October 9, 2013

'Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown' Cinematographer Zach Zamboni on Getting the Shot, No Matter What

anthony bourdain parts unknown zach zamboni cinematographer camera shooter director of photography cinematography documentary cnnA few weeks ago, I was excited to learn several things involving one of my favorite TV series -- Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. The first was that Season 1 had picked up two Emmys, one of which was awarded to its documentary-style cinematography. Soon after, I was fortunate enough to catch Parts Unknown DP Zach Zamboni speaking at a Rule Boston Camera Pub Night. In his presentation and the subsequent Q&A, Zach discussed things I've wondered about since the show was still called No Reservations: details of the crew's  difficult (sometimes) improvisational shoots on the fly, far from home, with limited resources. And Emmy-winning footage as a result. To hear Zach's full thoughts on the technical -- and philosophical -- aspects of his Emmy-winning shooting, click through.

First, here's a few quick clips from one of my favorite episodes from the first season of Parts Unknown. This material doesn't necessarily represent how beautiful so much of the Libya episode is, so catch it on-demand if possible:

Something that is immediately apparent, in any excerpt of the show, is one of things I like most about it: these DPs simply have to make it happen. I can't help but think of Nike's slogan, "Just Do It." Years ago, before Bourdain's cameramen had the luxuries of greater sensitivity from the likes of the Sony F3, they still had to get the show done. These are shooters that are too busy shooting -- producing great-looking results, no matter the tools at their disposal -- to worry about these specs versus those specs or, what they only wish they had instead. The camera is their weapon, and they make their shots count.

Zach hits upon everything from the nuts and bolts of shooting (literally), improvising clever solutions for busted gear many miles away from the nearest rental house, not repeating yourself creatively, his appreciation of the smaller Sony F-family members, no re-takes, being shy about shooting people you don't know (and will never see again), his rigs, his crew, and eating a lot of really good food from all over the world. Here's Zach Zamboni on Just Doin' It:

Listening to Zach talk shop over free beer and pizza was sort of a dream come true for me, so cheers to Rule for putting on the event, and, as always, shooting/posting it for everyone else to check out. Just a few days before the Pub Night, an episode of Parts Unknown premiered that featured Zach both behind and in front of the camera, sometimes simultaneously. It was bizarre, Gonzo, meta, hilarious, awesome. It also gave some physical proof of the "walking-backwards-shooting-shitfaced" style Zach mentions in the Pub Night video. Said Bourdain on the episode:

My veteran cinematographer, EMMY award winning Zach Zamboni grew up in rural Maine and lived, until recently in New York City. But not too long ago, he met the woman of his dreams and relocated to Granada in Spain, marrying into a Spanish family, learning Spanish, and immersing himself in the daily life of his adopted new home.

We always like to be able to look at places through an individual's perspective. What makes this episode very special, is that with Zach, we are not only looking at a very old, very beautiful world through fresh eyes -- but that we are looking at it through the eyes of a particularly gifted cinematographer. Zach's visual poem to the mysterious Alhambra is a uniquely wonderful bit of filmmaking we are all very proud of.

New episodes of Parts Unknown premiere Sundays on CNN.

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Your Comment

16 Comments

You're a big fan and didn't know the show had won 2 Emmys? Always a big show in meetings with doco prodcos, although less so recently.
The one shot in the Congo this season was flat out incredible.
I do think the change this season to slightly bigger cams has hurt it a touch. Last season it had a real 'holy crap' immediacy (particularly Cuba and Kurdistan) - it seems just a little more considered this year.
Still a great show.

October 9, 2013 at 11:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

Yes huge fan, no didn't know about the Emmys (until I found out :)

October 9, 2013 at 11:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dave Kendricken
Writer
Freelancer

Have you seen the most recent Copenhagen episode Mark? EZ Rig shots hovering over tables of amazing meals and intimate conversation - flying through edible wild vegetation at ground level on the beach and hand-held macro shots that kill. I'd say those F55s were as transparent as 5Ds in these guys' hands and I applaud their ever-evolving style.

October 10, 2013 at 1:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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alan

Love this show...

October 10, 2013 at 12:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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You voted '-1'.
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I keep hearing material rubbing on the mic?

October 10, 2013 at 1:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Larry Vaughn

Larry,

Yes, you hear material rubbing against the mic. What's your point?

Were you trying accentuate your obvious and douchey statement, or downplay it? Do tell.

October 10, 2013 at 7:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Herb

Comments like this make me second-guess whether I'd like to participate with the community on this site. -Not very professional.

October 11, 2013 at 5:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Josh

I have a lot of respect for his work with Anthony Bourdain, particularly when taking into account the complications involved shooting in some tough conditions. I really enjoyed the Maine show which featured his family of hunters and back wood chefs.

October 10, 2013 at 12:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Marc B

Love this show!!!

October 11, 2013 at 7:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I've never actually seen the show but I will be sure to watch it this week. Zach comes across as very artistic but, judging from these examples, the footage seems a bit newsy. That might be a producers call.

October 11, 2013 at 5:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Josh

Not that it is really a major issue but I find the comment above by Herb to be really quite infantile and petty. I just sat through most of the Rule Boston Camera Zack Zamboni presentation video and he is a very interesting guy with a lot of great information. However, the really bad audio was quite distracting and one wonders whoever the person was responsible for shooting and recording this piece would not have asked a guy like Zack who is an expert if the mic was set up right? Pretty obvious it may be under his jacket. Imagine if Zack did that to Tony? He would not be happy and I'm sure Zack (if he ever bothered to listen to the above video) would not be stoked either. So, the nasty comment by Mr Herb is just way out of line in my opinion.

October 11, 2013 at 10:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Guy

Dave,
What Zach and his colleagues are doing is great TV, but they are not doing it because they have some special abilities or vision behind those cameras... they are simply very good at running a business, selling to the right people and great PR. Did you know that most of Emmy award winning news & documentaries that are produced by CNN the cameraman and women don't get mentioned in credits, neither they are ever nominated by CNN management...

October 13, 2013 at 10:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Peter

I know this is an old comment but I"ll respond anyway. I actually am consistently blown away by the artistry in the show - the shots are fantastic, the editing, the storytelling is exceptional and it is always very creatively produced. So I think the people that involved in this show do have exceptional talent and vision. As well as the rest of the things mentioned, certainly.
Thanks to this site for posting this talk - enjoyed it very much.

May 16, 2016 at 1:17AM

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KS
81

congrats to the to winning emmys:)) I to am from maine.....i so admire zach and his work he brings
to the best show on t.v.!!! i would love to be able to travel and experience what they have ate and where
they have been....what an awesome opportunity!!Anthony Bourdain has the best personality for this
show....he really brings it home,this is my hour get away show!!! its the best when they have an all day
marathon:))
well congrats again zach and the whole crew from parts unknown!! -jess from augusta,maine

December 5, 2013 at 7:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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foodiejess

Professional Buy High Quality Cheap nfl jerseys cheap nfl jerseys for sale.

December 10, 2013 at 2:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I would have thought such great information would have warranted a professional audio person.

May 19, 2014 at 2:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jake

Lots of good information, but I wish I could have heard the questions to make sense of some of the answers. Some answers were obvious, but others were not. Anyway, I enjoyed this, so thanks for posting it.

December 29, 2016 at 1:28PM, Edited December 29, 1:28PM

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David Patterson
videographer/editor
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