Marine Videographer Heads to the Gulf Stream
Recently we got the opportunity to spend a week shooting a groundbreaking technology that could change the way power is delivered to the entire east coast of the United States. The technology uses underwater turbines connected to the bottom of the ocean in the middle of the gulf stream in the Atlantic and could deliver enough clean energy to power the entire state of Florida and the Carolinas.
The shoot was produced by our good friend and long-time collaborator Michelle Gaylord of Out Your Front Door Productions. Along with being an extremely talented videographer and photographer (both in and out of the water), Michelle is a first-rate producer. Michelle of OYFD took care of all the logistics of capturing media on an industrial ship in the middle of the Atlantic and found time to shoot some breathtaking photography as well. She hired CSK Creative to shoot a large portion of the video along with aerials from our FAA-licensed drone pilot.
Here’s the project’s teaser, and the 14-minute documentary video is below.
The shoot had some challenges from the word go, including a tropical depression that was steadily heading our way. As a result, it was raining pretty consistently for one of the most critical pieces of the documentary: loading the turbines on deck. The other challenge was shooting angles. We were docked at a Naval base that was rumored to be the location where the US Military commanded submarines in the Atlantic and Caribbean, so secrecy and privacy to that location was paramount. We were not allowed under any circumstances to point a camera in the direction of the Naval base, so that meant we had to watch our angles closely or the whole shoot could get shut down before it started.
Taking all of this into account and leaning on rain gear for both the crew and the camera gear, we managed to shoot some incredible images in both super slow motion (240 frames per second, or 10 times slower than real life) and true speed (24 frames per second, or real-life speed) and the shoot was off to a great start.
The next phase was to leave the dock and test the turbines in the Atlantic. After leaving the inlet on a calm day, the 150-foot research vessel’s crew ended up finding an eddy of the gulf stream much closer in than normal, and we were able to use the on-deck cranes to lower the turbines into the water for a test. This was a critical moment for us to capture, and the moment of truth for the project. If the turbines worked here, they would work in the real gulf stream. We had a total of three turbines to test, with one being a clear frontrunner in the eyes of the research team. The three different designs were scale models that were much smaller than the eventual turbines that will be anchored to the gulf stream, and the design that was getting the most attention was a dual turbine, centrifugal system that counter rotated to cancel out torque.
The funding and vision behind the project was from a man named Nasser Alshemaimry, a developer and entrepreneur who wanted to leave a lasting legacy of positive change for the world. Nasser’s whole life had been leading up to this moment, and his excitement was evident in the video and photos.
When the turbine was lowered into the water, it almost instantly started providing data to the scientists in the bridge who were monitoring its diagnostics through fiber optic cables. The results were clear: the turbine worked and was producing power. Nasser was beside himself with excitement. The next step was to get out in the gulf stream for another, bigger test, this one lasting 24 hours.
After traveling for several hours out to the middle of the gulf stream (halfway to the Bahamas), the ship was put into dynamic positioning mode to keep it in the exact same spot despite the current, waves and wind. DP uses GPS and computers to control the ship’s thrusters and main engines in order to keep the vessel in the exact same position. This meant that when the turbine was lowered into the water below the turbulence of the ship’s engines, the only thing affecting it would be the gulf stream’s current.
We captured the entire deployment process with point of view (POV) cameras as well as high-quality broadcast cameras and photography, including a spectacular sunset we were treated to after another huge rain storm.
Now comes the hardest part for any marine videographer, we had to wait. Sure, we shot as much as we possibly could of the ship while the turbine was deployed, but with 24 hours to kill, the production team bit our nails while the turbine consistently sent back its data, showing it was delivering power for 24 hours.
We didn’t get much sleep that night, and it wasn’t all due to the anticipation. The ship we were on had a single, older bow thruster that rattled like a laundry machine loaded with bricks. The noise roared through the bulkheads and vibrated us in our bunks when strong gusts of wind tried to push the ship out of position.
The next morning, the turbine was still in the water and we were back to shooting whatever we could. We documented throughout the day, waiting for the time when 24 hours was up and we could capture the turbine being loaded back onto the deck.
When that moment came, the entire power demonstration was entirely validated and proved the technology worked. We also happened to get some incredible POV footage of the entire process.
The 14-minute documentary was edited by OYFD’s team and turned out amazing. We were so glad to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime marine videography opportunity and we can’t wait to see what Nasser and his research team will do next with this groundbreaking technology.