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Down by the River, Up by the Tomb

On location yesterday in NYC to shoot time lapse segments for a short video. Out the door at 5:15am and at the site by 6:30am. Set up location #1 in West Harlem Piers Park, on a pier in the Hudson right by 125th St and the West Side Highway. Fortunately, Fairway’s parking lot is open and affords us a staging area.

The weather is rainy and windy. The goal is to time lapse the installation of a billboard from three vantage points via three cameras, all with different lenses.  The billboard company says they cannot install the new board if it is rainy or windy but they will not make the call until 7am (with the installation at 8am.) So, we have to be ready regardless.

Camera #1, on the river, gets setup with a 70-200mm and weatherproofed. Two assistants are left to run it, watch it, and have each other’s back.

View from camera #1. The top most billboard will be replaced. 6:50am, NY, NY, Dec. 6, 2011.

I head up to the grassy knoll on the north side of Grant’s Tomb, out of view of the river site and about five stories higher in elevation. Alternate side of the street parking means no go on street parking so I end up in a lot at 134th St.  I meet assistant #3 there and we begin the long wet march back to the grassy knoll, across the famous elevated portion of Riverside Drive which seems to be a resting place for all of the dog poop in the city. Watch where you walk and what you drag the bags through or fail to do so at your own risk.

We set up on the knoll, locations #2 and #3, one camera with a 300mm for the tight shot and the other with a 90mm for the wide shot. We weatherproof them and the client joins us.

Assistant #3 = Jon, I = Jon, and the client = John. Three Jo(h)ns on a grassy knoll in a New York City park. Sounds like trouble.

Camera #2, Canon 1D Mark IV with a 300mm lens. NY, NY, Dec. 6, 2011.

A time lapse is math. How long is the action you’re recording to take place? What size is the memory card in your camera? How much space does each image take up? And in this case, the billboard company has told us that the installation could take 4-6 hours, so add in camera battery life as another factor. Run the numbers, do the math. Worst case scenario we need about 10 seconds between images if we shoot jpeg. Raw files are too big and not doable if we have any hope of catching the raising of the new billboard and also being prepared for a potential 6 hour time-frame.

Camera #3, Canon 1Ds Mark III with a 90mm TSE lens. NY, NY, Dec. 6, 2011.

Fortunately, the weather cleared just enough for the billboard installation. The crew did a super fast job, taking only one hour.  We stay on site another couple of hours to get enough tail end footage.  When all is said and done, each camera yields a 35 second clip (one frame every 9-12 sec. depending upon the camera, each running for about three hours, images funneled into a 24 fps video.)

Update – 12/21/11:  B-ball B-board <- video created.