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Filmmakers shoot bridge demolition documentary with VariCam, AG-HVX200 camcorder

“Break It Down: Bridge,” a National Geographic documentary detailing demolition of San Francisco’s Carquinez Bridge, was shot with Panasonic’s AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema camera and AG-HVX200 P2 HD camcorder.

The Carquinez Bridge, once the world’s longest, came down in spring 2006. After almost 80 years of service, the structure was deconstructed in front of daily commuters on one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s busiest highway systems.

Robert Ikenberry, a first-time filmmaker, and Sam Burbank, an experienced science/technology documentary veteran, produced, wrote and directed the documentary.

The pair collaborated to tell the story of what is perhaps the most complicated bridge demolition in history. The demolition team couldn’t simply blow up the Carquinez because heavily used bridges sat on either side of the span and a protected marine ecosystem resided below. Eventually, engineers decided to disassemble the bridge in the reverse order of its construction.

DP John Chater, who has shot feature documentaries for the past 17 years, was the primary cameraperson on “Bridge.” Chater owns his own VariCams and recommended Panasonic HD cameras to Burbank and Ikenberry. The production team rented the VariCams from Chater and purchased its own HVX200.

The major event photography was shot with the VariCam, and the HVX200 served as the production’s B camera, Ikenberry said. The documentary was shot at 720p24 and mostly with available light. It was edited with Apple’s Final Cut Pro and delivered on hard drives to National Geographic.

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