From skateboarding to surfing, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were historic in many ways. After a year of delay due to the pandemic, this year’s Tokyo Games marked the continuation of a growing trend – that of using cinema cameras and filmmakers in sports. A trend that can be seen in leagues like the NFL, NHL and MLB.
“I would say that over the last seven or eight years the style of sport documentation and the stories around the sport have evolved,” says Vefilmmaker teran Aaron Mendez. “While goals have always been thoughtful storytelling, more and more recently the aesthetic of the image itself has started to convey importance. “
Mendez, a two-time Emmy-winning cinematographer, has held a variety of top athletic and topical roles. As the son of legendary ’80s sitcom and TV show camera operator Rolf Mendez, he grew up in the industry and went on to work on features like legendary journalist Tom Brokaw. This year, Mendez was chosen to join NBC Sports as a specialist director of photography for the Olympic Games. His directive was to focus on telling stories of human interest.
“Granted, any good moment or character can go viral and be noticed, but the quality of how a story is told is like a giant neon that tells the viewer – the image is expensive, so be careful,” he adds. -he. “The quality of the movie cameras, the glass, the flowing heads, and the stand helped elevate the storytelling so much that now stories that might get lost in the clutter can be conveyed with that neon attached to them.”
Just as crucial as Mendez’s shooting style is what’s in his kit. It is always equipped with the tools you would expect from a turning kit.
“My main camera is a RED GEMINI 5K, as well as a specialized high speed camera called ‘WAVE CAMERA’ manufactured by Freefly Systems, capable of shooting at 420 fps in 4K and 1440 fps in 2K,” adds Mendez. “I’m also bringing my Freefly Systems MOVI Pro Gimbal for features, a full set of Canon Cine Primes, and a few longer Canon lenses. We use the Canon 600mm Prime, the 50-1000mm Cine Zoom, as well as my favorite and most versatile lens, the 30-300mm Canon Cine Zoom. Of course, those heavy lenses require a sturdy stand, and that’s why I also brought my compact and lightweight CARTONI FOCUS 22 tripod system.
“The lenses we use are heavy and require a sturdy tripod to function. In addition, once the games have started, we are constantly changing locations and moving from site to site. The CARTONI FOCUS 22 was the perfect solution for this working environment. The carbon fiber version is light enough to throw up on your shoulder to move around and, most importantly, strong enough to handle a good sized camera set with thick cinema glass.
“This tripod system was flawless. With the ability to quickly and easily go from ground level to over 6 feet tall, I was prepared for all possible shooting scenarios. Super rugged in harsh weather conditions and easy to use with almost all the features of a larger, more expensive setup. This system was amazing to work with and will most certainly travel with me on every job for the foreseeable future.
Mendez discovered that his role evolved as networks sought increased camera movement and storytelling.
“I first discovered the world of NBC Sports through mentor and fellow cinematographer Samson Chan in early 2014,” says Mendez. “He brought me as a mobile camera element in his missions. Drones and camera gimbals were my specialty, and our shooting styles matched perfectly.
During his time with NBC, Mendez was able to work on several feature documentaries in 2014, then traveled to Brazil in 2015-16 to tell the country’s cultural stories ahead of the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“I fell into this small team who had the chance to tell stories about the food, music, art, history and culture of the host country of the Olympic Games. We spent a week living on a houseboat deep in the Amazon with Tom Brokaw, exploring Sao Paulo street art and music, and even filmed on the route of the legendary Carnival Parade. These are the stories that NBC uses to present the host nation to viewers in the United States during the games. “
With multiple Olympics under their belt, Mendez and the NBC team would win a Sports Emmy for the Opening of the 2018 Winter Olympics, as well as an Emmy for Best Cinematography Sports Emmy for the Cold Opening of Kentucky. Derby, a feature-length documentary about one of the greatest racing drivers in history, Mario Andretti, as well as numerous athlete profiles and promotions.
From there, NBC had to recognize a recipe for success as Mendez was hired as the specialist director of photography for Daily Stories and Olympic feature films.
“I’m one of 4 specialist DPs who come together to capture host nation’s on-air talent for games as well as film the cutscenes, replay and specialist shots that NBC uses for promos, feature films. and nightly recaps. Our footage is rarely shown live, which allows us to take more risks and zoom in a bit tighter than we normally would. “
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