Got to Get that Great Shot

It’s the week before NAB. I’m transferring tapes and files from my shoot in Bakersfield, Calif. The phone rings. “Hi, I’m Rebecca, Zaxox PR. I believe you’re going to NAB. My client Hubris Microsystems will be exhibiting there. I’d like to I arrange a meeting…” “Whoooaa—hold it. You need to speak to Jay Holben, he’s the Digital Video technical editor. I just write about disposable cameras.”

“Disposable cameras?” “Yes, you know the ones you bury in the ground and let the horses gallop over. I guess you’ve seen Napoleon—Able Gance’s 1927 masterpiece—he used a Debrie Parvo 35mm camera. I had a Bell & Howell Filmo Auto Load 16mm, it survived explosions, railroad trains, destruction testing… but don’t let me bore you; Jay’s your man.”

Loose Chips
Client of the month is Mt. Poso Cogeneration. I’m shooting in HD but the video is for their website and a few DVDs.

I’m having a meeting with Bill, the plant manager, and Louis, his operations manager. They receive wood chips from unwanted trees, burn them, create steam, drive turbines, make electricity. It’s a closed system—no smoke, no pollution, renewable energy—green, green, green.

Time to ask a question: “Apart from the trucks delivering the wood chips, the process is contained?” “That’s right. There’s nothing to see apart from the exterior of the plant,” says Louis.

We Go Walkabout
“Louis, there must be something I can shoot. Look, this is a GoPro camera—it cost $299—it’s disposable. I need movement; interesting, exciting shots: inside the flames, the turbines spinning, there’s steam, sparks of electricity, life forces…” Louis has always thought filmmakers were mad, I’m just reinforcing that idea.

“Louis, what’s the most exciting shot I can get?” “Well you could put the camera on the conveyor belt.” “And catch it at the other end?” “Not possible—but if we tie some string onto it, we could pull it back. It’s risky.”

Disposable Dave
The next day, after a cautionary talk by the health and safety officer, we are leaning over the conveyor belt, and my brave little GoPro with its Gorilla tripod is being positioned on the wood chips.

Dave and Tricia have 40 feet of cable gaffer-taped to the GoPro. The live picture looks good. “Camera flashing?” “YES!” “OK, Louis, start the conveyor belt.”

Dave and Tricia are feeding out the cable to the moving conveyor belt when suddenly Dave is grabbed by fast-moving wood chips and dragged onto the belt. Tricia throws herself onto it and climbs, hand over hand, up the chips to rescue Dave before he enters the furnace.

“Forget Dave! Get the camera! Save the camera!” screams Stefan. Not to worry, that little GoPro just keeps on running.

Louis hits emergency stop. Zap! The conveyor belt stops. All safe. We got it!

(Dave and Tricia are OK—I just made that up.)

Yeah—it’s terrific! Louis, I love you

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