How do filmmakers create time-lapse videos of growing mushrooms? Are they filmed outdoors? Do you need special equipment? How long does it take? And how do you film underground?
In this Wired video, pioneering artist and Fantastic Fungi director Louie Schwartzberg takes us behind the scenes of his nature-focused filmmaking, from the lights to the camera lenses, to the changes in perspective that are required to film the action.
“I think all of life has a different frame rate. So for example, a mosquito on your arm, you know, having a little drop of blood, takes a look at that hand coming towards it in ultra slow motion and has plenty of time to take off because its metabolic rate. Its lifespan is way shorter than our lifespan.
“And our lifespan is way shorter than a Redwood tree’s lifespan. This reality of, you know, real-time human point of view is not the only point of view. And that’s really the beauty of cameras and time-lapse cinematography. It’s actually a time machine.
“And you know, you can talk about this stuff in scientific terms, you could have Einstein explain the theory of relativity, but until you see it, you really don’t get it.”
Note: The video includes a brief stop-motion decomposition clip of a mouse before some sprouts grow around it. Schwartzberg also briefly names the medicinal plant that the pink LED grow lights were developed for.
Though they look seamless, the scenes are a challenge to capture. Schwartzberg says that “the ratio of success to failure is roughly about one out of six, maybe 1 out of 10… It’s extremely difficult to do.” But it’s also rewarding:
“What I’m really engaged with is really trying to understand the intelligence of nature and how we can live in harmony with it… It’s a shared economy under the ground, where nutrients and food are shared, for ecosystems to flourish without greed.
“And I personally believe that should be the model for how we should live our lives. We can take that wisdom from below the ground and bring it above the ground.”
Here’s the trailer for Fantastic Fungi. Common Sense Media recommends it for ages 13+, but provides additional details so parents of younger kids can make an informed decision.
Watch more from Louie Schwartzberg: The Hidden Beauty of Pollination and Can Mushrooms Save the Honey Bee?
There are also lots of fungi videos on TKSST, including:
• Mushrooms grow & shrivel in this 10K shot time-lapse
• Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria), a time-lapse of growth
• The Fungi in Your Future: Mushroom leather, furniture, and more
• Spore Rain: A mushroom releases its spores on the breeze
• Fungi Matter, an animation for Kew
Bonus: The Wood Wide Web: How trees secretly talk to and share with each other.
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