Yamanote Sen Mini Documentary

Final from ray on Vimeo.

Japan Railways Yamanote Line, one of the worlds’ busiest train lines. Everyday millions of people use the Yamanote line to get to work, school, and for leisure and shopping. During the morning rush hour, trains usually get extremely packed, with no personal space what so ever and completely overcrowded, to the point where JR employees have to physically shove people into the train carriage to get the doors closed. While Tokyo is a city that never sleeps, its main method of transportation does, and due to this and the sheer amount of people that have to commute I thought it would be a good documentary to make; Just what is the Yamanote line and what are the crazy things that happen on it.

To start out with this project, I had to do research to find out the amount of people the JR Yamanote Line carries everyday and also how it compares to other train lines, both in Tokyo and the rest of the world. For this I turned to a report published by JR EAST on train ridership in 2007. While the material was slightly old, it wasn’t completely out of date and useless. Also I was able to find the ridership information for New York trains via the New York Transit Authorities website. From this information I was able to find out that Tokyo had a ridership of 3.011 billion people annually versus 1.563 billion people for New York in 2007. Moscow ranked number second in numbers after Tokyo, with 2.529 billion people annually on its trains.
I also had to ride the Yamaote line during various times, morning rush (8-9am), midday and the lunch hour rush, the afternoon rush (7-8pm), and the last train rush (12-1), through various stations, including Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Tamachi, Gotanda, and Tokyo.  Having ridden the train during these times and through these stations I was able to start figuring out what I should include in my video. Shinjuku proved to be the most promising as it’s the worlds largest and most crowded station with over 200 exits and an average of 3.67 million people passing through its gates daily. Shinjuku serves as a popular place to commit suicide and happens to be the one station with the weirdest things going on.

The next obstacle was finding someone willing to speak about there experiences, this proved to b not too difficult, as most everyone I talked to had some sort of weird experience on the Yamanote line, from getting groped and having sex on the train to people puking everywhere.
Technical difficulties mainly lied with sound. My camera, Canon EF 5D Mark II takes excellent high definition video, so video quality and lack of light was not a problem for me, especially with my range of professional grade lenses. What did hammer my video was sound. My camera while it has excellent image quality only has a 3.5-millimeter, unbalanced and unpowered consumer grade microphone in jack. This meant I couldn’t really connect any professional grade microphones into my camera and even if I had a microphone that would of worked it would be completely unbalanced. I managed to find an XLR to 3.5 millimeter jack, earlier in the project when I didn’t need it, but when time came for the interviews, no one could find the XLR convertor anymore so I had to rely on my cameras internal microphone which is Omni directional and picked up all the wind and ambient noise. Initially when I started working with the RAW video files, Final Cut Pro did not natively work with the RAW video files from my camera  which caused me to spend more than a few hours trying to render out everything to get it to work in Final Cut Pro. A  work around I found for this problem was to use Apple Compress to do a conversion from my 5d Mark  II’s RAW h2.64 video files to HDV 720p files at 30 frames per second. This conversion proved to be painless both on me and my computer, with rendering collectively for all the videos taking only an hour for 27 different clips. It also helped speed up my general workflow in Final Cut Pro as my computer no longer had to deal with massive 24 megabit per-second 1080p h2.64 RAW files. Also due to my lack of editing experience, transitioning between scenes proved to be difficult but with the help of a few friends I managed to make most scenes work.

With all of this set, I interviewed three different people and got three different stories. Also from having ridden the train multiple times with my camera during different days and times, I managed to get B roll video of people that would aid in showing just how busy and crazy things get on the Yamanote. I edited down about 1 hour worth of interviews and B roll down to a short 5 minute documentary on Japan Railway East Yamanote Line which included footage of Shinjuku station at rush hour, on the train at rush hour, someone sleeping on the floor of a station, and multiple stories from different people recapping the things they’ve seen and heard on the Yamanote.

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