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Written by: Troy Hartman
Date: Summer 2000

Host of MTV's Senseless Acts of Video Troy Hartman writes about what it's like to jump from helicopters with giant, 80 pound IMAX® cameras over San Diego's beautiful Mission Bay.


Category: Stories

Before I go into any detail on this project, I need to tell you to not miss WILD CALIFORNIA for anything. I was completely blown away when I went to the pre-screening. It is amazing. If you ever wanted to know what it would feel like to stand on top of the Golden Gate bridge or fall out of a helicopter, this movie will take you as close to being there as possible without the risk. It kicks ass and you will be stoked you went to see it.

This was a job where I definitely didn't have the hard part. If you have ever seen an IMAX® movie, you know that it is on a huge, 5+ story screen. But in order for this to happen, the film that the scenes are shot in needs to be twice the size of normal film. And that means that the camera is twice as large also. Somebody was going to have to take an 80 pound movie camera in freefall to film my skysurfing. That task was left to Joe Jennings.

Joe had to build a special rig that attached to his skydiving harness in order to carry the IMAX camera in freefall. The camera was so huge that Joe actually just rigged it as if it were another person. It was attached to his chest and he learned to fly it as if he was doing a tandem jump. The funniest part about the whole thing was getting Joe into the helicopter for each jump. He would actually have to lay down on the camera and attach himself to it, then he would be rolled over to the chopper on a cart. Three guys would then lift him into the heli.

We were jumping over Mission Bay, California. Nobody had ever jumped here before because it was right next to the busy airspace of San Diego airport. This caused major headaches getting clearance to jump each time. We would climb to 12,000 feet and then hover around for 15 minutes or so until air traffic control would find a gap between approaching airliners and let us go. It was the middle of January and we had the doors off of the helicopter for more room. We froze our asses off and we both had flashbacks of the Mountain Dew job.

The hardest part of shooting for Joe was to aim the camera lens correctly in freefall. Since the camera was not on his helmet like usual, it was difficult for him to know exactly where the lens was looking. Added to that, he had to make sure that I was in the bottom of the frame since we learned that people get sick at IMAX movies if they have to look at the top of the screen. He learned a new trick on each jump and soon we were doing full skysurfing sequences. The final product is absolutely amazing and well worth the hard work.

IMAX® is a registered trademark of IMAX Corporation.

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