“It was one week living in a tent, dry foods, no showers… torrential downpour 95% of the time. And then there was the sulphur… aside from burning your lungs, it would mix with the rain and corrosion would set in within minutes of hitting your gear. We left a tripod out one night and the next morning it was completely corroded. So the whole week was this balancing act of getting the shots we needed in the odd 20-minute breaks in the rain and scrubbing the sulphur off the gear. It was a challenging shoot!”
Director/Cinematographer and Editor Daniel Green went to hell and back along with production company Sailor Productions to get the shots he needed for the Canada’s Export credit agency, EDC. The state-owned organization, dedicated to helping Canadian companies succeed internationally, wanted to feature seismology research company Nanometrics and the work they’ve been doing on the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu.
“Ambrym Island is home to one of the largest lava lakes in the world, and the local meteorology department uses Nanometric’s seismic monitoring equipment to detect volcanic activity,” explained Daniel Green. “Export Development Canada (EDC) wanted to showcase the work Nanometrics has been doing in the region. It’s a powerful story - saving lives - with some extraordinarily compelling visuals.”
The idea for the video was to capture the splendor and grandness of Ambrym Volcano as well as the work Nanometrics was doing there. This meant getting wide shots of the mountain and the volcano’s crater with the talent installing devices at the apex.
To get the wide shots, Daniel and his production team opted to go the aerial route and employed the Freefly Alta 8 camera drone. On the drone, a MoVI M15 was used as the gimbal and they swapped between a RED Dragon and an ARRI ALEXA Mini, both sporting either Zeiss Super Speed or Distagon lenses. For real-time wireless monitoring on the drone, the video cameras fed into a Teradek Bolt 3000 transmitter, which sent lossless feeds to a receiver hooked to the director’s monitor below. The 1st AC controlled the camera remotely using a Freefly MIMIC.
Shooting in Tropical Climate and Acid Rain
The entire shoot was an excruciating process for the production team. After a 34-hour flight from Canada to Vanuatu, the crew had to be transported via helicopter from Port Vila to a remote location near the top of the volcano.
To get the shots they needed, Daniel and his crew had to employ some hide and seek tactics. “It was a waiting game. There was a 48 hour period where it didn’t stop raining once... and when the rain finally did break, it would be a mad rush to get to the vantage points we had scouted. You never knew when it would start raining again, so we’d have tarps on hand… but even that didn’t help, when the rain and wind combined it felt like it was coming from all sides. We didn’t get many breaks in the weather, but what we got was just enough to get some insane footage!”
With unpredictable weather patterns on location, getting the right shots quickly was crucial to spending as little time as possible on the summit. Instead of shooting blindly with no downlink, Daniel and his team used the Bolt 3000 to wirelessly monitor the feed from the ground and fix issues with the shots on-the-go. This meant getting all of the shots they needed sooner without having to put the equipment and the crew’s health at more risk.
In addition, the strong aluminum chassis and small size of the Bolt made it both extremely durable and portable, an important attribute for this particular expedition.
“The reliability of the Teradek was so important up there. When the rain stopped, we could just turn it back on and we were ready to go. Even with all the sulphur and rain, the connection didn’t drop even once.”
Ultimately, the Bolt allowed Daniel to not only complete the shoot and vacate the summit faster, but also provided the confidence that the crew captured the visually incredible shots that Export Development Canada wanted.
While they were up there, Daniel’s team equipped their Alta 8 with a GoPro Omni Rig (6-GoPro Hero4 setup) to capture a short 360 video segment. Check out their breathtaking footage here: