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Video Digiscoping

And action! How videoscoping brings people closer

Mario Kreuzer from Austria’s Carinthia region has already spent half of his life shooting films and TV programs. Using digiscoping equipment from SWAROVSKI OPTIK, he has now produced a film portrait of Hannes Arch, the Red Bull Air Race pilot and world champion. During this assignment, he learnt to appreciate in particular the lightweight design and long focal length of the STX spotting scope.

  • © Mario Kreuzer
  • © Mario Kreuzer
  • © Mario Kreuzer
  • © Mario Kreuzer

Mario Kreuzer produces nature films and TV portraits about famous sports personalities. His company attaches a huge amount of importance to high-quality technology and it was one of the first in Europe to use HD equipment. To shoot the film about Hannes Arch, Kreuzer used an STX 95 spotting scope with a TLS APO adapter from SWAROVSKI OPTIK, combined with the Sony High Speed Camcorder NEX-FS700.

A climbing tour with friends was to provide the central theme for the portrait of Hannes Arch, particularly as he also started his career as a mountain guide and climber. This was then to provide the basis for telling the whole story of his career: hang-gliding, paragliding, base jumping, aerobatics, culminating in winning the Red Bull Air Race world championship. That was the plan.

Tough filming conditions

To ensure that this portrait could be broadcast all year round, any pictures with snow in them had to be discarded. This meant that the filming was not done in Austria, but on the Mediterranean coast in the south of France. We had to abandon the original filming location that we had planned to use, in the Verdon region of the French Alps, due to the constant bad weather.

The particular challenge posed when shooting this portrait was that there was only one day’s shooting available for the climbing tour. The planned ascent to the rock face alone took three hours. Therefore there was only time to climb the route once.

Two good reasons for digiscoping

In this tough situation, the SWAROVSKI OPTIK spotting scope was best at enabling me to do my job. This was down to, first of all, its lightweight, compact design, which made it easy to carry around. The other factor was that, due to the layout of the landscape, I couldn’t get nearer to the rock face and, by extension, to the climbers. This is why telephoto lenses (e.g. 150-500 mm without a crop) would not have been adequate. They were also the reasons why I swapped my standard 600 mm telephoto lens for the STX 95 spotting scope from SWAROVSKI OPTIK.

Contrary to my initial concerns, the weaker light transmission of the spotting scope never posed a problem. I didn’t miss the lack of aperture either because you always manage to cope really well with integrated ND filters. In extreme cases, you could, if necessary, improve this by changing the shutter speed very slightly, which I actually never had to do in any situation.

Flexible response every time

The facility for quickly swapping lenses, for instance, attaching a wide-angle lens to the spotting scope, also proved to be very beneficial. In this case, the TLS APO adapter is especially handy, even though you need to always ensure that it is attached precisely. Incidentally, it also saves a huge amount of time if you lock the TLS APO adapter on the camera bayonet mount so that you only need to slide up the spotting scope instead of attaching the whole lens or the camera on the bayonet accordingly. In any case, the numerous lens changes and the associated alteration on the small camera crane (MiniJib) or pocket rail worked out very well during the extremely brief climbing tour.

Digiscoping as a “must-have”

Thanks to its lightweight design, the STX 95 spotting scope from SWAROVSKI OPTIK does not require any kind of elaborate support. I simply fitted a part from my matte box to the spotting scope rail. Using the appropriate Novoflex T2 adapter, I can attach the spotting scope directly, without any additional adapter, to the Sony FS700 camera.

There were no signs of vignetting or chromatic errors at the two zoom endpoints, which was important to me, especially given the unfavorable light conditions (a bright to white sky). The loss of light between the zoom’s start point and endpoint corresponds fairly accurately to when I switched to an integrated ND filter.

I felt that using the digiscoping equipment to shoot the film was a great success. It is a “must-have” for anyone who films wildlife. Its lightweight design also makes it a worthwhile tool in other areas (e.g. sport).