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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 10:23

Capturing 3D Storm Footage

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Choosing a profession is a decision we all have to make at some point in our adult life. For Martin Lisius, the choice was easy. He became a cinematographer and producer of programming that covers severe weather, including thunderstorms, stormy seas, blizzards and chasing the mother of all natural disasters: tornados. And after shooting these events, he sells the footage to production companies where it can be used in their film projects.

In 1993 Lisius created StormStock, a stock footage company that specializes in capturing difficult storm footage. And, in 1997, he began by shooting much of StormStock’s footage on Super 35mm using an ARRIFLEX camera. “I began spending thousands of hours shooting material for the collection,” says Lisius. “It is very time consuming and expensive. My goal was to shoot a format that we could transfer easily to HD in the future.”

Today, Lisius has taken his method a step further — he recently captured the first-ever 3D tornado footage in Nebraska. He managed to photograph three tornadoes spawned by a potent storm system tenn colony tornado with martin lisiusthat tracked across the Nebraska Plains. According to Lisius, the most significant tornado lasted 20 minutes as it derailed a train and caused damage to area farms. Lisius also shot 3D footage of supercell thunderstorms, downpours and dramatic lightning. To capture these events, Lisius and his crew used a Sony HDR-TD10 3D camera on a medium-duty, Betacam-style OConnor tripod. “Most of our shooting with the TD10 on the tiny Sony is outsized by this support system,” Lisius recalls, “but we need the extra bulk for the high winds we shoot in.”

Lisius says that capturing great footage of extreme weather requires keen foresight long before the event. “It takes careful forecasting and logistical decisions to intercept a tornado that will develop hundreds of miles away,” he explains. “I start forecasting days before I depart and refine my target every day and then every hour on the day of the event. I’m looking for an area where good shear and instability will be later in the day. I go to my target and hope storms will develop. I then intercept and track the storm with the best tornadic characteristics and stay with it until it produces. Many times, I break off from the original storm to a new and better one.”

As more productions feature extreme-weather shots, producers are turning to companies like StormStock for quality footage on premium formats. “They tell us what they need and we create a custom screener to meet their specs,” says Lisius. “Sometimes they need a large quantity of footage for a documentary or other TV program. Other times, they need just a shot or two to composite in a commercial or feature film. We can deliver their masters on just about any format.”

To find out more about StormStock, visit www.stormstock.com

Photo of Lisius with white shirt: Photo courtesy of Brandon Jennings/Prairie Pictures
Photo of Lisius with black shirt: Photo courtesy of Taryn Hazelwood/ Prairie Pictires

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