At 6am on May 18, 2016 dawn was breaking and it was just light enough to see a huge silhouette looming over the flat ocean horizon.
Right on schedule the last Space Shuttle fuel tank in existence, known as ET-94, chugged into Marina Del Rey behind a massive ocean-going tugboat. It was tired from its 4000 mile journey from New Orleans through the Panama Canal. Once it touched land, it only had 16 more miles to go to reach its final destination – the California Science Center in Exposition Park in downtown L.A.
I was part of the official film crew to document the tricky logistics of getting the 66,000 pound monster off the barge and on to land without mishap. The process involved dozens of experts, a semi-truck of heavy equipment and an all-powerful tow truck; and it was painstakingly slow and methodical.
That day time-lapse was our friend!
Camera equipment to record this historic event was donated by Sony and by my friends at Stray Angel Productions.
You know, when I look back at this event the marina setting was perfect. The whole massive operation was a lot like a fisherman landing a big game fish. And as the camera operator I felt like a fisherman on WICKED TUNA who has to act fast and hard to bring in his fish. ”How can that be compared to this slow moving fish” you ask? My challenge was to work at the other extreme. I had to anticipate the movement and the speed of the tank to frame time-lapse shots and speed up the action that was so slow you could hardly see it happening. This meant choosing the right frame rate, the right frame width and height so the tank wouldn’t leave frame.
A fisherman has to use split-second reactions in time with his fish. I had to anticipate what my fish was going to do an hour beforehand. I had to frame up my fish an hour before it reached its spot!
When it finally came to rest, Mayor Garcetti and several councilmen welcomed ET-94 to its new home in LA in front of the massed press corps, and everyone was happy. Now there is a permanent record of its journey that will be part of the exhibit at the California Science Center for the future.
It’s not often the I am called upon to operate camera for a two day multiple-cam shoot. Usually I go solo. But a recent gig involved not only three cameras, but two teleprompters, two hosts and two on-camera guests. Not only that, it was for a live broadcast on Bloomberg TV. An on-site satellite broadcast studio was put together in the 33rd floor offices of the Bloomberg L.A. Bureau in Century City.
When its a live national broadcast everything has to work just right, and that includes the headset communications between the crew and the producer in L.A. and the director in New York, the IFB channels between the director and the talent sitting in front of cameras, the audio from 4 mics and the video signals coming from three cameras and going to the satellite truck and beamed to New York. Let’s not forget the teleprompter script coming from New York and being fed into the monitors, and the camera feeds being shown on the on-set monitor.
But how do you get all these communication channels connected to the outside world? The whole pipeline depended on an audio-video fiber optic cable drop that ran down 33 floors of a stairwell to the street where the satellite truck was parked.
News anchors John Heileman and Mark Halperin get ready to go live.
The audio connections alone would boggle the mind with their complexity. Only someone like ace soundman Johnny Camilo and camera crew chief Todd Parks of Southern Image Prods. could pull off something like this without a hitch.
The whole system worked. The network of tech was stable. There were no solar flares or meteorites to take out the satellite. And there was no room for operator error or lapse of concentration for even a second. It was a welcome reminder that those white-knuckle high-pressure shoots keep you at the top of your game.
A recent day of ESPN “Sports Science” shooting took me to Manhattan beach. There we had to keep up with the frenetic activity of world class beach volleyball as Team USA veterans Kerri Walsh and April Ross were put to the Sports Science test.
Our sports scientist, Dr. Cynthia Burr, wired up the multiple Olympic-medalists with sensors that measured their muscle power and speed during the heat of a game. Our three cameras (Sony FS700) could only keep up fast enough to see what they were doing by shooting super-slo-mo at 240fps. —-
These photos, taken at other matches, give a vague idea of the athletic ballet we captured that day. Its pretty much the trademark of Sports Science, and for a shooter its great fun.
A recent shoot day for Monumental Sports & Entertainment involved a brief in-and-out with The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
He recorded a personal congratulations to one of his favorite hockey players, Alex Ovechkin, on Alex’s milestone 500th NHL goal.
At the very top, traffic on the busy California freeway. Below the cliffs are a convoy of landing crafts filled with Marines. At the bottom, armored vehicles unloaded from giant hovercrafts.
I recently had the privilege of roaming the beaches and cliffs of the Marine Base at Camp Pendleton and composing shots of some of our nations proudest and bravest –the 9000 marines that made up the forces of the massive training operation “Steel Knight.” The huge event involved a warship offshore, two LCAC’s which are 100′ long hovercraft that carry tanks and trucks through the surf to shore, and a dozen landing craft that I will call floating tanks. They also are designed to power through the surf.
This was all part of the amphibious landing training that Marines engage in. I want to tell you, its an impressive sight to see through a 250mm lens in high definition. And I am happy to report that even with miles of beach-walking and scrub-brush wading (you go where the Marines go) not a speck of dust, sand or sea water on the lens – Yay!
Doing an on-the-fly interview with a Marine policeman.
Shooting a recent web video edition of “Ford – Tough Science” was a pretty hair-raising spectacle. Those are seven full-size Ford pickups hanging from a 2017 F-150 chassis frame. Before we were finished, two more were added for a total of 60,000 lbs.
Production manager Ron Contreras pulled together an amazing crew from my buddies at Base Productions. We had four primary cameras, Sony FS700′s and of course a mess of Go-Pros along with a drone and a Ronin stabilizer and a 20′ jib. With eleven cameras rolling, the main concern was figuring out placement so they wouldn’t be shooting each other. Then there was the BTS crew and a corporate production shooting with an Red Epic also. Frame rates ranged from 1FPS to 240fps
The Halloween Spirit comes early this year. Last week I went to Philadelphia to shoot at one of the most intense haunted attractions in the country.Terror Behind The Walls is a massive haunted house in a real haunted prison.
It was scary fun following our two daring show hosts for this Travel Channel Halloween Special, Kari Byron and Tori Bellaci as they made their way through the intense 45 min ordeal of Terror.
There are 200 actors, or should I say zombies, creatures, escaped lunatics and things, that roam the 11-acre madhouse. There is no better way to get in the Halloween spirit than this!
The show is going to look AWESOME despite the challenges of low-to-no-light. It involved two custom Go-Pro POV rigs, spectacular drone work INT and EXT, and three Sony FS700 cameras cranked up to very high ISO sensitivity.
At his palatial Hollywood Hills mansion (built in the 20′s for William Randolph Hearst) I spent most of a day shooting an interview with cult film producer-director Larry Cohen. He is a highly original and resilient talent whose credits also include screenplay writing during the past 40 years and include more than 40 films. His creative versatility has enabled him to produce films outside the studio system for decades resulting in highly admired, well crafted works created with budgets that wouldn’t cover the craft services costs of a studio picture.
His observations on the state of the industry and how it has evolved during his long career are fascinating, and will be included in the feature-length documentary being produced by La-La Land Records.
Larry created the hit TV series “The Invaders” and “Branded”(starring Chuck Connors) in the 60′s. His film credits include Phone Booth, It’s Alive, Daddy’s Gone A Hunting, The Stuff and a whole myriad of sci-fi, horror and action films.
In the world of video cameras it is absolutely fascinating that the fastest cameras only operate at the extreme ends of the visible light-gathering universe. At one end you have your Miros and Phantoms, Photrons and For-A VFC’s — all of which suck up vast quantities of light to achieve high frame rates. At the other extreme you have awesomely light sensitive cameras that see beautifully in very low light at ISO speeds of 25,000, 64,000 and even 102,000. Both of these vastly different types of cameras are FAST.
But EXTREME just got way bigger. Now welcome THE 800 POUND GORILLA OF FAST!
Travel Channel can’t wait to air my latest show. Air Date moved one month sooner: http://www.yourentertainmentcorner.com/travel-channel-new-seriesthrill-factor-premieres-aug-12/
Here is an inside look at our experiences on the production:
Another of the unusual places we went to shoot a show about thrill rides this summer was the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. Did anyone have an idea that there are THREE RIDES on the top of it? Here’s the awesome view.
Our show hosts Kari Byron and Tory Belleci, fresh from their success on “Mythbusters,” took the giant plunge of more than 800 feet from the top of the tower on a wire. That’s a Ride!!?
Yes, you step off the platform into thin air!
Here’s another ride at the stratosphere that we didn’t get to try due to approaching severe weather. This spins around enough to magnify the dizzy feeling of staring down 850 feet to the ground below.
Those black clouds are the July monsoon with pouring rain and winds. Minutes later the outside platforms were evacuated because of lightning strikes in the area.