What better way to demonstrate the capabilities of IBM’s artificial intelligence system, Watson, than to show it working its hardest, and when it really matters?
For the film IBM partnered with oil and gas company Woodside, and creative agency the Barbarian Group, to create ‘70 Miles from Shore with Watson: Woodside Energy and IBM’.
The result is a two-minute journey that shows IBM’s Watson working and learning, on one of the toughest work sites in the world – an oil rig.
To produce a film on such an especially challenging scale required an experienced set of hands, and PSN Australia was enlisted for the job through Production Service Network’s U.S. Liaison Carolyn Hill.
Choosing to shoot on the rig for real as opposed to a studio levied some strict safety regulations on the team that had not been previously encountered.
“We hadn’t shot on an oil rig before,” explains Producer Mark ‘Bish’ Bishop, “but we do have plenty of experience shooting at mining sites in remote areas, which was useful as there are definite logistical similarities when it comes to productions on large-scale worksites.”
A restriction of being able to only take five people onto the rig was a challenge the Australian team resolved locally. They proposed a multi-talented Director-DOP they’d often worked with before, Tristan Houghton, to which the Barbarian Group gave a resounding thumbs up.
Situated 100 kilometres offshore from Karratha, which is a 15-hour drive from the Perth and a further six-hour flight from Sydney, Mark says the team was unable to scout the location in advance and had to think ahead to prepare for the isolated nature of the rig. “The transportation of the equipment to and from the platform took a month, and with only two days on the rig itself, executing the commercial came down to having a very clear vision of the film we wanted to capture while also keeping a flexible outlook on exactly how we would go about achieving that.”
Woodside and the Barbarian Group ensured that the team were properly trained for the conditions, with the full PSN Australia crew undertaking some very particular and physically demanding safety certificates which included simulation drills: “We had to practice escaping from an underwater helicopter and crawling through a burning house – all simulations of course,” adds Mark. “But even with all the training, once we were on the rig there were very strict regulations on when and where we could move around, the location itself was in a constant state of movement and the employees on the rig were completely unused to having untrained crew around. With all of these elements factoring in it forced us to get quite creative once we started shooting.”
The resulting film is a moving look at the impact of AI in a realistically gritty and dangerous context, and for the PSN Australia team, it was an exceptional project.
“For me, just being on the rig was incredible – and creating this film under such restrictive conditions turned it into a real labour of love.” Adds Mark.
“And the thrill of being flown in on a helicopter over shark infested waters was pretty exhilarating!”