It has all the trappings of a Hollywood production: bright lights, players who have honed their crafts to near perfection and video equipment to document every bit of the action on film.
The videotapes made here do not launch the careers of little-known starlets or handsome leading men. In "Fantastic Voyage" fashion, Jeff Allred's films capture the workings of the human knee or shoulder, and the surgeries employed to repair ligaments and bones damaged by injuries that may have resulted from a nasty spill on the ski slope or a wrenching blow on a football field.Allred's still photographs and videotapes are shot in the LDS Hospital operating room of Dr. Lonnie Paulos and Dr. Thomas S. Rosenberg, Salt Lake orthopedic surgeons who are considered two of the most accomplished in their field.
The surgeons employ an arthroscope, a pencil-thin microscopic eye that can be maneuvered about a knee or shoulder joint to ascertain the extent of an injury.
The affected joint is irrigated with water during the procedure to give the camera a clear view of the injury, Allred said.
Unlike photographic equipment that can shoot close-ups or subjects as far away as the moon, the arthroscope works in a field measured in millimeters. "Two millimeters makes a huge difference. Four millimeters is disaster," Allred said in recent interview.
Allred, who has no formal medical training, said the surgeons move the cameras about the joint and view their work on a video monitor. If the surgeons are using a new surgical instrument or technique, the arthroscopy and procedures conducted performed outside the joint are committed to videotape and still photographs.
Then comes the difficult part of the job, condensing hours of surgery into short, yet specific segments. "I have to show every procedure. A whole operation has to be knocked down from two hours to two to three minutes," he said.
Allred, who worked formerly in commercial photography sales, processing and service, said one of the most difficult aspect of his job is working in an operating room.
"The hardest thing to get used to is being in a sterile field. Not everyone in the operating room can touch the patient or the instruments used on the patient," he said.
The videotapes, still photographs and slides are used for educational purposes in medical schools and professional conventions.
Allred works exclusively for Salt Lake Knee & Sports Medicine, but he has done free-lance work for surgeons throughout the Salt Lake Valley for the past 10 years.
Since the work is so specialized, only a few photographers in the valley shoot medical photographs and videos. Yet, Allred said the work can be lucrative, depending on the amount of work a free-lance photographer acquires.
"It depends on your market and qualifications. If you're really well-known, it's not uncommon to make hundreds of thousand of dollars. Of course that means you never see your wife, and you never see your kids. But I also know people who are starving to death doing this."
For Allred, the work is a two-way educational process. He teaches the surgeons what types of film or videotape best captures the particular surgical technique or the ligament, organ or injury.
In turn, Allred learns about the functions of the human body - how a knee joint works or a heart pumps. And through the videotapes and still photographs, medical students and fellow surgeons learn as well.
"I'm kind of the bridge between the novice and the experts," he said. "My responsibility is almost the same that a newspaper reporter has. I get to sit back and watch the interaction."
Allred said he wanted to be a doctor when he was a child, but "I had a problem with chemistry and algebra." But his work has enabled him to combine all of his interests.
"People say `Doesn't it gross you out?' No, it's fascinating how the human body works, how it's put together," he said.