Friday, February 15, 2008
Nordic Skiing: Take Two
The original plan was to shoot our nordic skiing sequence on February 14th. Unfortunately a giant winter storm halted our plans and pushed the production back a day. This turned out to be a good thing because the weather for Friday's shoot was unbelievable. The forecast called for mostly sunny conditions, but there wasn't a cloud to be found. It was a bright, bright, sunshiny day. Winter is always an ideal time to shoot video because the sun remains somewhat low on the horizon throughout the day. This enabled us to get morning light for the duration of our shoot.
I arrived at 8:45 AM and met with Tyler and Todd at the Solitude Nordic Center to review our shooting schedule and plans for the day. Jeff arrived shortly thereafter and began assembling the equipment. Shortly after our arrival, a large group of school kids arrived with instructors and family for a day of snow shoeing and skiing. Little kids have so damn much energy...it's great. I was hoping to see if we could swing a blood transfusion between myself and one of the kindergartners, just to help me get through the day. The last time I checked, doping with blood is still legal in the filmmaking industry.
Around 10:30, I transferred into my nordic sit-ski and pushed myself out to the course. Today was my first official time nordic skiing and I've gotta say...it's really difficult. The common misconception is that paraplegics have superhuman strength in their upper body. While this is true for many (in addition to having the ability to see through lead objects and camisoles), nordic skiing requires more back and rear delt use. Operating a wheelchair relies heavily on the front muscles (front delts and pecs). I ended spending the entire day in the ski, which was the only feasible way to move around our shooting locations.
Melissa, Sue, Tanja, Jeff and Jenny helped transport equipment out to the lake flat area of the course, taking extra precautions not to trash the groomed trails. Jenny, Sue and Melissa used snow shoes to get around. Jeff had his alpine skis and Tanja used her nordic skis.
The original plan was to use a snowmobile to acquire all of our tracking shots. This quickly became a tricky thing to acquire due to liability issues and budgetary restraints. Since the tracking shots were mandatory, we instead chose to ski with the steadicam. Jeff felt confident that he could get the shots without a snowmobile. Tanja, being an incredible, world-class Paralymic nordic skier, towed Jeff 60 to 90 feet. Take after take, Tanja pulled Jeff and his equipment alongside Chris. Because we were using a wide angle lens on the tracking shots, Jeff and Tanja couldn't ski too close to Chris, for fear of having their shadows appear in the shot. The other issue was Chris's speed. He's a fast skier and Jeff and Tanja had to keep up with him in order to get the perfect shot.
Jeff shot the side and back angles first, then the front shots. This required being pulled backwards.
After shooting our tracking shots, we moved on to our locked-down (tripod) shots. Shooting from a low angle enabled us to capture an amazing illusion of Chris's upper half, skiing between two fields of untouched snow.
Since we didn't have a telephoto lens, Jeff had to trudge through the pristine snow to capture the close-up shots of our skier.
PRE-JEFF = Pristine, untouched snow...amazing.
POST-JEFF = Not pristine anymore, touched snow... unattractive.
NOTE: This should fill in nicely within three or four good snowfalls.
Jeff wanted me to follow him into the snow field, but I respectfully declined.
The last of the day's shooting consisted of a mounted camera shot, looking up at Chris as he skied.
And a low tracking shot from behind. I operated the camera as Tanja pushed. It worked out extremely well.
I think the shoot went pretty well. Because of time restraints and shot complexity, we weren't able to get everything we wanted. What we did get was pretty amazing. The team was great to work with, despite the demands of the shoot. Everyone took time off work to pitch in... and for that I am very appreciative. Thank you everyone.
Next week we shoot our first day of alpine skiing. It should prove to be equally challenging. Luckily today was a good indication that it is possible to capture technical footage on snow.
NEXT UP...ALPINE SKIING!