Highpointing: Panorama Point, Nebraska
December 15, 2017
Welcome to the Panorama Point episode with special guest, “High Winds.” They show up early in the episode and stay pretty much the whole time. The weather report said to expect winds of 10-15mph, which is pretty standard for that area. Instead we got 30-35 mph winds with gusts up to 45 mph. I knew the high plains of Nebraska would be windy; it’s why I had chosen a piece of music named “Windswept” even before I started writing the episode. I just did not expect it to be this windy. It shows in all the live shots – the cameras bobble, the talking over the winds, and sand everywhere; it’s even more prevalent in the footage that wasn’t used. This was easily the windiest conditions I have ever filmed in. It was relentless, with dust and sand whipping around to the point I was actually worried about damaging my lenses.
From an equipment standpoint this was the first episode I wish I had a bigger, heavier tripod with me. With only the lightweight, aluminum Sunpak available it got pushed around quite a bit. A heavier set up would have reduced the bounce you see in the live shots as well. I stabilized it in post but you can only do so much. Such is the joy of shooting onsite with minimal budget.
The other equipment option was using a lavalier microphone in addition to the mic set up on the camera. Unfortunately I didn’t bring it. The good news is the Rode shotgun mic with the dead cat on it has once again proved itself to be a valuable asset. There was a few moments though during the filming day were I thought the trip was a bust. Listening to the footage out of the camera I thought we were hosed. Fortunately it wasn’t as bad as I thought, once I started editing I was able to isolate the vocals a bit and reduce the wind noise.
This shoot was done in a daylong road trip of 500 miles. We drove a giant loop, leaving Denver early in the morning heading first to the border tripoint. When we got there it was completely fogged in, so we snapped a few shots and then went for coffee. An hour later when we reached the Panorama Point the fog was long gone, replaced by blue skies and the ever-present wind. There were no bison sightings for us while at the highpoint, but we did get to meet the owners who were very pleasant to chat with. Once we wrapped there we stopped at Kimball rest area off I-80 and spoke with Ms. Jo Caskey, the director of the Kimball-Banner County Chamber of Commerce about our Panorama Point adventure. She’ll send you a certificate of your feat in the mail of you provide your name to her.
We shot the scenes around Kimball then departed for Bridgeport and the Platte River valley to film the remaining scenes. This part of Nebraska is very striking and worth checking out. I got to channel my inner grade-schooler dreams with a stop at Chimney Rock. Fortunately no one in the party died of dysentery while we ventured on the remains of the Oregon Trail. Upon wrapping at Scotts Bluff National Monument it was back to Denver for beer and food.
My compatriot on this journey was my friend Jessica Kyander Johnson. This was her second time behind the camera, (her first episode is the Kansas one that comes out January 1,) and her photographer background comes through in being able to frame up and get good material out of bad conditions. With the wind as fierce as it was we ended up shooting things closer and a bit tighter. The only real extravagance we made while filming was we did mount the camera on the car for a driving sequence. Since you can’t hike up to the summit that seemed like a good trade-off.
I enjoyed writing this episode. It was cool to be able to find a relatively engaging hook for the area that had a significant impact on American history. This episode in particular really highlights the theme of the season. Being able to take what most may label a boring area and make it entertaining and interesting was the goal. Panorama Point and Nebraska accomplished it in spades.
The music used in the episode is from Kevin MacLeod at incompetech.com. As mentioned earlier, the piece used throughout the episode is entitled “Windswept.” If you ever need a wide selection of music for your project needs go check out his musical archives, he is bound to have something and best of all it is royalty-free.
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