Thursday, July 18, 2019

This Is Why We're All Doomed.

Actual photo of our background from the other night.

It started out as a rather nice evening for our night exterior. The weather was warm enough that you didn't need a jacket, yet cool enough that you weren't sweating. The sun hadn't totally set yet when the company moved outdoors, giving us enough time to set up our staging area and a few lights before we really needed them.

Thankfully, we had a lighting balloon scheduled for the night, making out workload that much easier.

Balloon lights are magical things. They come in all shapes and sizes, they can light the middle of the set without having to hide a stand (just the occasional tie line that that keeps it from floating away), they come with their own operator/tech so other than running them power, you pretty much don't have to do anything with them, and since they're their own thing, we don't think twice about leaving them up at the end of the night as a giant, soft work light during wrap (okay, this part, I do feel a little bad about... But not bad enough to stop taking advantage of it. Sorry!).

An example of a helium filled balloon light at work.

Our balloon light was already set up and in position by the time we moved outside and our tech was tying down the last of the support lines to a pipe running along the side of a building. Everything seemed to going smoothly. But as the night wore on, the wind picked up...

So the thing about giant balloons, as you can imagine, is that they don't do particularly well in the wind. At some point, even a light breeze can turn even the smallest of these things into a sail, slamming it every which way, and it becomes unsafe to fly. And we were well past the light breeze.

"What do you think, Balloon Tech?," our Gaffer asked over the radio as he watched the balloon bob and sway in the wind, "Do you think keeping you up is a good idea, or should we bring it down?"

"Well, I wouldn't exactly call keeping this thing flying a good idea, but it's holding okay for now," replies our Tech. "We can keep going and see if the weather gets worse."

"10-4, sounds like a good plan." While he would've pulled the trigger without hesitation, our Gaffer is obviously relieved to get the okay to keep using the balloon. Plan B for our lighting set up would've involved more work on our end for not as good of a result, not to mention stopping production for several minutes to do so. Plus, it's always a painful conversation with the UPM about why they're paying a lot of money for a piece of equipment we can't even use.

So we continue on with the shoot, and other than the occasional jostle by the wind, our balloon keeps floating on with the Balloon Tech trying her best to steady it.

Another thing to note about balloon lights is the way they're tied down. There's usually three or more tie lines coming from them depending on their size, so they can be anchored. And obviously, it's best to spread the points out so the wind can't tug it too far in any particular direction. But while the tie lines are great for keeping the balloon from going left, right and up, unless you can position the lines to be perpendicular from the balloon (which in this case not gonna happen as it's 30+ feet up in the air), there's not a whole lot keeping the balloon from going down, other than the helium itself. So the system usually works... Unless it's windy. Which, in case you forgot, it was.

A few minutes later, I'm over at staging when I look over at the balloon just as a huge, down gust of wind hits it and pushes the thing right towards a herd of background that are standing directly underneath it! 

Just before it could do any damage though, our Balloon Tech weaves through the crowd and manages to keep the balloon from smacking down on anyone. A second later, the swell lets up and the Tech releases her hold on the balloon, sending it back up again and we resume shooting. I walk over to see if the Tech needs a hand.

"No, I got it. But thanks," the Tech says and she re-ties a line while shaking her head in disbelief.

"Is everything okay?" I ask. "That was a close one."

"Yeah, it's just..." she looks around and her voice lowers, "People can be so stupid. You saw what just happened, right?"

"Yup. The balloon was coming down and you saved it before any damage was done or anyone got hit by it."

"But I almost didn't get to it fast enough because everyone was in the way and not moving. I mean, a giant ball of light comes speeding at them from the sky and all they could do is STAND STILL. AND STARE AT IT." She shakes her head again. "I mean, seriously? Two dozen people and not one of them moves out of the way. They're all idiots!"

"Well," I quip, "isn't that how the dinosaurs became extinct?"

"Ha. Ha," she deadpans with a slight smirk on her face.

The winds died down towards the end of the night with thankfully, no more near incidents. But the event from earlier on in the evening stuck in my mind. A ball of light comes hurtling out of the sky and no one moves out of its path. Basic survival instinct doesn't seem to exist. If Darwinism came in to play, no one would have survived. The general population is stupider than I originally thought (and that's saying something).

We, as a civilization, are all doomed.


Michael Taylor said...

This may be peculiar to the film industry -- an odd form of conditioned behavior on set. If a large white object suddenly descended upon random pedestrians on a sidewalk, I think they'd react appropriately -- but a large group of extras is accustomed to having ADs tell them exactly what to do all day/night long. Stand here, walk there, wait here, mime conversations, don't look at the camera. They have no idea what the lighting and camera crews do or why we're doing it at any given moment, and absent someone yelling "Get the fuck out of the way!", they tend to assume everything is under control. There's a certain bovine quality in a herd of extras...

That said, I agree - civilization is doomed, all right.

julian kay said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
D said...

Replace "balloon" with "50' Technocrane" and we are in the same world. I spend most of my crane days moving oblivious extras and crew members out of crane range.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License .