Japan, Karate, Karate Masters Portrait Project, Sony A7S II, Video
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Karate Masters Archive Project

The Karate Masters Portrait Project began on March 11, 2012 with a photo session of Yoshitaka Taira sensei and Toshimitsu Arakaki sensei. Five and a half years later, James and I are starting a parallel project to interview these masters and try to create an archive of their teachings. Once again we began with Toshimitsu Arakaki sensei, and look forward to learning a great deal over the coming years.

Video offers a whole new set of challenges both technical and financial. As with the Karate Masters Portrait Project we’re striving for quality, as hopefully the content we produce will be of interest both now and in the future.

The basic look of the interview is similar to the portraits with a simple black background. For portraits we used a single strobe with a beauty dish, for video we’re using a CAME-TV C700D Daylight LED Edge Light as the keylight on the face and a CAME-TV Boltzen as a rim light on the subject’s right. Here’s a test shot with me looking sleepy. The lights are daylight balanced, affordable, and can run on batteries if there are no outlets in the dojo.


I’m recording using a Sony A7sII and a 50mm Rokinon lens. I’ve made the decision to shoot at 4k and record into an Atomos Ninja Flame. The Ninja Flame allows me to easily check focus on a large screen (this is what I’m doing in the top picture), have a second microphone (analog external mike on stand) going directly into the recorder, and use 1TB SSD drives.

When shooting outdoors it also has the advantage of letting me see the raw S-Log3 footage with simulated processing. It records 10-bit color information with 4:2:2 color encoding to an Apple ProRes codec.

The reality of trying to edit and archive the large amount of data produced will be interesting. A single RAW .DNG from the Pentax 645Z is about 70MB so if I return from a portrait shoot with a couple of hundred images it’s around 14GB.  1 minute of 4K ProRes footage on the Ninja Flame is 6GB so if you record for just 15 minutes that’s 90GB of data.

An exciting challenge to be undertaking. Hopefully we get the same support from the Okinawan and global karate community that we did for our portrait project.

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