Follow up on the NYC “Undercity” Canon EOS 5D Mark II video

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As a follow up to the story we ran earlier this week entitled “Exploring the New York City underworld with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II”, friend of planet5D Daniel Freytag asked some additional questions of Andrew Wonder, the photographer of that piece. He's granted us permission to publish the update.

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Daniel Freytag's piece

There were a lot of discussion about “Undercity” this week, so I wrote with Andrew Wonder, the cameraman of the movie, and he told me some quite interesting details.

Andrew already made several projects together with the adventurer Steve Duncan. In summer 2009 Steve and Andrew began their first long-term collaboration as they started shooting in the underground. Through the trips together they became good friends and shooting is no longer work but hangout.

“I don't think I could have done it with any other camera. The low light capabilities and size allowed me to get in and out of some tight situations.”

Andrew was always shooting at 2500 ISO or above, so the 5D was unique for his project. He also played with the F3, but “it still felt like a video camera with a big chip“. His usual lens is the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2.0 SL-II, but for this purpose he decided to use rather a lens with a lower f-stop, so he worked with the Canon 24mm f/1.4 version 1. As I asked him why he shoots in particular only with one fixed focal length lens, he answered:

I always prefer to shoot with a single lens whenever possible because it lets the audience have a definitive perspective. It allows me to say “ok I want you to feel really close to the action” or “this shot it should feel like you're watching from across the street.”

And he totally achieved his aim, everyone feels like he's discovering the subway with Steve trying not to be seen. For audio they used at first the Zoom H4n, but switched over to H1. One was for the wireless lavs and the other one was on top of the camera for the ambient. Andrew recognized that a traditional shot gun mic is not the best solution since the actors is often not facing the camera.


Although he is a huge z-finder fan, he didn't used it in the tunnel, due to security reasons. He was 90% either running, watching for 3rd rails or climbing, so he spend a few days for training focussing without watching the LCD screen.

Andrew himself is surprised and thankful how this video became a huge success in the online press and the social media world. He said:

Waking up to find it on the front page of gizmodo was really exciting.

After shooting “Undercity” they also made parkour projects together.

PARKOUR ROLLERCOASTER from Andrew Wonder on Vimeo.

For updates and more adventures follow me on twitter​andrewwonder

Filmed at the 2009 New Jersey State Fair in the USA & featuring WFPF athletes Daniel Ilabaca, Tim “Livewire” Shieff, King David, Daniel Arroyo, and Phil Doyle. They closed down the rides for the WFPF when we asked them too. Featuring Ilabaca, Livewire, Phil Doyle, King David & Arroyo

Recently they went on an expedition with the Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge, where they spend five days in the underground of NYC. During this time they also got covered by the NY Times and NPR.

Currently he gave up all his work and is moving to North Carolina, where he is going to teach a pro bono high school film class. He wants to act the students as a unified tam by using team building tactics like ropes courses. Of course they will all work with DSLRs, because…

…DSLRs open up a brand new world of filmmaking that can take legitimate filmmaking to a new extreme level and I hope the energy and enthusiasm my students are bringing to the table will create films no one has ever seen before.

If you're interested in his work, you may visit his website and follow him on twitter​andrewwonder

Written by Daniel Freytag –

(Photo credit: snap from the video)

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