Category Archives: chile

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Video for Arpark, a New Travel App

We made this. Everything was planned out in advance. Instead of letting things happen and running after them, focusing on the fly and all that goodness, we told our actor, the very talented Sam Mignoni, where to stand and what to do. We also used some lighting and bounce. Controlling everything is fun, and I wish I’d had even more control and we’d had another go at the zip line coverage – I’d like a different lens from the ground, but all in all, a strong video. Visually strong, quick, engaging. Go team Nacho and Eileen.

After effects was used to get the app information in there.

Construction Photos

I adore construction sites. I suppose it’s because so much of my hometown of Ubly, Michigan works in construction (road and house). Nacho and I have been hired by an engineering firm here, in Santiago, to photograph their work. This was our first go. Nacho had the 70-200 2.8 on the 7d. I had the 16-35 on the 5d. They’ll be a prize for whomever manages to properly identify whose photos are whose, without looking at the exif data.

Bubble Map Formula

There has been a great deal of protest activity surrounding the recent approval of a massive hydroelectric project in Patagonia. Hearing the crowd size numbers made me wonder how these protests compared with other massive worldwide manifestations. The largest of the protests was predicted to have 50,000 attendees. The number I had remembered reading for Tienanamen Square was 100,000 camped out in the square for more than a month. This map provides a quick way to visually compare the world’s protests.

It was suprisingly difficult to find crowd counts for the different manifestations. There were some I thought of including – the LA Riots, all of the other protests in the middle east, which I could not include because I did not have authoritative numbers. I only relyed on legacy media outlets for numbers and when there was a conflict between the organizers numbers and that of the police, I always deferred to the police.

The map itself was built by Jesús Pérez in the infographic department. Vital in the building of the map was the use of the formula put forth by Alberto Cairo in some of the sample pages of his unpublished book. It is vital to remember when using shapes to convey proportions, that it is not just the diameter that must be altered (duplicated, multiplied by 200% or something of the such), but the whole area of the item.

He gives a wonderfully useful formula for calculating the radius of a new circle based on the maximum circle size and the quantitiy it represents.

Rm is the lenth of the radius of the largest circle you want to have on the map. This will represent the largest number/quantity/value you want to express. R2 is the new radius length. The new value is the number you want to make a bubble for in relation to the largest bubble. This is all based on circle area caculations, but in a reduced, more straightforward formula. Alberto’s page has wonderful explanations with illustrations, if this was not sufficiently clear.

Ethics in Multimedia

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Not long ago, Nacho and I were asked to work with a woman from a television station. The individuals involved were looking to try out this new media, multimedia thing. We agreed. The problem was, she kept wanting to set up shots, scenes, give directions to the participants. She took audio from the projects of others and used it as her own – different location, different day. We weren’t with her on the shooting, but she would bring back shots that were questionable or clearly set up.

Nacho laid into her. “Do you want to be a director or a journalist? Tell me, are you a director or a journalist? It’s lying. You’re lying. You’re making things up. This is serious.”

She was unrepentant. “We do this all the time in the station.”

We produced a video. We removed the images and audio that we knew she had altered. I’m still unsure whether the work as a whole is true or not. And I’m certain she hasn’t changed.

Now, every time I see that channel’s news, I doubt every shot. Things they couldn’t have staged, like the miners leaving the rescue capsule, I still doubt. And I’m deeply suspicious of all the other news channels here.

This is why ethics are important. Our job is to report the truth. If we’re manipulating the scene, it’s not the truth. It’s a convenient fabrication designed to convey some previously determined idea. When we do this in the field, the subjects know. They then have the doubt. Today, this doubt can fly through the myriad social media channels and all of the faith one has in a channel can be shattered, particularly when it is a prevalent practice, not the isolated work of one renegade career builder.

I hate discussions about ethics. They are constant in certain trade publications. They bore me. Before this experience, I thought ethics were a given. Because it seems they are not, I will list them.

You cannot tell anyone to do anything. You are there to document.

Yes, it’s difficult to capture people moving. You have to learn to anticipate. Think about where they will be before they go there and get your camera ready to capture it.

You cannot change the scene in anyway. No moving annoying coke bottles, potato chip bags, cats. You are there to document.

You cannot use audio that was recorded in other places. You must use audio recorded in the same place ideally on the same day.

If you miss something, you missed it. You can’t recreate it. (For instance, you can’t drop a stone into a swimming pool because the audio of a splash was bad.) You can’t ask someone to repeat an action. You can’t use audio soundbanks.

No flopping images. That too is a lie. Plus, you’ll probably mess it up eventually and have a word backwards and get caught.

Obviously, in an interview you have control over the shoot. You decide the light, framing, setting, background. You cannot, however, ask someone to say something particular, feed them lines to give back.

Interesting final note that seems to contradict the importance of ethics of non-manipulation in news is that, according to a recent poll of feelings of insecurity in Latin American countries, is that television news is the institution in which the population has the most faith.

Does this mean that they trust them to tell them the truth, although they are aware of the manipulations, because surely the people directed have talked about it? Or does this mean that the manipulations are unknown?

The photo of Nikita and the soccer ball, as shot by Nacho, was captured through the use of anticipation. Nacho knew where Nikita would approximately be going, and he got in position to capture the image he was seeking.

Examples of video principles

Nacho and I have been doing a fair amount of teaching/coaching over the past few months. We spent the summer coaching UNC’s News21 contribution, Powering a Nation. Upon return to Chile, I accompanied and assisted Nacho teaching multimedia (audiovisual) techniques to the faculty of the Department of Communications, Universidad de Montevideo. The first week of October, I coached a group of 15 students from the Universidad Desarrollo of Concepción and Santiago in Concepción, Chile to tell the stories of people recovering from or leaving with the aftermath of the Feb. 27 mega-earthquake in Chile. (See the project blog.) Next month, I will be giving my first webinar for the Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa.

When teaching, it is vital to have videos and presentations that show the concepts you want to convey or bear similarities to the projects the students are trying to create. This was particularly true of the students in Universidad Desarrollo. While they knew the basics of editing and camera operation, the storytelling format was completely new to them. They came into the week expecting to use voiceovers and music. We used neither and they succeeded brilliantly.

I prefer to use videos/presentations in the native language of the group. It’s easier to comprehend what is happening technically in the video when you can understand or don’t have to think about the language. This can present a challenge because the multimedia format is newer in Latin America (with the exception of join UAndes/UNC projects, like South of Here) and I’m less aware of those making multimedia in Spain or Latin America. Suggestions welcome.

Here are some of the videos I used to illustrate concepts or served as inspiration.

Ambient audio

One of the reasons I didn’t want my students from Universidad Desarrollo to use music is I wanted them to work with and understand the importance ambient audio. (The other reason being it’s still controversial nature and the potential to editorialize.)

I used Radio Lab’s Words to demonstrate the idea of ambient audio to the students of Universidad Desarrollo and Nacho used it to explain the same to the professors of Universidad de Montevideo. Although it has music, it conveys perfectly the idea that every action has its sound, and good video uses it.

Pacing

The idea of pacing can be hard to understand or implement. It’s allowing your piece to breath. It’s giving the viewer a moment to absorb and contemplate what has happened or has been said. We don’t speak in huge chunks of text. We pause, breath, recap and interact. A way to begin thinking about it is to look at your own script. If you left a space between sentences, that likely means you need to put a pause in the interview and put in some ambient audio. Nacho is a master of pacing and taught me the concept.

I used many videos to demonstrate this idea. Most prominently, I used Taken by the Ocean by Nacho and myself, and The Lost Generation by Nacho and Nick Scott.


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Movement

To me, video is about movement. If nothing is moving, then you should be shooting stills. (Aside, more than stillness, to me photos are about capturing moments. That’s what they do best.) A number of my students had stories where much of the material was static. One team was focusing on the destruction the earthquake caused to the historic architecture of Concepción. Lots of monuments and graves, little activity.

Another group was telling the story of a elderly man who had to move out of his apartment although it was structurally sound to another because a skyscraper in the same block was badly damaged and could fall at any moment. In the second instance, the elderly man did not want them to record him at any point except when he was in the apartment or just leaving. They could not show the social circle he missed nor his wife in their new, rented home who was deeply saddened by the move. Too, they needed to show area and the buildings.

In instances like this, one has to seek out the movement, and always something is moving. The first example I showed was Last of the Yagánes, by Courtney Potter. Courtney essencially denied access to photograph the last wholly Yagán person in the world and the last person speaking the Yagán language. The family charged for accessed to the woman, and as it is unethical to pay subjects for access, Courtney could not do this. So she snuck portraits of the woman when the family wasn’t looking or around, and she focused on the things outside the house the symbolized what was going on, grasses blowing, clouds moving, and used timelapses to capture this moment.

The story is in the origins section of South of Here.
last of the yaganes

We used the Big Vinny story in every teaching situation to explain the use of movement and how to shoot in constricted areas where nothing seems to be happening. Everything is shot in almost exactly the same place – a big empty lot. The film makers manage to find every single thing that moved to create a compelling, visually interesting video.

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Sequences

I find this the toughest to explain. I tried to explain it as shooting whatever is happening from at least the three different shots (wide, medium & tight) from three different positions – although one should shoot more – and then cutting it together. I urge people to pay more attention to the television programs they watch. They cut just about every two seconds to a new angle. I have screen shots from Glee that I will be using in my webinar. Nacho explains it as showing the progress of the action.

Nacho likes to use video from Snatch, specifically how it explains a flight to London in roughly 5 seconds.

He also likes to use this stock shot of coffee being made.
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To me, these don’t quite capture what you are doing to create a sequence for a news video/multimedia piece. Plus there are not enough humans. I remember Nacho once praising Nick Scott, of the above Last Generation for being a master of sequencing. You can watch the video again. In particular, look for the scene of the sheep leaving the truck or the man lighting the stove and making mate.

If you have any good sequencing examples, please do send them along.

Naturally, we showed more videos.

Preparing your images for the Web – quick and dirty

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Toning

All images need to have a true black and a true white. If printing in a dark room, this is one of the first elements you will be searching for. All digital images require toning. A big reason for this is the digital photography does not have the tonal range of film. Until we have digital cameras with true 64mega pixels (Although, I’ve heard it said that megapixels are a lie. I don’t know. This is the quick guide.)

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Basic toning then, is giving a true black and a true white. I start this process by increasing the brightness and the blacks in my Raw Processing stage, but when I look again, I never find what I have done sufficient. So I go into my curves. And increase the blacks and the whites. I tend to do far more with the blacks than the whites. The curves themselves tell you where to go.

curves adjusted so

See where the curve starts on the left hand side? That’s the beginning of the blacks. You have to move your tonal marker here. See where the curve ends. That’s where the whites end. Thus, to have a true black and a true white, you need to have the photo’s curve begin at the beginning of the whites, and end at the end of the whites. I do like to crush the blacks a bit – go a little further, to make the image even richer and counteract the washing out effect of the web. I also tend to pull down at the center point a little to give a bit more contrast as well.

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Saturation

The web desaturates your images and videos. To counter this, it’s a good idea to boost the saturation of your images. Many of the best photographers do this regularly, and even to extreme. It’s a common contest related complaint that all the images are oversaturated. Those who win, however, tend to be oversaturated. I don’t know what to do with that. I’m noting it here but not worrying about it. Maybe it’s just the same as using Velvia. I say do what you think is right and don’t ever forget about your subject.

Regardless of the controversy, you, with your images and video on the web, will need saturation to even make things look right.

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hue saturation dialogue slider

Images in Final Cut and the Web

Color profiles are incredibly important. You need to use the correct one for the color space in which you are going to be in, or you will lose all the beautiful adjustments you have made. When printing, nearly every paper type for each different printer has it’s own specific profile. That’s how important profiles are. There can be slight shifts in color and toning (very minor) when you make the transition, so if your image has only one destination, you should change the profile before making toning and saturation adjustments.

For Final Cut, you need to be in Apple RGB.

For the web, sRGB.

You can change the color profile by going to Edit > convert to Profile. Then you must select the appropriate profile.

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convert to profile dialogue

You can also set the profile as you are Raw processing in Photoshop. The option is located at the bottom of the Raw dialogue box, where one is able to set the image size settings. Apple RGB is not an available choice here so you will have to convert later or investigate as to whether there is a way to add that to the options. (I’m guessing there is, but have never attempted).

Color profile and image size options in Raw processing dialogue
Color Profile dialogue in Raw processing menu

Mac vs. PC

Mac’s have lighter screens than PC’s. This means your work will be lighter on a Mac than a PC. Thus, for a Mac, you’ll have to do more saturation and have more contrast (contrast is what you create with toning.) I would hazard to say the majority of people in this industry use Mac’s. The overwhelming majority of the users in the world, however, use PC’s. I’ve never seen anyone do cross platform testing with their videos or photos. I guess the question is, are you creating for the general public, or the multimedia/photographic community?

Another photo that I would like to share

The below was the first example I worked on. To be fair, the Canon 5d MKII, in good light, has incredible tone and saturation, especially coupled with a polarizing filter, which means this made a poor example to try to explain a fault of tone and saturation. I would still do all of the steps noted, but to a novice, it would be hard to understand why. This was taken on the now closed train route between Mendoza, Argentina and Los Andes, Chile. Nacho and I played a lot of pass the camera that day, so neither of us can say definitively who took it. It is undeniably beautiful.

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Final Note – Expect More

There will be a part two to this post in the coming weeks. It will feature video color correcting screen shots from Final Cut, save for web and other instructional elements.

Here is a link to a very long discussion talking about tonal ranges with lots of graphs and charts comparing film to the now ancient 10D (my first camera.) It makes me feel guilty for crushing blacks, but Ansel Adams made huge prints for galleries and walls in homes, not the World Wide Web.

Video Compression: How

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The above is from the project I referenced before about the damage to Chile’s architectural heritage. It is set to be live today. Marcelo Bravo, an architect with the University of Chile, pauses to bless himself with holy water, as he passes the sanctuary during his inspection of Santa Filomena in the Patronato neighborhood of Santiago, Chile.

Compression is important. It’s how one gets video on the web without the use of intermediaries like Youtube or Vimeo. It tends to be a theme on which little time is spent in the classroom. Typically, in projects, someone who knows a lot gives you some settings that you plug into a given program. Or, even more likely, you hand off your full MOV to someone else, who compresses it for you.

This situation, however wonderful, becomes rarer and rarer in that real world. Here, I present you a simple series of steps to compress in the easiest (and least expensive) program I’ve used – QuicktimePro. This same thing can be done directly from Final Cut, but as it’s a good idea to always have a full res version of your finished projects for future exports, and because sometimes Final Cut gets screwy and takes eons to compress, I like to do it in Quicktime.

Note, there are other programs that do this. Squeeze, to my knowledge, is the best. It’s also roughly $5000 $799 (thanks for the correction @phildaquila). It is using the same set of variables, but has somewhat better programming which produce more refined results. We used Squeeze in Andaman Rising and Powering a Nation. The results are a little less shiny and nice in quicktime, but entirely reasonable.

What you are doing is making an flv – a Flash video, which is how most of the video in the web is encoded. This is likely to change in the coming years to mp4 with the adoption across browsers to HTML5, as Apple is refusing to allow the Flash plugin necessary on either the ipad or iphone. For now, as only Safari is ready for HTML5, we’ve got some time to go with Flash video.

What you’re doing is trying to create a balance between a refined, beautiful video and file size. The bigger the file, the more difficult it is for people to see it due to the slowness of their internet connection. When in doubt, err on the side of smaller file size. I’ve been hovering around 8mb per minute, for my La Tercera work, it seems to work well. People leave sites whose videos don’t play. (81% of web users will leave a web page if the video starts buffering midstream.)

Open your video in Quicktime. In quicktime, select file>export.

In the export dialog, choose movie to Flash Video (flv).

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Go into your options. Go to video settings.

Video codec should be On2 VP6. Make sure deinterlace is checked if you used a camera with interlacing (1080i60, for example – the i is for interlace.) Data rate, frame rate and key frame intervals are the ones you can play with. You can see from our screen shot what we’ve been using. Data rate will be the first one you’ll want to raise for better quality.
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Go to audio settings. Put audio – 80kbps
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Crop and Resize – whatever size you need. Make sure to have maintain aspect ration checked.
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That’s it. Hit ok. Hit export. Depending on the length of your original video and your computer’s processor, in 20 minutes to an hour, you will have a flash video. A little box will tell you how much time remains.flash export

What’s nice is that quicktime does remember your most recent settings. You can return and return, and keep using the same export settings. I am happy to discuss further what some of the options in the video dialog mean, but, I’ve found that for most, it’s not relevant to most people. Results, not explanations.

On music and fonts

The above photos are from a project I did about the beginning of school in Santiago – how both children and parents are coping. It has nothing to do with the rest of the post, but is fulfilling our always visuals rule. The post itself talks about an unpublished piece, which will not appear in the blog until the publishing. The only hint on the visuals of that piece is the thumbnail.

So the other night, it was getting late and I was needing some music for a piece. I was working on a story about the damage to the Chile’s cultural heritage by the earthquake that occurred Feb. 27.

Music creates an internal conflict for me. I have been trying to steer away from music, as I tend to collect an abundance of ambient audio, and it makes me feel like less of a journalist to use music. I have heard that its use is forbidden in serious papers like the Washington Post and maybe even the New York Times. On the other hand, music can be wonderful. It’s nice to watch things with music. We’re accustomed to seeing it in television and movies. On the other, other hand, in Chile, they even play it in their broadcast news. I heard Sarah McLachlan playing during the reporting of the death and funeral of a young boy who had rejected a heart transplant. As well, the early entries to this year’s Project Report nearly all had heavy, narrative drowning emotional music. Blah. I don’t want to be a music user like that.

But, this piece needed it. I was using a combination of images from my own shooting, the work of other staff photographers at La Tercera and the Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales. I was the only one who recorded any ambient. Plus, the piece was long. These days, I don’t like to go over 2, 2 and a half minutes. I feel like it’s discourteous to the viewer. I dislike being bored. I don’t want to do the same to others. Additionally, the piece was full of buildings. It’s hard to connect with a building, even if it is pretty and old.

As I said, it was late. Or maybe early. I’ve been trading in my late nights for early mornings. It’s arguably more productive. My interview track was set. Nearly all of the images were in place. I went to the free soundtrackpro first but I couldn’t commit to it as I feel that as a source, it’s kind of tapped. I moved to Jamendo. I like the site because although the search isn’t super, it’s inexpensive, you don’t have to deal with a customer rep, and you can download and try all of their music free in the normal (as opposed to pro) section.

The story was for the Bicentenario (200th anniversary of Chile’s independence or declaration of independence more accurately). I felt like I should use something traditional, but I don’t know very much about traditional Chilean music. There is the cueca, a large, kind of complex, percussion heavy music. There were a number of reasons not to use the cueca. Firstly, it would have dominated my piece. Secondly, I was looking for something with the precise mixture of sadness and hopefulness – building were destroyed, but Chile’s strength is in her people. I doubted I would be able to find such a cueca. Finally, even if I did find the cueca that could convey these things, it was not going to be on Jamendo. Licensing some obscure cueca band would provide a whole new series of challenges.

It came to four songs. I found a song with something of a folk sounding theme, done by a Chilean group, although to my ear, it sounded more Caribbean than Chilean (Catalina Parra). Other searches gave me: one very bold, march sounding tune by a Spanish group (Quisiera ser Sol para iluminar) one simple, quasi classical piano tune, and finally (Hope), one electronic song, that captured the emotion but I was doubtful it would fit with the theme of bicentenario that my editors sought (Exponential Tears).

The Spanish, with their big, 18th century military march type song, was ruled out quickly, as it was the Spanish the Chileans were fighting. Although I might be the only one who would know, it still seemed inappropriate.

With the last three I struggled. Hope was what you expect to hear in a multimedia piece – simple piano playing. Catalina Parra hinted at the folk past of Chile. Exponential Tears, I just liked. It was edgier, more modern. It did not hint at the past, but emotionally, it conveyed what I was looking for without being heavy handed.

So, struggling, and struggling, I listened to the songs over and over again. Each time I heard a particular song, I thought, “this one, definitely this one.” Then I’d return to listen to another, with a repeat of “this one, definitely this one.”

And then, inspiration. It began with Papyrus. I thought, if the folksy song were to be any font, it would be Papyrus – very obvious, and not necessarily speaking to the actual moment. Then, bam, if Catalina Parra is the Papyrus choice for this project, Hope would be Times New Roman. Just blah. Functional and not in your face, but nothing that will spark anything up. OK, so then, Exponential Tears would have to be Interstate – modern and sleek, but no so much so that it is irritating. A font elegant for it’s simplicity, but beyond the basic Helvetica. A font, were this video to be a website, I’d be proud to use. And so, I chose Interstate, ie Exponential Tears.

Some links, for exploration…

On fonts – Nacho found this really fun chart the other day. Each time I look at it, I find something new to make me chuckle.

On music – MediaStorm has written a guide to choosing and working with music.

Chile Earthquake 4 – what the ocean took

This is the video that breaks my heart. This was the most destruction I saw of all the earthquake. The earthquake left much standing. The ocean was merciless. And these people, in this secluded town, did not receive any governmental help until Thursday – a load of clothing and food. They had 5 days of questioning why no one came.

This is the video that makes me curse the 24-hour news cycle. I understand the cycle. I understand the attention span. We want to know now what is happening, and once we’ve gathered sufficient information, we move onto another theme. I do it. I am incredibly and shamefully decisive with my attention span. I couldn’t tell you how much time I spent on the Haiti earthquake, which in terms of loss of life and, likely, destruction, was far graver. I don’t remember reading more then one story about the earthquake last year in China.

That said, that this video’s viewership will be appallingly low as here and on Nacho’s website are the only places it is published, this breaks my heart. The reason for this is that by the time the video was done and seen, nearly a week had passed since the earthquake. We shot it on Tuesday and Wednesday after the quake. It was an incredible turnaround. Nevertheless, the public’s appetite had been sated by the instant broadcast world.

Photojournalism, documentary photojournalism, visual journalism, is an incredibly invasive form of journalism. It requires absolute entrance into another’s life. If I don’t have something on tape or compact flash, it doesn’t exist. In general, I am surpassingly respectful of other people’s privacy. For me, the reason I am able and willing to intrude upon another’s life, so to speak, is that the topic matter is that important. Their story needs to be seen. People are willing to let us journalists into their lives, because the idea is that telling their story will help change the situation. In a situation like this, it may help bring aid. These people very much need aid. In not getting their story told, I feel I am betraying my part of the bargain.

But you are seeing it. That is a start. You will know that among the large cities that the earthquake brought low, too, there was a tiny seaside hamlet by the name of Perales that the ocean came and washed away. You will witness one man’s grief as he sees his destroyed house for the very first time. You will see the woman who fled from the waves without shoes. And you will meet the old man who calls his survival the greatest miracle of his life.

About the video, it was shot and edited by both Nacho and I, Eileen.

Chile Earthquake, 3 – Day 2

We finished editing, as I noted in my previous post, at 7am. We returned to the wireless point Nacho had found at 3am. It no longer existed. We drove around a little looking for wireless, and, not finding any, we went to Radio Paloma – the only radio station in Talca. Radio Paloma was Talca’s sole communication point. People waited around its gates to pass messages to let their loved ones know that they were safe, or to ask their loved ones to try to contact them.

After this, we went to various places in Talca to try to understand what the residents were experiencing. We began at a large empty plot near central Talca where people afraid to return to their homes founded a campamento. We went to the center of the city, where the destruction was the worst. We found vast lines of people for every open service – gas, water, pharmacy. Piñera, then the president elect, passed by in his motorcade. For the residents of Talca, the hardest part may have been having no communication with the outside world. They knew they had survived, but had no knowledge of their relatives. Following this concern, there was a great neat for everything for which people formed lines – water, pharmacies, and gas.