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Spotlight #12
Planet Chronos by Sebastian Opitz

In DitoGear™ Spotlight #12 we are sharing an outstanding time-lapse project by Sebastian Opitz. Don’t miss one of the world’s most impressive urban landscapes!


And what’s your latest project? Share your interesting stories in the next spotlight.

Natalia Brząkała: How would you describe living and working in Dubai?


Sebastian Opitz: This city is a unique and diverse place where people from all over the world meet – local Arabs only make up 10% of the entire population. Living and working in Dubai is very interesting and many people stay for much longer than initially planned.
I came in 2008 and I am not planning to leave any time soon. Dubai radiates a positive energy which I have not experienced anywhere else. I really enjoy living in Dubai.


NB: What prompted you to start shooting Dubai?


SO: I moved to Dubai during the peak of its development. One third of all construction cranes existing worldwide were building huge skyscrapers by the dozens. There were literally forests of construction cranes. Also, whole suburbs with thousands of houses and huge landscaping projects were being created. What I saw was just surreal! So I decided to capture these massive developments. I am especially fascinated with the city skylines and the serene atmosphere at night and I guess that got me started with getting into architectural photography.


NB: How do you combine everyday life with passion?


SO: I am married and have two kids, so the only time I am free to shoot is late at night. When most people go to sleep I take my car and drive around town. If the conditions are right I would always go out and shoot. Hoping to capture something special keeps me going, especially during the fog season in March and October. If you are passionate about something you will always be able to squeeze some time for it.


NB: How long have you been creating “Planet Chronos”?


SO: I started to collect sequences in early 2012, but the project really took off in early 2013 when I bought the OmniSlider and OmniHead along with the Evolution interface.


NB: Why have you chosen the time-lapse technique?


SO: I remember becoming very excited about timelapse when I came across the first ‘Timescapes’ trailer by Tom Lowe a few years ago. Doing timelapse in Dubai is great fun, because things to shoot are everywhere around you. Streets, construction sites, aerial views of people playing tennis or partying in a beach club, Burj Khalifa wrapped in clouds… anything goes!


NB: Who else is involved in this project?


SO: I worked alone on this project, although sometimes friends came along and others invited me to shoot from the balcony of their homes, which I really appreciated, of course. The whole process has been great fun and I’ve learned a lot.


NB: I think the trailer is really impressive. Image fits the music perfectly and everything looks very futuristic. I assume
this is the main idea of this project. Is there anything else you would you like to emphasize?


SO: The futuristic look is exactly what I am going for. The idea behind the final film is to take a trip to some distant planet in another galaxy where the traveller encounters a sophisticated alien civilisation. I am not trying to hide that it is in fact Dubai in the film, but I would like to present the city in a way that resembles my personal impression of Dubai being one of the most futuristic cities in the world.


NB: Do you have trouble getting to the tops of skyscrapers in Dubai? How other people react to this project?


SO: Aerial pictures are usually the most impressive ones, of course. However, it is quite difficult to get on the roof of skyscrapers and it took a long time to build a network of friends and other people who would offer me to shoot from their private balconies whenever I need to. Sometimes I also get permission to shoot from hotels.


People are actually very supportive, especially when I offer to give them high resolution images as a souvenir of the view from their balcony. They are usually very interested in what I am doing and it’s great fun to have a chat when the camera is up and running down the track. I have found so many new friends since I began doing architectural photography and even more since I got into timelapse.


NB: What were main artistic and technical challenge during the production?


SO: Shooting timelapse is always challenging and you never know what is going to happen after the shot starts rolling.


My biggest passion is to capture the famous Dubai fog, but it is very rare and timing is crucial. It only happens during March and October on maybe five days per year in total. And it only happens very early in the morning, by 9 AM the sun gets too intense and the show is over within a few minutes. So if you want to shoot it, you need to check the weather conditions every night at around 3 AM and have to get going immediately if it looks promising. Very often no fog would show and setting up the equipment was all for nothing. But then you’ll have that one special morning when everything just comes together. Seeing the fog become denser by the minute and swallowing the skyline while I am standing high above it on a balcony on the 85th floor in Dubai Marina is something I will never forget. That, along with the continuous sound of the camera shutter as it moves down the dolly track, makes me a really happy camper.


I am also planning to include a few astro timelapse sequences in the beginning and at the end of the movie to depict the trip to another world. However, finding spots without considerable light pollution has turned out to be very difficult and it involves long drives. Even in the remote parts of the country all highways are illuminated and this can be rather frustrating.


NB: What role played the DitoGear™ equipment in this production?


SO: I always knew that a proper movie should include some form of motion control and I did a lot of research before I decided to go ahead with DitoGear. I am very happy with my decision, even though it can be a little annoying to haul the 2m OmniSlider up on a skyscraper. But once everything is set up and running all is good. Especially the Evolution interface is very convenient to use and works seamlessly with all devices. Some minor issues remain with the GUI, but I see great progress with each software update. Overall, DitoGear is doing a great job.


NB: What is your idea for making the final movie more interesting for the viewer?


SO: The final movie should include a considerable amount of real time footage, e.g. cars and their light trails. But I am also planning to be a lot more diverse on the timelapse stuff. Since I also have a LensDrive I would like to have one of the scenes go out of focus in sync with the beat of the music. Also, I am planning to include more hyperlapse scenes, as well as carlapse and boatlapse.


Overall, I hope I will be able to convey the idea of a trip to a distant galaxy in order to add a narrative element to the final movie.


NB: At what stage of the project are you right now?


SO: I am still at an early stage, because I still need to shoot quite a few substantial scenes that I have in mind for the final movie, e.g. all the astro timelapse sequences. Especially those will be very time consuming to capture due to the unreliable weather conditions and long drives to get to suitable locations.


NB: Do you have a release date of Planet Chronos?


SO: I was planning to have it finished by February or March 2014. But now, due the sheer volume of other work, it looks like the project will be substantially delayed.


NB: Sebastian, thank you for taking the time for us. We look forward to seeing the final movie in the nearest future!


Interested in Multi-axis Motion Control Kit?


Check DitoGear™ Evolution Multi-axis Motion Control Kits


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