August 20, 2014 Bryan Harvey

Behind the scenes in the Yucatan

Behind the scenes in the Yucatan with CLOUDBREAK

Back in December, Panasonic approached us to make the demo video for their new, soon to be released GH4 4K camera. We needed a warm climate, and they wanted wildlife, some color…I thought about Costa Rica at first for the wildlife , but I’ve spent a lot of time there, and imagining shots, I just saw lots of greens and browns, so in the end I pitched the Yucatan for its more vibrant color palette, even though it’s not really the first place you would pick for wildlife.

The mission was pretty simple. Head down to Mexico and see what we could come back with, shooting on the new Panasonic GH4 4k camera. Panasonic would get a demo video for their new camera, and I would get 4k stock footage for the Nat Geo film library. It was a six day shoot, and with no real story required, low pressure – sounded fun!

Prepping the Freefly MoVI for it’s first hour of use on the Mexico Panasonic shoot.


This is AC Nick Midwig — a key part of my team. He knows his shit — everything from emergency repair late night soldering to hand gesture skype calls with non-english speaking Japanese camera engineers.

We brought two new prototype Panasonic Lumix GH4 4K cameras, two full sets of Lumix lenses, my brand new Freefly MoVI10, the Kessler Cineslider with Cindrive full multi-axis motion control, two octocopters and a “Fauxvi” backup Alexmos based brushless gimbal.

yucatan-31This was day one — our shakedown warmup day where I did not schedule anything too critical. I wanted a day for the team to get on their feet, break out the toys, see how we worked together without too much pressure (that would come later). Also nice to have some time for serendipity, and do a bit of location scouting. I had in the back of my mind that we wanted to do some shots with local fishermen. We didn’t really have anybody on the ground to set that up in advance, but I know Mexico pretty well. I was pretty sure we could roll up on the beach and make it happen.

yucatan-88Yes, this is how we like to work, barefoot on the Caribbean. That dude in the cowboy hat is Tim Gould, my skunkworks r&d tech guy, octocopter builder, and RC pilot extraordinaire. He was a last minute add to the shoot, and boy was I glad I insisted that he come along.


The X8 heavy lifter and real star of the shoot. This bird made easy work with the relatively light-weight Panasonic GH4


Alarm set for 4:30am for the big shoot at the Maya ruins in Tulum. Using the Alexmos gimbal on the 2nd copter.

yucatan-130The next morning, pre-sunrise backup copter prep inside the Maya site at Tulum.

yucatan-151Planning the shot.

It took months of pre-production and communication to get permission to film at the Maya ruins of Tulum with the octocopter — thanks to our local fixer Jesus Lopez for making that happen. A good local fixer is a key part of the puzzle for most any production and over the years I have built a pretty decent roster of people I like to work with.

I wanted to get the shots at sunrise, before the park was crawling with tourists, which come flooding in at 8am, so we had a very short window.

So….It’s the golden hour, the light is perfect, no wind, months of preparation building for this moment, tourists lining up at the gate, pressure is on. We fly the perfect flight…

yucatan-155Go time

yucatan-1605.4ghz video downlink from the octocopter camera via the HDMI port. We see what the camera sees. Old school Panasonic 9″ monitor — image quality wise, tough to beat.

yucatan-0367Lunch break selfie in the hiptster part of Tulum, in the most hipster restaurant. That’s Mira Rubiano in the middle, my ace AP and long time friend. She speaks a gazillion languages and is a Fulbright scholar. Score! I know Mira got sick of us talking about gear during this lunch!

yucatan-0397Midwig setting up the Kessler Cineslider for multi-axis motion controlled timelapses

yucatan-0386There was nothing too special about this Maya wall where we decided to set up the Kessler slider and get a quick shot. But when this group of tourtists came along and saw our complicated looking gear, I guess they assumed it was something worth documenting.