Italian-born Oliver Astrologo was first introduced to photography at the age of fifteen, when his parents gave him his first Polaroid camera. It was love at first sight. What started as an expensive hobby became a passion for sharing his visual point of view with an audience around the world. Oliver pays homage to his home country of Italy through this beautiful film on the region of Puglia.
Please tell us a bit about yourself! Where are you from and what are your passions?
Born and bred in Rome, I’ve always had a dual interest in developing and coding websites/mobile applications and capturing inspiring moments with stills or video. I consider myself lucky, as I pursue my passions with excitement and joy through two partly-owned creative/tech agencies based in Rome and London.
What about telling a story through digital media excites you?
I have always thought that any piece of work I do must trigger an emotion in the viewer, regardless of whether it is in print or digital media. I believe that digital media has enabled me to reach a wider audience and get their feedback in real-time. This strong connection that I create with people that love my work excites me and fuels my desire to produce more compelling and emotional photographs and videos.
You’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world, what is it about your home country that leaves an impression in your heart?
Italy, and Rome in particular, are incredibly inspiring when it comes to landscapes and architecture. This is due to all the civilizations that have conquered and lived in the peninsula for over 2000 years. That’s made a huge impact on the architecture and design of many Italian cities and small towns. This varied scenery across the country has always taken my breath away and has continuously inspired most of my projects.
Tell us about Puglia, why did you decide to make a short film about this town? What do you find most enchanting about this small city?
Puglia is an underrated hidden gem and a wonderful place to relax with friends. I wanted to create a video as a personal tribute to this breathtaking region, and invite anyone to come and discover this land for themselves. Initially I had the intention of only shooting photographs but once I got there I had the urge to start filming to capture so many of the beautiful moments I witnessed.
How long were you in Puglia for and what was your itinerary? If someone was going there for the first time, what are the top 3 things they should see?
I was there for a total of 12 days. I had the luck to spend few nights in a “Trullo,” a traditional dry-stone hut with a conical roof in the town of Alberobello. There are so many destinations in Puglia to choose from, but in my humble opinion, the top three destinations are:
- Gargano e Vieste – Indulge with nature in the Gargano promontory
- Alberobello – La Cittá dei Trulli – An official Unesco World heritage site that deserves a trip just to admire its unique architecture.
- Valle D’Itria – An unusual valley that features a large amount of olive trees and grapevines
What type of gear did you use to capture your material (video, audio, stills, etc.)?
I had a light equipment setup that included a GoPro Hero4 Black and a Sony A7ii, combined with either fixed 35mm or 55mm Zeiss Lenses. I collaborated with Vito Renó, a local video maker that provided the excellent drone footage you see in the video.
Do you have any tips for getting the type of footage you got shooting locals, landscapes, timelapses?
I always get very close to the locals. I talk to them and absorb their stories before I film them and include them in my project. Once they trust you they will open up to you and entertain you with amazing stories. When using a GoPro, I do recommend reducing the exposure by 1 stop and having the ProTune setting always on. This enables me to have a higher Gamma dynamic to avoid an overexposed sky. I always use a 55m fixed lens when I need to shot close-ups, and have a small Cheap and Easy Ikea Panning Unit in my pocket to create timelapses.
You have some moments in the film where you incorporate POV shots. What did you use to capture those? (For example, the water shots of a boy jumping in the sea, etc.)
I manage to get those shots by using a GoPro. It gives me the freedom of movement and the ability to transition wide-angle shots to close-ups. The water shots of the boy jumping into the sea were shot in slow-mo at 120fps.
A lot of your camera work looks handheld. Do you have any tips for getting smooth shots, without a rig or dolley?
I usually use an electronic Gimbal, but all the camera work done for the Puglia video is indeed handheld. I manage to get the camera quite steady by levering the camera strap and making sure that the main object is always centered when I move. I then stabilize the images in post-production using After Effects. For best results, I suggest shooting at 4k and setting your shutter speed above 1/125 to avoid any “ghosting” during the stabilization process.
When on location and shooting, do you have a specific narrative in mind you want to capture or do you just go with the flow and shoot as much as possible?
I usually have a story that I want to tell or have a main subject in the video. In the ROMA video, you will find the the same guys driving a Vespa in few scenes and in the Vietnam video you can see me myself making a few cameo appearances. In an unknown place, I’d rather observe the environment and people around in order to visualize the scene, and then get the shots I want to achieve. This method allows me to get better footage rather than shooting thousands of random people and locations.
What makes a good travel video in your opinion?
Sound effects and background music have a major impact on the final product. Never underestimate those two elements. I usually have a soundtrack in mind before I start editing the video which sometimes is originally produced by professional composers. I am building a bank of original background noises and sounds by recording those with my smartphone.
After coming back from a trip with tons of footage, what is your process with piecing it all together and telling a story?
For editing, I use Adobe Premiere CC and Adobe After Effects. Audition is the tool I use to work on audio files. First, I select clips that have a beautiful composition. (This process eliminates 80% of the footage I have collected.) Once I have collated the best clips, I label them according to category: Transition, Establishment, Slide and People. When laying down all the clips on a timeline, I usually alternate the category and use a transition clip following an establishment one. Once I have done my first draft, I start cutting and swapping clips in order to get a consistent chromatic flow. The overall process takes days. With this particular video, I must have edited it 6 times before I was satisfied with it.