News cameraman Matt Allard has found that using a HDV-enabled D-SLR has advantages in some situations, especially where being able to move quickly is a priority. Interview by Bruce Usher.

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Matt Allard is a video cameraman and stills photographer based in Kuala Lumpur where he works for Al Jazeera English, the 24-hour English-language version of the Arabic Al Jazeera news and current affairs TV channel.

Matt has been with Al Jazeera English for nearly four years and travels with up to 16 cases of equipment, including lights, audio gear and, more recently, a Canon EOS 7D D-SLR that he bought in South Korea and is using to shoot video footage.

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An important piece of equipment is the BGAN portable satellite up-link which enables him to send back stories from anywhere in the world. Set-up takes just ten minutes compared to around four hours not so long ago, and those 16 cases of equipment have been pared down from 40.

The whole thing about Al Jazeera Matt says, “…is that we tend to do stories where people don’t have a voice”. Late in 2009, for example, Matt was in the Aceh Province of Indonesia, working on a weekly eight-to-ten minute story with a discussion panel which debated the subject of Islamic Sharia laws.

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Matt explains, “We went down there and spoke to a lot of people, including the police and politicians. Most people will talk to you. There are many strict Muslims in Aceh who have a lot of power. We went out with the Sharia police on a couple of occasions. A lot of them tend to be female officers, especially in the daytime. On Fridays – when they have Friday prayers – they drive around in a truck with a loud speaker telling people to go to prayers. Some people get a bit angry, pretend to go and then circle back, close the shop down and drive off. We went out again at night when they harass young people – males and females who are not married and sitting too close to each other. Anyone caught drinking alcohol is arrested. Women who are wearing pants they consider too tight or not wearing a head scarf are taken back to the police station and get a lecture. Most of these laws are directed towards women.

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“There are no streetlights in Aceh so it’s very dark and the broadcast camera is no good in low light even with an f1.6 wide-angle lens plus gain-up. Using the battery-powered light gives a bad look because, for the subjects, it’s like peering into headlights. So I pulled out the EOS 7D and wound the ISO up to 12,800. You still get noise, but it’s no worse than putting plus nine [of gain] into my regular video camera.