Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Life in the land of eternal light, now with Video!

Life on a boat in the Southern Ocean is quite an experience. After the first few days of maintaining a fairly normal schedule the work begins. I should clarify, I have been running around shooting everything since I got on my first plane back in NJ. The super busy important work begins for the science teams on the boat, and I just run around a bit more trying not to miss anything important. Everyone always has work to do, but I’m looking for the good stuff... people in labs doing experiments, deploying equipment into the ocean, penguins… you get the idea.  

I want action! And most of the time, that action happens while we are stopped at stations. A station is a waypoint, (a pre-determined GPS coordinate) where (on this ship at least) measurements and measuring devices are deployed. The thing with stations is that they happen when the Ship gets there. Did I want to go to sleep last night? Sure, but the station started around 1 am and we didn’t finish until after 4 am. So you sleep when your work is done. It doesn’t truly matter when there’s 24 hours of light, “night” is just the time you used to go to bed. I try to align my sleep so I can still hit 2 of the 3 hot meals served per day.

(Pro Tip: Breakfast is usually the same most days, lunch and dinner have the most variety. Whatever you do, don't miss lunch on Taco Tuesday. It's sort of a big deal.)

So back to the stations. The primary thing we do is collect water samples with the CTD, generally followed by deploying a float.

Once the CTD gets back on board, whoa boy this place becomes flurry of people scurrying around with lots of bottles to rinse and fill, samples to be analyzed measurements to be made and a float to be carefully lowered into the freezing ocean. Let’s call this the filmmakers jackpot.

Just like any good film set, the saying “hurry up and wait” rings true. Now that we are back out in open ocean with lonely icebergs floating by, the urgency to be on the deck capturing the natural beauty has subsided. No longer are we picking our way through pack ice or weaving through mountainous islands. We are in a string of long traverses between stations, upwards of 30 hours (roughly 300 Nautical Miles). There is long stretches of time to fill punctuated with intense action.

So we focus on the people, the science and the story. We are using our time to prep for and shoot interviews and b-roll. We have shot a few “Shum Show’s” and Greta is working on putting those together. I am constantly organizing, renaming and tinkering with footage.

(Pro Tip: Have a strategy in place before you go on location for data management. You may have to amend your strategy once you start production, but managing terabytes of data without a plan will ensure you lose your mind come edit time. Also, back up your data!)

I have finally been able to play around with some of the 360 footage that I have shot, and that means some clips for all of you! I will do a separate post about the nuances of working with 360 footage but for now I will keep things on the lighter side and just give you some eye candy. Since getting footage off this boat has been like trying to break out prison, I had to keep clips short with a fairly low bit rate, but they are 4k! Huzzah!

What's it like to leave port in a ship? Well it's slow. Luckily for all of you, the magic of time lapse can magically compress 20 minutes to a mere minute. Can you spot the SOCCOM logo? Act quick, you've got the first 9 seconds to find it. 

While a launch without rain would have been preferred, our rugged little 360 camera was up to the challenge. Don't worry, no cameras were injured during the making of this clip.

One last piece for your enjoyment, I threw together a 1 minute video of a handful of shots in chronological order to take you through to about 5 days ago. Hopefully this will give you a taste of what is an extensive library of footage we are accruing.

The winds have kept the drone grounded for much of the trip, but I am hoping for some ideal conditions to get the bird back up in the air. The view is stunning.

Till next time friends, keep warm and stay out of the water!


  1. Shum in the an article....(spell check just ruined a great super heroine movie title)
    The drone footage is really good. Watching you guys on the navigation site, what a trip!

  2. Great footage. Thanks again for posting. Seems like you are settling in to the trip...