It always amazes me how sentimental we seem to become over things that serve absolutely no purpose in our lives. Faced with the prospect of deciding to dispose of them, suddenly we can't imagine our lives without them. "Sentimental property" by its very nature, it seems, only ever applies to things that have long since given up the ghost, in terms of practical application.
I'm speaking in particular of the Athlone Cooling Towers, those large concrete eyesores on the N2: useless and outdated monuments to coal power. Mention that they're coming down, and people act as though it's 9/11 all over again.
Several days before they were scheduled to be demolished, I was discussing the hype with some mates of mine when one of them, a skater, mentioned he'd always wished he'd skated inside one of the towers. Until now, it had never really occurred to me what the inside of the towers actually looked like, but a giant skate park was not exactly what first came to mind. Nonetheless, it gave me an idea - a couple of guys skating in a giant indoor arena, call it a day and skate over to a nearby bridge where they watch the towers, in which they had been skating only minutes before, come crashing to the ground.
Naturally, it wouldn't be easy. We only had two days to shoot everything, and being Cape Town, weather is always a concern. Luckily, Sector 9 was really keen when we voiced our idea and was more than happy to help us out with boards. Finding skaters to get involved also wasn't a problem, and in no time at all we had a cast, ready to shoot.
In many ways, the entire commercial hinged on one shot in particular, the shot of the skaters walking away from the towers, and with less than 24 hours to go before blast off, it was going to be tight. The shot of the guys sitting in the foreground, with the towers going down in the background was, obviously, also a pivotal scene and we really wanted this to feel real, so we didn't want to comp it into the shot in post.
As is the case with most shoots, regardless of how carefully you dot the i's and cross the t's, something invariably will go wrong, and in this case, it was the towers that, famously, came down three minutes early! One of our cameras was being setup at the time and as result, completely missed all the action. Luckily, we were filming another viral ad at the same time with four cameras strategically placed around the tower, so we were able to get everything we needed.
In order to shoot the skating shots, we rigged a Steadicam to a Segway. The guys from Camera Station were kind enough to let us use their Segway at very short notice. Thanks guys! The Segway worked really well in capturing the skaters’ world. It was important for me to have the shots where I could see the skaters constantly on the move as though I were one of them. We could also get up nice and close and squeeze into tight spaces, which we could not do with a tracking vehicle. For some of the more organic shots, I shot handheld, while skating on a Sector 9 skateboard, in order to get nice and low to the ground. It was a little tricky and risky, but in the end, the shots were well worth it.
We decided to shoot the entire ad on a 5D and a 7D, but for the steadicam shots we had an EX3 ready to go on the steadicam, as we did not have the time to set up the 5D or 7D on the steadicam.
It’s illegal to skate inside the towers and impossible to get in there, while they were prepping the explosives for the blasting, so we could not shoot the opening scene inside the cooling towers. Our solution was to shoot that scene in studio: fortunately we had another job already booked in the studio, which enabled us to get a few quick shots in with the Phantom HD Gold at 1000fps, but unfortunately for us we ran very overtime on the other shoot, so we didnt get what we needed. We changed the entire edit to be more of a montage to make more sense, but I think it turned out o.k.
I hope you enjoy.
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