Aerial director of photography David B. Nowell, ASC recently took Pictorvision’s Eclipse into the air to capture stunning 3D footage that simulates the feeling of a real air race. The Eclipse footage is now being integrated into 3D footage shot by Vern Nobles Jr. for a 38-minute IMAX feature called Air Racers 3D, an in-depth exploration of the fastest motor sport on earth, at the annual Reno National Championship Air Races & Air Show.
The final shoot took place earlier this month at Chino Airport (California) and Reno-Stead Airfield (Nevada). “As it is not permitted to shoot air-to-air photography during the actual races for safety reasons, we decided to re-stage them in grand fashion by assembling a spectacular array of fighter aircraft, including the P-51 Mustang, Tigercat, Bearcat and T-6,” explains producer Raul Leckie of Pretend Entertainment, the company behind this IMAX project. “The aerial unit was run by helicopter pilot Kevin LaRosa and aerial director of photography David Nowell.”
“The idea was to capture point-of-view footage for our key racer, award-winning flyer Steve Hinton Jr., son of one of the top fixed-wing movie pilots Steve Hinton, Sr.,” Nowell explains. Hinton Sr. and Nowell have worked together on a number of projects, including Iron Eagle 2, Flight of the Intruder and the groundbreaking feature Pearl Harbor. “I needed to capture what Steve Jr. would see as he raced around the course.
“To do this, I requested twin RED X camera bodies and twin 10 to 1 (25mm to 250mm) lenses. Yes, normally that is too long a lens for IMAX or 3D but having this size lens enabled me to zoom in longer and get some really dynamic images that aerial coordinator Kevin LaRosa Sr. and I really like to do. We also needed to capture shots at the air speed of a fixed wing plane in racing mode.
“To make this happen we needed to be able to bank the camera and make the shots look like actual fixed wing flying,” he explains. “Since the final footage would be sped up to look like the 400+ MPH speed of the race planes it was imperative that we had a stabilized system that could roll as we were flying. The only answer was Pictorvision’s Eclipse.”
The Pictorvision Eclipse is an advanced gyro stabilized aerial camera platform that is able to fly with a wide range of film, digital cine cameras and 3D camera rigs. The Eclipse’s ability to handle large payloads while maintaining a level horizon makes it perfect to shoot 3D footage for the big screen.
The 3D footage shot by Nowell and Nobles is currently being edited. The final project, Air Races 3D, will visually put the audience in the pilot’s seat of highly modified WWII-era fighter craft as they compete in this thrilling race. Produced by 3D Entertainment USA in association with L.A.-based Pretend Entertainment, and Stereoscope, the film will have an industry premiere during the Giant Screen Cinema Association’s annual conference at the Texas State History Museum’s IMAX 3D Theatre in Austin on Sept. 21. It will premiere in theaters throughout the United States and selected territories in early 2012.