Bird's Eye View takes the viewer on a journey back to a time when our lives had just begun. Told with ethereally beautiful underwater photography of a free diver exploring a kelp forest in the depths of the ocean, Bird's Eye View explores the primal relationship between man and the sea. It dares to shine a light on what viscerally attracts us to it by drawing a direct connection to instincts long lost along our path to becoming human. KELP, THE SECRET STAR Thanks to Oceaner I had the chance to work in one of my favourite workplaces: the Ocean. The Vancouver-based wetsuit company gave me complete control over a vision that had been sitting with me for a few years. The rich ecosystem in the waters around Los Angeles has been fascinating to me since I started to venture out into surf photography a few years ago. One particular inhabitant of the ocean around here had caught my attention, and sometimes even limbs, from the very beginning. No, I am not talking about sharks. I am talking about my literal entanglement with Southern Californian kelp. Kelp is a large algae and is considered the trees of the Ocean. Some grow up to 50 feet tall reaching from the ground of the shallower coastal waters all the way to the upper regions and water surface, where the kelp is able to feed off the rays of the sun. I somehow happened to acquire a special skill getting caught by the tentacle-like branches, which occasionally causes some unease depending on how deep I am diving and how much air I still have in my lungs. But so far, I’ve obviously made it back up to the surface every time those entanglements happened. With time panic gives way to routine. California has the Sequoias above water and - only few know - giant kelp trees underwater. THE SHOOT Bird’s Eye View was shot on a shoestring budget. That’s why we had to make some compromises in regards to the scale of the production. Since we kept the team small, I took on matters like producing, besides direction and cinematography. Brooke Basse, my fantastic underwater camera operator, was thrilled to wear a bunch of different hats, too. She not only took us around the island on her amazing Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat as the skilled captain she is, but we gained a lot from her overall knowledge of the island and its best dive locations. She also has a 6th sense for tracking and locating best visibility underwater. Due to changes in coming swells, we were running against time and already had to deal with sub-par visibility on the second of two shoot days. Without Brooke and her speedy boat we would have ended up being nothing more than some lost tourists on a raft, likely returning with pretty useless footage. In regards to gear I knew I needed two solid underwater cameras to push this through within the narrow time frame available. Based on my past experience shooting underwater on the iPhone for Apple, I knew taking the same route again - three iPhone models later - should be fun. Not only have the camera capabilities improved quite a bit since then. Tools like Filmic Pro, the popular pro-level camera app, have followed suit in regards to tools and image quality. The market for underwater housings has grown as well in the meantime and we had the pleasure to test Divevolk’s new housing. In the end, none of the footage we captured above water on the RED Komodo 6K with Vazen full frame anamorphic lenses made it into the cut of the actual commercial, but it was worth having it for most of the “dry” behind-the-scenes footage around the boat. Ironically, the usual roles got a little reversed this time. POST-PRODUCTION With Bird’s Eye View, as with previous experiences with iPhone footage, we intended to go through the entire commercial post production pipeline. While shooting in 4K resolution with 60 frames a second we were not able to make use of the newly introduced ProRes format on the iPhone, but had to resort to the HEVC codec. The footage we captured underwater held up very well, though. To my surprise unseen levels of highlight detail revealed itself in Resolve, plus we had some pretty impressive color latitude for grading. Light sensitivity got a touch better, but we decided not to go deeper than 30 feet anyways, which worked out well for the entire look of the film and its colors. I am really happy that we were able to capture the hues of the underwater landscape just the way we encountered it - using red filtration of course. Since we ran out of time and visibility in Catalina by the end of the second day, a few close ups and actions of our diver were captured in my friend Marten Larsson’s pool and composited into clean plates, which we had shot on location. Unfortunately Sarah Sylvester, our talent during the location shoot, ran into scheduling conflicts, so we swapped her for professional stunt diver Lea Catania. In order to mimic the light under the kelp’s canopy we tied a camouflage awning across Marten’s pool to function as a huge gobo, scattering the direct sunlight almost as organically as inside the kelp. Besides a few little tricks in clean up and the color grading, most shots haven’t been touched. Everything you see in the 90 second film was captured on the iPhone 13 Pro MAX using the Filmic Pro app. Big shout out to Neill Barham and Claire Sandberg for their support with the latest BETA version including the new frame.io interface, which helped us send rushes to my editor Eric Tostorff, who was located in Glendale and able to get an idea of what’s to come. I can only express my gratitude to Mitch Mallender and his team for his support and quick response when we needed his help during production. Mitch and the marketing team from Oceaner were very happy with the resulting film. I wish everyone involved ongoing success with their outstanding work. Way to go, team!
Sven is an award-winning filmmaker based in Los Angeles. The strong visual focus of his work roots in his love for photography and background in post-production, where he worked with industry-leading directors such as David Fincher, Joseph Kosinski, Edgar Wright or Andrew Thomas Huang. Learning how to pay attention to detail, while “polishing” their work (never their boots), enabled him to acquire a sophisticated understanding of the anatomy of a shot. He does not shy away from experimenting with different methods and technologies to create outstanding commercial and branded content. He feels comfortable shooting on land as well as underwater. Sven founded his own media & post-production boutique Revolutio Creative in 2016. Clients include a variety of brands such as Birkenstock, Apple, Blanc Noir, Neiman Marcus or United Nude, to name a few.