Tourism Queensland – A timelapse shoot from sunset to sunrise

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Tourism and Events Queensland called me up a while back asking if it’s possible to shoot a sunset to sunrise timelapse project and then have the edited video go live on the same day. I said yes. Here’s how we did it.

Details about the project:

The tourism board for the state of Queensland, on the East coast of Australia called me up a few months ago about a project. During the Commonwealth Games they are hosting a festival called Festival2018. A lot of activities and events are planned as part of that festival, one of them being ‘Wavefields’. You can call it a sleep over on the beach, under the stars, surrounded by a live music performance by Lawrence English.

They wanted to know if it was possible to film a timelapse piece that started before sunset, went overnight (astro time!) and ended right after sunrise. That’s usually a pretty demanding brief already, however to add to the challenge they wanted the video to go live as soon as possible (like, within 48 hours). To add some more fun to the mix they requested a livestream of the sun rising to stream to their nearly 2 million person audience on the Visit Queensland Facebook page.

What are the main challenges on a project like this:

  • As your shooting window is so small you’ll need multiple cameras to shoot multiple angles at the same time to increase your efficiency (always look for ways to increase your efficiency). This leads to heavy bags, which is annoying to travel with. Even flying with a premium airline such as Virgin Australia you will be forced to check in some of your expensive equipment, which is never to be recommended.
  • Data processing. There is simply not enough time to record thousands of RAW photos, after which you’ll need to compile them into video files. This colour grading and rendering process takes a ton of time, which simply wasn’t available.
  • Client feedback. Usually there are a couple of rounds of feedback between the client and yourself. As we opted to deliver the video a few hours after sunrise there was very little time for feedback.
  • Livestream: you need a reliable mobile data connection to stream out high enough image quality.

What gear did we use to make this project possible:

How did we overcome these challenges:

First up, you need more than two hands and eyes. I was lucky enough to have a buddy live close by who helped me out from when I landed till when I took off again the next day. I highly recommend checking out Nicolas Rakotopare‘s work if you’re ever in need of a conservationist photographer or videographer. Nico recently moved back to the Gold Coast and it’s safe to say that this project wouldn’t have succeeded without his great help. He’s also to thank for the many great behind the scenes shots you would have seen in the production vlog. Check out his website here: Lerako.net

Now, for the solutions to the challenges brought up previously:

  • Multiple angles, multiple cameras. Firstly, pack smart. Have a full shooting kit in your carry on and the rest in your checkin bag. Ideally all is carry on but that is rarely possible. I was told about a recent crackdown on carry on weight with Virgin so I couldn’t really work around it, I packed my extra kit into a separate camera bag, which I loaded in a hard shell case that would get checked in. Luckily the luggage arrived safely. Now for the multiple cameras: this is where your assistant comes in. The other person has an extra set of hands and eyes and can help you set up and break down, as well as monitor exposure and lighting conditions etc. Shooting in two locations at the same time is now also possible.
  • Data processing. There is no time to process thousands of RAW photos, so I opted to shoot using the 6DMkII’s built in ‘4K timelapse movie mode’ which shoots and compiles a timelapse in camera. The trick here is to make sure your exposure is as close to perfect as possible, as you have very little room in post to colour grade or correct under or over exposed imagery. Having the 4K files for a HD timeline meant we could stabilise or reframe without losing any pixels as our frame was four times bigger than necessary.
  • Client feedback. It is crucial that you have a great understanding of the project and the desired outcome of your client. Having worked with lots of tourism boards in the past, as well as having worked with the specific people on this project meant that we were all ‘on the same frequency’, meaning I understood very clearly from the start what they were after. This meant that we could plan a single round of feedback to get to the end result (as opposed to two or three rounds of feedback on other projects) faster.
  • Livestream. Using the Teradek Vidiu, which accepts any HDMI signal (video and audio), transcodes it for web and streams it to your desired platform of choice we set up and tested all settings the day before. Half an hour before sunrise all the gear was set up and ready to go. I opted to connect to the internet using a 4G USB modem, which should always be a more reliable connection than hotspotting off of someone’s phone. The backup plan for any mishaps would be to go live on a mobile phone. The reason we went live on a DSLR (the 1DXMkII) was because we wanted to have high resolution footage and a lens that could zoom in, allowing us more close up footage of the sun coming out of the horizon.

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