The Terrence Malick-produced nature documentary, Awaken, is sure to blow your mind while teaching you a thing or two about our planet. Tom Lowe, director of the short film, Timescapes, brings us this incredible portrait of life, nature, and the cosmos, combining striking imagery, incredible time-lapses, underwater and aerial photography to bring us a truly immersive experience. The trailer released a few weeks back and has already collected millions of views (an unprecedented achievement for a documentary trailer). The results of the project speak for themselves, and with M83 backing your film, images aside, the experience looks to feel both epic and emotional. See for yourself.
Given Malick’s history capturing atmospheric, almost-otherworldly shots of nature and the human condition, it’s no surprise that he has chosen to back this film and its director. If the film looks groundbreaking, it’s because it is. The filmmakers used original rigs built specifically for this project in order to pull off some of what you see above.
Behind the Production
The actual production of the film took five years to complete. While many documentaries usually take longer than narrative features, the extensive shoot relied more on the gear and technology they had to build to capture the images that Lowe envisioned. The goal of Awaken was to create a film as visually striking as a mega blockbuster but using the natural world. Although the film hasn’t been released yet, I’d say, based on the trailer, Lowe succeeded.
Over on the official Instagram account for the film, we get some behind-the scenes looks into how they nabbed some of the spectacular shots in the trailer. The Second Unit Director on the film Kevin Packer used a Phantom 4K Flex for this shot.
The shot was taken in Utah in the summer of 2015. This is a pretty basic shot as far as staging and lighting goes, but in the context of the greater ideas in the film, this image takes on a truly Malick-esque feel. The steadicam demonstrates the range of cinematography the filmmakers used. You’ll see both unbelievable aerial photography as well as equally impressive shots from the ground, like this.
From there, Lowe and crew took their efforts to Dolby Labs where they worked with some of the most advanced monitors and color graders available. Here they are working on a 1,000 nit Sony X300 HDR 4K with a 4,000 nit Dolby Pulsar.
Shooting Time Lapses
The Rover uses gyros, accelerometers, a sophisticated Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), and encoded motors to keep its own chassis level at all times, regardless of terrain. It also uses an Inertial Navigation System (INS) for course self-guidance, with additional deployable local radio array (RF) for increased, pinpoint accuracy.
The rover is controlled through Kessler Cinedrive moco software and iTrack guidance and stabilization software and hardware. The autonomous, self-guided, gyro-stabilized rover is the first of its kind and could usher in a new filmmaking technique for videographers in the future.
Lowe also worked with Dubai Film and Mark Roberts Motion Control to create and mold together a 22-foot technocrane into a nine-axis, fully motion controlled “Timelapse Crane,” making it possible to move a camera in any way imaginable within a 3D space with acute precision. The possibilities were endless for Lowe, so crafting a cohesive story would be the challenge for Lowe and his crew.
How to Shoot Your Own
Even if you do not have access to million-dollar helicopters and cranes, you can still pull off that epic time lapse shot with these helpful tips.
For more in-depth coverage on all the ins and outs of shooting time lapses, check out these interviews, video essays, and breakdowns. Also, be sure to check out our own catalog of time lapses for your next project.
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- The Mind-Bending Timelapse Videos of Keith Loutit
- 10 Awesome Timelapse Photography Projects You Need to See
Body images via Tom Lowe.
Cover image via Shutterstock.