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Meg Prior Documents Military for ‘Afghanistan: Outside the Wire’

Meg Prior knew exactly the type of camera she needed to shoot her documentary project Afghanistan: Outside the Wire. It would have to be “small, versatile, durable, and rugged enough to withstand the heat and dust” of an Afghanistan war zone, while “always coming up with those intimate looks I wanted.” She found what she needed in Sony’s HXR-NX3.

Prior, an American civilian with no military background, was given nearly unrestricted access to shoot footage as she deployed with different military units in Afghanistan throughout production on Afghanistan: Outside the Wire.

Afghan girls see a camcorder, the NX3, for the first time.

Prior was a one-woman camera crew, shooting everything herself for the project. “The equipment afforded me the ability to access and secure reliable footage that I could depend on,” she says. “If I couldn’t capture really good quality footage, it wouldn’t have been worth the risks—number one, to [the military], to have me as a liability with them, and number two, for me to feel this responsibility but never be able to convey the story.”

Prior interviews Cpt. Neely at Firebase Wilderness, 2013.

Prior emphasizes the durability of the NX3: “When I first saw Bagram [Airfield, the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan], I thought it would be challenging on the equipment,” she says. “The dust was almost like cake flour. I was very concerned about the ability of my cameras to last the duration, but they proved up to the task time and again. Whether it was freezing cold or during steaming hot patrols, in wind, rain, sleet or dust, I never had [the NX3] go down,” she says. “From desert to high desert to air assault units, and climbing to a remote village at 9,000 feet on a patrol that was more than six miles over rocky, moon-like conditions—the terrain was incredible and the camera never wavered.”

Another challenge inherent to shooting in a war zone is the volatility—the documentarian has just one chance to capture a shot. “If I’m on a foot patrol, the soldiers move at a certain speed. If I didn’t run ahead, stop and film them coming by, and then turn and run ahead, I’d only be filming elbows and butts, so I had to be very mobile,” Prior explains. “You need to always be prepared, on the fly, always looking for what’s happening in front of you. It’s the magic of immersing yourself in what you are trying to capture.”