Red Bull Cliff Diving World Championships

After completing ‘The Extremists in High Definition’ our production company needed to drum up more work.  We invited everyone we knew to come over to our studio and watch the show in all its high-def glory.  Once we started producing in HD there was no turning back.  Everyone we spoke to was blown away by the image quality and our reel, but at the time there were only a few channels that were broadcasting HD content and the general consumer didn’t even own HD TVs.  It honestly didn’t make sense to shoot in this format.  Since we were a lean production company and owned the equipment and we were a bit crazy, we positioned ourselves as a viable content creator in the space for a fraction of the cost and we pitched to potential clients that we could down-convert the content to standard-def at no cost.

During this time, Red Bull was staging action sports events across the country and hiring endemic production companies to shoot, edit shows and deliver news reels for national media outlets.  These were the early days of the Red Bull media empire and they led the charge staging these amazing events.  Red Bull seemed like the perfect target to pitch this new format.  Through a trusted partner from some of our past action sports shows, Paul Ehman wanted to put us in front of Red Bull and pitch shooting their next event in HD.  Paul was the production guru in Hawaii and was recently hired by Red Bull to stage the Cliff Diving World Championship on Lanai.  We met with Red Bull and I put together a presentation and production bid to shoot and deliver a half hour show in HD at virtually no cost.  They accepted and we set off to produce our first Red Bull event.

We shipped a ton of equipment to the little island of Lanai.  We had 5 high def camera packages, an underwater housing, a long lens and a gyro mount.  In addition we had an hd deck, digibeta deck, downconverters and a remote Avid system.  We needed the editorial equipment because we had to capture the highlights from the competition and edit a highlight reel that night for a satellite uplink for news and media outlets.  Not an easy task for a new format, but we were determined to pull this off.

The competition was epic.  Paul Ehman had built the diving platform on Maui and helicoptered it to Lanai and placed it a feet way from the original birthplace of cliff diving, Kahekili’s Leap.  We staged a long lens camera and operator on one cliff (essentially the side angle), had an experienced underwater cameraman with scuba gear for the entry shot, a cameraman and producer on the shore to capture and interview the divers as they exited the ocean, a camera operator on top of the cliff capturing the divers before their leap and the hero camera in the ocean on a boat with a gyro mount for a somewhat stabilizing head on shot.

Casey Bennett, John Long, Rob Taylor and myself produced the show and delivered a visceral and comprehensive event like no other previous Red Bull show.  It wasn’t action porn, it had soul, history and a little magic.  John Long wound up writing and voicing the show and it was a big hit with the executives at Red Bull.  Shortly after, we were hired to produce another five events that year.  It was one of the most memorable production experiences of my career.  The venue, the athletes, the production team and the Red Bull executives  staged an incredible event for the ages.

Following is a short highlight of the event.  The video is ripped from a DVD so the quality is not the best.  JR

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