Didn’t I just do a post saying that writing for planet5D is humbling?
I believe I did, yes.
Or maybe I should be quoting another Mike Meyer’s character, Dr. Evil, instead:
“You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads.”
Because while most of us are debating the purchase of a Sony A7s or Panasonic GH4 – or maybe eyeing ever-so-lasciviously a DJI Phantom drone or MoVI M5, Joe rented an entire helicopter (among other things) to get this beautiful timelapse of Australia’s Gold Coast.
I don’t know about you, but I want to know EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of how Joe did EVERY SINGLE THING in this shoot.
In fact, I reached out to Joe to ask him for more details, and he responded promptly (thank you, Joe). You can find them below his original note to us.
Australia’s Gold Coast – Timelapse
From Joe Capra:
I was recently commissioned by Gold Coast Tourism (visitgoldcoast.com) to shoot a timelapse video highlighting the city of Gold Coast and surrounding areas. On this video I wanted to try something new for a change, and the first thing that came to my mind was helicopter timelapses.
I love helicopters. These shots have been done before so they are not completely new, but they are still very rare. I pitched the idea to Gold Coast Tourism and they loved it, and managed to get a little extra budget for the project so we could give it a try.
The first major decision I had to make was how the heck am I going to shoot this, and with what. I was initially dead set on shooting this as actual multiple still frame timelapse using a DSLR such as the Canon 1DX. I wanted to shoot with a DSLR in hopes of using slower shutter speeds to possibly get some light trails on cars.
However, shooting at these slow shutter speeds from a slow moving helicopter increased the chance of failure and blurry frames. Again, this was my first attempt and I didn’t want to risk it, so I finally changed my mind in favor of shooting it as video and just speeding it up. Since I was not going to get and light trails either way it wouldn’t matter if I shot it as video. With video I would have much more flexibility in terms of time remapping and playback.
After doing a bit of research on aerial gear and filming from helicopters, it looked like the best tools for the job that fit our very small budget for these shots was a Tyler Middle Mount with a Sony F55 camera and Arri Alura 18-200mm lens. Because of the Tyler Middle Mount’s size it required the use of an AS350 B2 Eurocopter helicopter. I shot everything 4K raw at 24fps, but I also shot a few shots at 30 and 60 fps.
There are a lot of factors at play when trying to shoot timelapse from a helicopter, such as pilot skill, wind, weather, and airspace restrictions. You have to have a skilled pilot who can fly you very very slow, at a constant forward speed, and crabbed into the wind in my case since I was shooting out the side of the helicopter.
This is not an easy task especially in wind, weather, and swirling vortices coming off the buildings. Luckily I had a great pilot from Gold Coast Helitours who was up to the task. He does
a lot of work on TV and feature films so he understood the shots and how he needed to fly.
Airspace restrictions in the area were tough to deal with. I had some great shots planned out that just simply could not be done because of airspace restrictions. The most dramatic shots would be travelling along the coastal roads low and then directly into and through the city.
Airspace restrictions just would not allow this in such a densely populated area. Before the sun set we were able to fly fairly low, but after the sun went down we had to raise our altitude to something like 1000′ above the tallest structure within a mile radius. Well the tallest building on the Gold Coast is 1000′ which would put us at around 2000′, which is way too high for the type of shots I wanted.
As a result, we had a very tiny window of filming time to shoot and get it right.
Post work was not too difficult on these shots. A couple passes through warp stabilizer in Adobe After Effects and everything was good. The Tyler Middle Mount I shot on did a great job keeping the shots smooth and shake free.
With this being my first attempt, and basically a proof of concept, I think it turned out pretty well. This was a major learning experience for me and now I know what I need to do differently next time. I plan on getting back up in the air and giving it another try in the near future.
Here are additional questions that Joe was willing to answer:
Did you use an eMotimo TB3?
“Yup, the eMotimo is pretty awesome. I have friends who even throw their epic on it.”
Can you give us more detail about your post workflow?
“Working on it only part time, the video took me about 4 months to finish. My post workflow usually starts off in Adobe Lightroom where I organize shots and do the initial color correction and post processing. If there are any shots that need exposure ramping (“holy grail” shots) then I run those shots through LRTimelapse (www.lrtimelapse.com).
LRTimelapse is a great app and a must have for anyone who shoots timelapse. I then take all the shots into Adobe After Effects. AE is where most of the work happens. I color code any shots that need stabilization, deflickering, dust removal, or noise reduction. For shots that need stabilization I use Warp Stabilizer.
I also do some slight color correction in AE, add an unsharp mask effect for sharpening, and also clone out random birds or dust spots I may happen to have. Once I am done with everything in AE I usually render everything out as full 16bit 4K tiff sequences as well as a 1080p h264 proxy for editing in Premiere.
The next step is to bring all the shots into Premiere for the final edit. The last step is to render out the final video using Adobe Media Encoder with the Vimeo Preset, then I upload to Vimeo.”
When you weren’t in a helicopter, you still had nice motion timelapses. What did you use for those?
The heli shots were shot Slog and then graded with after effects.”
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)
And always with the ambition of authenticity, humanity and wit.