The Jaw-some Tech Behind Shark Week
August 16, 2012 12:48 PM As Shark Week celebrates its 25th year with jaw-filled images, a slew of new technologies drive both content production and distribution.
Driving with Sharks
More open than a conventional shark cage, the Beetle did allow "a few sharks to actually get in the cage," said Katzive. Even so, he added, "the sharks were pretty leery. [The car] didn't freak them out. They just went about their business and would just kinda get out of the way."
While the vehicle was underwater, driver Luke Tipple used a mic in his dive mask to communicate with producers and crew above the surface. "We could hear what he was observing firsthand," said Baquet.
Topside, there was no physical tethering between the vehicle and the crew. As a result, Baquet said they needed "awesome, kickass guys" who were used to delivering under such challenging conditions. It was an "incredibly large team effort, a total group effort," Katzive added.
Around 60 hours of footage were captured to document both the Beetle's construction and its subsequent underwater adventures. Unlike many of Shark Week's earliest programs, this high volume was manageable thanks to advances in digital cameras. The crew was equipped with a Red One, produced by Oakley founder Jim Jannard's camera-making start-up. The camera captures cinema-style images and has been used on films including David Fincher's The Social Network, which earned an Academy Award nomination for its cinematography.
The Red One was not well-suited for all aspects of production, particularly situations in which a small, compact camera was necessary. To accommodate those instances, the crew also used a fleet of GoPro products as well as a Canon 5D Mark II. We "documented [the production] from every angle," said Baquet. With material being recorded to so many devices, Katzive said the team had to acquire enough external storage drives "to store the Library of Congress."
With so much footage, a lot of material did not make it into the final special. In the past, this content would have been discarded on the cutting room floor (or, in the modern digital world, the computer's recycling bin). Discovery opted to use the additional content on the Web, however, extending the Shark Week domain from the television into the virtual space.