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The Beautiful Cinematography Behind the ‘Human Technology’ Process Doc

Caleb Ward

Get inspired with a few insights from ‘Human Technology’ cinematographer Mauro Chiarello.

There are many unique challenges and advantages to shooting a process documentary over a narrative film. When you approach a process doc you are essentially given an idea that already has a treatment. However, outside of simply showing the process there are many creative choices that you can make to take your doc to the next level.

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The following film is a great example of such a process doc. Produced by Art+Vibes for the gun manufacturer Beretta, the film ‘Human Technology’ outlines how one of Beretta’s premium guns are created. If you haven’t seen the film already here it is:

The cinematography is pretty mind-blowing, don’t you think? The film excels in every aspect of storytelling including color, composition, and pace. After seeing this video I had a few questions for the cinematographer so I reached out to Mauro Chiarello to ask him about how he achieved the fantastic shots.

Q&A with Mauro Chiarello

Q: What type of camera/lenses did you use?

MC: I shot ‘Human Technology’ using Arri Alexa Plus and Arri Alexa M and lensed with a Cooke S4 Primes set, 2 macros Zeiss (60mm+100mm) and Angienieux Optimo Zoom 24-290mm.

Q: Did the video use mostly natural or artificial lighting?

MC: I’ve worked with mostly artificial lighting. I shot with natural light for the first part and the very last one: the steel coulee at the furnace, the man walking into the woods, and last 3 shots with the hunter.

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I did just a few shots mixing natural and artificial lights, all the rest were done with artificial lighting. Even the robot sequences were filmed with artificial lighting. I did light setups and we changed the elements and background, going for a more clean direction.

Q: How long did it take you to shoot the entire documentary?

MC: 3 days shooting + 3 days for location scouting and tech recce with my crew.

Q: Did you run into any unique challenges on-set?

MC: A lot of stuff we shot was done in tricky circumstances. The most difficult one was the first day when we start shooting in a blast furnace at a very high temperature for tech equipment and for us too! The place was very dangerous and we had a lot of limits of movement inside. So very difficult to frame it in the proper way. I couldn’t do tech recce for this location before shooting and it’s so frustrating for me when I can’t move free with the camera in a place. Plus we had just one shot for the steel coulee in all its stages! Just once! I mounted the Optimo zoom with remote controls on camera and me and my crew we moved very fast back and forth into the place! We’ve filmed as much as we could, framing as best as we could and sweating more than we could imagine! My camera crew supported me very well.

Q: Do you optimize your footage for post-production in any way? (Shooting techniques, color considerations, etc.)

MC: Most of the time I’ve already made most of the decisions about color direction, frame rate, lenses and everything else before I start shooting.

This means two things: 1st my footage is always optimized for post-production; 2nd there’s not just one way to do it! It really changes every time. Each project has its own specific features, which require their own peculiar treatments.

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But something I usually like to do when shooting in Alexa, especially with natural or mixed light, is to check color temperature taking the Auto White Balance on a grey card. It’s something that really helps me to make good color decisions on set.

Q: Do you have any tips for other filmmakers who may be shooting a process documentary?

MC: I usually don’t do process documentary, this was my first one! So my general tip for other filmmakers when shooting is to look first, than to feel it and soon after, do it. Sometimes is not necessary to think too much!

If you want to see more of Mauro’s inspiring work check out his website or Vimeo channel.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any tips for shooting inspiring process docs? Let us know in the comments below.