Action cameras are awesome! People use them when they ski down a mountain, when they go scuba diving, when they go motorcycle riding, or they even can be attached to your dog for those crazy play sessions at the park.
We specialize in shooting photos and video for conventions, expos, seminars, and large corporate events in Las Vegas. Many of our clients put a lot of time and money into creating a positive experience in their event expo not just for the attendees, but also for the vendors. After all, it’s the vendors paying for their booths that help to make their convention profitable.
As we film a lot of footage of these events and frequently are hired to make a highlight video that the event promoter can use to show the success of the event and also to promote the event next year. We also film a lot for social media and press releases as well. We often look for quirky things to film at these events that we think will make for a few seconds of interesting footage that the client will enjoy. One of the frequent requests we get is to do a time-lapse of an entire expo hall being constructed in the days leading up to the doors opening for the attendees.
We use a variety of time-lapse cameras for this purpose, some of which are good for doing a time-lapse over the course of many days. Sometimes we don’t need to film for that long though, and a simple GoPro camera will work just fine. They have great quality and stitch the footage together really well (when we first started doing the cameras wouldn’t assemble the images into a video for you. We had to load hundreds or thousands of photos into Adobe Premiere Pro and make a time-lapse out of all of them manually, which was a bit of a pain!).
If you’ve ever used a GoPro before, you’ll know that their batteries have a very limited capacity, so our trick to using them for all-day filming is to remove the battery from the camera and power it with either a long AC power cord or a large, portable power bank plugged into the camera via a USB cable. Then we just put signs up all around it asking people not to touch it, which usually works just fine.
Some time ago we had a request to film the build-out of a very creative expo-floor because of the creativity that went into its design. Unlike many of these shows where all the booths are simple pipe-and-drape, the main aisle of this convention was set up to look like “Main Street USA” with different facades designed to look like that theme. We were tasked to film the three-day construction of the expo hall from multiple angles, so that is what we did. We had GoPro cameras set to record all day for three days. Not a problem. We got into the giant ballroom the day before the load-in and we set our cameras.
For the first two days of construction, our cameras sat all day, clicking away every ten seconds. At the end of the second day, we were walking the hall, powering them down for the night to prepare for them to film on the third and final day of the expo hall construction the next day. It was late, and we had several days of conference photography to go prepare for. That’s when I got the call at 11 p.m. from the event promoter: “I know this is an odd request, but is one of your cameras facing the northwest corner of the expo hall?”
If you’ve ever seen a movie or documentary about Las Vegas, one topic that frequently comes up is the “Eye in the sky”, which is the slang term for the highly detailed security cameras that cover every millimeter of the casino floors looking for cheats. What most people find surprising when they do business in Las Vegas is that in spite of there being so much security coverage everywhere in the Las Vegas resort hotels and casinos, the one place where you almost never find a camera is inside the convention facilities and banquet rooms. Some things are probably best left private, it would seem.
As it turns out, one of the primary sponsors of the conference had something stolen out of their booth… a brand-new GoPro camera, still in the original packaging. They bought it to use in their booth as a raffle prize for the attendees who stopped by the booth and left a business card. They knew exactly where it was when it went missing and they even knew approximately when it went missing. The only issue was, they don’t know who took it.
It would seem as though when everyone went to lunch for the day (including the employees of the booth) the camera went missing. Was it one of their own employees? Was it an employee of the hotel? Could it have just been some random person walking by who stole it? Lots of people speculated and there were many theories as to who took it, but nobody knew for sure. All they knew was one of their employees put it inside a check-in table on the corner of their booth just before they all left for lunch and when they returned, it was gone.
“Is there any way one of your cameras may have been pointing in the area of their booth and got a look at the thief?” the event promoter asked.
“I doubt it,” I told them. “These are GoPro cameras, not security cameras. These things shoot very wide and probably couldn’t get enough detail of someone’s face to get a description of them. Plus, the cameras are mounted against the wall and are 10 feet in the air. I doubt we could have gotten a decent photo of the thief”.
They sounded very disappointed, so I told them I’d see what I could find anyway. It was late at night, I had a 10-hour shooting day ahead of me but what the heck. Anything to make the client happy, right?
“Where in the expo hall was their booth and where in the booth do they think it was taken from?”
The promoter gave me a description and much to my amazement, not only did I have one of our cameras right next to their booth, but it was aiming right in the direction of where the supposed theft took place! Now I felt like I was on the team of CSI trying to use some sophisticated piece of technology (a $400 GoPro) to catch a burglar!
I dumped all the footage and started reviewing everything shot through the day. I could see the time code in the footage that lined right up with when everyone was about to go on break. I saw the employee walk up to the corner cabinet, open the doors in the back, and put the GoPro inside. She was pretty discreet about it but someone had to see her put it in there. This was my job to figure it out, but who?!
Just as I was about to fall asleep at my desk, I saw the whole thing! IT WAS ONE OF THE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS!
As the ballroom started to clear out, I noticed someone pacing back and forth in the aisle by their booth waiting for the coast to be clear. He then dove into the cabinet, grabbed the GoPro, and off he went. I couldn’t believe it!
As I wound the footage back even further I noticed he was standing in the aisle watching the booth employee put the GoPro in the cabinet, so he waited for everyone to leave before making his move. Little did he know that I had him on camera, and to top it all off, I got a pretty clear shot of his face!
It was past midnight at this point but I was wide awake having just caught our thief on camera! I fired off an email to the event manager and attached all photos documenting the theft. The next day I wasn’t scheduled to be at the conference until noon. As soon as I walk into the Media Room and greeted everyone, I was told, “Did you hear? They found your thief!!!”
“Wow, that was fast, what happened?” I said.
It turns out that word spread quickly that photos may exist of the burglary and that a search was on for the culprit. At 10 a.m. a booth carpenter showed up at the Exhibition Services desk clutching a GoPro camera, still in the original packaging.
“I heard that someone lost a GoPro camera. I just happened to find this in the parking garage so I assume this is the missing camera? Beats me how it got there, but here I am turning it in!”.
We looked at the photos I had of the thief, and it was clearly the same guy. Once he was confronted with the evidence, he cracked.
“Yeah, I did it,” he said, realizing he had been busted. He was fired on the spot, throwing away a lengthy career over a $400 camera. The vendor managed to get their giveaway prize back and we all got a chuckle over the fact that we caught a GoPro thief… with a GoPro!
About the author: Adam Sternberg has been a professional photographer and videographer in Las Vegas for over 25 years. He is the co-owner of CorporatePhotographers.com, one of the largest corporate photo and video companies in the city.