Sharpshooter: Developing quality in Myanmar
Director/cameraman Aung Ko Latt likes shooting in the rain. TV Tech Global's Barrie Smith talks to him about filming the Beauties of his native Myanmar
Name: Aung Ko Latt
Birthplace: Yangon, Myanmar.
Current location: Insein township in Yangon.
Current occupation: I am CEO of Aung Ko Latt Motion Pictures, a full-service film and television production company. I'm a director, producer, cinematographer, storyboard artist, editor, and musician in TV commercials, television dramas, films and corporate video projects that I work on.
What languages do you speak?
I speak Myanmar. I'm fluent in English and in Japanese. And I speak some Thai.
What is your academic background?
I completed my high school education, but did not go on to college. From 1999 to 2000 I completed intensive film training at the New York Film Academy in New York City.
How did you become a cameraman?
I lived in Japan from 1986 until 1995. I wanted to experiment with filmmaking, so became a member of the Fuji Film Single 8 Cameraman's Society where I learned about cinematography. I shot two very low budget experimental films using mini DV Cameras during that time in Japan.
Since the company began, I have shot several documentaries shown on Myanmar television (including one on leprosy in Myanmar), a feature film called Kayan Beauties, an eight-episode television drama series called The Sun, The Moon and The Truth, dozens of corporate videos, dozens of music videos and several hundred TV commercials.
Current assignments include several TV commercials for consumer products, a major corporate video for a national client and I'm preparing to storyboard and shoot the second season of six episodes of The Sun, The Moon and The Truth drama series.
I'm also starting to storyboard scenes for an upcoming feature film (the first film of a trilogy) to be shot soon. This will be the second major project that I'll do with my screenwriter and producing partner, Hector Carosso from New York, with whom I did Kayan Beauties.
Other countries where you have worked?
I've shot commercials in Japan, Korea, London, Hong Kong, Thailand and Iceland. And I often work in Thailand, where I do post production for many of my projects. I plan to shoot a feature film, half in Japan and half in Myanmar in 2018 or 2019. It would be a reshoot of the story I had shot on DVCAM over 20 years ago.
Have you been busy?
Very busy since 1995. It is important for me to remain busy and active. My objective is to keep pushing and developing the quality of my work, the range of my vision and the technology that I use.
First ever shooting job?
The first shooting job was a short documentary about poor children from the Shan state of Myanmar and a television commercial for Kanebo Products in 1995 in Yangon.
Current equipment you use?
Cameras I use include Arri ALEXA XT, Sony PMW F55, Sony XDCAM. I shot the feature film Kayan Beauties with the Sony F900-R camera. It was the first film in Myanmar ever shot in HD. In lighting and sound I use various makes and models of equipment.
Kayan Beauties was the first in Myanmar to use the Dolby Digital Surround EX sound system.
All editing work is done in-house, using Final Cut Pro. Most of the post-production work is done in Bangkok.
Dullest assignment and why?
Not too many. But I don't like to work on cheap and quick productions that don't require creative or artistic input. I prefer not to go in just for the quick money.
My objective is to keep pushing and developing the quality of my work, the range of my vision and the technology that I use
What are the difficulties in shooting in Myanmar?
It's not too difficult to shoot in Myanmar. We can shoot and create just about anything we need. But there are not enough studios around yet to shoot in.
How does extreme weather affect you? How do get around in the wet season?
I actually like shooting on cloudy and even rainy days. Of course, when the rain is too strong, then we have to wait until it's over. But in general we shoot in the rain. I think it's most uncomfortable and unpleasant shooting in extreme heat and humidity. It can get so hot here that everybody on the set is affected.
How much 16:9 do you shoot?
When I started in Japan in 1989 there was only 4:3 ratio around. I used a lot of analog 4:3 cameras, such as Sony S-VHS, S-VHS Mini, Video 8, Betacam SP. After Betacam SP, the world started using 16:9 and I used Sony Hi-8, DVCAM, DVCPRO, XDVAM HD, HDCAM, PMW F55 and ARRI Alexa XT. I now mostly shoot 16:9.
Which is your favourite place to shoot in?
I really enjoy shooting outside of the cities. I like natural locations, such as hills, mountains, snow mountains, rivers and beaches. But some cities have very nice dynamic angles and offer good perspectives. Until now I enjoy shooting wherever I am.
Equipment “wish list” what would you ideally like to have?
I would like to have a post-production and sound design facility in the near future. Not much of a need for cameras at the moment. Of course, the art of cinematography actually needs good tools (cameras, lenses, lights and camera supports). Now we have enough high end format cameras. But what we do need is amazing creativity … it's art.
What piece of gear do you wish someone might make?
I would like somebody to make cheap and good professional quality anamorphic lenses that all shooters can afford.
I usually buy my best equipment abroad and bring it in, and pay the import duties
What are the difficulties you face with importing equipment?
When I returned to Myanmar from Japan in 1995, I brought some music recording equipment and camera equipment with me. I was able to buy some equipment in Myanmar, but at that time the technology available here was limited.
Over the years, better quality equipment started entering the country through local dealers, so I was able to find what I needed.
I usually buy my best equipment abroad (in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand) and bring it in, and pay the import duties. For an international production that requires the import of equipment that will then leave the country, the government has special allowances that require the proper paperwork and timing to bring the equipment in with no problems.
What is the biggest hassle in your current working life?
I need more time! I'm currently working on 11 different categories of job. Such as pre-production meetings with clients, producers, directors, storyboard artists, DOPs, editors, sound advisors, composers, musicians, narrators to associates on projects.
I have enough employees and creative artists, but I need the time to work with them and create together.
How deep is the reserve of acting talent?
There are many professional actors in Myanmar. I often prefer to find and work with new faces, but I also work with established actors.
The talent range here was limited by the closure of the country, but over more recent years the acting talent has become broader and more skilled. I rely on several talent agencies for many projects.
Best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is "The Art Of Enjoyment."
The worst thing is "The Bad Client."