Philip Grossman Explores Chernobyl’s Deadly Secrets

by Meagan Keane

posted on 09-16-2017

In the early hours of April 26, 1986, a series of failures led to disastrous results at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The resulting nuclear fallout would forever change the course of nuclear discourse around the world.

More than 30 years later, engineer and filmmaker Philip Grossman takes audiences deep into Chernobyl to explore how such a disaster could have occurred. Grossman’s investigation, which included footage shot by him and edited with Adobe Premiere Pro, aired on the Science Channel as the first episode of the second season of Mysteries of the Abandoned.

“We interviewed people who know Chernobyl intimately: engineers, controllers, operators, and politicians,” says Grossman. “We even took cameras into the control room of Reactor No. 4, ground zero of the accident. It’s a fascinating look at an important piece of history.”

Mysteries of the Abandoned: Chernobyl’s Deadly Secrets

Following his passion

Grossman didn’t start out his career intending to be on television. The child of a surgeon and an artist, Grossman’s interests have always straddled creative and technical worlds. He studied engineering with a specialty in illumination engineering, which led to jobs designing lighting systems for retail, media, and entertainment spaces, as well as working in hotel industry technology. But after years in the business world, Grossman decided it was time to nurture his creative side. In 2011, he left corporate life to focus on photography and his burgeoning film hobby.

“I was looking for a powerful, unique subject to build a compelling body of work around,” says Grossman. “It just so happened that 2011 was the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl. I grew up Near Three Mile Island, 11 miles from the Nuclear Power Plant, so I experienced a nuclear scare firsthand. My family emigrated from Ukraine at the turn of the 20th century. I even studied nuclear engineering for a while in college. It seemed serendipitous. There weren’t any public tours to Chernobyl at the time, so I searched out information on the internet and found an individual who had been a few times before. He told me I could go with him on his next visit.”

Mysteries of the Abandoned: Chernobyl’s Deadly Secrets

After his rare excursion into the Zone of Exclusion, the contaminated area surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Complex, he was hooked. Over the next seven years, Grossman returned ten times, spending more than 100 days in the Zone of Alienation filming, photographing, and documenting the results of the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident. He was the first person to film drone footage at Chernobyl and even got married there.

Grossman eventually found his way to Ping Pong Productions with more than 60 hours of 4K video and 20,000 photographs. Casey Brumel, Co-Founder of Ping Pong, asked Grossman if he’d ever considered doing a TV series. He suggested the idea because of Grossman’s engineering background and creative endeavors. Brumel ultimately pitched the idea of a TV series to the Science Channel with the Chernobyl episode as the pilot.

After the show got the green light Grossman was tapped to host the program and participated in five more days of filming with a crew at Chernobyl. The finished show is a mix of new footage and Grossman’s existing content.

Creating art with Adobe

Whether creating art for himself or audiences around the world, Grossman has long used Adobe Creative Cloud apps. As a photographer, Grossman works with Photoshop CC and Photoshop Lightroom CC. “Lightroom is maybe the best product Adobe’s ever made,” says Grossman. “Color correcting, tagging, and organizing thousands of photos from a shoot can be tough, but Lightroom takes all of the effort out of it.”

As Grossman expanded his creative vision into film, Premiere Pro CC became his app of choice. When filming in Chernobyl, Grossman would use up to six different cameras in a day, from GoPro to RED. With Premiere Pro, Grossman can drop any type of footage into the timeline without needing to transcode anything first.

“In a place like Chernobyl, my bandwidth is extremely limited, so the ability to throw everything onto a hard drive and start editing is amazing,” says Grossman. “I can make a quick cut and pop a clip onto my blog to share my work right away.

To fully polish a video, Grossman sometimes adjusts color with the Lumetri Color tools in Premiere Pro, adds titles from After Effects CC, or records voiceovers through Adobe Audition CC.

“Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, Adobe Creative Cloud apps have all of the features you need to create something fantastic,” says Grossman. “It’s easy to experiment and bring something new to the screen, whether it’s for a blog or television.”

Philip Grossman will be presenting in the Adobe stand at IBC 2017 on Sunday, September 17th at 3:00 PM (6:00 AM PT). His presentation on Monday, September 18th at 5:00 PM (8:00 AM PT) will be live streamed on the Adobe Premiere Pro Facebook page (@premierepro).

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Topics: Video & Audio

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