So we asked you, our readers, to write us a paragraph or two on your "Horrors from the Video Deep" Halloween tales. Your response was amazing! Not only did we get a good laugh over some of these stories, but many of you also get a good " Videomaker High Five" for turning problems into solutions.
Day of the Dead
I was in Zacatecas, Mexico, with a friend for the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration, making a documentary about festivals and traditions. While shooting some footage, we stopped at a restaurant where I left my camera on a table, sitting next to my friend while I made a visit to the restroom. When I came back, my friend was gone and so was my camera!
I was really nervous and started to look around for her and my camera, but the square was full of people wearing horrifying masks! I didn't know what to do. All the people, the masks, the tremendous shouts and noise were getting to me. I was scared out of my mind when she suddenly came up from behind me, wearing a huge devil mask. She waved my camera at me, and when I realized it was her, I was thankful that I didn't lose my friend or my camera!
Gina De La Rosa, San Bernardino, CA
I had a major shoot for a large client: two camcorders, a video switcher, two radio mics, an audio mixer, three monitors, a Mini DV deck, an audio splitter and lots and lots of cables connecting them all. I scouted the location the day before and set up the whole system in our studio to check it out.
At the seminar location, I set up on a 4'x8' table I had seen on my scouting trip. I was completely set up and ready to roll with half an hour to spare, when my cell phone rang. My wife said that she wrote down the wrong location for the shoot: It was at the same room number in a building 12 miles away. That call kicked off the most stressful and frantic time of my career.
There was no way we could ever disconnect, pack, transport and reassemble everything in time for the shoot. Then it occurred to me that we might just be able to do it if we took the table with everything on it, still wired together, to the new location. I started dragging the heavy table towards the door, when a man I had never seen before picked up the other end of the table and helped carry it to the pick-up area, where my crewmember had just pulled up with the van.
After a harrowing trip to the correct location, we made a hasty, and unfortunately conspicuous, entrance carrying our unwieldy setup. We located power and plugged in the main power cords just in time to catch the two seminar speakers' introductory remarks! After the seminar, I profusely apologized to our clients, returned the borrowed table, took a Xanax and went to bed wondering if the kind man who helped me load a table full of expensive equipment into an unmarked van ever thought that he might have made a terrible mistake and helped a criminal make a getaway!
Mark J. Marquisee
Cough Up That Wedding
I had been hired to shoot a wedding. After checking over everything, I found that the wireless system that the church used had issues with my equipment. Simple. I told my wife, who was operating the wide shot camera for me, to watch for my movements. I talked with the couple about the setup for their wedding and had all of my movements planned. That went well, but, unfortunately, my wife had a cold, and had coughed at a crucial moment, causing her camera to move right at the time I shifted my position to capture the vows. I spent countless hours reviewing the video clips trying to decide the exact moment that the cut should happen. Finally, I isolated the sound file and cut the clip in the middle of a sentence, as the preacher made a dramatic pause, and I wound up with a very nice cut at a crucial moment in the ceremony. Sometimes, accidents happen for a reason, and this was a perfect moment to show just that. Remember, it's not just what the eye sees, but the sound that accompanies it that makes a really good shot!
Back in the days before computer editing, I was video taping some titles I had created from my word processor in a corner of my living room. To prevent recording ambient sound, I plugged an un-wired mini phone jack into the microphone input of my full size S-VHS camcorder, tricking the camera into thinking there was a mic attached, thus cutting off the internal mic. Later that weekend, I was half way through taping a wedding when I discovered the jack still in place. Knowing I lost the sound up to that point, I continued after some foul words and removing the jack. Fortunately, I have an extensive sound effect and music library. During the wedding ceremony, a string quartet was playing music. That kind of music I had. Crowd scenes were easy. I had crowd scene sound effects. These dubs and some appropriate music saved my bacon. Of course, after apologies for technical difficulties, I had to reduce my fee, but the wedding day was saved.
Eric Schwarz, Hauppauge, NY
Back in 1994, when wireless mics were less reliable, I had a very terrible experience while shooting a wedding. I had a wireless on the groom and he was with the groomsmen outside the church just minutes before the start of the ceremony. The groomsmen were joking with the groom and saying a lot of really crude comments. All of a sudden, the priest rushed out of the side door and frantically asked if someone had on a wireless mic. The groom replied that he did. The priest reported to us that the mic was broadcasting loud and clear in the church. My mic had the same frequency as the church's PA system! I still get a sick feeling in my stomach every time I think of the comments that the grannies and other guests heard that day while sitting in the otherwise quiet church.
Todd Monnin, Video Specialties
The One That Got Away
I'm a Forest Service wildland firefighter on a helicopter crew and always carry my camcorder, keeping a look out for that once-in-a-lifetime shot. One day, while attacking a fire north of Lake Powell, we landed on the shore next to a pretty tall hill. I climbed the hill to video the helicopter dipping water below me. It was spectacular. Shooting down through the rotor blades is something you never see. I reviewed it over and over again. I was pretty proud of that shot.
Later, during a fuel stop, we met up with the other part of our crew going on another assignment. They asked to borrow my camcorder. I said "Sure, but don't use the tape labeled 'Cool Helo' shots." When I got my camcorder back later, I was anxious to get the video onto my computer. But what did I find? People rolling around on a skateboard and washing fire trucks. I was a little angry and really disappointed.
Actually, I was really angry and a little disappointed. I eventually convinced my boss to get a camcorder for the crew. Now they can videotape themselves washing the fire trucks all they want!
Choo-Choo Rewind — oohC!
I once needed a shot of a steam locomotive approaching the camera. You'd be surprised how few steam engines are available when you really need one. I finally located one, but it was 80 miles from me. Still, I had no choice if I wanted that shot. When I finally arrived, I could see the locomotive paused only 200 yards away, building an impressive head of steam against a deep blue Rocky Mountain sky. Quickly I deployed my tripod and mounted my camera to shoot down the railroad tracks. In fewer than five minutes (what luck!), the train started to move…backwards! Nowadays, this sort of problem can be solved easily, but back in the days of Super 8 film….
A consultation with the station master confirmed that the steam engine would return in an hour, at which time I could get the shot I wanted, which I did. Including travel time, the 1 1/2 second shot took me four hours to shoot. Was it worth the effort, you ask? Absolutely!
Top That Wedding Cake Story!
My horror story begins like all good horror stories on a beautiful day when nothing can go wrong. My wife's niece hired a "professional" to tape her wedding, but, since I am known (or was known) as "Mr. Video" in our family, they asked me to tape the reception. Now, being a long time reader of Videomaker and having read dozens of articles about taping events, and specifically weddings, I felt that this would be a fun "no-brainer" shoot.
The reception was progressing and I had captured all the money shots so far: the entrance of the wedding party, pre-dinner toasts, etc. I was feeling very confident when it came time to cut the cake. I found the perfect spot to capture the magic moment when the Bride and Groom fed each other this symbol of the sweetness of married life. The cake was 5 tiers, but each tier was on its own platter atop ever taller columns, from the bottom layer which had 3 inch columns to the top layer which had 12+ inch columns (Think: "unstable"). The tiers were laid out in a semi-circle on a banquet table in the far corner of the crowded restaurant.
But as I waited to shoot, my "low battery" light began to blink. Uh, oh! My spare battery which I always carry fully charged (thanks to tips from Videomaker ) was… where? Oh, yes, all the way on the far side of the restaurant in my camera bag!
Not enough time to go and get it, but, not to worry, I would just keep the camera off until they actually cut the cake. No big deal, it couldn't take more than 1 or 2 minutes and I know I have enough juice to cover that… but… you guessed it, I turned on the camera, got the cake cutting alright, but then the Still Photographer had the couple pose for a while before they fed each other the cake and, yep, dead goes my battery. Oh, well, the groom gives the bride a polite little bite and she smashes a BIG hunk into his face…seen it a million times… I can't possibly miss much.
Wrong! He gives her a little bite, then she smashes a big piece in his face, and then, to the shock and amazement of all, he pushes her face down into the top layer of the cake…, you remember, the one that is on top of 12+ inch unstable plastic columns. The next few seconds are stuck in my mind in slow-motion (just like the $10,000 AFV contest I could have won). She stands up and turns toward me (and my dead camcorder) with a face completely covered with white frosting. At the same time, the top tier of the cake falls over directly into layer 4, which topples layer 3 into 2 and 2 into 1 which flies off the table and lands upside down on the floor, sending cake and frosting everywhere. Turning back to her new husband and delivering the ultimate wife glare, the bride stomps off to the ladies room. A stunned silence fills the room.
The next day they are all laughing about it, and ask me if I got it all on tape! At which point I have to turn in my "Mr. Video" crown and utter those most embarrassing words: "My battery died…I didn't get the shot…"
San Ramon, CA
We shared some good laughs over some of these stories, and marveled at the uncertainty of this crazy business we all love. A very special thank you goes out to everyone who submitted a story. Maybe someday, we'll make this "Video Horror Stories" a regular annual feature… you never know!
Videomaker Managing Editor Jennifer O'Rourke is an Emmy™ award-winning videographer & video editor who usually gets her shot, but not always!
[Side Bar: Shooting the Bull]
Every fisherman has his story of the "one that got away." Even professional photographers lose one once in awhile. I had a terrific assignment to shoot a local Brahma Bull Riding event in a Central California town known for its awesome three-day rodeos. While waiting for my scheduled event, one bull escaped the holding pen and charged right toward me. It was an adrenaline spurt of a moment, and I calmly, (or so I thought,) followed the lead of a cowboy close by and scrambled up a nearby fence. Even though I was unable to watch through the viewfinder as I scaled the fence, but, ever the consummate professional, I continued to follow the bull with my camera as he raced by, the woosh! from his horns brushing my jacket. It was an exciting moment, as cowboys and rodeo clowns fought to rope the bull before the eyes of flabbergasted spectators. Trying to capture the scene as concisely as I could, I followed the action tightly from my wavering vantage point on the fence, videotaping potential victims running from the bull's advance, screams, popcorn flying and everything else you could think of in the mayhem, until the cowboys finally roped the bull and brought him down. I rushed back to my newscar and radioed the station that I had an "exclusive" runaway bull story, and the network was holding for the story by the time I got back. Except when I put the tape in the playback deck to view it and dub it down, the only shots I had were the initial shot of the bull as he leaped over the fence, and the next shot was of the bull calmly sitting in his pen. In my frantic attempt to climb the fence, shoot the scene, and escape the bull, I had double-pulsed on the record button and lost the entire exclusive. Oh well. Live and learn. – Jennifer