My TEDx Talk: Problem-Solving and Adaptation in a Digital World - Page 5

Author: Bill Zarchy
Published: August 27, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Another problem—the bright lighting in the store came from the ceiling. It was maximized, of course, to make the products look good, a different goal from making the CEO look good. The store allowed us to add sheets of our lighting diffusion to the bright fluorescents, but were we really going to shoot this man in glasses, dressed in black, walking in a continuous shot through overly bright, white product areas, then into the dimmer, black-walled theater where his shirt might melt into the walls? This plan was destined for disaster if we let the auto-exposure unit in the camera control the brightness of our picture. But a lifeline cable back to the storage room would mean that our video engineer could also monitor the picture and remotely adjust the brightness, contrast, and color on my camera as needed.

To do this right, someone had to face down the leader of the free world, a man who was accustomed to getting his way. Meaning that our director had to suggest this methodology and convince Steve we needed to monitor and control quality. As a colleague of mine often insisted, “Don’t give them what they want. Give them what they need!”

Steve grumbled about the camera cable and the soundman, but he went along, grabbing the lavalier mic and pinning it, without ceremony, onto the front of his turtleneck.

Did you notice how he pointed away at various sections of the new store and I panned the camera to each? I didn’t do that in the first take, and he stopped and glared at me. The director and I had agreed I would stay on Steve at those moments, and we would shoot the separate sections later and edit them in. Steve disagreed.

I apologize for the quality of this copy we’re viewing. Even in the original it’s a bit difficult to see what I’m panning to. But we did it his way.

And so it went. We did walk around the store quite a bit on camera. We couldn’t do it all in one take, so we cut and re-set between sections. In the new Genius Bar, Steve told the audience, “I’m not a genius, but I’ll stand behind here …” At the back of the store, the theater video and audio hiccupped and glitched briefly as he switched modes. He grew angry about the glitch, called in an Apple engineer, dressed him down, and appeared to fire him on the spot. The man left quietly, but the following week our client assured me that he was still on the job and back in Steve’s good graces.

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Article Author: Bill Zarchy

Bill Zarchy ( is a freelance director of photography, writer, and teacher based in San Francisco. He has shot film, video, and HDTV projects in 30 countries and 40 states, including interviews with three former presidents for the Emmy-winning West Wing Documentary Special. …

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