Vlog #7: Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

24 Jun, '05

I was intrigued to read about a conservation effort in Bahrain mounted by one man to rescue the dwindling population of indigenous Bahraini frogs and terrapins in Khaleej Times on June 21st. The intrigue was due to two factors: (1) it was reported in an Emirati paper rather than a Bahraini one, and (2) we actually had someone who cares about the environment here?

The article thankfully gave us the venue and the person so it took only a couple of phone calls to arrange to meet with the person responsible for this effort.

Armed with my video and stills cameras, I went to see Essa Jassim at Al-Areen early on the morning of the 22nd to talk to him about his frogs and terrapins, and do a short interview for the vlog, if I could find one of his frogs I would shoot that too.

Essa was extremely accommodating, he talked to me at length about this, and other conservation efforts that he is involved in, about his experiences with the frogs, why he chose to champion their cause and how he went about rescuing them. But like any good man, he made little of this, as if to say that anyone could have done the same. Sure anyone could have done the same, but no one other than Essa bothered.

I hope you enjoy visiting Essa’s frogs as much as I did. It was 2 or 3 hours that were well spent at Al-Areen. If you’re in the area, I would highly encourage you to visit, it is a lovely place.

On the technical side, this is the most challenging video I have done to date. I actually spent some time researching the subject, doing some planning, purposely going to another location to interview a person I’ve never met before and it all shows. The technical aspects of the movie suck! There is a lot of learning to be done, and this was a very good start.

This is my checklist for what I need to get and do as soon as practicable:

1. Get a proper video camera, the Sony HDR-FX1 is my first choice there.

2. Get a proper microphone with a windscreen. You will hear how atrocious the sound quality is on the movie, I apologize as this is the best I could do with what I have at the moment. Suggestions for a good quality, yet cheapish mic are welcome.

3. I need to get a couple of lapel mics with windscreens. Subjects tend to get very conscious of the camera and refuse to look into it. When they do that, their sound is directed elsewhere hence the sound quality suffers. A lapel mic might help in this situation.

4. I’ve used a very dinky pocket tripod for this interview shoot which was good enough, I have a couple of other tripods for my stills cameras but I doubt that they will be any good for video as their heads are not fluid enough. I need to get one of those.

5. You will notice how self conscious I was in the interview, even though I recorded myself AFTER I finished interviewing Essa and then edited myself in at the appropriate places. I should have kept silent for 10 seconds longer between questions so I could get better edits.

6. I should have looked into the camera rather than looking down on my notes and then into the camera. Quaint yet, but professional no.

7. Because the source material was less than good, I spent a lot longer on the edit than I should have. I should plan the shoot a bit better.

8. Compression game me big problems, this time not with the pictures at all, but with the sound. Once compressed using various settings and those I have used before, the speakers sounded like they’re speaking into tin-cups! That should be fixed with good quality off-camera mics. I hope.

9. Lights! I need lights, reflectors or at least position the camera properly to take advantage of natural light. I had to do shenanigans get this corrected in post with a lot of colour correction which is not very successful due to the backlight in the interview segment.

Technical and subjects suggestions welcome.

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Comments (27)

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  1. mahmood says:

    Re: Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    As long as you give credits and give us a link to your article, not at all. If you generate a lot of traffic, I’d rather you download it and put it on your server!

    Glad you liked it.

  2. mahmood says:

    Re: Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    he is! I plan to visit him again to talk to him about the birds and reptiles at the Al-Areen. probably when I get the new camcorder.

  3. mahmood says:

    Re: Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    thank you Malik, the mounds is a story that I MUST do. I don’t know much about them so it’s time for me as a Bahraini to learn a little bit about my heritage.

  4. anonymous says:

    Re(1): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Start at the National Museum to learn about the mounds Mahmood.

    Sagnutty

  5. mahmood says:

    Re(2): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    yeah I had that in mind, thanks Sagnutty

  6. 7alaylia says:

    Re(1): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    [quote]he is! I plan to visit him again to talk to him about the birds and reptiles at the Al-Areen. probably when I get the new camcorder. [/quote]

    Not only have you brought this site far beyond most blogs, I suspect you have spent far more than most as well. If I even suggested $3,700 for a camcorder I could use for my blog I suspect my wife would respond in a not too kind fashion. lol

  7. mahmood says:

    Re(2): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    what can I do I ask you? Her Who Must Be Obayed and her children are off on travels for 6 weeks with the video camera and I’m stuck alone here in the heat of the summer. I HAVE to have a toy to while away my pining moments until they return! 😉

  8. 7alaylia says:

    Re(3): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    [quote]what can I do I ask you? Her Who Must Be Obayed and her children are off on travels for 6 weeks with the video camera and I’m stuck alone here in the heat of the summer. I HAVE to have a toy to while away my pining moments until they return! [/quote]

    Obviously a man who has thought this out. Besides, six weeks of travel whilst you are stuck at home slaving away at work? You deserve a treat! Being a husband and father for years one is forced to become a master of the ingenious explanation and excuse. I know I am! LOL!

  9. mohd says:

    I’m NOT the first Bahraini Terrapin???

    This will just tell you how little my generation knows about the environment in Bahrain. I had no idea that the reed turtles in Bahrain were actually TERRAPINS!

    Thanks Mahmood, and thanks to Essa, insha’allah I won’t be the last Bahraini TERP!!!

  10. mahmood says:

    Turtle, Tortoise, or Terrapin?

    For most Americans, the term ‘turtle’ describes the Chelonians that are aquatic or semi-aquatic. The term ‘tortoise’ describes a Chelonian that lives primarily on land. ‘Terrapin’ can describe some freshwater or saltwater turtles, but is not often used.

    If you were in Australia, you might call all of the turtles ‘tortoises,’ and in Britain, a ‘turtle’ would mean a saltwater species and a ‘terrapin’ would be a freshwater species. Are you confused yet? Good, so am I. So for the purpose of this article, let us call the species that live on land, tortoises and the species that are aquatic or partially aquatic, turtles. We will forget about the term terrapin for now.
    Animal Planet

    I didn’t know the difference, but I do now thanks to Animal Planet and your nudging!

  11. GB says:

    Re(1): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    I think I’m addicted to this blog, you’re doing a sterling job here Mahmood. Agree with Malik (Did I just say that? *shock* ;)) I’d love to know more about the burial mounds, they’re on my ‘To visit’ list next time I’m in Bahrain.

  12. mahmood says:

    Re(2): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Let me make a confession (yes, another one) I love this blog and community as well!

    I wish I could find a way to quit my job and concentrate completely on developing this blog even further. Sadly, I don’t think this is going to happen any time soon, so I’d better keep my current job, and do whatever I can for this blog.

    I find though that it is taking a lot of time keeping it updated. The honest truth though is that I love it. I have given up counting the times I caught myself thinking that “I have to blog this!”

    Anyway, I think we all are what make this site fantastic. I’ll just keep it going as long as I can and keep innovating to keep people coming back. Maybe I’ll be lucky one day and Google, Yahoo or even the dreaded Microsoft come and buy me out and give me sackfulls of cash so I can run it ad infinitum as well! 😀

  13. anonymous says:

    Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Kudos to Essa. It’s no small thing to save a species from extinction.

    Found this from http://www.ran.org – “The Earth’s species are dying out at an alarming rate, up to 1000 times faster than their natural rate of extinction. By carefully examining fossil records an ecosystem destruction, some scientists estimate that as many as 137 species disappear from the Earth each day, which adds up to an astounding 50,000 species disappearing every year.”

    Sounds alarmist because the numbers are so shockingly high. But I believe it.

    Laura

  14. anonymous says:

    Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Excellent Stuff Mahmood, looks like there are other bloggers in Bahrain, like me, who are environmentalists and nature lovers as well 🙂

    Glad you vlogged & blogged the story too about the rescue effort of these rare frog species :), i look forward to enjoying the clip, mind if i link/stream it inline on my blog?

  15. anonymous says:

    Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Thank you for this great film. I’m fighting a little conservation battle here in the UK right now and I found Essa’s story truly inspirational. What a wonderful guy.

    Ash.

  16. 7alaylia says:

    Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Great stuff Mahmood. You have really transformed this blog into something far beyond the normal. Do you do requests? lol I’d love to see something about the burial mounds there!

  17. kategirl says:

    Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Great stuff again Mahmood. I was also quite intrigued when I read the article in the paper.

    I remember as a child seeing the frogs in the irrigation streams that deliver freshwater to the farms in the Barbar area. I had comepletely forgot about them since.

    Good on you Mahmood and Essa Faraj for this.

  18. GB says:

    Re(3): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    *giggles* Maybe we should start a campaign and advertise it 🙂 It’s a great blog and notthing like the usual dreary mob of “ah my life is so bad, blah blah blah” you usually get.

    I must say again, I’m thoroughly enjoying the vlogs.

  19. mahmood says:

    Re(4): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    thanks again, I’ll start the research on the mounds today… it’s lunch time so I might as well do something constructive!

  20. anonymous says:

    Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Interesting subject. I thought your editing was pretty good.

    LIGHTING – Yeah, being able to light up your subject’s face would add to the professionalism. For sit down interviews, I would recommend a light mounted on it’s own tripod. I would go with reflected light off an umbrembra… or large white poster board if you want to rig it yourself. Direct light creates harsher shadows. (Tip: don’t cheap out on the camera tripod, expensive accidents do happen.)

    SOUND – You’ll have to mic your subjects if you want the best sound without all the background noice. When Essa was speaking outside, the sound wasn’t so bad.

    POSITION – During sit down interviews, think about placing the camera directly beside you as you interview… and get in tight on your subject. The idea is that the subject will be looking just to the left or right of the camera. The carmera should also be on the same plane as the subject’s head.

    Good job and good luck. This stuff gets expensive fast.

  21. mahmood says:

    Re: Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    thanks for the advice. yes it does get expensive very very fast, I must think of ways to make money out of this so at least it covers the equipment costs… any ideas?

  22. mik says:

    Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Hi Mamood,

    [b]Hand held Microphone[/b]
    The [b]Shure SM58[/b] microphone is a real work-horse of a microphone – built like a tank – and [b]very[/b] reasonable quality/price balance. The recent concert by Cream at the Royal Albert Hall had all three main singers using the much trusted SM58 mics – so if Eric Clapton with all his money thinks they’re OK – they’re OK. The SM58 is a good first hand held microphone for you – but bear in mind that it was designed with live vocals in mind – thru a sound system – so it is designed to eliminate feedback, and therefore has an acoustic sweetspot about the size of a basketball around its head – so if you always envisage an imaginary basketball surrounding your microphone and aim to keep the mouth of whoever you want to record just inside that sphere, you’re about right. Too close and you run the risk of “popping” the mic or recording too much “breath” – too far away, and background/generic sound will be too dominant. This rule of thumb is a rough guide – but its good for almost all microphones.

    [b]Lapelle or Clip on Microphones[/b]
    Take a look at the range of radio microphones from Sennheisser – they have tons – and all good – you just pick your price range and select accordingly…. I would tend to go for something with an “omnidirectional” characteristic. These clip on mics are by far the best way of capturing sound from your subjects as people easily forget the microphone exists – and relax into the interview. The other advantage is that as people move about – the mic moves with them – thus helping you maintain reasonably even recording levels. For the most part they consist of the small microphone and clip with a short run of cable which connects to a battery powered transmitter pack (about the size of a cigarette packet) – the signal then gets zapped to your reciever pack – which can also be battery powered and attached direct to your camera.

    [b]Wind noise[/b]
    [b]Rycote[/b] are, I believe, the leaders in providing specialist housings to help get rid of unwanted wind noise – you’d be forgiven for thinking that they want you to shove your mic up the rectum of a stuffed hedghog or hairy sausage dog! Check them out on the net – big unwieldy looking things – but ALL the major film makers and TV people use these, or something similar. Take care when interviewing anyone with animals present – the last thing you want is a monkey getting all lustful over you mic housing! 🙂

    [b]Sound Overlay[/b]
    When you edit pieces together – it helps to “merge” or “flow” the whole package if you run some seconds of the inbound cut audio prior to the visual switch. This I am certain with your skills you will have no problem mastering – you just have to remember to roll 5 or 6 seconds of ambient sound prior to your subject talking. One “technique” for achieving this without unduly intimidating your subject is to suggest that when you ask a question, that they please take a few seconds to mentally compose their answer before they start to talk…..

    [b]Sound Merging[/b]
    When you flit from one set to another – even almost in the same location – the background or ambient sound can vary greatly – causing your background sound to become very jagged when you cross edit points. You may find it useful to roll camera – just to record the ambient sound of your interview location, usually about 5 mintues is enough. You can then use this to run under your entire interview, as one track of the multi track recording, bringing it up as and when you need to so as to help “smooth out” any othewise noticeable changeovers. If you don’t have a multi-track programme – I can thoroughly recommend [b]Adobe Audition[/b] – which has many little tricks up its sleeve to help you set the levels – normalise – re EQ – compress… The list of the ways you can “treat” sound with this product is staggering – all you need is a lot of time to “play” with the software.

    [b]”Crib Cards”[/b]
    When you have to talk direct to camera – rather than have notes in your hand – carry a large black felt tip and a block of A3 paper -write up in letters big enough for you to read the text – and place this on a tripod just next to the camera. Most people will be unaware that you center of focus is just to the side of the camera – especially if you can develop the technique of looking at the camera and just glancing at your notes from time to time…. trial and error….have at it!

    As “sound” is the only thing I pretend to know a little something about – I’ll leave tips on videoing to those more knowledgeable….. but I think your early efforts are fine and dandy. You appear able to sense for yourself when something was less than perfect – and that is half the battle to obtaining better results……

    I look forward to more Vlogs

    Mike – Luxembourg

  23. anonymous says:

    Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Mahmood,

    I’d like to suggest a few things that I learned while taking broadcasting classes in college.

    Generally when you do an interview, the interviewer does not need to be seen. Interviews should be conducted with the camera “over the shoulder” of the interviewer, focused on the person being interviewed. This way the person being interviewed can speak directly to you and his/her voice will be directed at the camera without having to look directly into it. It is acceptable to film yourself doing a short introduction of the package, and who you are going to interview.

    The person being interviewed should not be in front of a window, as he/she will have too much backlighting, and it will screw up your white balance.

    For this type of interview it is not necessary to speak to the subject outside, unless the whole interview will be conducted there. That water (is it water?) in the background makes it very hard to hear him in some parts. I would follow him around while he explains what everything is, and then use those shots as cutaways during the interview. If you already have your list of questions, you can tell him what they are, and he can show you what you need to get footage of. That way you can cut to that b-roll footage and leave the voiceover for parts of the interview.

    Overall I think you did a great job. How you do it is really just a matter of preference. You’re not shooting for a news station so you really have the freedom to do it however you want.

    Aaron
    aaron@ajiva.net

  24. anonymous says:

    Re(1): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Ways to make some money: Weddings, Corporate Training Videos, Special Events, Birthday Parties, Graduations, etc…

  25. mahmood says:

    Re: Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    Mike, these are an excellent list of recommendations. Thank you very much indeed. I shall follow up with these tasks immediately.

    I’m afraid the purchase of the HDV camera will have to wait for another 6 months though as the software (Avid Xpress Pro) is not ready yet for HDV, but ironically is for “real” HD!

  26. mahmood says:

    Re(2): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    of course, yes. but as I don’t intend to make this a full-time vocation, otherwise I would compete directly with my customers (not good for business ethics) then I think I won’t take these up. however, I do want to buy a good camcorder and the paraphernalia, so what I was thinking is sponsorship to shoot one documentary that would pay for the equipment…

  27. anonymous says:

    Re(3): Vlog #7 – Essa Faraj, a man with a passion for conservation

    I’ve just thought of a good one for you! [b]PAPARAZZI !!![/b]

    Are there any Bahraini celebrities? Are there any celebrities from England in the area? Man, those British tabloids pay big $$$.

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