Bi-Coastal News: Sit Downs & Run-and-Gun

In the life of a freelance cameraman there is no telling what the next job will entail.  You never know what you will run into, and for that reason I have found that a vital quality for success is the ability to anticipate – and imagine – what challenges you might encounter.

Two recent shoots were about as different from each other as they could possibly be.  Each required completely opposite skills and camerawork.

The answers to the usual pre-pro questions were wildly diverse:  What kind of camera(s)? Three different kinds on one shoot.  Three other models on the next shoot.  What style shooting?  Locked-down on sticks in a small hotel room for one.  Roaming seven floors of a theatre on Broadway for the next.  Wow!  There’s a lot that could happen in these environments.

Each gig took place at an iconic location – the first one on the West coast, the second one on the East coast. First up,  a day of interviews with the on-screen personalities of  the Nat Geo shows at the Beverly Hilton hotel. Nat Geo Beverly Hilton

But with all the luxurious spaces at this luxury landmark we were shooting the interviews in a small hotel room.  So our setup was two Sony cameras locked side by side for a frontal angle and a Canon 5D getting a 90 degree profile

Our Sony F5 and FS700 side by side shooting different frame sizes and the Canon 5D in the background shooting profile.  You can barely make out our interviewer seated beside the camera.

Our Sony F5 and FS700 side by side shooting different frame sizes and the Canon 5D in the background shooting profile. You can barely make out our interviewer seated beside the camera.

Finding enough space for lights at the right positions to  work for two camera angles, and enough space for the three operators as well as the sound man and four Nat Geo producers and marketing reps was not even the biggest challenge!  It was hanging a backdrop and wrapping it around two walls to cover both camera angles – and getting all the wrinkles out!

Running and Gunning on Broadway

IMG_0936

 

IMG_0937The next job afforded me the rare opportunity to shoot behind-the-scenes at the Broadway production of “Aladdin” in the historic New Amsterdam theatre.  This impressive location, built in 1903, was the home to much of Broadway history, including the Ziegfeld Follies, and encompasses seven floors of backstage spaces, passageways, changing rooms and stairways.

New Amsterdam theatre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the urgent activity of a live production this building sizzles with the activity of hundreds of cast and crew – all moving to precise spots on an exact timetable.  To capture this with a camera meant being as mobile as they.

aladdin4 It would be a real race to follow the actor who plays the Genie, Major Attaway, backstage from dressing room to stage wings, up and down seven floors, throughout a live performance.  Handheld was the only answer, so I used a monopod with a Sony XDCAM EX1 and rode the exposure and gain.  Additional coverage of the costumers and dressers interacting with the cast was done during a rehearsal with the aid of 5 Go-Pros and two Sony FS700′s.

The project will be a special edition segment of ESPN’s “Sport Science” show that will reveal some of the unknown science behind the athleticism involved in performing prolonged singing and dancing routines.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Shooting In Moon Gravity

One of my favorite gigs is shooting the regular episodes of “Sport Science,” the innovative blend of science and sports now in its tenth season that airs on ESPN.  The creative topics continually fascinate audiences.

This latest outing had our crew travel to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston to find out what it might be like to play football on the moon!

NASA 1

We hooked up ESPN commentator Ryan Clark to NASA’s microgravity simulator to see what it would be like to run some football drills in 1/6 gravity — and then try to catch a pass. Check out the segment here:
http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=18598958

NASA003
NASA 2

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Once I Shot A Fish THIIIS BIG

IMG_0665
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.
IMG_0648
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.IMG_0659

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.

13108700_1593017574361987_1588858359_n

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Live TV Can Be A Welcome Change From Reality(tv)

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.

Production SetupWhen 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.

IMG_0669News 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.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Spike, Bam, Thank You Maam

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.

Kerri April 2

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. —-

Kerri jumpsApril Ross 1

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Sports Update – The Great One

A recent shoot day for Monumental Sports & Entertainment involved a brief in-and-out with The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky2Gretzky1

 

 

 

 

 

He recorded a personal congratulations to one of his favorite hockey players, Alex Ovechkin, on Alex’s milestone 500th NHL goal.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

9000 Marines In Action

Pendleton_1

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.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 11.59.06 AMScreen Shot 2015-12-15 at 12.08.55 PM

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!Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 11.55.37 AM

Pendleton_2

Doing an on-the-fly interview with a Marine policeman.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

A Very Heavy Production

Ford Tough Science2

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.

Ford Tough Science3
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 240fpsFord Tough Science1

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

HALLOWEEN Haunting

Photos by Lily Landes

prison2prison6 prison1

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.

eastern_prison_cell

 

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.

prison4

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

A Real Hollywood Auteur

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.

cohen1

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.

cohen4

cohen5

cohen3

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off