We were approached by the Upper Austrian Tourist Board back in January 2016 to discuss the possibility of using our HyperZoom™ technique to produce a seamless flight through a series of selected locations throughout Upper Austria.
This was a challenge that appealed greatly. It was going to be a nice experience to work on a project right on our doorstep with no need to navigate airports and excess baggage regulations.
We scheduled a second meeting for February and set to producing a storyboard and flight plan that would enable us to smoothly pass through all the locations with no cuts. This involved us traveling all over Upper Austria to recce the locations and decide, shot by shot, how we would proceed.
As we would be covering such a huge part of the county I needed to be sure I could escape from any given location by flying over the horizon. This meant adding more capability to the system so we could fly over mountains and through trees. (There are a lot of mountains and trees in Upper Austria). I was pretty confident I could do this and the technique developed and improved as the project progressed.
For more detailed explanation of the HyperZoom™ technique see here.
We also had to install extra hard drive capability and increase the number of render nodes we had available for handling this huge project. Working with multiple 8k sequences inside after effects meant that everything had to be done with proxies (these are lower resolution substitutes for the files that are actually used for the final render) to enable a more fluid working experience inside After Effects. These projects tend to get very complex.
The image above shows a partial project flow diagram
It’s very important with a production like this to maintain a consistent lighting angle as the camera passes between and through the scenes. We used the fantastic smart phone app – PhotoPills – to enable us to accurately plan shooting angles, times and date ranges that would work for us.
Once the flight plan was produced and storyboarded we met again with the tourist board to iron out the details before the shooting began.
I’m just going to pick out a few key scenes to have a closed look, as there are too many to go through all of them.
One of the great things about working on this project in my newly adopted homeland of Austria was that it enabled me to visit some beautiful locations that I had never been to before. The Schlögener Schlinge is a horseshoe bend in the River Danube which was to be the opening scene for the film.
The storyboard had us starting high up in the trees with a view down on the river as a cruise ship came into view. We would then ‘fly’ across to the trees on the other side of the river and smoothly pull back to land on the shore of the river below as two cyclists enter the scene from the right.
The camera tracks gently left then moves towards the cyclist as one of them stands to take a smartphone image of the cruise ship on the river. The camera flies smoothly into the smartphone and proceeds into the back of the ship before travelling down its interior, through the front windows and exiting the valley over the trees on the distant hill.
Sounds relatively straightforward – but this shot was to take many months and several visits before we finally had the correct weather conditions to shoot it. The sequence itself took three days to complete as we wanted to use the same ship in all three scenes (from above, from behind and inside). We were working with the crew of the Regina Danubia and their schedule meant the vessel would only pass our point once per day. Each shot of the ship needed a different day.
From a post production perspective this shot was quite complex as it required accurate timing of the camera move to fit smoothly into the walking of the cyclists and the use of the smartphone. The extreme resolution requirement for the move towards and through the phone meant that this cyclist sequence had to be shot using four cameras in synchrony firing as fast as they could. As with many other parts of this video we found working with Mocha Pro for the rotoscoping and tracking work was a great help.
Stift St. Florian:
One of the things HyperZoom™ lets us do, is play around with the geometry of locations. In this particular sequence we fly into the Stift from a long way away and through a window into a long corridor. The actual corridor is inside the Stift but not behind this window and not at this angle. The door at the end of the corridor opens to let us fly through an intermediate room and into the wonderful library. The room behind the door is the Prelates office and is really there, but we had to remove the rear wall and add the library balcony in order to interface this room smoothly with the library – which again is in a different part of the Stift. The whole sequence from the first time we see the Stift until we exit through the library/Poestlingberg window uses 7 different camera positions and a hyperlapse sequence along the corridor.
The idea here was to have a long run through the art museum exhibition space and exit the building to fly across the river to the ARS Electronica on the other side. The problem was how to achieve that exit in a forward direction, as there was no window to exit through. So I decided, with the agreement of the Lentos, to build my own end wall and window using the same style as the other windows in the building.
Shooting Poestlingberg from the Lentos as part of the pullback sequence
The Lentos Museum exit window – which doesn’t exist
It was great fun shooting in this future tech environment and we wanted to include two different areas from inside the building. I decided to use the computer display in the first room to provide a visually interesting way to seamlessly enter the second area before exiting backwards across the river for a distant view of the spectacular night-time lighting of the building. One of the challenges with a visually continuous sequence like this video is how to get from night back to day. We could of course do a ‘night to day to night’ lapse of the scene but this would mean the camera would have to remain relatively static in one location for longer than would fit with the flow of the whole piece. This is why we used the poster idea to rapidly move to the next scene in daytime. The ARS Electronica sequence used 5 different camera positions and a hyperlapse turn through the final room.
shooting the ARS Electronica from the roof of the Lentos Museum
As I mentioned above, this sequence starts with the camera moving backwards from a poster board in the park in front of the theatre. This poster board doesn’t actually exist in this location and was comped in from a different part of the city and modified to fit our requirements.
We wanted to move seamlessly into the theatre with the arriving theatre goers, then across the foyer and through the video screen of the interior from the perspective of the stage as the audience were taking their seats. We then fly through a door at the back of the theatre into a café area with a huge vertically partitioned window looking across the city.
As with previous examples we had to play around a bit with the real layout of the location.
As we pass into the video screen and see across the stage towards the audience we are already facing back in the direction we just came from. So when we exit the large window behind the cafeteria we should be looking at the park where the move started. In order to be able to fly into the city, as we do, we had to do a massive rotoscoping job, tracking the windows and the tables, chairs, menu cards etc as the camera passes through the cafeteria into what is now a distant view over the rooftops of Linz.
This rotoscoping job alone took several weeks of solid work for what in the final movie lasts for around 4 seconds. Thanks once again to Mocha Pro for providing such great tools to assist with this laborious task.
I should point out whilst on the subject of this particular sequence that the way we ensure total visual continuity through a move like this is to ensure that everything that needs to be visible is always there. So as we enter the foyer the video screen is already playing and if you could zoom in far enough you would be able to see through the door at the back of the theatre, through the cafeteria and out to the city beyond. Because of this need to maintain true visual continuity sometimes a shot that only last a few seconds as a feature in the film must be shot for much longer so that it is still running when only a subliminal minor detail.
The sequence from exiting the poster to passing through the large window at the end used 6 different camera positions and a hyperlapse through the cafeteria.
Hanslalm, Pyhrn Priel:
This sequence is a little bit different in that in order to be able to fly-in to the hikers as they walk down the path and set up their picnic in front of the hut we had to make a wide multi-camera panoramic sequence with all cameras shooting full speed in synchrony. Once again the interior of the hut is actually 90 degrees rotated from reality to enable us to have a visually interesting passage before exiting over the distant trees.
Speicherteich Hutterer Höss:
This is a man-made reservoir designed to supply water to the artificial snow machines during the winter skiing season. It is famed for its infinity pool type reflection of the Totes Gebirge mountain range in the distance. Unfortunately when we first visited this reservoir the water was very low, effectively destroying the infinity pool effect. Upon enquiring we discovered that they had a technical issue with the pump and the reservoir was not going to be full at all during the period we needed to shoot it.
So I decided to fill it back up myself in post production. You can see the difference in the water levels in these before and after shots.
5Fingers – Dachstein:
This was a location we know well as we live on the Lake you see below the platforms. In order to be able to maintain fluid motion over and past the platform as if using a drone we needed to rotoscope the entire platform and all the people moving around on it – frame by frame – person by person.
Several weeks work again for 6 seconds of video.
Hallstatt to Bad Schallerbach:
We had originally planned to finish the video with the Hallstatt rotary lake hyperlapse, but the Tourist Board decided they would like to add scenes to cover christmas markets, spa/wellness and skiing.
The scene in the St.Wolfgang Christmas market uses a rotary head from a static camera position combined with separate shots tracked into the move at the beginning and end.
The spa scenes were shot in Bad Schallerbach Sauna Paradise. We had permission to shoot in the Sauna early in the morning before most guests arrived. Unfortunately the room was already at full temperature and shooting in there proved very challenging. I had to light the scene and because of the extreme temperature my lights , which were actually modelling lamps from studio flashlights, started pouring smoke from the ventilation vents just as we finished the shot. They have survived in varying states of usefulness.
Zeishofalm Ski Hut:
This was a lot of fun to shoot since all the assembled people in the hut were friends of ours keen to appear in the video.
We had decided to finish by leaving the hut and flying over the trees towards one of the most beautiful scenes in Upper Austria – The Gosau Glacier. However we soon realised we would have a better finish if we went into the glacier then slid across it and retreated to reveal its beautiful sunset reflection in Lake Gosau below.
All in all, the project took around 8 months to complete – including the inspired original music and sound design by Vincent Jacq and Xavier Plouchart. We are very grateful to the Upper Austrian Tourist board for their enthusiasm, support and funding of this project. It was great to be working on a schedule that allowed sufficient time for final polishing as well as technique development along the way.