WHAT WE'VE BEEN UP TO by chad walker

It’s been a while since our last overall update and if you weren’t one of our I AM BIG BIRD Kickstarter supporters (shame) and don’t follow us on Twitter (double shame!), you probably have no idea what we’ve been up to.  So, despite being disappointed in you for not being well-versed in all things Copper Pot, we decided to give you a quick rundown on all our Copper Pot-ivities.

I AM BIG BIRD: we’ve reached picture lock on I AM BIG BIRD, our doc about Big Bird/Oscar the Grouch puppeteer Caroll Spinney.  What does that mean?  It means that the picture elements are completely done and we’ll be making no more changes.  We’re thrilled.  We still have some major tasks left to do, namely, finish the score, then do the final sound mix and color correction.  Speaking of the score, it is AMAZING.  Our composer, Josh Johnson, has written such beautiful music for us.  From the beginning, he said this movie felt different than a standard doc.  He wanted to write a more traditional, orchestral score for I AM BIG BIRD.  Mission: accomplished.  It’s beautiful, sweeping and entirely suits Caroll Spinney’s life.  We’ve also been finalizing some animation, which we’re so excited to share.  Our animators tried to replicate the feel of early Sesame Street and the result is incredible.

WE MUST GO: we’re days away from our next trip to Cairo, Egypt to continue production on our film about the Egyptian national soccer team and its quest for the World Cup.  If you haven’t been following the story, Egypt is in the final round of qualification, which pits them against Ghana in two matches, the first of which Egypt lost in Ghana 6-1.  If Egypt doesn’t win the final match, scheduled to be played in Cairo on November 19, by a score of 5-0, the team’s dream of making it to the World Cup is finished.  How does that affect the film?  We’ve always planned to follow the team through the end of the campaign, should it be in qualifiers or in Brazil.  If they don’t make it to Brazil, WE MUST GO will come out before the World Cup.  Let’s all hope that this doesn’t happen and the film includes the team’s miraculous comeback!  We were with them in Ghana and again in Cairo after the match and we’ll say this: the guys still have fight left in them.

KEI: We haven’t forgot about re-cutting KEI, our doc about Sierra Leone international player Kei Kamara… the story just keeps getting more interesting!  After Kei’s loan to Norwich City ended, Kei returned to Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC.  All the experts said that Kei had made such an impression, they wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up back overseas… and they were right.  During the last transfer window, Kei was brought back to England to play for Middlesbrough, where he’s currently tearing it up.  Though the insanity of our shoot with the Egyptian team and finishing Big Bird hasn’t allowed for it yet, we are planning to go catch up with Kei so we can include this most recent stop in England in our film.  The release date for that is… who knows?  Let’s see what happens with that story!

So things are rather busy here for us.  It’s crazy that 2013 is in its final months… hopefully, 2014 will offer you all a chance to see what we’ve been working on the last two years!


I do indeed love our fleet of GoPro Hero 3 cameras. The form factor is fantastic. You can put them almost anywhere giving you dynamic angles you couldn’t otherwise get.  We will often set one up and leave it rolling as we film with our other bigger cameras – giving us a “fly on the wall” as they say in the documentary world.

I really do love our GoPro cameras. I’m just not IN love with them.

It has been my experience that for every positive there are at least two negatives. Here are my biggest gripes:

This is the biggie.  It isn’t so much that the batteries don’t last long. They are perfectly fine–unless you start adding accessories (more on that later). But when the battery life drops below 50%, our GoPros become wildly unpredictable.  For example, they will randomly stop recording. Or turn off unexpectedly. Now, if I’m going to leave a GoPro alone to get the “fly on the wall” experience, I don’t want to be concerned about it stopping recording or turning off at any given moment. Due to the nature of our filming, we’re often scrambling around trying to cover an event as it unfolds.  It’s way to easy to throw in what you think is a new battery in your GoPro, not noticing that it is only 50% charged.  SCARY!!! It could literally turn off the second you turn your back.  This, in any relationship, would destroy trust. If it happened once, okay I forgive you. But there have been too many times at big events where I scurry over to our GoPro, excited that it surely captured the big moment, only to find it sitting there – not recording. I know there was a firmware update that was supposed to help this issue, but for us, it has only marginally helped.  The trust is gone!

1.) The GoPro remote. What an amazing concept this is!!! Did you just strap a GoPro to the roof of a car?  Great idea, but bummer that you’ll have to dig through those super long clips.  What? There’s a remote where you can stop and start your GoPro?!  Even change your settings on the fly?!  Give me 100!!!  But wait–I’ve heard that go GoPros are buggy when the battery gets low.  Does that effect this amazing invention too?  Unfortunately, the answer is YEEEESSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!  If the battery power on your GoPro or on the remote are low, the two will stop talking to each other. No communication equals no trust.  I’ve been burned many a time where I’ll have a GoPro on the roof of our car and we see something ahead that is super dynamic, I calmly reach down, pick up the remote, hit record… but all I see are blinking WiFi lines. No connection. And I start cursing.

Side note, turning the WiFi ON on your GoPro so you can use the remote absolutely kills the GoPro battery.

2.) The LCD Screen. One thing I find super annoying is the menu system on the GoPros. Although they are very simple, the functionality can be very frustrating. If you accidentally click one too many times and miss your intended setting you’ll have to cycle all the way through again. There is no back button. One accessory that helps this is the LCD screen. It makes pretty much everything better on the GoPro.  It is a touch screen. So now you can easily get your GoPro set up the way you want to very quickly. Another awesome benefit is you can actually see the shot you are setting up! Love that. But again, it absolutely kills your battery. So if you use this accessory, be ready for all the trust issues I’ve mentioned above.

There are a lot of other issues I have with our GoPro’s – they heat up, you need a ton of accessories, the post-production work flow is terrible, they are horrible at night, they have no fixed exposure (try shooting a sunset or sunrise with a go GoPro – you will be very disappointed unless it is really cloudy), etc.  The list is really quite long.  But my biggest complaint – and why I say I love our GoPros but I’m not in love with them – is that you just can’t trust them.  And just like any other piece of good/great equipment, if you can’t trust, it you can’t love it.


So, you’re making a documentary.  Awesome.  And your subject gained some local notoriety back in 2003.  Perfect.  So you go to YouTube and try to find that news story.  Hm.  No dice.  No problem, you say.  I’m internet savvy.  I’ll held over to one of the big national news sites that must have covered this.  Surely, NBC was on top of it and has it in their archives.  No?  That’s cool.  It’s probably over on CBS.  Nope.  But you KNOW it was covered.  And it wasn’t that long ago.  Doesn’t a record of it exist?


This is the question we found ourselves asking as we tried to dig up some old footage for I AM BIG BIRD.  Clearly, when we called the Las Vegas TV station where Caroll Spinney had his first show back in the 50s, we weren’t surprised to find their archive didn’t include his work.  But when we called New England-based channels seeking news stories from 2005, we came up empty.  It turns out that getting news footage isn’t as easy as we thought.  So what did we do?

First, we gave up contacting local news stations.  Why?  Their archives don’t exist for much past 90 days.  And oftentimes, they refuse to license clips to be used in docs and will only sell them to outlets like CNN, etc.

Second, we enlisted the help of a broadcast monitoring service, which essentially is a company that monitors and records news broadcasts.  Sometimes, they are affiliated with networks or companies, other times, they are completely independent. These services are great, however, they too don’t keep records too far back—they say they just don’t have the space, which makes sense if you consider the never-ending news cycle.

For some reason, the companies we called didn’t offer an online database that we could search.  Instead, we had to call them, explain what we were looking for and then wait to hear back.  They then took our information and used their internal databases, which rely on transcripts of old broadcasts, and started searching.  Two companies returned results, but neither could offer us a preview of the clip.  Instead, we relied on transcripts.  Interestingly enough, the clips were very similar, but one cost over three times as much.  Do your homework before choosing a service; it’ll save you money.

Once we selected and paid for the clips, all of the companies were able to send us digital files.  Keep in mind, however, the fee you pay is NOT a license fee—you’re just paying to obtain them for review.  Should you decide to use them, you still hold the responsibility for clearing the clips to appear in your film.

To get you started, here are a few broadcast monitoring services we ended up calling:




Happy hunting!