Cinematic poetry: shooting a video haiku with the Canon EOS R8

You've heard of haiku poetry, but have you heard of haiku film? Find out how Alexandra Andreeva created a 50-second short inspired by sustainable fashion designer Benjamin Benmoyal.
Photographer Alexandra Andreeva filming fashion designer Benjamin Benmoyal using a drill to wind a reel of video tape.

"Watching the haiku film on a big screen, the image quality produced by the hybrid Canon EOS R8 was just incredible," says doctor and photographer Alexandra Andreeva. "This camera captures every detail – tiny movements, the creases around someone's eyes. You can show the viewer exactly what you want them to see."

Sometimes less really is more. Haiku is a form normally associated with Japanese poetry, but this minimalist style can inspire powerfully succinct storytelling when applied to filmmaking. Haiku film is also a format that allows newcomers to explore the rich audio-visual possibilities that video brings, with its parameters acting as a guide.

Content creator Alexandra Andreeva, who is based in Vienna, has long been interested in trying motion, but always found the transition from stills to video "a bit scary", not least because her older Canon APS-C DSLR doesn't have video capabilities. Here, she shares her experience of shooting a cine haiku about fashion designer Benjamin Benmoyal with the full-frame mirrorless Canon EOS R8, and offers some tips on how to go about making your own haiku films.

Identify your cine haiku story

A haiku film – also known as a video or cine haiku – is a short, poetic film made up of brief sequences that combine to tell a short story or capture a moment in time. Alexandra's shoot took place in Benjamin's light-filled studio in Paris, where he creates his garments from fabric woven out of recycled tape from old audio and video cassettes, such as VHS.

Alexandra's first step was to sit down with Benjamin and discuss his creative process. "I was making this imaginary list of shots in my head – although I was aware this would evolve throughout the shoot depending on the time, where the light was coming from, the mood and the pace of what he was doing," says Alexandra. As a qualified doctor, she offers a medical analogy: "It's like you have the skeleton and then during the shoot you'll flesh it out."

She was keen not only to tell the story of how Benjamin makes his designs, but to also capture his personality and imagination. "Benjamin is young, he's funny, he's energetic; you can really see the spark of ideas in his eyes. I wanted to show how he transforms that into what he is making."

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A video still showing two images on a black background of a woman framed by foliage wearing a colourful, flower-patterned tunic.

Consider the look you want

Alexandra's film uses layering to give interest to a scene – at times she shoots through foreground foliage, for example, and adjusts perspectives to give a sense of movement. "I was keen to play with distance," she says, and the film transitions between environmental shots where Benjamin is seen dressing a model and close-ups of his hands cutting out a pattern. "Switching things up like this makes a film more dynamic, more interesting to watch," she explains. "Shooting everything close-up would get very boring."

This cinematic layering also chimes with the theme of sustainability and upcycling: bringing disparate objects together in creative ways. "I'm always fascinated by people creating something new that you can touch and wear. With Benjamin's work, I love how he is taking something familiar from our childhoods – VHS tapes – and repurposing them."

A woman posing among foliage is shown in the vari-angle touchscreen on the back of a Canon EOS R8.

"For me, as an absolute beginner in filmmaking, the most important thing was that the camera was easy to use," says Alexandra, who also used the EOS R8's high-speed continuous shooting mode to capture a sequence of still images for her haiku film.

Direct the scene

When it came to filming her haiku, "I was directing for 65% of the time and the rest of the time I was observing," says Alexandra. "I wanted the light to look nice so we could see the 3D structure of the fabric. There were times when I would ask Benjamin if he could do something slower, but there are other times when he's putting the clothes on the model and I'm capturing that [in real-time]."

As someone who is more used to shooting landscapes, having the chance to direct people was a revelation for Alexandra. "Normally, I'm waiting for the sun to rise behind a mountain, so it was nice to have the opportunity to play around with different elements in the frame. I could ask someone to move their arm slightly to the left, so it was coherent with what I had in my head."

Improvise in the moment

Some of Alexandra's favourite sequences were spontaneous reactions to the situation as she observed it. "As you're shooting, you go through the list in your head but sometimes it doesn't match your idea. Or you notice that a particular fabric looks nice in the light and suggest the model does a twirl."

The Canon EOS R8, with its advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF II technology with intelligent subject detection, was the perfect tool for the task. "You can easily switch your point of focus just by tapping the display with your finger – the focus shifts really smoothly," says Alexandra, who is used to both auto and manual focus.

"When the focus shifts from front to back, that was done by tapping the screen, and where we see the focus changing inside one shot, that was done manually. I would also touch the screen where I wanted the focus to be for the bigger shots – for example, when the model is spinning around."

Alexandra switched between the Canon RF 24-50MM F4.5-6.3 IS STM lens – which gave her the flexibility to choose between wider and closer shots in the moment – and a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM, her preferred focal length for portraits.

Alexandra Andreeva stands holding a Canon EOS R8, with a large building behind her out-of-focus.

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A Canon EOS R8 with a microphone attached and mounted on a tripod grip.

“It was great that I could attach an external microphone to the top of the camera when I wanted to record certain sounds, such as the whir of a drill," says Alexandra.

Stay open to experimentation

Another function Alexandra was particularly impressed with was slow-motion shooting. "I think it adds hugely to the atmosphere," she enthuses. It's a creative effect she's used previously, but only on her smartphone, so the image quality when shooting at 180fps in Full HD on the Canon EOS R8 was far superior. "The full-frame quality was amazing," she says.

As a novice filmmaker, Alexandra found the biggest advantage by far was how intuitive the camera was to use. "You just have to tell the model where to go and how to turn, and the camera does the magic. You can concentrate on getting the composition you're after."

Even so, Alexandra was pleasantly surprised by how lightweight the full-frame camera body was compared to the Canon APS-C DSLR she is accustomed to working with, and how flexible it was using the vari-angle display. "I was working handheld and I could shift the angle using the display, which meant I didn't have to move while the model maintained a pose," she adds.

Although she shot a lot of footage, Alexandra had a clear sense of what she would use in the final film and what would remain on the cutting room floor. "It's the same when I shoot stills: as I'm transferring images, I'm remembering the shots I liked best," she says.

A close-up of hands holding a Canon EOS R8 camera.

For Alexandra, it is important to keep trying things out and pushing herself in new directions, even if the result isn’t always what she envisioned. "I really like looking back through my feed and seeing how I have progressed," she explains.

The only limit is your imagination

Accessible and easy to use, but with image quality and capabilities such as autofocus tracking that will take your stills and video to the next level, the EOS R8 is a launchpad for creativity.

It’s also a great choice for those looking to advance their video skills, thanks to pro-level features such as outstanding low light autofocus, the ability to shoot in Canon Log 3 and intuitive video assist functions. "I'm not a professional photographer, but I'm not an amateur either," says Alexandra. "I think this camera is made for people like me."

After her first foray into filmmaking, Alexandra is inspired to see where the Canon EOS R8 will take her. "You are not limited in any way,” she concludes. “You never need to think 'I can't do that'. You can just follow your imagination."

Here more about Alexandra's experience on the Shutter Stories podcast:

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