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09Oct2012

The Challenges of Filming Nocturnal Wildlife

If a large percentage of wildlife only become active after dark, how do you go about filming them? Most animals are nocturnal for a reason – it could be for hunting or for protection but you can be certain that all of them will shy away from any light pointed in their direction.  If you want to get natural behavior you can’t use white light and infra-red lights, although not detectable by the animal, they can only cast their beams so far, particularly when filming in a forest or sugar cane plantation.

Icon has now completed two projects solely featuring nocturnal animals. We were able to technically produce these fully HD films about different mysterious creatures of the night with the help of the cutting edge equipment supplied to us by our friends, Ammonite, a local Bristol company just down the road.

Their Starlight MK 7 camera has an incredibly light sensitive 1920x1080 sensor. This, coupled with an image intensifier which boosts the signal recorded by the sensor, enables the camera to operate using the light cast from the moon and stars alone. The camera works best on a clear night with a full moon in the sky but the great thing about it is that it is also sensitive to infra-red wavelength light. This means that on nights where the moon is not so bright or the skies are not as clear as you would have hoped, you can use very small amounts of infra-red to light your scene.  Using long, very fast prime lenses also means that the crew can be far enough away so that their scent is not a deterrent.  It can record continuously for over 2 ½ hours directly on to a laptop so you don’t need to worry about the possibility of frightening away any animals whilst removing the cellophane from a new tape. The only other thing required is a great deal of patience and a nocturnal cameraman who can see in the dark with the aid of night vision goggles also available from Ammonite!     http://www.ammonite.co.uk/kit-hire/cameras/ammonite-starlight-camera

One of our subjects, the Slow Loris, was originally labeled as such because researchers used to dazzle them with white light causing them to freeze and remain immobile for hours, but since filming them using the starlight camera we now know that actually they are rather speedy little critters!

On our next outing we are looking forward to trialing their thermal imaging camera as well. 

 

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