Part Two: The Storm Before the Calm (Lagos, Nigeria)
Arriving in Lagos, Nigeria
As we walk out of the plane into a dilapidated airport where not a single white person is in sight, we get stopped immediately past immigration. A random, non-official man has taken our vaccination books and declared them invalid. Well, he’s declared the three white people’s books invalid. Jenn, who has African-American and Chinese roots is somehow fine to proceed even though all our books say the same thing. Our guide who met us at the gate tells us the only way we can get in is to pay the man. Our first bribe.
I already have a 360fly out and filming as Dan takes control of the situation. It is so small and unusual that no one really takes notice of the camera. The negotiation is a charade of walking back and forth between where we’re standing and the other side of the room where Dan is speaking to a table surrounded by people who need to be paid. Dan offers, they counter and ask for more, he considers it and walks back to us and finally returns to them with the amount demanded. And I’m rolling on the whole thing. $50 and 15 minutes later, we’re in. We are passed from our guide to another person who will escort us through security and to our car.
I’ve traveled all over the world on various productions. One of the first things I love to do in any country is learn two key words: Hello and Thank You. There are four major languages in Nigeria.
The ones we learn are:
Howfah – hello
O-Shey – thank you
We arrive to the hotel as the sun is setting in Lagos. Quick food and then it’s time to set up the workflow. Refill the battery on the laptop. Offload the 360fly footage and recharge it. Format the 4Tb drive. Formatting seems to be an issue. I try to format the hard drive for Mac & PC using exFAT. The quick set-up isn’t working. Let’s go the long way. I leave it running overnight in one of the few hotels in Lagos where they guarantee power and set my alarm clock for 2 hours before everyone else so I can check it and correct it if there are still problems.
When I wake up, I check the for had failed. Apparently, when I turned off the lights in the hotel room, the entire power shuts down. I get the bad feeling that learning the hard way is going to be the name of the game on this trip. Ultimately my Windows experience comes back to me and I use the command prompt to format the 4Tb to PC. We’ll have to leave it there because it’s time to leave.
Eke has arrived at the hotel on time – something we’ve been warned will likely never happen in Lagos due to the insane traffic issues. The first thing I test in the van – where we’ll be spending most of our time in Lagos – is the power inverter. Which works brilliantly.
The Name is Bond
Our first interviewee is Bond. Bond Emeruwa, a famous Nollywood director. at the Orchid Bistro. This is going to be a straight up HD interview. After a tea and some small talk about 360 filmmaking, I show Bond the Ricoh Theta. We take a picture with the Theta and I show him the spherical image on my iPhone. What happens next is my favorite part of filming in 360: the sheer amazement on his face when we swipe left and right to rotate the image. “Wow. Wow!” No other words are needed.
The forecast has rain every single day in Lagos while we are there. I’m eyeing the threatening clouds while Dan interviews Bond, Aaron rolls on the 5D, and Jenn monitors sound. After an hour or so, we are ready to pack up and see what we can get in VR at our next location with Bond: The National Theatre.
The National Theatre is a grand building, shaped like a general’s cap. Around it is a loop road. We’ve arrived on a national holiday and every local comments on how lucky we are to be here on this day because the streets aren’t parking lots. Unfortunately that also means that the Theatre is closed. We drive around the loop road and I identify one location where a VR set up could work well: Directly outside the theatre entrance. In one direction, a majestic structure. Opposite a sculpture being built. A firetruck up close and people playing in the distance. There’s good variation of distance and activities happening. Bond can walk up from a distance to give the audience time to look around and establish themselves in the space before he tells us tidbits revealing where we are.
Building the Car while Driving
We unveil the Ladybug3. Back in the States, Point Grey had provided us with ridiculously heavy mount that attaches in 5 places to the camera. There was no way we were going to lug that beast around with us. So all we have her set up on is a 1/16th inch screw that we’ve put electrical tape around because the thread in the bottom isn’t a standard size. Actually, the technical manual says that its the cooling outlet, but we’re going to use it as a way to connect it to a light stand. Light stands are extremely flimsy. They aren’t made to handle extremely heavy devices. The rig Aaron and I cobble together is wobbly and flimsy but it’s the best we have.
Unfortunately the light is a disaster. Despite an overcast day, the sky is so bright, it’s blowing out my lens. I set the gain & roll Uncompressed so we can play with it later.
Jenn sets up the TetraMic to Tascam for sound and tries to attach it to the light stand. Again, flimsy. The mount that the TetraMic comes with can barely hold the mic and the windscreen. I know that movement and the wind, which is beginning to pick up, with be amplified in the four-mic set-up. So we place the Brahma on the ground to roll a second sound source. Likely we are going to depend on the wireless lav for decent sound on this shot.
Because there’s no where to “hide” in 360, when we’re all set up, we have to run and hide behind various cars to be out of the shot. Of course, that means when I call “action”, Bond can’t hear me and we’re rolling for minutes with nothing happening. And we don’t have minutes to spare on this battery.
We do two takes outside the National Theatre. I test playback, which is running really slow – 3fps. The clouds are getting darker and we want to get one more shot in, so I chalk it up to conversion issues and shut the computer down to conserve power.
We want to test out a moving shot with the Ladybug. The shot that looks like a decent moving VR set-up is the loop driving up to the entrance of the National Theatre. Aaron is on point, transforming his Go-Pro rig to become a Ladybug mount that will suction to the top of Bond’s car. This is going to take time. I ask the driver to plug in the inverter and turn the van on to start re-powering the laptop. Fingers crossed as I turn back to help Aaron build the rooftop mount.
About half an hour later, the Ladybug is precariously positioned on top of the car and Bond is cranking his engine. I sit inside with the laptop on my lap and one hand out the window, holding on to the Ladybug. Not that I could stop it from crashing to the ground, but if there’s a minor slip I can at least hold on to it. We roll the camera and start driving up to the theatre. Bond narrates as he drives. This time I can at least watch the capture as it’s happening. Same slow capture rate: 3fps. I’m going to have to figure it out later because the rain starts pouring. While the Ladybug is weather-resistant, it’s not water-proof and we’re only on Day One.
I have some critical elements to figure out before the next shoot on a Nollywood set.