and that makes things sterile.”

She has four primary lenses that she uses. “I’ve rediscovered my macro lens now I’m shooting video. I have a 100mm f/2.8. But my favorite lens in life is the 50mm f/1.2. It’s kind of dreamy. It’s spectacular, but hard to use when shooting wide open.” The other two lenses are the Canon 16-35mm and the 70-200mm f/2.8 [there's also an IS II version.]

Dina won a regional Emmy for her video “Why I’m here at the Celtics parade.” Interestingly, she’s not that impressed with the video “I feel like I won an Emmy for brushing my teeth.” She’s being a bit hard on it; it’s well executed - the device of having people pass the ball from one to another works well not just because of the idea itself, but the way the different cuts have been mixed together to really make the ball seem like it’s actually going from one person to the next.

Her regular photo assignments come in by Blackberry, and for most assignments she’s expected to shoot pictures and “some” video. In the case of the Perkins School story, she went out with the writer, Linda Matchan, and immediately felt that the story needed to be more. “I shot some video with the intention of turning it into something real, and then called my editor and said ‘we need to do this, you need to fight for this.’ It’s difficult, but for this situation I thought it was worth it. I shot that on two different days, about an hour and a half each time, plus the interview with Kevin.”

The interview was shot with a new set of lights she recently bought; Dina admits that she’s constantly fiddling with her gear.

The students gave her copies of the video they had shot, which was really helpful but “like someone had poured a glass of orange juice into a pool and you have to get the orange juice.” She had over 60 GB of material.

It took a day and a half just to work through that material, and then the actual edit took a full day, plus one evening. Usually, Dina edits the piece and then runs it by her editor. Since this was to be a page one story, it also had to go past the deputy editor. In this particular case, she was getting on a plane an hour after it was shown to him, so unless he had a real problem, it was unlikely it could have been changed. “It’s a very collaborative process,” she adds, “and it’s good to have other eyes on it, so I had a lot of co-workers take a look at it and tell me what they think as it progressed.”

Dina typically does about one movie a week. As exciting as it all sounds, she says that things go in waves. “We still have to put out a paper. I’m driving to Foxborough to photograph draft picks right now,” she tells me. “I’m lucky that if I get captivated by a story my editors tend to let me do it.”

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