A new documentary, Death of a Forest, explores how warmer winters are allowing pine beetles to survive in higher numbers and, as a result, kill millions of acres of pine tree forests in the western United States and Canada. The project, which was shot primarily with the JVC GY-HM700U ProHD camcorder, was named a finalist in the shorts category at the 2011 International Forest Film Festival (IFFF), a collaboration between the United Nations Forum on Forests and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival based in Jackson Hole, Wy.
Death of a Forest was shot over several years across the region by Mike Pellegatti, who runs Phoenix-based Wild Visions. Pellegatti would go to the same locations year after year to collect wildlife stock footage for his clients, and noticed that some areas of forest were slowly dying. “I just started documenting little bits of it,” he recalled. “I had no intention of doing anything with it.”
Last fall, however, he heard about the film competition, and Pellegatti, who tries to limit his own impact on the environment, decided it was an important story to tell. With only a month to produce the short, he and writer Lance Schelvan were able to develop a script and edit together video footage from Pellegatti’s extensive catalog, including an interview with Dr. Jesse Logan, who had worked as a research entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Interior West Bark Beetle Project. Encouraged by his success at the IFFF, Pellegatti is now hoping to produce an hour-long documentary on the subject.
While Pellegatti has used many cameras to shoot stock footage, including a JVC GY-HD200U for some of the older shots in Death of a Forest, his camera of choice these days is the GY-HM700U. Unlike some cameras, which he considers far too menu driven, he said the lightweight ProHD camera has easily accessible controls. “Everything is where it needs to be, I don’t have to hunt for anything,” he said. “Because of its size, it’s easy to stop along the trail and take shots. It’s built like a production camera should be.”
Pellegatti said the camera has functioned well in weather extremes, from the -20 degree cold climates of the Rocky Mountains to the 112 degree desert heat of Arizona and the humidity of Panama. With no tape mechanism to maintain, he said the GY-HM700U has eliminated significant operational issues and maintenance costs. Plus, he said it is easy to work with the SDHC media cards, and they have eliminated the dropouts associated with videotape. “The integration with the .MOV files and Final Cut Pro is really pretty sweet,” he added.