Production Insights – Documentary “Through The Thick” about Rhino Preservation

February 29th, 2016 Jump to Comment Section 35

I recently returned from a documentary shoot in South Africa, where thanks to G-Technology and ZEISS (who sponsored this production), my crew and I were able to produce a compelling piece about the efforts taken against the poaching of rhinos. The rhino is a severely endangered species, with the black rhinoceros now considered critically endangered or even extinct. This is mostly down to illegal horn trade, where the entire animal is killed in order to “harvest” only the horn of the animal, mostly because of beliefs by traditional Chinese medicine that the horn inhabits particular qualities that are useful for various medical issues (and which has been proven to be wrong by many scientific studies over and over again).



Head Ranger at Shamwari Game Reserve, Andrew Kearney. © Nino Film GmbH

We shot this documentary in the Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa over the course of just 4-5 days. I teamed up with the Falk Eggert’s and Nic Divischek’s production company Highspeedworx based in Cape Town, who specialise in high speed cinematography with the Phantom Flex4K camera. With it, we were able to get amazing slow motion shots of animals in the wild.


Phantom Flex4K with the ZEISS Compact Zoom 70-200 in an Artemis Maxima gimbal.


The main documentary camera was a Sony FS7 with ZEISS lenses on the shoulder, plus two Sony a7S cameras for MøVi shots (e.g. car tracking shots) and behind-the-scenes and a RED DRAGON for some special shots that required more highlight retention. We also had a FoMa Maxima gimbal (which we reported about here) to experiment with particularly long lenses (like the ZEISS Compact Zoom 70-200mm) in a moving vehicle at higher velocities. In a game reserve, it’s often not possible to leave the car because of safety concerns and the fact that you might scare away the shy animals, so versatility in your gear is a necessity. I will be writing a separate post about lens choices on this production sometime later, with a behind-the-scenes video to go with it.


This is a project with a very fast turnaround from concept to screen, we are talking about little over a month, including all the necessary traveling. The immense amount of 4K high speed data we had to wrangle was only possible to be stored thanks to the generous support of G-Technology, who supplied us with the G-Speed Shuttle XL RAID for this shoot (separate post will follow).

Without the unbelievable efforts of everyone involved, this would not have been possible – everyone who worked on this was invaluable, and we were a very small team. As director and cinematographer of this piece, I want to particularly highlight the unrelenting efforts that Nic Divischek in South Africa (as producer and operator on the ground, with his great partner Falk Eggert) and my cinema5D partner and friend Sebastian Wöber (as editor in Vienna) made to make this film to what it is now. And of course the people working on the Shamwari Game Reserve, without their support we would have nothing at all.

Feel free to shoot any questions you might have and I will gladly answer. There will be separate posts highlighting different aspects of this production in the near future – with the first one covering the storage workflow of Phantom Flex4K and other footage with the G-Speed Shuttle XL RAID.


High speed frame grap from the Phantom Flex4K. © Nino Film GmbH


High speed frame grap from the Phantom Flex4K. © Nino Film GmbH


High speed frame grap from the Phantom Flex4K. © Nino Film GmbH


Nic Divischek with the Phantom Flex4K. © Nino Film GmbH


Freefly Systems MøVi M5 with a Sony a7S and a ZEISS Milvus 21mm lens. © Nino Film GmbH


Zacuto Gratical HD viewfinder on the Sony FS7 with Vocas follow focus. © Nino Film GmbH

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