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  • Writer's pictureColin Rich

The Singularity - Squarespace

Does your Superbowl commercial need an off planet planet look for an existential realization that leads to the singularity?

In December, I headed out to Trona California to meet up with the production team from Smuggler to shoot drone aerial and time-lapse elements for Squarespace's 'The Singularity' featuring Adam Driver.

If you've never been to Trona it can best be described as a very alien environment. The unusual landscape is covered in over 500 Tufas, which are large spire like mineral formations that formed millions of years ago when the area was in inland sea. These tufas can reach heights of over 300 feet and almost look like the teeth of some sort of space monster jutting from the ground.

Director Aoife McArdle and DP Khalid Mohtaseb thought the environment was perfect and I was brought in to shoot motion control time-lapse plates and aerial video of the terrain.

Having had a lot of experience shooting out at Trona in the past, I had a good understanding of how the light and shadows worked out in this area. To me, the rule of thumb at the pinnacles is that every time of day has a very unique look that is completely different hour by hour; if one was to scout the area in the morning and liked that look, you can bet that that exact same spot would look radically different three or four hours after, especially with a low winter sun.

We scouted several locations and ultimately found a secluded area that would be perfect for the 25 foot track motion control shot we would run. I built out the Kessler Shuttle Pod Mini along with the Cinedrive System and mounted the first time-lapse pass with the Sony Venice 2.

We recorded one frame per second for a pre-sunrise to sunrise pass then did a pass at 24fps for the same travel distance using our programmed key frames once the sun was about 40 degrees above the horizon.

At the same time, I had built out a toed-in 3 camera array of Sony A7RIV's in portrait with a vista shot of the pinnacles wearing G-Master 24-70 @ 50mm with 20% frame coverage. These cameras were synced through an intervalometer and recorded the pre-sunrise to sunrise shot as well. The stacked vista resolution was 28,512px by 19008px.

In addition to this setup, I also had three separate A7RIV's on various long lenses like the Sigma 120-300 2.8 capturing intimate shadow movement on the pinnacles during sunrise.

The time-lapse coverage was a success and so I spent the better part of the day waiting for approval from production as they had to have the footage lined up and blended for VFX sign-off.

While the main unit continued to shoot, I watched as the sunset approached and realized that I could potentially get an additional epic shot with one of my drones so I threw up a DJI Mavic 3 and ran a programmed move through Litchi as the last light of the day vanished from the pinnacles.

Being that this shot was not planned I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out and even more surprised to learn that it made the final cut of the commercial!

All in all, the job was a great success!

Checkout 'The Singularity' below:


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