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Michael Palin’s Sahara

Published : 10th August 2003


I've just stumbled upon Michael Palin's latest series, "Sahara," now on Bravo. The photography is absolutely stunning. For me, it's total eye-candy. This kind of cinematography is one of the reasons I do what I do for a living: as a kid I saw compositions like this on TV and said to myself, "I have to learn to do that."

The compositions are... I can't find the words to describe how wonderful I find them. They are extremely strong, and every image is a postcard. There's a lot of structure and design sense in every shot. You don't see a lot of zooming or camera movements in these docs, probably because you don't need any: every shot stands on its own as the kind of image you can feast on for a fair bit of time. The production leaves plenty to the editor to do, rather than forcing the cameraman to show a sequence in one or two sloppy shots. Instead a series of rock solid shots are assembled into much stronger sequence. I just love that.

When the camera does move the operating is perfect. Absolutely perfect.

From the credits I see the cameraman is a gentleman by the name of Nigel Meakin, whose name graces the other two Michael Palin series I've seen, "Pole to Pole" and "Around the World in Eighty Days."


Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"

http://www.artadams.net



Hi,

Quite how they shoot shows like that on 16 I have no idea. What on earth do you do for stock, power, and processing?

Also notice that Mr. Meakin shares his name with another member of the camera department – perhaps THAT's how you get on in the film "industry" in London - be someone's offspring....

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London



>Quite how they shoot shows like that on 16 I have no idea. What on >earth do you do for stock, power, and processing?

There is a much lower power requirement for 16mm than there is for any video format, this was my greatest concern when people like ABC 20/20
insisted that we shot video rather than film.

>Also notice that Mr. Meakin shares his name with another member of >the camera department

Always has been the way, always will be the way.

Cheers

Geoff "first generation DP" Boyle FBKS

Director of Photography
EU based

www.cinematography.net



>Also notice that Mr. Meakin shares his name with another member of >the camera department

That is certainly one way. You see a lot of that in Hollywood as well.

But if that was the only way to get into the film industry then I wouldn't be in it. I was told that the film industry in Los Angeles was nearly impossible to break into, yet strangely I managed to do quite well. Then when I moved back to my native San Francisco Bay Area I was told there wasn't enough room or work for one more cameraman, yet until the recent collapse of the economy I've had no trouble making a living here at all.

If we were only allowed to do what our parents and grandparents did, then I'd have a choice of being an electrical engineer, a schoolteacher, an architect, a dock worker, a luggage salesperson, an artesian well digger, a spaghetti factory owner, a professional poet or an innkeeper. Yet somehow I cracked an industry that everyone told me was "impossible" to crack.

Really, Phil, you're doing a very good job of talking yourself out of cracking an industry that other people seem able to crack. No one wants to work with depressing people.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



Phil Rhodes wrote:-

>Also notice that Mr. Meakin shares his name with another member of >the camera department - perhaps

I often notice the same surname cropping up twice or more in credits. Sometimes it's a relative. (with or without talent). But sharing a name doesn't automatically imply a family connection, and a family connection doesn't automatically imply an unmerited appointment.

However, Phil, if you believe that the surname carries all, then go out there and build an empire like Great grandpa Cecil ;-). You could have a country named after you.

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia


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Art

Nigel Meakin is truly one of the great documentary cameraman in the UK. I am not sure whether he subscribes to CML but I will certainly copy him in on your comments by e mail. He is once again away with Mr Palin at the moment, this time on Everest. It demands a very special talent, to maintain that consistent quality of photography whilst up against TV budgets, tight shooting schedules, and all natures elements too.

As far as Phil’s comments about Nigel’s assistant. Yes he is Nigel’s son. I have worked with him on a couple of occasions, and he is a professional, and competent camera assistant, [who is not related to me. His ability is the reason he is in the business. Nigel's daughter is a make up artist too, so how proud a dad must he be !

We all still work in a great business, and it is refreshing to see that it is as attractive to our offspring, as it was to us.

Rob [My Father worked in Real Estate] Payton

Director / Director of Photography

www.robertpayton.com.uk



Hi,

As far as "my comments" go it certainly wasn't my intention to denigrate anybody's ability. I've been enjoying Meakin Senior's work since Palin's "Around the world in 80 days" documentary. In fact, he's probably partly to blame for me being interested.
Whoops.

Anyway, I can't talk - my biggest ever project, and several connected jobs, were organised through unashamedly barefaced nepotism.

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London



>Anyway, I can't talk - my biggest ever project, and several connected >jobs, were organised through unashamedly barefaced nepotism.

Milk it if you can. I'd do the same if I could... unfortunately it would only get me an entry level position at an aerospace company. How exciting.

I'm all for nepotism as long as it benefits me. It's the other kind I don't like.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"

http://www.artadams.net