It’s a Production Haiku called Solar Odyssey

Back when I wrote for print magazines, one of the greatest challenges was writing an article to fit the constrained space. Writing the article was never the problem; whittling it down to the allotted word count took more time than the writing. Cutting away a little at a time to the absolute minimum that will convey the content.

Much like the constraint of a Haiku focuses on both simplicity and structure, the production choices I’ve had to make for Solar Odyssey are the paring down to absolute simplicity. Oh, and invent some new technology along the way!

The constraints are many: a small crew, a small space, tight schedule, etc. Oh, and everything has to run off solar energy. Fortunately we tap into the boat’s main power, but by my calculation, production could use as much power each day as the engines on a typical day. So, we run off 12v, directly as much as possible. (Ironically, it seems battery chargers are the hardest to get direct 12v versions of.)

Then there’s choice of equipment. Did I mention another of the restrictions was that we have an incredibly small budget? It’s another constraint but it has forced me to rethink most of what is conventional wisdom for this style of production.

The other focus of a Haiku is the structure: very rigid. In my case the structure is that we want to produce television – a reality TV show. And those guys are structured! Almost rigid. So, combined with my forced simplicity, and frugality, is a need to deliver way more than we should, theoretically, be able to do. Hence my interest in putting more quality on the screen than is in the budget.

How these constraints have affected my decisions will be the subject of a few upcoming posts on:

  • Cameras, because the look is important, but so is getting an image.
  • Audio, one of life’s special challenges because it underpins perception of quality.
  • Computers and SAN – did I mention that 12 v thing?
  • Backup – again both on board and beyond.
  • Power, both on board and beyond.
  • Connectivity – one can’t produce without Internet for research, communication, blogging, video blogs, etc. And we need our Facebook!
  • Lighting, because even with sensitive cameras I still like to be in control, but challenging. (See next point!)
  • Mounts, because we don’t have space for what would be a “normal” complement of C-Stands, and there isn’t room anywhere on our boat Ra (after the Sun God) to put a camera on a tripod. (Nor the extra bodies that would be needed to carry and set up lights.)
  • Planned workflow with Final Cut Pro X and a hint at the “secret sauce” we’re cooking up?
  • Finishing.

I think I’ve done my research – often with input from friends – and have good solutions, but by discussing them here, perhaps I’ll avoid an overlooked looming disaster. That is, other than the whole project is probably mildly insane.

14 replies on “It’s a Production Haiku called Solar Odyssey”

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    1. I particularly like the way Florida is represented by a bellend in the route map.

  1. I love this, being forced to pare down. It’s like the ultimate expression of less is more! Fabulous. Look forward to seeing what you came up with.

  2. does this mean someone’s getting voted off the boat every week?

    1. We don’t have enough people to vote anyone off!

  3. Very interested Philip! Eager to hear more as I expected to have more time to discuss details with you in Vegas than I actually did!

    Happy to offer any thoughts or advice as it hits me to…

  4. I do hope you’ll let me know when you’re nearby. 🙂 If you need any help, I’m pretty good at running cable.

    1. We’ll be closest to you at the start and end of the Journey at Clearwater Acquarium. I’m confident that the revised start date of May 27 from Clearwater will hold. Then back to there at the end so come celebrate our successful journey.

  5. Phil, if you’re using a lightweight camera consider a beanbag like The Pod (www.thepod.ca)- I use one with my Sony A1U and the handheld jitters went away -you remember those from one of my early MacWorld shoots- don’t let that happen to you! Smaller than CioneSaddle although that’s an elegant item too, but the Pod has a tripod screw!

    1. That looks really interesting. With LitePanels range I was favoring micro Pro for on camera.

    2. I have two pods on order.

  6. Also consider the LitePanels’ Croma– awesome camera-mount color temp blendable LED! $500 or so. Have them donate. I bet they’d be psyched!

  7. Hey Phil, good luck on the journey. I just posted a video featuring you at http://www.mcai-oc.org about the mcai MediaProCamp down in OC. Wish you could be here again, but it seems you are busy this year!

    1. Nice to see you yesterday Grace and thanks for sending the link. Yep, I’ll be busy this year, but will have some great stories to tell next year!

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