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It’s Hard to Stop a Trane: Shooting Action Sequences

  • June 1, 2012
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
It’s Hard to Stop a Trane: Shooting Action Sequences
Director Mike McCoy and Shane Hurlbut planning out a shot
Director Mike McCoy and Shane Hurlbut planning out a shot

“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. Launching a bus on the Trane AC commercial

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.

Extreme heat:

Mike McCoy filming the C130 fuel dump
Mike McCoy filming the C130 fuel dump

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.

Elite Team members Jose De Los Angeles, Derek Edwards and Bodie Orman with crash housings
Elite Team members Jose De Los Angeles, Derek Edwards and Bodie Orman with crash housings

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.

Arri Alexa on an Eclipse head
Arri Alexa on an Eclipse head

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.

Blowing up a Trane AC unit

Belly flop:

Bus belly flop for Trane AC commercial

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.

The RC controls of the bus
The RC controls of the bus
Canon 7D rigged in the back of the back of the bus
Canon 7D rigged in the back of the back of the bus
Canon 5D rigged on the outside of the bus
Canon 5D rigged on the outside of the bus
21mm Zeiss ZE prime on a Canon 5D rigged to the front of the bus
21mm Zeiss ZE prime on a Canon 5D rigged to the front of the bus

Trane AC bus crash

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.

From left to right Joshua Ledlow, Peter Johnston and Arjun Mano.
From left to right Joshua Ledlow, Peter Johnston and Arjun Mano.
Drinks with the interns after a long shoot day
Drinks with the interns after a long shoot day

Thanks to Jamie Thalman for the BTS stills.

Take a look at the behind the scenes video shot by Nick Kramer and Corey Jennings.


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