There I was, standing on the corner of a busy street in downtown Toronto during one of the busiest corporate technology conferences of the year. I had been following a subject around the city and reached down to grab my second camera. Hmm… that’s weird… there’s nothing there. Maybe it’s on the other side… Shit. My head filled with instant panic and utter disbelief. My camera was gone. The subject I was following became a blur, and suddenly everyone around me was moving in slow motion. Where the hell did I lose the camera?
I had been following the subject around the downtown core for the last few hours, switching between my Sony FS7 and DJI Osmo for a few cooler, steadier shots. I immediately began to backtrack in my head – the places we’d passed, the landmarks we’d stopped to look at – wondering where the camera’s strap left my shoulder.
Then it hit me. Hard. We had taken a cab from the subject’s hotel a few kilometers away to get a better view of the lake, about an hour ago. My heart dropped even further as I began to realize what I had just done: I lost a camera in the back of a taxi in the busiest city in the country.
Immediately I began to calculate the possibilities. Is there a chance in God’s green earth that the driver picked up the camera and returned it to his dispatch’s lost and found? Is it possible he tried to look me up to get a hold of me and try to return it?
I circled back to reality. No way. Not a chance. This is Toronto. Either the driver picked up his next customer and they swiped it realizing how valuable it could be, or the driver took it himself. I’m not saying all cab drivers are this way, but the odds certainly weren’t in my favour. I paused for a moment to structure an ounce of humour in an otherwise terrible situation and muttered, “should’ve taken an Uber.”
As I began to build up the courage to admit the Osmo could be gone for good, I had a moment of eureka. I looked down at my FS7, which was still on and capturing an image of my feet motionless on the ground, and anxiously jammed a finger into the controls to pull up my footage from earlier in the day.
I internalized for a moment. Was I recording before we got in the cab? Yes… yes I was… What was I looking at? I remember standing on the edge of the sidewalk as the subject walked through the hotel doors, across my frame and-my heart raced. I watched her open the cab and climb inside. What are the odds I captured the cab number before she climbed in?
I spent a few moments looking through my footage. At this point, I knew my odds were getting lower and lower with every clip I looked through. I KNEW I had this. There was no way I missed the cab number.
And then it happened. I opened a clip, which showed the subject walking from the hotel and through my frame, as I panned over to the cab. I was slightly zoomed in at the time, so I could only make out the cabs upper half, at least as far as I could tell on the camera’s small display screen. I needed my laptop. I needed to blow up the footage and make sure. Whether I got the camera back depended entirely on whether or not I could find the cab’s numbers in one of these frames.
I rushed back to the hotel to retrieve my laptop. I wasn’t ready to give up – at least not yet. For some reason my laptop seemed to load slower than ever. Perhaps it could sense my racing heartbeat, or the blood pumping through my fingertips as I smashed the keyboard letters to enter my password.
Minutes later, I had the footage uploaded into Premiere. I knew if I could find the clip, I’d be able to blow it up and at least give myself a shot at making out the numbers. I dragged the clip into the timeline and used my arrow keys to move frame-by-frame. The slow motion replay seemed to last forever as the camera panned over towards the cab.
Immediately, I was hit with a cinematographer’s worst enemy: midday sunlight. The sun was angled perfectly, and seemed to bounce off the car just enough to shield my view from what I needed to see. Hang in there, I muttered, and began to move through frames a little slower.
It didn’t seem real. It seemed like it was some sort of a cliché from a fairy tail. My body felt rejuvenated and full of adrenaline. I had found a frame. A single frame. I could make out the cab’s four-digit identification number for a mere moment before they vanished from view. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was the God of cinematographers watching over me? Was Lord DJI unwilling to release me from its grasp? It didn’t matter. I was overflowing with joy and was too busy celebrating the powers of technology to question why I got so lucky. I was going to get my Osmo back.
Hours later, I was en route to meet the driver. I had contacted the cab company who managed to get in touch with him after 20 phone calls and a local drive-by. It had given me some time to look through more of my footage. Not only had I captured the cab’s number, but I had also captured the driver’s Taxi License certificate, which, with a bit of minor editing, allowed me to learn his name and even see his picture.
As I write this with my Osmo at my side, I reflect on the powers of technology and video in particular, which made it possible for me to lose a camera, and find it again, all in the same day.
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