It’s Hard to Stop a Trane: Shooting Action Sequences
- June 1, 2012
- Shane Hurlbut, ASC
“It’s hard to stop a Trane.” That was the tagline from the agency. Director Mike McCoy and I collaborated on a series of spots for Trane Air Conditioning. The location was a dry lake bed near Baker, CA with which I am very familiar. I shot parts of Act of Valor there, as well as the Keith Urban “For You” music video, and a variety of photo shoots when I was lighting for Herb Ritts in the late 1980’s.
Most of the shots for this concept involved complex stunt and practical FX work, so proper planning was paramount. The Elite Team was strategically placed for maximum coverage during each action sequence using 17 cameras: 2 Arri Alexas, 8 Canon 5D’s, and 7 Canon 7D’s. The Arri Alexas shot 120 FPS from a safe distance while the 5D’s and 7D’s were put into Pelican crash housings and placed in harm’s way. You can read more about the crash housing here.
Here is a break down for two specific spots.
This spot involved a C-130 plane dropping 3,000 gallons of simulated flammable liquid on a Trane Air Conditioning unit. It was then ignited with a flare gun by one of our Trane Endurance Engineers. We set up 4 crash housings with different wide focal lengths along the path where the C130 would drop the gasoline. Elite team members Jose De Los Angeles and Bodie Orman were tasked with placing the cameras, hitting record and running out of harm’s way before the plane flew over.
We also had an Arri Alexa inside an Eclipse head mounted on a helicopter to fly along the C130 to capture the “fuel” dump from the air.
Elite team member Mike Svitak was inside the C130 and shot all of the plane’s interior shots. Dean Mitchell, Marc Margulies, Mike McCoy and I then shot from cameras on the ground. Special effects coordinator Dan Cangemi triggered the pyrotechnics, and here is the end result.
This spot involved the Endurance Engineers jumping a remotely controlled bus over a ramp on top of a Trane unit. Considering the damage the bus would undergo, this was another one shot wonder. Elite Team member Dave Knudsen rigged the bus with five cameras: above the driver’s seat, on the front of the bus, on the passenger’s side, in the back seat, and one on the outside near the back right tire. Then two crash housings were set on the ground near the Trane unit where the bus was landing.
Education was another important aspect of shooting these spots. I blasted Twitter asking for interns to come out and learn from my team. Three interns were selected and rose to the challenge of camera interning: Arjun Mano from Toronto studying at Centennial College, Peter Johnston from North Carolina studying at UNC Wilmington, and Joshua Ledlow, a shooter from Phoenix, Arizona. They all did a great job assisting in keeping our cameras up to speed running cards, lenses, and gear back and forth.
Thanks to Jamie Thalman for the BTS stills.