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Shooting High Definition Video Footage in Italy

Italy is without question the place to shoot high definition video. Nearly everything in this sun-drenched part of the world cries out for a photo or video capture. My feelings about the country have never wavered from this opinion.

Having said that, I must also admit that Italy - particularly in metropolitan areas - is a problematic country for videographers. Rome, among other Italian cities, has some of the toughest regulations and laws limiting commercial photography.

My husband, Wayne, and I formed our company - VITA Digital Productions - 5 years ago to shoot European video footage - both for our own specialty-market treadmill virtual walks ( www.treadmillwalks.com ) and to sell as stock footage to TV networks around the world ( www.hdeuropeanstockfootage.com ). We made the decision last year to switch over to HD (High Definition) footage after getting our first request for HD footage.

Our biggest concerns, in planning our recent three-week shoot in May 2005, were 1. the safe transport of our video equipment (all in carry-on bags, for obvious reasons!), 2. the ability to shoot in and around tourist-laden locations, and 3. finding ways to get video footage in spite of the stringent regulations enforced in Rome.

Wayne and I have done this several times over the past five years - researching a picture-worthy destination in Europe, making our own travel plans, and packing up like two serendipitous vagabonds to go forth and shoot (you'd just have to know me to appreciate how foreign this is - no pun intended - to my accustomed, orderly way of life). When I look back to the first part of 2001 (pre 9-11) and our two trips to Italy in spring and summer of that year, I realize now how easy it was to get through customs with unusual looking video equipment.

When the two of us travel on a video shoot, we have slowly learned to take the bare minimum of clothing so that we can accommodate the camera, tripods, SteadiCam apparatus, batteries, filters, wide-angle lens, fluid heads, and tape in addition to spare parts for repairs.

This trip, anticipating problems with airport security, we took pictures of Wayne wearing the SteadiCam vest and showing the camera mounted on the articulated arm. We then tucked the pictures inside the luggage for quick and easy retrieval. When the security agents x-rayed our bags, they never failed to have us open our luggage and inspect the equipment contained. It expedited the process when we were able to produce pictures showing how every piece of equipment fit together. Wayne also mailed a small and inexpensive packet of tools (a screwdriver, a pair of pliers and an Allen wrench) to each of our two hotels so that we would not have those little forbidden items confiscated in the airports. And for some reason, an Allen wrench is an absolute no-no with security agents! I suppose that all of the items could have been purchased in Italy, but time is money on a shoot and we didn't want to waste time searching for a source in a strange city.

Safely arriving with all of our equipment in Italy, we were ready to begin shooting. We had an itinerary and a shooting agenda for each day, but we knew we would have to build in some flexibility to allow for both the weather and the unexpected. We have been extremely lucky in this regard, even on our two previous shooting trips to England.

So how does a videographer shoot around the tourists? If too many people are between the camera and subject or site being shot, the whole effort can be an utter waste of time. And also, unfortunately, the Italian polizia and carabinieri are quick to tell a videographer or still photographer to fold up that tripod and move on!! They do NOT have any patience with a foreign professional photographer, so common sense and a little stealth are requirements.

For tourist-filled sites, we have found that shooting in the very early morning works well for us. For one thing, Italy is a late-night country, so there are few people (and that includes police) out on the streets at first light. Typically, we would get to a site by 7 AM each morning, shoot for a few hours and then return to the hotel for breakfast: then back out into the streets for more shooting.

The first part of our trip focused on the Amalfi Coast where we filmed, in addition to some incredibly beautiful stock footage, a virtual walk through the Valle di Mulino (the Valley of the Mills) above Amalfi, another through Pompeii, a third on the Isle of Capri, from Anacapri to Torre Damecuta, and yet another from Ravello to Atrani into the Piazza Umberto.

The last two weeks of this trip took us back to Rome, where our focus was HD stock footage and Renaissance art - Bernini sculptures and Raphael paintings claimed the lion's share of our time and attention. We spent much of our time filming the Pantheon (Raphael's Tomb and the occulus); the Church of Santa Maria de Popolo and its Chigi Chapel; Santa Maria della Vittoria with Bernini's "Ecstasy of St. Teresa"; the Fountain of the Four Rivers in the Piazza Navona; St. Peter's Basilica and Square; and those delightful Breezy Maniacs of Bernini's along the bridge to the Castel Sant'Angelo.

We devoted a day filming a virtual walk in the medieval town of Viterbo (just 1.5 hours by train from Rome). An historical note about Viterbo - had John Paul II or Benedict XVI been elected Pope in the 13th century, it would have happened here rather than in Rome. Now a well-preserved provincial village, but in its heyday, Viterbo was Rome's greatest rival!

Rome was more crowded with tourists during this trip than we've ever encountered. Much of that could be attributed to pilgrims flocking to the Vatican in the month following the death of Pope John Paul II and the subsequent election of Pope Benedict XVI. We've also heard that more Americans are traveling to Europe this summer than ever before. Whatever the reason, there were visitors everywhere.

At the end of the trip, we were exhausted but satisfied with the 20 plus hours of High Definition footage we shot along the Amalfi Coast and in Rome. There was an unfortunate incident with a French gendarme in the Charles deGaulle airport, but that will remain a story told within the family!

Is a foreign shoot worth the time, expense, and aggravation? I'll give you a resounding yes on that one - but with a caveat: pack an extra dose of patience and a big heart, and both will be rewarded many times over!

My husband, Wayne, and I own a video production company that focuses on European travel. In addition to our Virtual Walks Series, we also shoot stock footage of Venice, Rome, the Amalfi Coast, London, and English villages. We have sold our footage to numerous television networks and production houses around the world.

In The News:

NASA launched a spacecraft Tuesday night on a mission to smash into an asteroid and test whether it would be possible to knock a space rock off course if one were to threaten Earth. The DART spacecraft, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The federal government is embarking on a new attempt to explain the unexplainable.
NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the world's first planetary defense test mission, is scheduled to launch early Wednesday morning.
The historic November 2021 partial lunar eclipse stunned viewers around the world on Thursday night.
A partial lunar eclipse will take place on Thursday night and into early Friday.
A prosthetic-tailed dolphin named Winter that starred in the "Dolphin Tale" movies died Thursday evening at a Florida aquarium despite life-saving efforts to treat a gastrointestinal abnormality, aquarium officials said.
Four astronauts returned to Earth on Monday, riding home with SpaceX to end a 200-day space station mission that began last spring.
If you don’t want to believe tech companies at face value, take your privacy into your own hands
A U.S. survey of astronomers puts the search for extraterrestrial life at the top of their to-do list for the next 10 years.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Hubble Space Telescope is in safe mode yet again.
Climate change may impact the production of corn (maize) and wheat as early as 2030, according to NASA researchers.
Humans introduced a new life form to outer space on Friday as NASA astronauts harvested the first ever chile peppers onboard the International Space Station.
The Northern Lights may be visible just in time for Halloween.
On Thursday, the sun released a significant solar flare toward Earth, peaking at 11:35 a.m. EDT, scientists say.
A good cleaning goes well beyond just the screen. If that’s all you’re focused on, you’re making an expensive mistake that could take years off your TV’s life.
The scale presented contains seven levels that NASA said are "reflective of the winding, complicated staircase of steps that would lead to scientists declaring they’ve found life beyond Earth."
The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance announced Thursday that two female critically endangered California condors had successfully hatched eggs without the help of male condors.
NASA is now targeting February 2022 for the launch of its powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
The U.S. military launched three suborbital rockets this week from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
As cooler temperatures move over the eastern U.S., the West is forecast to see heavy rain and mountain snow, including what's known as a "bomb cyclone" near the Northwest.

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