The on-screen contestants in last summer's "Survivor" weren't the only ones stymied by their location.
"You could get lost very easily at night with absolutely no bearing, especially when it was raining," says Matt Battaglia, an engineer with Wexler Video, the Burbank-based video equipment company that wired Palau Tiga, the remote island off the coast of western Borneo where all the action took place. "It was tremendously muddy and rainy."
The island is five kilometers long, a kilometer wide and dense with forest canopies and footpaths barely wide enough for a single person to walk.
"You would walk down a trail, look back and it didn't look the same," he says. "It wasn't a place you would want to spend any length of time."
The tropical island presented a host of challenges for Wexler Video, most significantly protecting equipment from the damaging effects of humidity and salt water. Battaglia was on the island months ahead of the actual shoot with "Survivor" producer Mark Burnett's crew to decide what equipment was necessary: which special backpacks would protect the cameras for transport, what special procedures would be required to de-humidify the equipment after each shoot and what would be needed for special cleaning procedures.
"There are hundreds of pieces of equipment to choose from," says Battaglia. "We had to research and put together the best equipment for the job."
As it was, over 81 cases of equipment were sent to the island, including cameras, wireless microphones, TV monitors, playback machines and Avid editing systems.
Chris Thompson, president of Wexler Video, says his staff spent about two and a half months preparing for the show, purchasing, testing and picking out what would and what wouldn't work.
"We put our equipment to a special program to make sure it was ruggedized and would work, or they wouldn't have a show," he says.
Wexler Video has carved out a niche for itself, supplying video equipment to the reality TV industry for more than a decade.
The company was established by CEO Robert Wexler in 1984. The beginnings consisted of a simple store-front equipment video rental company in which Wexler did most of the work himself.
"We started out as more of a general service rental company in as much as we had a broad spectrum of rental equipment," says Wexler, whose first major account was the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
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