Starting from Kathmandu at 4,600 feet, the crew from Teton Gravity Research traveled by helicopter to 24,000 feet on supplemental oxygen to capture the majestic Himalaya in this captivating short film. Shot with the most advanced gyro-stabilized camera setup, Mount Everest, Ama Dablam, and Lhotse are presented in crystal-clear ultra-HD footage by these aerial cinema experts. Here director Todd Jones tells us about shooting in thin air.
This may be the fastest “trek” into the high Himalaya in history! How long was the actual helicopter ride to capture this footage?
We were in Nepal on standby to film my brother Jeremy [Jones] ride a first descent in the Himalaya [see an incredible photo of the feat]. We were there for three weeks. We shot the aerials over the course of four days. We had a remote fueling station setup at Ama Dablam base camp for the helicopter. This allowed us to spend lots of time in the heart of the range. It’s wild though because we were staying in Lukla at 9,000 feet and we would lift to 20,000 feet in about ten minutes. We needed supplemental oxygen so we didn’t get seriously sick. At one point we went up to 24, 000 feet. It was mind-blowing.
Tell us about this incredible camera?
The technical answer is: The GSS C520 is our largest five-axis, gyro-stabilized platform with a 20-inch diameter gimbal. The platform was developed to integrate the latest full-size and modular digital cinema cameras with any long or short lens option available on the market. The Arri Alexa XT M, Red Epic Mysterium-X, or Sony PMW-F55 camera with the Angenieux Optimo 24-290 is a high demand combination with this platform.
The other answer is: In my opinion the GSS is the most powerful camera stabilization system in the world. It is faster, lighter, and more efficient than anything else on the market.
How does did the helicopter fair once you got into the thin air?
When you are at those high altitudes the heli becomes a little more wobbly. It feels obvious that it is biting into thin air. Something like a wind gust will really blast you around.
Seeing those majestic peaks from the air must have been a bit profound.
I was operating the GSS in the helicopter. It was completely surreal. We had special permits from the military to fly in the area we were. I had to pinch myself a bit when I realized what was going on. Saying things to the pilot like, “Can we circle the summit of Ama Dablam?” Or asking for a reveal shot of Everest was pretty special. I think it was a very rare look at an amazing place. The Himalaya are truly in a league of their own. It’s still hard for me to comprehend how big and wild those mountains are.
You live in Jackson, Wyoming, where Teton Gravity Research is based. How do your home peaks in the Tetons compare to these giants?
The Tetons are an amazing mountain range. The are very rugged and steep and beautiful. However, nothing compares to the size of the Himalaya. They just massive.
Do you plan to use this camera technology in other landscapes?
We use the GSS all over the world for all kinds of shoots. It barely ever sits still. We have a bunch of stuff that we will release in the future like a reel of the Tetons and a Boston reel as well.
Are there climbers on Everest in this footage?
There are not climbers on Everest. It was not the time of year when people climb Everest. We were there for a snowboard descent, so we chose to go in at the tail end of the monsoon, which is not when climbers want to be there.