“We’ll just strap a safety harness on the photographer, and put him out on the skid of the helicopter with a camera.” This remarkable and seemingly unthinkable stroke of genius, probably uttered over drinks shared by a TV photographer and a helicopter pilot, jump-started a TV news niche that ultimately formed the career of WXIA photographer Bruce Mason.
Mason’s niche made him the faceless figure of numerous WXIA promos, a cameraman seen clinging precariously to an aircraft flying a thousand feet above the Atlanta skyline. It also gave him a moment of international notoriety.
As Chris Sweigart first outlined in his blog, Mason was the object of a quiz on a Japanese TV show called “Show by Shobai.” The segment translates roughly into “World’s Super Master Quiz.” The segment aired in 1995. The video (uploaded to Youtube by Sweigart, courtesy of Mason) is embedded below. Below that are some translation highlights.
0:07 – Segment title roughly translates: World’s Super Master Quiz
0:09 – Question: This cameraman stands on (blank) to film.
1:19 – “Elephant”
1:36 – “Hint: What vehicle does he ride on top of?”
1:48 -“Airplane” “On top of an airplane”
2:00 – “Helicopter step” “Step . . . s-t-e-p”
The segment is notable for its graphic clutter, its use of snap-zooms, and the curious absence of 1990s era Skycam pilot / reporter Bruce Erion. The staged “look — up in the sky!” reaction shots are priceless.
As noted in this space earlier, WXIA now shares helicopter services with WAGA. Aeriel video is now shot from a camera mounted on the belly of the aircraft, remotely operated from the cockpit. Bruce Mason has a new niche: He does community-outreach show-and-tell programs, typically coupled with remote weather live shots at schools on 11 Alive news at noon.
Japanese / English notes courtesy of Sara Wellman, a Spanish teacher / linguistics freak at Peachtree Elementary in Gwinnett. Wellman taught English in Japan for a year. Arigato! どうもありがとう