Freak Destruction in Chicago
Last night we had a massive thunderstorm here in Chicago. All night the rain pounded on my window unit air conditioner like a crazed tap dancer, there were some decent winds, and an incredible amount of lightning and thunder. This morning the rain had finally tapered off. When I got to the El stop I was confronted by “caution” tape blocking off the entrance to the Logan Square Blue Line station. I looked down the stairs and it appeared the whole entrance had been flooded. A woman and I stood for a moment, looking at each other, and headed over to a different entrance, not sure if the whole station was closed. It wasn’t, and we were able to get down, but gallons of water were streaming down from the ceiling and splashing all over the tracks.
I say all this to set the scene for what I saw when I was walking towards Michigan Avenue after I got out of the subway, and to explain why I was fooled. I was on Lake street, having gotten off at the Clark & Lake stop. I happened to turn to the left and saw this:
A massive concrete cupola had fallen from one of the historic buildings right on the Chicago river in the heart of downtown. A couple of cars had been smashed and had burned, the pavement had understandably buckled, and the area was taped off with yellow caution tape like I had just encountered at the subway station. There were no emergency vehicles present, which was a little strange, but I assumed that since the damage had already been done, and since you can’t really just pick up and move a several-ton concrete cupola from the street, that the emergency vehicles had left the scene. A clean-up crew would probably arrive later to bust the thing up and haul it away, fixing the pavement later in the week. I supposed that massive winds or a strike of lightening had knocked the thing off, or that somehow the huge amount of rain had finally loosened some corroded concrete or rusted out a support, causing the whole structure to fall about thirty stories to the street below.
Of course, the real answer is that I’m simply an idiot. I met up with my friend and started describing what I had seen. “Did you see this? A massive concrete cupola fell from the top of one of the buildings on Lake Street and smashed up some cars and…” and the scene sounded so ridiculous that I decided it couldn’t possibly be real. That’s when I remembered that Transformers 3 is being filmed in Chicago.
Here’s a link to a video someone shot from one of the nearby hotels:
Yesterday, as part of the Fermilab project, Monica and I shot our only “talking head” interviews, and Stef, our cinematographer, decided we should use not one, but two cameras simultaneously. So I shot a wider shot of our interviewee and she tightened up her camera into a closeup. In editing, I can cut between the two. It looks nice, and allows me to add emphasis and variety.
In the clip of Transformers 3, you can see that there’s a helicopter, a chase car with a camera, a large jib (the crane-looking thing lower left), and in other angles on youtube you can see there are a couple of hand-held cameras, and I’m sure there’s at least two or three on tripods. In fact, I’m guessing that there are no less than ten cameras rolling on that scene. It was a bit of a setup for Stef and me to get our two-camera interview shoot ready; I can’t even imagine what goes into a ten-camera shoot with explosions and helicopters on a busy intersection in downtown Chicago.
But one more thing about the broken pavement and fallen cupola. After I left my friend and was walking around the mayhem still left after the shoot was over, I found a parking lot between two buildings where they had stored some extra “rubble” that they apparently didn’t need any longer. After the massive rain (that I thought was responsible for the whole thing), that piece of concrete in the lower right of the picture was … floating. That’s right, as anyone who has ever worked near a film shoot or theatre production knows, there is no better substance for simulating concrete than styrofoam. You can do amazing things with texture, paint, and it looks incredibly realistic. So a shout out to all the set dressers and production designers who created such a realistic bit of destruction that it fooled me into thinking a real disaster had occurred. In fact, I bet I could probably lift the fallen cupola, or at least shove it along the street for a few yards by myself. As much as I hate Michael Bay movies, I gotta hand it to his production designers. Nice work.