Blueshape: Innovations for the Disney+ film Safety
- January 8, 2021
- Shane Hurlbut, ASC
There are a million different factors that go into making a film. And if one of those factors goes wrong, like say your battery gives out during a crucial moment, it could prove to be the difference between a successful shoot or spending a treasure trove of money on reshoots. That’s where Blueshape comes in. Blueshape manufactures reliable batteries that span from basic 14-volt power up to 560 watts and 48 volts.
Everyone has that same horror story where you’ve lost juice in the middle of shooting, and then you’re forced to switch batteries and wait for the camera to power back up. By that point, you’ve probably missed that creative wave you were riding just minutes before. Now that’s a creative nightmare. So, when I was tasked with shooting 59 setups in just 7 minutes and 20 seconds during the halftime of a Clemson game for the Disney+ film Safety, I needed the most trustworthy equipment. We couldn’t afford to lose a camera because there were no do-overs.
But, before we continue, we’ve covered quite a bit already in our Sports Action Cinematography free series. To find out more on how we planned and executed our halftime sequence, check out How to Shoot Sports Action Cinematography Part 1. Want to find out how to conduct location scouts virtually? Then, we recommend reading Insta360: Virtual Scouting for the Covid-19 Era.
Collaborating & Innovating with Blueshape
It’s important to build strong relationships with the companies that create the gear and equipment we use every day on set. They want to hear what we’re thinking on the ground so they can continue to build and innovate, and we reap all the rewards. I collaborated with a few companies while prepping for Safety. For example, together with Tiffen, we engineered Neutral Density (ND) to go from 7-13 stops while also designing them to be able to fit extra-wide lenses, among other types.
Read about my collaboration with Tiffen for Safety and how we attained the colors for Clemson’s saturated campus to the gritty streets of Atlanta in Tiffen: Innovations for the Disney+ film Safety.
The halftime sequence in Clemson’s “Death Valley” stadium wasn’t going to be easy. We needed to be mobile, small, and super light-weight. That’s because we needed to be able to run alongside the football players on the field. So, our batteries had to be trimmed to the size of the camera. I needed to know that I could slide a battery on and we were good to go.
What I love about Blueshape is how they take hold of a vision and then help guide the process to make it a reality. I mean, these are batteries that I can count on. Blueshape is a company that cares about innovation and helping filmmakers by designing products that consider our needs so power is the last thing you need to worry about.
We Powered the Safety Halftime Sequence with Blueshape
Here’s what I needed — 4 Steadicams along with the Ronin and MoVI. This would allow me to really deliver the goods for the halftime sequence. As I previously mentioned, we had some ground to cover. We started up on the hill and had to move down into the stadium, field, sidelines, and endzones. However, before this point, we had never actually set foot in Death Valley to try out our equipment and see how it would fare. This included our whole communication and wireless systems.
Part of the problem why you can’t test these types of systems beforehand is because you’d need the 83,000 fans in the stands along with another 80,000 outside tailgating, and all simultaneously using their phones. That’s the only way to properly conduct a case study to determine how everything would perform. So, we went the alternative route.
This other route led us to the engineers at Preston, Clear Comm, Ronin, Freefly, and DGI — and we collaborated just as we did with Blueshape. With each company, we would test and ensure our communication systems were up to snuff, and our wireless system had the necessary parts like a repeater and high-boost antennas.
It was crucial to make sure our systems held up both with batteries and from a performance standpoint. Since the Ronin works with a dual team, our operators required a perfect harmony between these two forces in order to see and do what they do best.
Our Blueshape Innovations
When we got down to the actual mechanics of what we exactly needed from the batteries, Blueshape took the lead and engineered the compact Granite Mini 140W block to fit beautifully along the back of our RED Gemini.
Blueshape’s adjusted square-block battery was also weighted proportionately so it balanced the Steadicam smoothly. It also comes supplied with D-Tap ports so you can power things like the wireless follow-focus and the range-finders on your camera systems.
As you can see, we required a whole lot of power!
Don’t let their size fool you, they’re loaded with a whole lot of power! So, in addition to the batteries, Blueshape’s crack team of specialists engineered amazing power stations for us, powered by our new batteries. These Rugged Power stations powered our studio cameras, cranes, and everything else. Blueshape’s batteries are not only durable but they’re also waterproof. This means you’re safe if caught off guard by a sudden rainfall.
We actually had a lot of night work that involved night driving where we drove the cars instead of using a tow truck. So, I needed these Blueshape batteries to power up our sky panels and they delivered, powering up 2 Arri Sky Panels for upwards of 4 hours!
Here’s a video that shows the rig on top of a police cruiser:
In one particular scene, Fahmarr (Thaddeus J. Mixson) runs away and his older brother Ray-Ray McElrathbey (Jay Reeves) goes searching for him in the car. It’s nighttime so lighting is key. We mounted our Sky Panels with hood mounts and had our hostess trays on the left and right sides of the vehicle. This allowed us to gain a ton of coverage for when Ray’s driving.
The Bottom Line
Blueshape’s battery technology is both reliable and weather tested providing you with dependable power in nearly every kind of situation. We were able to collaborate and come up with a battery that worked perfectly for us. Since we had to work small and have the physicality to run and move with the football players, the 140 block suited our needs. But even outside of our halftime sequence for Safety, we were in good hands with the Blueshape Rugged Power Station, which kept us juiced up throughout our night shoots and driving scenes. With Blueshape I always feel like it’s an easy decision. They’re the Cadillac of battery brands. That’s why I use Blueshape for everything from XLR cables to Power Stations.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out Safety on Disney+, what are you waiting for? It’s a wonderful true story based on the events of a Clemson freshman athlete vying to get on the field and prove himself, while also juggling his schoolwork and taking guardianship of his younger brother. It’s a movie that’s great for the whole family!