One of cooler tech trends this year has been the widening number of creative projects people are undertaking with small, rugged cameras. For where GoPros used to be used mainly by skaters, surfers and middle-aged people on skiing holidays, they're now being used to film everything from amazing parkour routines to - well - what it looks like to be a vulture.
This incredible video, the eighth in GoPro's 'Adventure Series', features VulPro's Kerri Wolter and Walter Neser, and explores not only what its like for a vulture in full flight above the African plains, but how that information can help efforts to save yet another perilously threatened and remarkable species.
Take a look at the video, followed by an exclusive Q&A with the creators.
Why a vulture?
Vultures inspired me to become involved in aviation, and I have learnt about un-powered flight by observing them rather than from any other source. The vulture population globally is in steep decline due to human induced threats. The worry is that some species may go extinct in our lifetime if this issue does not get addressed urgently. Kerri Wolter, founder of VulPro, inspired me to become involved in vulture conservation.
Why a GoPro?
The GoPro is the perfect tool for what we wanted to do. We use GoPro cameras in many aspects of our research as they are small and versatile, which enables us not to adversely affect the birds’ behaviour. They are also tough enough to survive being exposed to vultures for extended periods of time as we aim to learn more about the birds’ flight behaviour to try and understand why they have collisions with the blades of wind turbines and overhead electricity wires, which form part of the threats leading to their decline.
Were you inspired by the tech, or was the device a convenient means to an end?
I've been a fan of GoPro products since the company released their first standard definition camera. The technology and tiny form factor allows one to capture unique angles and compositions which are simply not possible with other cameras, so that would be yes to both.
How long did it take to capture - and what were the main difficulties?
The in-flight footage was captured over two separate days, working for about 30min on each day so as to keep things positive and enjoyable and stress free for the bird. The only real difficulties were the weather conditions at the time of year that we were filming. Ideally one would like to have light winds blowing up the slope of the mountain, along with good lighting but both were in short supply.
Are there similar projects you've tried that weren't as successful? Why?
This is the first time after captive testing of the harness camera mount that we have flown the bird with a camera in the wild and for me it is just the beginning. Having the ability to download files through Wi-Fi, and to charge the camera with a small solar panel may enable us to deploy a camera on a bird for a longer period which may teach us a lot more about how they interact with power-line infrastructure (as well as other aspects of their behaviour and biology) hopefully enabling us to look for ways to improve designs of these structures to make them more bird friendly.
What do filmmakers still have to learn about making the most of this technology?
The technology to record good audio does exist, it’s just that many film makers does not use it well, so it’s simply an issue of learning to use what is already available, and going to the extra mile to do it right.
What other tech are you excited about as a filmmaker?
Affordable, high frame rate HD cameras, to slow down the action that the human eye cannot follow.