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A Freelance Life: Profile - Johnnie Behiri

Name: Johnnie Behiri

Age: 46

Star sign: Libra

Home town: Jerusalem

Current base: Vienna, Austria

Language spoken: English, Hebrew, a bit of German

Freelance DOP, editor, producer, consultant for leading companies in the industry. I am a BBC freelance cameraman/editor. When not BBC-ing I film documentaries, commercials, music videos, and testimonial/image videos.

Current assignments:
I’m currently working on multiple projects: a documentary for a leading German/Austrian broadcaster (that is) a story about a unique ballet class at the Vienna state opera (that) will be shot in Japan, Romania, and Austria; a testimonial video for Kata bags – the latest in a series of testimonials I’ve made; other very nice projects, like a series of cooking shows, are in early stages of development and will be happen as soon as the format is secured.

Have you been busy?
Honestly speaking, I live a typical “freelancer life”. There are times when a month is completely full of shooting, editing, or producing days and then, there are times when a week can be very quiet. Through the years I’ve learned to look at the overall picture and not panic if there’s a quiet week. It’s always great to spend this time with the family, energize myself and think about new ideas that can evolve into future projects.

Shooting where?
You name it. The great thing about this job is the ability to combine the two things I love most: shooting and traveling.

What types of productions have you mostly shot?
My heart is with documentaries. The ability to “jump” into other people lives and be able to tell amazing stories first hand is the essence of my work. Also, technically speaking, finding the right tool for the job and make an artistic decision is very challenging. For the BBC, I mostly shoot news and short features. Bethany Bell is my BBC correspondent and the type of colleague you can only dream of working with. Bethany writes, directs, and produces the feature while I shoot and edit it. Together we pioneered the usage of VDSLRs during features assignments on an experimental basis since the Canon 7D came out.

Then comes “marketing videos”. In these productions I’m a one man band (producing, directing, shooting, editing). The challenge is to create from scratch (usually with a modest budget) a concept that will evolve into a product that will serve my client best.

What was your first ever shooting job?
I guess it was a short news assignment for the national broadcaster I was working for many years ago.

What is your honest assessment of DSLRs for top level shooting? Where to from here: what improvements can be made to them?
As long as you know and aware of the VDSLR limitations, it’s a great tool to work with. I would even take it a step further and confess it made me a better cameraman.

We will see the big sensor video revolution tree growing two main branches: video cameras like the one lately introduced by Sony and Panasonic (F3, AF100 respectively); and other improvements in still cameras that can shoot videos. These will live peacefully together and give the user the freedom to choose the right tool for the money.

All VDSLR users could have made a better job if we had proper ENG style zoom lenses (without servo) to work with. Camera-wise, the ability to down scale to full HD in a proper way or alternatively give us a full HD clean feed out of the HDMI connector would have been very useful.

Most recent, interesting assignments?
Traveling around the world documenting a year in a life of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring some of the best conductors in the world was truly a unique experience! The film is now being broadcast around the world and it’s always a pleasure knowing I have contributed spreading culture around the world.

Current equipment you use? What editing systems do you use?
I’m using most modern digital cameras currently available and own a Canon 7D with three lenses, a Tokina f2.8/11-16mm, a Canon f2.8/17-55mm EFS, and a Canon f4.0/70-200mm L IS USM. I have a Tascam DR-100 audio recorder, for lights I have Litepanels 1x1 and Viso Kinoflo style lights; for editing I use Adobe premiere powered by Cineform NEO 4k.

Other gear you have access to?

What piece of gear do you wish someone might make?
There are two products I would make if I could: first, a “brain camera.” Now that so many people have invested in peripheral equipment (rigs, Electronic View Finders, audio recorders, monitors and such) it doesn’t make sense to buy and pay for them again. My “brain camera” will have all the basic functionality a normal video camera has (excluding LCD screen, VF, video recording device), ensuring the ability to produce great quality full HD picture in multiple frame rates, with enough output connectivity for digital recorder and viewing solutions, all at a very modest price. Another product currently absent from the market is a proper VDSLR zoom lens for video work.

Best thing about your job?
I’m always amazed how privileged I am to meet and work with other talented people.

Worst thing about your job?
Airlines are getting tough with security and luggage weight control. This is even before talking about the wasted time when flying.

Dullest assignments and why?
I always try to find excitement in any assignment.

Hairiest/scariest assignments and why?
Gaza strip 1994. Yasser Arafat and his people are returning back home after 27 years of exile. I’m working as a camera assistant with a small crew covering their entrance while the Israeli army was withdrawing. It was night time and total darkness when shooting started, most of it in the air, expressing Palestinian happiness. Now, go figure who is shooting whom and where... not a pleasant feeling.

How much 16:9 do you shoot?
100% of the time for the last three years.

What’s your taste in music?
Nothing important that will make the readers run and buy the album!

Favorite Web sites?

They’re all a great source of information to anyone who is into digital production and wiling to spend time reading a lot of info in order to enhance their knowledge.

Favorite food?
Don’t feel sorry for me, but I’m vegetarian. Asian, Indian, Italian, and Mediterranean are my favorite foods. Cooking is what I do as a hobby. My brave family prefers me behind the camera for sure.