Dai Sugano: ‘Just one of those people who can see things’

Dai Sugano was strictly a still photographer before 2008, when he worked on a project, “Left Behind,” filmed in India. In his Saturday afternoon presentation, “Chasing Video,” Sugano showed the short documentary about poverty, and several others, to stress the importance of video and multimedia in a world that’s always changing.

Click the image to watch the video in a new window.
Click the image to watch the video in a new window.

For “Left Behind,” Sugano said he was struck by poverty in India and wanted to convey what it was like to be there. The haunting faces filled with blank stares and the slow but strong music in the background cultivate this kind of hopelessness to the viewer.

After showing “Left Behind” Sugano spoke a little about the process of transitioning from a still photographer to a videographer, noting that his attention to light and framing were a couple of things that helped him when tackling video.

Watching other videos and knowing what’s possible was what Sugano considered the most important thing when he began to work with video.

“Just watch, Vimeo, YouTube and Netflix,” Sugano said when elaborating on where he finds his inspiration.

“Cutie and the Boxer” and “Interstellar” were just a couple of the examples Sugano gave, noting the use of audio and captions in the former and music in the latter.

Things to remember when looking for background music:

  • Creative Common is not free! You probably want attribution only.
  • Royalty free is not free—you’ve got to read the fine print.
  • DIY is free– using apps like Garage Band.

Sugano continued the presentation by elaborating on a more recent project, “Drugging Our Kids,” which features kids in the California foster care system who are prescribed psychiatric drugs.

Click the image to open the video in a new window.
Click the image to watch the video in a new window.

Sugano mentioned that too often, the video portion of an investigative reporting piece is pushed back until as little as two months before the story is finished, leaving the video mediocre at best.

In this case, Sugano began working on the video portion around the same time the reporter began working on the written part. This allowed time to get the necessary footage to make the video the best it could be.

One thing Sugano stressed was the importance of establishing a relationship with the people who were featured in the story, and making them feel safe, especially due to the sensitive nature of the content.

“I wanted them to trust me. They needed to trust me,” Sugano said.

Sugano said the editing process took 3-4 months including 2-3 months of working with the reporter to map out and cut down the script.

At the end of the presentation, Sugano focused on the importance of learning new platforms. “Drugging Our Kids” was the first time Sugano used Premiere Pro and since then has been working on new projects in After Effects.

“I want to be flexible,” Sugano said.

Helpful resources: