Drone Video Helps Re-Create Gettysburg Battlefield
|Camera equipped drones provided aerial shots that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.|
When 160,000 Union and Confederate soldiers struggled and died at Gettysburg 150 years ago, no video cameras existed to witness the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil. Today, flying drones carrying the latest digital cameras have captured fresh footage of the Gettysburg battlefield site where the U.S. Civil War took a pivotal turn.
The aerial-drone cinematography of West Coast-based Freefly Cinema provided unprecedented views of the Civil War battlefield in a new documentary called "The Gettysburg Story." Freefly's radio-controlled Cinestar drone helicopters zoomed along the rail fences, stone walls and cannons to shoot footage of the positions where the blue and gray battle lines once fired off volleys or launched bayonet charges.
"It's a superstable camera platform that can go from 4 inches above the ground to 400 feet in the air," said Jake Boritt, director of "The Gettysburg Story."
The stunning footage appears in the film's exclusive theatrical debut that coincides with Civil War re-enactments and festivities this week. An estimated quarter of a million visitors have converged on the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle that took place from July 1 to July 3, 1863.
As a filmmaker who grew up on a historic farm at Gettysburg, Boritt wanted to "bring new technology to a timeless story" in documenting the battle where the Union Army turned the tide of the war against Confederate forces.His filmmaking arsenal included Freefly's drones, motion-controlled time-lapse effects and camera rigs provided by Dynamic Perception, and low-light digital cameras capable of showing the starry night skies above the battlefield.
The highest overhead views of the Gettysburg battlefield came from footage shot by a 5K Red Epic digital camera mounted on a full-size Bell JetRanger helicopter. But Freefly's remote-controlled drones — six and eight-rotorhelicopters about the size of hobbyists' model aircraft — allowed "The Gettysburg Story" to provide more detailed close-ups of the battlefield.
"The Union army defeated the Confederate army at Gettysburg because they held the high ground," Boritt told TechNewsDaily. "With drones, we can see the elevation of how Little Round Top [a strategic hill] rises from the ground."
Freefly's custom-made CineStar drones do more than just carry the latest RED EPIC or Canon C500 digital cameras. They have gyro-stabilized camera gimbals to provide steady camera shots that aren't affected by any shaking or wind gusts — a feature that has served Freefly well in its work for National Geographic and Hollywood films. [See also: Drones Large and Small Coming to US]
To fund the film, Boritt raised more than $66,000 from donors at the online crowdfunding website Kickstarter. The extra funding beyond the project's $25,000 goal has allowed "The Gettysburg Story" to aim for national broadcast on public television, as presented by Maryland Public TV, to correspond with 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg address on Nov. 19.
The hourlong film has a limited theatrical run at Gettysburg's Majestic Theater from June 28 until July 11. But history fans and Civil War buffs who can't wait for the documentary's public television debut can also pay to see "The Gettysburg Story" online through Vimeo's video on demand service.
Boritt praised the U.S. National Park Service for its help in taking the unprecedented steps of allowing nighttime filming and drones flying over the Gettysburg battlefield (despite domestic drone use being of questionable legality). He also admired the Freefly crew for bringing an "intrepid spirit" and being "extremely professional" under tough filming conditions — early-morning rising, working through long humid days, and trudging through tick-infested swamps and fields.
"We weren't in a war zone or anything, but it was uncomfortable," Boritt said.