The team of Cameron Edser and Michael Richards, known as GooRoo Animations, have created a light painting Time-lapse project unlike anything you have ever seen before. Best known for their stop motion animation work, Cameron and Michael were inspired by Dennis Smith’s light painting work. They set out to create a time-lapse version of a Ball of Light and I would say the results are absolutely amazing! “A Light Painting Behind the Scenes” is the first installment of this incredibly cool and complex project, they plan to shoot two more installments that “will feature a combination of innovative camera techniques such as motion control, stereoscopic 3D, long exposure, HDR, light painting and time lapse.” Check out the video, BTS images, and interview below! To find out more info, or if you would like to help fund the next two installments of this awesome project please check out http://www.illuminationsproject.com
LPP ∇ Great work on your Illuminations project, its light painting created in a way I have never seen before. First off who was involved and can you give me a little background about each of you?
GR ∇ Our names are Cameron Edser and Michael Richards, and we come from South Australia. We have a significant background in animation. Our stop motion company, GooRoo Animation has produced a number of award winning films, including an animated music video to the song “My Neighbourhood has been overrun by Baboons”, which came 2nd in Tropfest 2010. We also worked on the TV series Danger 5, creating stop motion dinosaurs.
You can see all of our work at www.goorooanimation.com
LPP ∇ I know that you guys do a lot of animation work so what brought you to light painting?
GR ∇ We’ve always had a keen interest in time lapse photography. There are many similarities between stop motion and time lapse. Many of the motion controlled camera rigs we built for animation can be used for time lapse as well. We liked the idea of trying to incorporate light painting into motion time lapse. We were inspired by images of light orbs, and in particular the work of another South Australian, Denis Smith. His “Ball of Light” images are very popular, especially in our home town of Adelaide. We thought it would be pretty cool if we could build a motorised device that could create a light painted orb, and replicate it precisely, frame after frame, so we could capture it in a motion time lapse shot.
LPP ∇ What is the illuminations project all about? The video you released is a behind the scenes making of video, is there going to be another video released that will be different?
GR ∇ The Illuminations Project is a 3 part video series we are looking to fund and produce. It will feature a combination of innovative camera techniques such as motion control, stereoscopic 3D, long exposure, HDR, light painting and time lapse. We want to create impressive imagery with these forms of photography that will take viewers on a journey using visual storytelling.
As part of this project, we’re also excited to be discussing the possibility of mentorship and collaboration with Denis Smith. With his guidance, our photographic and light painting results will hopefully become even more impressive.
The Illuminations behind the scenes film was made with the help of some funding from SA Country Arts. We found it difficult to give an understanding in words what the Illuminations project is all about, so we created this film to convey what we are doing and how we create our image. We also wanted it to act as a showreel so that we can use it to attract the interest of potential investors. We have a website, where you can donate to the project if you are feeling particularly generous and like our work. www.illuminationsproject.com
LPP ∇ How long did the project take?
GR ∇ Most of the nice polished shots in the film have been taken sometime over the last year, but the majority of the filming for all the behind the scenes action was shot over a couple of days recently at Second Valley, South Australia. So you could say the film took a year or two if you include the time we spent building camera rigs, but really this film all came together in a bit over a week.
LPP ∇ How many different locations?
GR ∇ In the film you see Second Valley, SA, various locations in North Queensland, a few shots near mount Arapiles, Victoria, and a few shots in our backyard in the Adelaide Hills, SA.
LPP ∇ Where did the concept come from?
GR ∇ The concept for the film was to be half showreel, half behind the scenes, and thought it would be best to mix the two together in this case. We wanted the film to demonstrate the potential this kind of imagery has on screen, and what to expect from the Illuminations project. The concept of our work is usually developed from experimenting with different camera techniques or other special effects. Our brains seem to be wired for technically orientated problem solving. If we see a cool technique, we want to try it ourselves.
LPP ∇ Can you tell me about the equipment that you used?
GR ∇ We have a Canon 5D Mark II with a range of lenses. Our favourite lens for long exposure time lapses is a 20mm F1.8 prime lens, which is great for shooting the stars.
Our stereoscopic 3D rig is made up of 2 Canon 550D’s mounted side by side, at an adjustable distance apart to get the appropriate 3D effect. Ideally we will acquire a second 5D for future stereoscopic purposes.
The camera rig that you see in the film is a modified Super Track live action camera rig. We have motorised this rig using a belt and pulley system that is driven by stepper motors. It is controlled by an external control unit, where you can set the desired increment the camera moves between frames. The camera and controllers are all synced and triggered via external intervalometers.
We have custom wired all of our cameras, controllers and lights to run off 12 volt lithium batteries to make it through 12-24hours of constant operation without needing mains power. Some of our batteries recharge off portable solar panels.
Out in the field, we have a million pieces of electronics that need to work together in perfect harmony to achieve a result. About 80-90% of the time something goes wrong. It only takes a single inconsistent frame for the entire shot and whole nights work to be ruined. It can be frustrating, but makes it even more rewarding when you get a good result. We’re always working to iron out all the creases in our setup, and it’s getting better all the time.
LPP ∇ Can you talk specifically about the robotic orb making device, how does one create something like that?
GR ∇ We created this device through a process of trial and error. Initially it started out as a pedestal fan, but soon we realised what was required to make it work, and it evolved into the contraption you see in the video. Regular DC motors were used in the early stages but their speed wasn’t 100% consistent, so we were forced to use stepper motors due to their precise degree of accuracy and control.
There is a motor at the top that turns the propeller quickly and a motor at the bottom that turns the whole unit slowly, but the specifics of their movement is quite complicated. At one point, our device became ridiculously complicated. We synchronised the two motors by using a laser beam as a trigger to initiate an exact start point for the light painting to begin for each photo. We’ve now found a slightly more simple way to synchornise them, because the lasers were a bit temperamental.
Throughout the whole building phase we never knew whether or not this device was going to work successfully but with a lot of persistence, we eventually got a result that we were happy with.
LPP ∇ Im sure you will inspire a lot of people to try and build their own mechanical orb makers… What was involved in the post production?
GR ∇ We copy our hundreds or thousands of images off the memory cards, and then place them all on a video editing timeline for just 1 frame each. 25 images make 1 second of footage. They’re sometimes slowed down to half or quarter speeds depending on the subject matter. Occasionally we have to fix the odd inconsistent frame here or there, if for example, a person on a jetty shines a flashlight in the shot for a couple of seconds or a car headlight happens to pass over the frame. There is a lot of this type of thing, because it’s very difficult to find remote locations that are also easy enough to access with all of our gear.
All of our post processes are done twice. Firstly for the left image and then for the right, so that it can later be viewed in stereoscopic 3D. Ideally we try to keep our post work to a minimum, because we prefer to see “in camera” techniques. The star trails are an exception. We use a simple freeware program called “Startrails” to piece the images together in a way that creates the stunning effect of stars streaking across the sky.
LPP ∇ That is a lot of work… What was the most difficult part of the actual film making process?
GR ∇ Technically it is a very challenging project. We build or modify a lot of our gear ourselves because of our specific requirements. Another challenge is to have all of our camera and motion control equipment be portable enough to be packed into the back of a van, where it is transported to remote locations. Then in these remote locations, we have no accessible mains power but we still need the gear to function every day for weeks at a time.
LPP ∇ Anything strange happen while you were out filming, any weird stories you would like to share?
GR ∇ As you can imagine, our setup attracts quite a bit of attention, so we have encountered a variety of curious people on our travels.
Some of the craziest included a guy who thought it would be funny to scare us by firing up a chainsaw and cackling manically, some people illegally hunting right near us with a shotgun, and a guy who tried to break into the van while Cam was sleeping in it. We got out of those places pretty quickly!
Some of the most interesting people have been fellow light painters, photographers, and a tourist who had just been in Mozambique working with the crew shooting David Attenborough’s ‘Africa’ series. We exchanged phone numbers and he ended up staying at Mike’s house while he visited Adelaide.
There is never a shortage of interesting people to meet in remote locations around Australia!
LPP ∇ Holy Hell, a psycho with a chainsaw in the darkness, I would have had a heart attack! It really is incredible work gentlemen thank you for taking the time to answer some questions and I am sure I speak for everyone when I say we can can’t wait to see the next two installments!
GR ∇ Thank you!