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Video of the Week: VICE Documentary Crew Reveals Go-To Gear

Ten years ago, Suroosh Alvi, Shane Smith and Gavin McInnes came together to start the “punk zine” Voice of Montreal, which became the now-international magazine VICE. Today, Vice Media has produced countless investigative documentaries in both local and foreign arenas, and no matter the assignment, the video crews need to be prepared to be thrown into the mix and stand their ground, camera in hand.

“We’re kind of self-taught in this way, where at some point we just picked up some cameras and started going,” explains Vice Media’s director of photography Jake Burghart in the video, but today, they choose their gear very carefully to accommodate Vice Media’s immersive style. He and Jerry Ricciotti, the segment director of photography for the newly televised “VICE on HBO,” show us their best on-the-job gadgets.

Traveling in small teams, Vice Media videographers need to bring lightweight, compact gear in order to be as mobile and efficient as possible when they’re in the field. Burghart and Ricciotti gathered the gear that they will likely be using next week when they head to Iran for another documentary project, and the array is pretty impressive.

They use the Canon XF105 as a “specialty camera,” while the Canon 5D is used for stills on their website, print edition and for promotions—plus it’s a “great B-cam for interviews,” says Burghart. They love the Canon XF305 for its incredibly battery power. As Riccioti says, “You can leave it turned on in the car, and if an IED were literally going to blow up on the road, at least you’d be able to start recording,” which is probably testimony enough for its reliability (in less dangerous situations, too). The especially impressive gear they show us is their rig cameras. Burghart and Ricciotti have pretty different rig setups, but they both have the invaluable ability to record and stop record, adjust the iris and magnify the focus on the grip to maximize stability and readiness, without ever having to jostle the camera around.

Burghart and Riccioti mention that if they’re shooting together, they make sure that each is using a different lens to ensure that, between the two of them, they’re catching as many details, angles and perspectives as possible without swapping lenses more often than necessary. They also comment on the depth-of-field that cameras are able to achieve these days that have worked so well for wedding videos and are being increasingly sought and expected of documentaries, too. “It’s not enough to just go somewhere and see bullets or tear gas coming at you,” says Ricciotti. “People want to see it look pretty.”

This video was made in association with Canon Cinema EOS.

Check out more Videos of the Week, and email Libby Peterson with submissions.

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Libby Peterson

Libby Peterson

Libby Peterson is the associate editor of Rangefinder. She graduated from Indiana University’s School of Journalism last year and moved to New York, starting off as the magazine's editorial intern. Having had a full-immersion French education growing up in her native Minneapolis, she especially enjoys writing about culture, design, and the arts.

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