Day One: A Blank Tape
It was freezing cold last Wednesday as I sat in my car outside of The Greater Cleveland Aquarium. I was anxiously awaiting my first shoot with Think Media Studios and while the temperature outside was in the single digits, I barely noticed as I nervously shifted in my seat. Think Media’s reputation certainly preceded them. Their work with The Cleveland Cavaliers, Ohio State University, and their feature film Fishing Without Nets, has helped set their reputation as Northeast Ohio’s premiere video production house. I knew what to expect in terms of professionalism, but that was all I had to go on. Who were these people? What were they like? And how did they create the amazing work that they’re known for?
To ease my “first day intern” mind, I reflected back to when I was a kid and would hook a VCR up to my small television/VCR combo. In the combo I would put a blank tape, and in the other VCR I would put my favorite movies and home videos. I would find my favorite scenes, press record on the combo and commit them to the blank tape. Later I would start replacing the audio with music from my Walkman, creating crude fuzzy montages. I loved the idea of taking moments and juxtaposing them next to each other, taking existing things to create something new. 10 year old me would never believe the adventure I was about to embark on!
My train of thought was broken as the Think Media van pulled in. I got out of my car, excited but nervous. Much of my anxiety faded as soon as I met Geoff, Caleb, and Kasey. They were extremely friendly and were genuinely excited to share their enthusiasm for the craft with me. The other freelancers working the job were also nothing but accommodating as we got started. The equipment, on the other hand, was a lot for a first day intern to take in. The Red Epic in and of itself was amazing to see in person, but they also had a Canon 5d Mark III, a Sony A7S, and a Sony FS700. This along with the amazing DEFY Gimbal, which allowed for amazingly fluid motion shots, a Jib, and a host of lighting kits made my head spin. Watching the crew setup was like watching them build a small city in break neck speed.
Once we got started shooting my mind eased a bit. The shoot was for (3) :30 second spots for The Greater Cleveland Aquarium. We started the day by shooting K-Love the Octopus. Caleb used the RED on the jib, following K-Love as he moved around the tank. Watching Caleb, an experienced camera operator, follow K-love was like watching a master painter with a paintbrush. As he went Geoff gave him directions and Caleb followed seamlessly. The crew made it all look easy, it was anything but. Lighting and shooting fish in acrylic tanks can be tricky and presents a unique set of challenges.
The most exciting part of the day was probably shooting the shark tank. The crew talked out their approaches and Caleb used the DEFY to pick up some awesome images of the sharks and other fish living in the tank, and all this was before the Divers got in! Once in, Geoff set up an amazing shot of the divers in the tank. He communicated with the divers with a dry erase board. Working in this industry definitely puts you in a lot of strange situations. The result of the crew’s efforts was lush and cinematic. The divers shot the inside of the tank using Go Pros while the crew set up and got more footage of the sharks and fish. Geoff made sure that no opportunity was wasted, and the crew exercised patience in waiting for the perfect take.
As the day went on we moved through the aquarium, learning about the fish from the staff, and a bit from Geoff as well! The dude knows his stuff. Every exhibit and fish in the aquarium was given its due diligence. By the end of the day I was exhausted, I had absorbed so much. These guys had exceeded every expectation I had.
As I walked back to my car I was still excited and anxious. I felt like I had only scratched the surface of what Think Media Studios stands for and is capable of. Once again, I thought about the VCRs and tapes I used to play with as a kid. In that moment, I felt like a blank tape, everything was new. I thought of all the moments and experiences to be had over the next few months, this was just the first of many to be recorded.