10 Innovative Nature Movie Technologies
Fish swimming through kelp forests and stampeding zebras appear on TV so often that a viewer could easily forget the extreme lengths wildlife photographer go to film their subjects. Wildlife filmmakers and photographers have had to come up with creative techniques to provide us with that glimpse of nature. Here's a list of the top 10 wildlife filming techniques that make it possible.
In the early days of wildlife filmmaking, many photographers would ride on the backs of elephants when filming tigers or other dangerous animals in the jungle. It provided them with a high vantage point for a good view, and also offered them a safe height at which to view their subjects.
Inconveniently, as Elephants are living animals, they have a habit of moving too much for stable photography. Enter the 'elephant tripod' a device that put filmmakers and photographers at elephant height, without having to be on an actual animal.
The tripod usually stands between 10 and 12 feet high and has a swivel seat so that users can get a full 360 degree view of their surroundings.
The Crittercam allows filmmakers to get POV shots from an animal, even when they can't see the animal itself.
The crittercam was invented in 1986 after marine biologist Greg Marshall watched a shark swim away into murky waters with a remora fish on its tail. He realized that if he could get a camera to hang on to the shark as the remora did, he would be able to get all the footage he would need.
According to National Geographic, crittercam field studies have been conducted with over 50 species of sharks, sea turtles, whales, seals and penguins; in total their Remote Imaging team has made more than 600 deployments with various researchers across the globe.
Marine animals are usually fitted with patches, suction cups or backpacks harnesses that contain the crittercams, while terrestrial animals wear collar-mounted ones. They use radio waves to transmit video, sound, and other data to receiving and recording stations.
For photographers searching out elusive species, camera traps have made it much more possible to capture images of those animals.
A camera trap is actually very simple. Most are just a regular camera, armed with heat or motion activated sensors that will a picture whenever they sense either in the area. These cameras are even less disturbing to animals than crittercams, and provide another way to catch a glimpse of an animal that might not be around if there are people nearby.
Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Smithsonian and the Wildlife Picture Index (WPI) use the pictures taken by camera traps to get a better idea of how animal populations are doing and whether or not various conservation efforts are effective.
Autonomous Disguised Cameras
Polar bears are the only mammals that actively hunt humans, so filming them can get a bit tricky. They live on the sea ice of the Arctic, a hugely remote region, and over the course of a year, they can travel up to thousands of miles. Also, did we mention that they eat people?
Yet John Downer and his colleague Geoff Bell [what do these people do?] have found a way. By creating mobile cameras that are disguised as snow and ice. There is a snowball cam that rolls along the ice in pursuit of a wandering bear and an iceberg cam that floats at the surface of the water and films as polar bears swim from ice floe to ice floe. Then there is the drift cam, which is shaped like a snowdrift and used to film mothers and cubs as they emerge from their dens.
That’s not all though, Downer and Bell's cameras have been used in all types of environments. They trained elephants to carry cameras disguised as logs in order to get footage of tiger cubs, and disguised a camera as a pile of dung in order to film the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti.
Downer and Bell have revolutionized the way that animals are filmed.
Macro Photography (Photomacrography)
Images of glistening dewdrops, hairy bees and multi-faceted bug eyes would not be possible without macro photography.
Macro photography involves getting a larger or 'life size' image of an everyday object that you might not normally be able to see. Instead of relying on zooming in or getting closer to a subject, it uses the lens itself to magnify the image that will be projected onto the film.
Anyone who has seen a butterfly emerge from its cocoon, dry off its wings and fly away can thank time lapse technology. By accelerating footage scientists can be able to observe processes they might not be able to see otherwise.
The rest of us just get to watch an entertaining video. Time lapse has taken growing plants and rotting fruit and speed them up to a rate that better suits our eyes and timeframes. According to the Digital Photography School, the first recorded use of this technique was done by Georges Méliès in a feature film called Carrefour De L’Opera in 1897.
By setting up your camera in one spot and programming it to pause for a time between taking each photograph, you can run your frames together at the usual speed for film (around 24 frames per second). This creates the illusion that an event occurred many times faster it actually does.
On the complete other end of the spectrum, there are things in nature that are much too fast for our eyes to process. The typical example would be that of a hummingbird's wings, but scientists and filmmakers have used slow motion cameras to gain a better understanding of how all kinds or organisms work.
High speed photography and filming require the use of a device known as a Phototrap, which works with either a camera or camera flash. The trap is intended to trigger the shutter of your camera when the photographic subject passes through a defined position in space. When an event occurs so quickly that it is beyond the practical reaction time of the photographer, a phototrap will catch it.
High speed camera technology has made it possible for biologists to understand how a pistol shrimp's claws work, how cats drink, and of course it has brought us all those cool videos of water balloons being popped and apples being shot.
Crittercams make it possible to follow animals as they go through their day, but there are some creatures – like insects – that are just too small to outfit with a camera.
The device is relatively straight forward, featuring a camera on the end of a long, thin, flexible tube.
While it is most well known for other purposes, the endoscopic camera gives photographers the ability to follow those creatures like termites and ants into their nests and colonies. It also makes it possible to fit into tight spaces, in the Red Sea, endoscopic cameras have been used to peer inside areas of coral reefs that divers were unable to reach.
This may not seem like such an exhilarating technique, but the ability to film underwater has enabled us to see a completely new world. While the first underwater images were taken in 1856, effective filming technique, that produced good quality images were only perfected in the past 30 years or so.
The Silent World was the first color, full-length underwater film. Jaques Costeau and his crew spent two years filming, using over 15 miles of film, of which only one mile was included in the finished documentary.
Underwater filming requires experienced divers and the use of both film and high definition cameras. The cameras used to film need to withstand immense amounts of pressure and need require waterproof housing. While cameras today are much lighter and easier to carry, the issue of lighting is still a factor.
All those amazing views of brightly lit coral and darting fish takes a lot more effort than it seems.
Nest box cameras
If you've ever had a run in with a bird's nest, you know that human interaction can result in a pretty sad outcome. Which is why researchers and filmmakers turn to the nest box camera to see what is going on inside bird's nests.
A nest box camera is as straight forward as its name. A birdhouse is build and a miniature 'nestcam' is mounted on the interior roof. That camera can then be connected to a computer or TV. The camera can usually film in color for the day and has infrared capabilities so the birds can be watched at night as well.
This article was provided by InnovationNewsDaily, a sister site of TechNewsDaily.