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Behind the lens: Oscar red carpet GoPro time-lapse #fail

Jay L. Clendenin, Los Angeles Times

You ever conceive an idea, devise a plan, envision all the possible outcomes, pick apart the inevitable pitfalls, consider every last detail … and then life happens?

This year marked my sixth assignment to cover the red carpet of the annual Oscar ceremony at the Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak). Every year I’m eager to try something different and this year, as in years past, I was told no by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I’m not blaming the academy. I do have a habit of waiting until the last minute, and I now realize that asking Daniel Day-Lewis to wear a GoPro for his day at the Oscars was a bit over the top. So, the best alternative I could think of this year was for me to wear a GoPro camera to create a time-lapse of my day on the red carpet.

2013 ACADEMY AWARDSI conferred with photo editor Bryan Chan, and we decided the head strap would be a good way to keep the camera out of my way and then we’d work to edit in one of my fashion frames from my main camera, a Canon 1D X, with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens. As the idea evolved, we agreed on a backup time-lapse camera to be mounted on the barrier in front of my position on the carpet, which was a Canon 5D Mark II, with a Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 II lens.

At 5-second intervals, I started the GoPro shooting while we were in our hotel room at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in the Hollywood & Highland Center and let it run as I walked the path to my spot on the red carpet. Unfortunately, within 10 minutes of being set and ready to shoot on the carpet, the lens of the GoPro was smudged and for the remainder of the camera’s battery (roughly 2.5 hours), the pictures were unusable! A sad reminder to check, recheck and check again during this process.

On the bright side, my “backup” Canon camera did record the length of the carpet procession, so we could complete this multimedia piece. Sadly, this camera was “bumped” repeatedly, making the on-screen journey a bumpy one, forcing me to discuss a couple of important points where this time-lapse failed.

As any experienced time-lapse producer will tell you, you should have a very stable position for your camera. A good tripod is ideal, but when you can’t use one, then a stable, solid surface, possibly something to secure a super-clamp to. In my case, there was no such surface available (read: I was denied!) and I was left to mount a Bogen Magic Arm to a 1/2-inch barrier wall, at about waist level in front of me. Unfortunately, this wall was moveable, being continuously knocked by a line of photographers, as well as a roving video-cameraman who knelt below us throughout the three-hour period. As this camera clicked away, it was repeatedly hit, causing slight changes in the view, which becomes jarring when 2,000-plus frames are edited together. One of the other key factors in a successful time-lapse is time. Not just the length of time gathering frames, but, possibly more important, time planning the idea. This year’s idea was hatched four days out. Had we approached the academy, say, four months prior, we may have been able to show several of our successful (space shuttle Endeavour, Carmageddon, SAG Awards) time-lapses and gotten our multiple-camera idea approved!

In the end we edited 770 and have to conclude that this wasn’t a complete failure. I did learn a lot (a) come up with a plan well in advance of the event, (b) convince the powers-that-be at the academy of the visual genius that will be on display for the world to see and (c), most important, have the guy next to you check to see if there is a smudge on your head-mounted camera so you don’t waste every one of the 1,800 pictures you just shot.

See more of Clendenin’s work and follow him on Twitter @LATimesjlc

Photo: Jay Clendenin at the Academy Awards on Sunday. Credit: Dan MacMedan

6 Comments

  1. March 1, 2013, 6:55 pm

    Sorry to hear brother. So much potential for a time-lapse. Did you try warp stabilizer to smooth out the shots? Nice idea at least. Try it again next year!

    By: Drew Geraci
  2. March 2, 2013, 5:34 am

    Really…

    Very Bad!!! Becouse is the Oscars this does´t mean every thing will work!!!

    everything seems very last minute and amateur!!

    not LA Times Style

    By: jrestudante@me.com
  3. March 2, 2013, 6:45 am

    Great post. Shame what happened but sounded like a good idea

    By: sjophotography
  4. March 2, 2013, 1:28 pm

    0:47 – Anne Hathaway (winner best supporting actress)

    By: futopia@hotmail.com
  5. March 5, 2013, 10:48 am

    No music credit?

    By: GEAH
  6. March 5, 2013, 5:49 pm

    You might try running the completed time-lapse footage thru a stabilization filter (SmoothCam) in Final Cut Pro. It can work wonders.

    By: chung123@yahoo.com

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