American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 68

FILMMAKERS' FORUM

I

Drones Lend an Antarctic Advantage
By Gavin Garrison

My first Antarctic adventure for the Animal Planet series
Whale Wars began on December 25, 2012, when I flew across the
world to join the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society - the wildlife
activists on whom the show is based - and their fleet of ships at a
port in New Zealand. As conveyed via a thick style-guide, my crew's
mission was to stick closely to the show's established "docu-adventure" aesthetic that had captivated audiences since the series
premiered in 2008.
That style was rough-and-tumble, with single-source, highkey interviews; predominantly handheld camerawork; crash zooms;
GoPro-style POVs; and an infinite depth of field courtesy of the small
sensors on which the show was birthed. As both a producer and a
cinematographer on the series, my goal is to remain loyal to the highadrenaline aesthetic that audiences have come to know and love
while simultaneously pushing a look that keeps us relevant and
engaging in today's television market. And so, when I began prepping Season 10 in late 2016, I was eager to introduce some of the
modern technologies that have become commonplace on other
productions - specifically, 4K capture and the use of unmanned
aerial vehicles (UAVs), aka drones.
If you take a look at any number of today's adventure-themed
unscripted series, it becomes immediately evident how readily drones
have been adopted by the genre - and how heavily they're relied
68

August 2017

upon to provide extensive coverage. Projects like Planet Earth II have
embraced drones in order to realize unprecedented shots and jawdropping camera moves, bringing sweeping, cinematic movement
into the documentary sphere. However, I've also seen a trend in
which shows substitute what would ordinarily be conventional
coverage with a drone's telltale high- and wide-angle view. Though
the average viewer may not notice, to the discerning cinematographer, a show that's inundated with drone footage can start to feel
like shooting choices were made for convenience's sake rather than
the story's.
For Season 10 of Whale Wars, my goal was to split the difference between the high bar set by Planet Earth II and the examples
I've seen from other unscripted productions in our genre. Balancing
utility with beauty, we would employ drones to create "cinematic"
coverage to the best of our abilities, and we would use the drones'
unique perspective to capture master shots that we could default to
in scenes that demanded context for the viewer - for example, if
one ship collided with another at sea, or if a ship sailed through a
thick field of ice. The trick, I felt, was to be discerning with our
deployment, lest we give post too much to hang their hats on.
We chose to capture this season in 3.8K UHD, in part
because I believe the footage has a much longer shelf life with the
higher resolution. We also chose not to capture in log, as I thought
log would have created a workflow issue down the line. Those decisions, though, were made in somewhat of a vacuum - as we on
the production crew don't have any communication with post.

American Cinematographer

Photos by Gavin Garrison, Simon Ager and Ashleigh Allam, courtesy of Sea Shepherd Global.

The Ocean
Warrior patrols
the Antarctic
Ocean in the
documentary
series
Whale Wars,
which follows the
efforts of the Sea
Shepherd
Conservation
Society. For the
show's 10th
season,
cinematographerproducer Gavin
Garrison
employed a UHD
workflow and
aerial
photography
captured from
drones.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - August 2017

Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Intro
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 1
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 2
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 4
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 5
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 6
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 7
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 8
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 9
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American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32a
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32b
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32c
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32d
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 33
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American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover3
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