Gilliss Oil Tools: I Need a Video

27 03 2013

The call was an interesting one, to say the least. The client needed a brochure for his product, and a video, and all of this had to happen pretty quickly. He was out of the country and would be for several months. Not only would he be out of the country, but soon he would be on another continent! On top of that, he wanted photos for use for an updated web page, and his web page designer was on a third continent, on the other side of the planet. In the meantime, I had holidays coming up soon and I, too, would be out of the country. Would I be able to help him out, and get it done before either of us was on an airplane?

The answer was “Yes.”

It was a big challenge because this would be my first commercial video project.


The company was Gilliss Oil Tools, and the project is for the “Bulldog Clamp.” It’s a mechanical clamp for picking up oilfield tubulars on service or drilling rigs. It sees a lot of use with service rigs. Instead of wrapping a sling around a pipe and then unwrapping it, the clamp grabs on, and then is manually released. It has a safety lock to ensure it will not let go unintentionally. Some people who don’t have this tool actually lift these very heavy pipes by hand.


All-in-all, it’s a pretty useful tool. From the video editing work, I found it takes about 15 seconds to unlock it, move it to the next pipe, and engage it again.


Tabletop photography of the Bulldog Clamp

The photography part was relatively straight forward. I picked up for different sizes of models and brought them home. My kitchen table became a studio, with a white paper backdrop.  I also did some tabletop video work, showing how the tool works. After, oh, about 20 takes, including several slow motion takes, I was satisfied with the in-house work.

The next stage was to line up a service rig to visit and film. Dean Gilliss’ son, Logan, did the leg work, and came out with me that day. The conditions worked out very well. It wasn’t too cold, and the cloudy day made for nice soft lighting.

Finally, I went to the plant in Estevan, Axis Services Inc, where they are manufactured and got still and video media there.

The brochure was printed at Del’s Commercial Printing in Estevan. The final result looked amazing.

The excellent website design was done by Tareina Hunt of Nut-Nae Art Websites & Graphics. She has done a substantial number of websites for local businesses and organizations. I recently worked with her on the Captive Oilfield Rentals website, providing photography and a virtual tour. However, during this project Tareina was in the Philippines, 10 time zones away. She used the still photos for the web photo gallery, and included a PDF of the brochure to make it printable anywhere. The focal point of the web design was the video.

I used three video cameras in the shoot. The Nikon D4 did the bulk of the work. I also used two point of view cameras. The GoPro was positioned in several odd angle using the heavy-duty magnetic mount I made for it. I even put it on the clamp itself to get a unique point of view.


The music is a very catchy, manly tune that really drove the video editing process. The clips are timed so that actions occur in time with the beat. The slow-motion occurs during the slow part of the song, and the quick slideshow during the speedy part. I especially like the end, where the welder strikes an arc just as the music crescendos at 4:13. I tried to use a fast-cut editting feel throughout. The video slideshow of still photos, which worked as the underlay for the whole video, is specially done to be in perfect timing with the music. This allowed for very sharp effects for the opening and closing titles.

As someone who has worked with still photography for, well, ever, I have to say, in this case, the video presentation really makes the product shine. Seeing it work immediately shows the potential customers how effective the product is. In a flash, they get it. You see, one, you want one.

Southern Range Rig 8

Southern Range Rig 8

The testimony by Southern Range Rig 8 driller Clint Law was totally unscripted. I simply asked him what the Bulldog Clamp is and why they used it.

The video was hosted on YouTube. The choice of YouTube was very deliberate. It is universally accessible. It means the web host does not have to deal with different media players or transmitting large video  files. It was shot in high definition, and can be viewed in 720p.  YouTube is also important for the client because it will allow him to track the analytics very closely to monitor the effectiveness of the campaign. I set up a YouTube channel for the client to make all this happen. Similarly, I set up a Google Analytics account for the client to track the performance of the revamped website.

The final result can be seen here.

I spent my week in Vegas attending WPPI 2013 – Wedding and Portrait Photographers International. There I was able to pick up an number of tools and resources that will improve future video work, including professional audio recording equipment meant for work in outdoor conditions.  A professional camcorder is in the works, too.

For my first time out, I have to say I am very happy with the results. Already this video has led to two other similar projects planned for this spring. Watch from them here.



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