How to tell a story without dialogue.
If you’re not familiar with the Sony F35 you might be surprised to hear that what you just watched was shot at 1080p and not 4k, but at 12-bit 4:4:4 and with 14 stops of dynamic range you’d be hard pressed to find a better camera (Unless you can afford an Alexa). In this post I wanted to explore what makes this award winning short such a good piece of visual media.
MacGregor wanted to emphasize the expansiveness of his chosen location by including the letterbox to change the aspect ratio and widen the frame, it was important for him to capture real people in real locations in the most cinematic way he possibly could. In a blog post by MacGregor, he mentions that not all of the lenses made it back home because of Saharan sand, this was a risk he knew he had to take.
They decided to go without a narrator and let the imagery and sound design deliver on their own, using minimalistic text overlays to help guide the story. I’m a huge fan of how MacGregor captures his subjects, they almost feel like personal establishing shots. Typically, an establishing shot is of a location, it’s a transitioning element at the beginning of a new scene, inviting you in. The director uses several profile’s of his subjects looking through the camera to convey something similar but on a more intimate level.
Over 12 hours of footage was captured for what would be a 12 minute film. When it came to post production, the whole thing was graded using Davinci Resolve who currently seem to be at the forefront of industry level grading. This is where the Sony F35’s dynamic range really comes into play. There’s so much depth to the colour, which allowed MacGregor to grade the footage to match the tone he wanted. The images swim by with a warm, saturated and dramatic feel to them. When embellished with Rhian Sheehan’s score, the rising pads produce a world not yet explored, at least not by me and I assume many of the other viewers.
I think a journey into the unknown, the drive to explore and discover something new is a peak experience for most people. The Mauritania Railway gives us a glimpse into a story in a way that captures our curiosity.