Keri Goff's Extreme Experience

Keri Goff - Vice President & Video Editor, A Cut Above Video Productions, Inc.
January 2011

Walking into the construction zone at 8pm Saturday night, I couldn’t help but notice the absence of a film crew. A large amount of dump trucks, volunteers and dirt yes, but not a single camera operator. No one from ABC’s hit television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” was in attendance.

After a few minutes of glancing around I notice two Sony Handycam camcorders mounted high above the heads of volunteers and spectators. I think to myself, surely they have to have more advanced equipment than that? However at the end of my 6 hour shift into night, these two small cameras, with red lights blinking like beacons of the television industry, are all that shine through. I leave Sunday morning cold and tired with no more insight as to the making of a hit TV production.

I returned to the construction site Friday morning at 7am and much to my surprise there is a house on the pile of dirt I left only five days before, but the absence of any real film crew leaves me baffled. Still blinking their lights, the small cameras are feeding the internet with a steady stream of data.

Around 10:30am on Friday the magic begins with the arrival of a monstrous jib and operators, then three more camera men appear. Each man bearing a Sony XD cam, portable lighting equipment and a tag along boom operator. Finally, my curiosity is being fed.

Around the same time as the camera crew’s arrival I am approached by designer Vanessa Price and given an all access “Designers Guest” badge in exchange for giving up my lunch break and being her right hand person for the day. With my no restrictions pass in hand, I am allowed to work with designers and talent Michael Moloney, Paige Hemmis and Ty Pennington under the supervision of Ms. Price. While mostly finding accent pieces for Michael, I am allowed full access to the entire house, even Ty’s secret room, so of course I take a quick tour, noting more small cameras mounted on brackets on the walls in almost every room. During this time I found a camera operator taking a break and decided to find out as much as I could about the shoot.

What I learned was interesting, finding out that the entire show is shot in standard definition and only a few hours of footage each day is captured with the exception of the mounted cameras going 24/7. While each crew member uses the same piece of equipment for the season, all the equipment is rented out of Burbank California. Two trailers travel with the extreme bus (at night to attract the least attention) carting all of the equipment needed to make a one hour show. A total of four main cameras make up the shoot, three hand held and one on the jib.

Around 12pm on Friday the activity is really getting into swing, volunteers are asked to take the furniture out of the house and put it back into a moving van so the crew can shoot Ty’s “We have the keys!” segment and then show Ty and the other designers unloading the furniture to the volunteers to bring back into the house.

After that the extreme makeover bus is pulled in front of the house and we commence two hours of cheering for the limo to pull up and yelling “Move That Bus” for roughly 5 takes of B-roll to be used in conjunction with the actual family coming home.

Around 4pm the family does come home and only the hand-held cameras are used for the true “Move That Bus” reaction from the family. Many takes later, using only the one jib, the family is let into their new home and the crowd disperses. After the shooting is complete the footage is sent back to the home base in CA, to be turned around and delivered to ABC within 4 to 6 weeks.


© 2011 Keri Goff
Editor and Vice President of A Cut Above Video Productions, Inc.