Ever since finishing my last short film, Above LA, I’ve wanted to go higher. But not just higher ground. Only a helicopter could give me the freedom and control I needed to capture the city from new heights. And not a drone - this was a job for the real thing. I’ve spent a lot of time in the air recently working on some new techniques for capturing unique aerial footage, but in the mean time, I wanted to show the city in live and slow-motion video in a way few people get to see it.
My favorite time to photograph the city is when the sun goes down and the lights come up. But accomplishing this in the air is something that typically requires a lot of money - expensive stabilization platforms and one of a few low-light sensitive cinema cameras. Until now. The recently released Sony a7S packs some incredible low light ability, all in a tiny and relatively inexpensive DSLR body. I knew this was the camera I needed to capture live and high-speed video at night. Armed with a rented a7S and an expert pilot, I hit the skies for a whirlwind tour of Los Angeles - from downtown to Hollywood, Century City to Santa Monica, LAX to the freeways - all captured with the camera rolling.
I am very excited to share with you some of what I captured. Thanks to this camera’s ability to literally see in the dark and the skill of an excellent pilot, we were able to showcase many LA landmarks and neighborhoods with high quality images filled with detail. I hope you enjoy it!
** CAMERA DETAILS **
All footage captured at 1080p60 with ISO ranging from 20,000 to 51,200.
Lenses: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II, Canon 24-105 f/4L IS
Much of this material was captured at ISO 51,200, which does produce noise, but is well controlled and easy to minimize or remove in post. I really pushed this camera to its limits - shooting at 1080p60 (which has been shown to be less sharp and with increased moire and aliasing than at 24p), on a lens that is not tack sharp, and at incredibly high ISO - and it still produced some remarkable results. Needless to say, I am beyond impressed with this camera and would have no hesitation for using it in video work.
The first three shots were captured with no picture profile set (I set it to S-Log 2 before flight, but somehow it ended up with no profile set). All other shots were captured in S-Log 2.
This video is an exploration, a conversation starter about the future of streets in LA. It’s indicative of a desire for a different experience of the city. An experience driven by two wheels rather than four. A design driven by very real issues of sustainability, livability, and affordability.
But how do we build that city? Can we repurpose existing streets rather than create massive infrastructure projects? Can we tap into local cultural practices rather than force change from above?
Directed/Shot/Edited By: Karl Baumann
Drone By: Chidi Onyejuruwa
Music By: James Craft
Additional Shooting: Alejandro Martinez
Interviewees: Tafarai Bayne, Gary Benjamin, Lila Burgos, Erika Thi Patterson