published at 27.04.2012, 15:03
Motorcycles

Life through a lens: capturing the RR

One of the key elements which made the creation of BMW Motorrad’s stunning new 3D film, Planet Power, possible was the cameras used to capture the footage. The movie’s creators knew that an ordinary video camera would simply not be capable of producing the image quality required. So they turned to Stefan Weiss – Director of Photography (DoP) and creator of the incredible Weisscam HS-2, which can capture up to 2,000 frames per second (fps), compared to the 50fps achieved by a standard camera.

Using Weisscam HS-2, it was possible to capture stunningly detailed footage of BMW Motorrad’s S 1000 RR, even when the bike was travelling at 250kmh. For the team behind the film, bringing the awesome power of the RR alive on-screen was vital. The team which made Planet Power a reality with Weisscam technology were design agency Serviceplan; director Ryan McManus; and a second creative agency Südlich-T, which specialises in post-production. The ambitious project posed tough technical challenges, but the cameras, as well as Weisscam’s technical knowledge, helped to overcome them all.

“The film turned out exactly as we expected!” says Stefan Weiss, “There is always a chance, that you maybe don't get everything you need, or don’t get exactly what’s on the storyboard, because once you are shooting many things can happen. But despite the fact this project was very tricky from a technical point of view, we got all the amazing shots we needed with the cameras.

“The challenge was using the 3D rigs in combination with the speed of the bike. We had to make sure that the cameras were not shaking, as that would have destroyed the 3D effect. To combat that, we created very special rigs for it. We also needed to drive even faster than normal, as we were shooting at a rate of 1,000fps – it was a shoot which brought all extremes together!”

Stefan began his career working as an assistant – fascinated by film, he bought himself a camera to use. His career in the industry progressed, but he was unsatisfied with the available technology – so he decided to create his own.

“I become a DoP more or less by accident. I always loved the cinema but I never thought about working in the industry – it just happened. While I was working as an assistant I bought the steadicam because I wanted to learn more about that way of shooting. From there, I started shooing commercials and then, by chance seven years ago, I was asked to shoot a demo-reel with the first digital high-speed camera on the market.

“I absolutely loved it, but the camera itself was just not really suitable for the task. There wasn’t a high-speed camera out there that I really wanted to shoot with, and that’s when I decided to develop my own. This was the starting point of the very first Weisscam camera. This became two cameras, which then became three: WEISSCAM HS-1; HS-2 and the brand new T-CAM.”

The equipment is like nothing else on the market. It captures footage in astonishing detail, which can then be slowed down on screen. This is used to stunning effect in Planet Power, allowing cinema-goers to truly experience the motorcycle’s power, speed and presence. Despite being widely recognised for making the best cameras in the business, Weisscam remains a small company.

“Our cameras are highly respected in the industry and they use them all over the world, from Hollywood to Bollywood. We are small, but our customers trust us for that reason – they also know that we use our own cameras whenever we shoot and that we understand what happens on set. I firmly believe the best way to develop a product is simply to use it yourself.

“The important thing about Weisscam is that we are not just engineers – we are users and developers who really understand the products we make. We just love creating images and all our cameras are made to shoot stories”

Despite working at the forefront of film technology on a day-to-day basis, Stefan was still blown away by Planet Power when he saw it for the first time. “From the first time I saw the storyboards, I was really excited and loved the story and the look of Planet Power. It was immediately clear that the shooting would be a huge challenge, but that’s exactly what we love!

“When I finally saw the finished film, all I could think about was how extreme and dark it was! The filmmakers wanted to do something brand new in terms of style and appearance, and it worked out perfectly.”

For more on Weisscam, including information on their latest camera, the T-CAM, which works from 24 to 350 fps, visit www.weisscam.com. Watch the latest ‘making of’ programme, The Craft, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at Planet Power’s creation here and read previous stories about the post-production process here and here.