33rd America’s Cup – Valencia

We were asked by mega film production company Skydance Productions from Los Angeles to crew up their official film following Larry Ellison’s BMW Oracle Team compete in the 33rd edition of the America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain.

This is my first time filming at an America’s Cup. It’s pretty exciting as it’s a massive event. I was never really aware how big it was, the amount of people it takes to run the whole thing. I am quite ignorant about the world of sailing, it’s not really my bag and I always imagined it to be a small affair. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This event was huge, glamorous and awash in money and weirdly for me anyway, there were only two teams in the race, BMW Oracle representing the USA and the Swiss boat Alinghi.

Each team was ensconced in a high security area in the port of Valencia and as apart from each other as they could possibly be, away from the prying eyes of team spies. Hundreds of people would mill around the team hangar, from the sailors to the support crew, the engineers, the boat designers, the “mechanics”, most of whom were from New Zealand and Australia. All they seemed to do is polish and re polish the catamaran, the mast, the sail…

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Our team hit the ground running. Three camera crews, technical and DiT assistants got straight to work filming on two PDW 800′s and a Sony EX3. Christian and Mike of the Cineflex crew got busy rigging the jewel of our kit, the Cineflex, which was mounted on a specially built rig by Mike from Skycam on a local chase boat that we had hired. This set up meant that we could only film from one side of the boat but we did have around 190 degrees of clear picture, so it wasn’t really that limiting. It just meant having to be a little bit more creative with our positioning in the water and the angles of attack.

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Christian, the Cineflex operator is usually operating out of helicopters and working on water was a first for him.

Mike had set Christian up in the most comfortable position to be able to operate and to view it all on a seventeen inch monitor and all cabled up to an HDCAM deck.

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The Cineflex filming the Oracle during practice from a distance.

Was it going to work? Was it going to take the force of the water hitting the boat in rough sea?

This was an expensive bit of kit. There are other options out there like the old fashioned Schwem lens and we did start the first couple of days before the Cineflex came out, by renting one from a local crew, but the pictures were soft and you really couldn’t get in that tight. It was designed for SD cameras and years of salt on the lens and body didn’t really help.

As we settled into our first week of filming, the waters were lovely and smooth and we didn’t have any issues whatsoever and the camera behaved beautifully and most importantly the pictures were stunning.

In the second week, the weather turned and the sea got rough. The shell of the Cineflex took a lot of water, when the boat was at full speed and particularly in big swells the camera was sitting only two feet above the water. Some water did eventually manage to get through some nook or cranny, causing fogging of the lens and a worrying kink in the calibration.

Christian and Mike from HD-Skycam.tv had a second Cineflex system driven over from Germany overnight as a replacement.

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Our pictures made it to the top. Larry got to view some of the rushes and was so impressed he decided to give us his boat from his private yacht The Rising Sun. It was an open hull by positioning the rig at the front gave us around 240 degrees of uninterrupted view.

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The Rising Sun, owned by Mr Larry Ellison is the 4th largest private yacht in the world.

Unfortunately the downside was that we had to strip the whole rig at the end of every day as the boat had to return back to the Rising Star. But it was a small price to pay for the shots we were getting.

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It wasn’t as comfortable as our first boat and there wasn’t anywhere really to sit. The bad weather seemed to get worse and there wasn’t any protection against the rain, wind or sea spray. So good old fashioned black bin bags came out.

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Weather extremes. Christian trying his best to operate in the wet and cold!

My role was as a cameraman filming usual interviews and colour, Larry on the water following the race, but also directing Christian and the pictures coming from the Cineflex, doing my best to make it tell a story as well as to capture iconic and cinematic shots. I have to say Christian is not only one of the best Cineflex operators I have come across but also has a great photographic eye as well and is an absolute joy to work with. Mike is a technical solutions wizard, mounting camera’s in the most extreme situations and positions!

Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team eventually went on to win the 33rd America’s Cup with great ease.

 

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Soundman Simon Burles, Myself and Larry Ellison with the America’s Cup Trophy

 

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