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This Is What It's Like to Fly: 'Camera Hacks' Allow You to Take Flight With Flock of Birds


"a new team of spy cams"

TheBlaze has brought you a falcon's flight perspective thanks to a specialized head cam. Taking the phrase a "birds-eye view" to the next level though, director John Downer spent four years filming with a variety of techniques and technologies for the new series "Winged Planet" by the Discovery Channel and BBC.

Winged Planet debuted over the weekend, and, as Discovery Channel explains on its website, this "entirely different" view is thanks to "a new team of spy cams" developed by Downer.

Take a look at some of the footage:

Speaking with Pop Photo last week before the show aired, Downer gives more insight into the "camera hacks" he conducted to capture such footage. One of the cameras was mounted on a wooden bird glider modeled to look like a vulture.

"The more similar you can make your device to the bird in question, the more they're going to accept it," Downer told Pop Photo of the model. "It's a very different craft to fly than a normal glider, but, they accepted like it was one of them."

Downer explained a DSLR camera was mounted on the vulture glider, which could be operated independently of the glider's movement itself.

Downer also told Pop Photo he used a wide-angle lens for much of his work because it allows the filmmakers to "capture the animal in its surroundings rather than separated from its surroundings." This is unlike a camera with a telephoto lens, which he said can have a "distancing effect."

As for putting a camera on a live bird itself, here's how Downer says he did it:

What we had to do was strip down the highest-quality, but smallest HD camera available. We had to engineer it so it was basically a circuit board, a chip, a lens, and batteries. We had to make sure it was as light as possible, but we also needed it to record slow-motion. We wanted to film 50 fps rather than 25 which is normal [The standard in the US is 30 or 60 fps]. So, we had to make the cameras and the mounts so the bird could fly naturally and feel comfortable.

It also needed an extremely wide lens. You don't to see just the bird's perspective, you want to see the bird in the frame as well. You're getting these fantastic wrap-around views that include the arch of the wing. It was quite a challenge. For the first two years we didn't even attempt it. The technology was getting better and better so we decided to leave it for the last two years of shooting, which ended up being a good decision on our part.

With the variety of cameras used, some mounted on animals they could not control, Pop Photo reports Downer saying some of the equipment does not make it. This is a risk he is more able to take since technology has allowed cameras to become cheaper.

Watch this footage showing the "vulture cam":

"Discovery Channel has captivated audiences everywhere with our natural history programs such as Planet EarthLife and most recently Frozen Planet," said Eileen O'Neill, president of Discovery Channel and TLC Networks, in a statement. "We are once again thrilled to invite the world to join us in witnessing some of wildlife's greatest spectacles, only this time from the wings of our feathered friends. In Winged Planet our viewers will get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures thanks to cutting edge technology and sophisticated filming techniques. If you think you know birds, think again."

Read more of Pop Photos Q&A with Downer here. Find more video clips from Winged Planet here and more photos here.

(H/T: Gizmodo)

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