This ‘Impossible’ Shot was Captured in One Take With No CGI
Director Mikhail Parkhomenko’s latest project creates an impossible-looking shot that was completed in a single uninterrupted take without using any computer generated-imagery (CGI) using a combination of a drone and a 360-degree camera.
Parkhomenko has been experimenting with drone-based videos for the last several years. Last month, PetaPixel featured an incredible single-shot looped video that is shot entirely in first-person view through the perspective of a drone. What made that video impressive was the coordination of the scene, and while his latest project is much shorter in length, the visual spectacle is dialed up considerably.
The short 12-second video starts out simple enough but immediately gets unusual when the camera flips upside down, flies under the car, and then emerges behind it before reorienting itself. The motion is quick and seamless, and not even a couple of years ago it would have been completely impossible without the help of computer graphics.
“For the last few years, I have been following a specific style in my work that I call Impossible Shots,” Parkhomenko tells PetaPixel. “The goal of this is to research new shooting techniques that previously were just physically impossible to shoot. For me, this is all practice, which I will later use when shooting my more serious work like commercials, music videos, or movies.”
Specifically, this shot idea was suggested by a friend of Parkhomenko’s — Emil Khaziev — who has for a long time wanted to fly under a car with a drone. Building on that, Parkhomenko suggested they perform the feat with a 360-degree camera to achieve an even more unusual effect.
“This is a custom drone that is designed to fit into a 360-camera blind spot,” he says. “Since one camera looks up and the other looks down, there is a space in the middle where the drone fits.”
The camera he employed is one from Insta360, and while Parkhomenko says it is typically a camera designed more for the average consumer, he’s a filmmaker and he wanted to find unique ways to use the camera in higher-end productions as a creative tool.
“Before shooting the final video, we did two tests to see if it was even physically possible to fly under the bottom of the car straight,” he explains.
“This is a really difficult challenge because the camera lenses are bulging. This means the slightest touch of ground or car underbody at speed scratches the little lens so badly that it’s immediately ruined,” he explains and says that this did indeed happen and he had to replace the destroyed optics with new ones a couple of times.
Below is an example of one of the test flights Parkhomenko and his team performed ahead of the final shot.
“We rented 30 light panels to illuminate the entire parking lot. The parking lot itself belonged to people we knew and they let us film there for free,” he says.
“It took us a month to edit because there were a lot of camera rotation variations,” he adds.
The editing process he is referring to involves post-production software which allows editors to completely control the perspective of the footage using the visual data that the camera captures.
“This is actually a very fascinating process because you have to ‘control’ the camera in post, choosing the angle, speed of movement, rotation, etc,” Parkhomenko says.
“I created about five patterns of camera movement. From this, we chose the best one and then refined it. I edited with After Effects and the GoPro FX Reframe plugin, which allows you to animate all kinds of camera parameters. Since I wanted exceptional accuracy, I chose these programs.”
Parkhomenko says he plans to return to making music videos after what has been a five-year hiatus and will integrate the skills he has obtained from his current experiments with unusual drone techniques.
“All the current experiments will help in coming up with scripts. Some of my work has helped me in making commercials since I show them my work as a reference and the client believes that I can do something like it. And, of course, I would like to make movies. This is the most important and main goal.”
For more from Parkhomenko, make sure to follow him on Instagram and check out his YouTube Channel.
Image and video credits: Mikhail Parkhomenko