• Matthew Walker

A SOUND OIL RIG | Maersk Drilling.

I try to blog once a week, but 2020's early months have taken me by surprise - it's a nice challenge to find yourself facing, being busy - but anyway here's my slightly overdue short blog, about my recent experience of providing location audio, whilst on an oil rig in Denmark, back in Jan.


Ever been on an Oil Rig?!... Yeah me neither until this incredible opportunity came up, hooking up with BWFilm and Ross Wilson (thanks for the gif making opportunity) again, in Denmark this time!

First off, oil rigs are massive, like soooo much bigger than you could imagine. Myself and the crew were just blown away by the scale when we arrived at 07:00 in the pitch black on a cold January morn, docked in Esbjerg.


We were there to shoot B-Roll and interviews for a film showcasing this particular rig.


There was me on run-gun-boom, with Director Barry Wilkinson and Ross Wilson DoP - a team of producers, a drone-op, second asst camera man, plus the incredible staff and crew of the rig itself - showing us around, and allowing free reign to activate the machinery for the betterment of the film. Their crew operating of course :S


It was incredibly difficult to 'not' look kewl when kitted up.

This was a challenging shoot across three days with travel, whereby we had a lot to capture in a tight time window before we lost daylight.


So we had to be mobile, had to be flexible and ready to work through the shot list sequentially to get the best out of the shoot.



| Lightweight Packing |


My kit has always been a mobile arsenal, as it's used in a variety of ways across location sound and podcasting, so this was a shoot that suited.


But still, cramming as much of the vital gear into a reinforced rucksack so to be able to pass flight inspection (in retrospect), was more of a challenge than the shoot itself - I think the camera guys will most likely agree. I felt for them.


With me was my trusted ZoomH6, 9ft Koolertron Boom, Sony MDR-7506s, plus a debut Røde NTG4+ Shotgun Mic, a big and necessary upgrade from my still beloved BOYAPVM1000 - but the Røde has more clarity, more warmth, and chargeable functionality. A more reliable asset.



| Foley Grabbing |


Once kitted up, we hit the ground running... no scrap that... sprinting! We had free reign to capture almost anything on the rig, making use of the crew to operate the machinery dotted about the structure.


As a Sound Recordist you're always wanting to get as close as possible to the subject, but in this case that luxury wasn't available due to safety concerns of course, so I had to improvise from a sniper position.


Shooting B-Roll, this didn't impact us too much - I just wanted to capture as much crunch and texture as possible.


Getting as close to the subject as poss, was a challenge.

Although cold, the weather was on our side this day. We weren't out at sea, we were docked - but the wind especially kept at bay, which is forever a constant nemesis of the avid Sound Recordist.


The crew were brilliant. Taking the time and allowing us to follow them around as they demonstrated some of the tasks seen throughout a day on the rig. Especially patient too, as we naturally had to capture multiple takes of the same action - to give the edit plenty of options and breathing space.


After a short while, Drones (I swear) develop their own personality.

This was my first time part of a crew that had included a Drone Pilot. I was enthralled by the enhancement these creatures made to the output we were looking to achieve - and I call them 'creatures' intentionally. After a short while, they begin to develop their own personality.


We had access to so many pockets of the rig, including the Drill Control Room, which housed the best looking gaming chair I've ever likely seen.



The chair above, jokes aside, is for a drilling engineer to operate the drill - drilling through and into the ocean bed. It's an incredible thing to grasp, with all the moving parts needed to see this process through. Similarly, the changing of the 'drill bits' themselves was something to behold. The 'long and short of it', a drill bit is changed - much as you would a battery drill in your hand... except these drill bits are some 40 feet long weighing god-knows-what! This is now ticked off my bucket list ;)


The shoot was a success. An intense day to capture what was needed, but we got there. We made it.


I took away the thought and understanding of the flexibility required in location-based sound recording - this was paramount here, and I'm so glad I was able to deliver, as part too of an excellent crew, managed and produced by the always excellent Barry Wilkinson.



See you in the next one!


#MatthewWalker #Sebaudio #Maersk #OilRig #BarryWilkinson #BWFilm #RossWilson #LocationSound #SoundRecordist #ZoomH6 #Denmark #Audio #BoomOp #Rode #BOYA

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