“Monument Valley” Timelapse and Video short film

Monument Valley is a place I have been desperate to visit for all my adult life. Ever since I fell in love with the John Ford movie “The Searchers”, simply the greatest western ever made and majestic to look at it, Cinematographer Winton C. Hoch captured Monument Valley in the most perfect way using the legendary Vistavision film format.

The film itself is epic and if you have never seen it then get on itunes now and download it! The locations used are 0ne thing, but the story and everyone in it will simply blow you away and they have the most perfect beginning and end shot ever put to film. I think they are responsible for my love of bookends. Below is the opening shot. I didn’t want to embed the closing shot too, if you have seen the film you know it, if you haven’t buy the movie…you will not regret it!

Anyway, that is a long winded way to get to the point of this film. As many of you know I have been in the US since early June doing lots of varied work, I have come to the end of my trip and before I went home I simply had to go to the place I had always dreamt of going to, so from Idaho ,where I was shooting a doc which i will do a blog on soon, I drove for two days, 1000 miles down to Monument Valley. I did not want to fly as I heard the drive was spectacular. I actually filmed the entire journey which I need to edit soon!

I have done an in depth commentary to play once you have seen the film. You need to hit pause when I say so as 5 minutes is not enough to tell you everything that I want to tell you.

Stuff that is not in the commentary. I used 2 Gitzo traveller tripods, a gorillapod, miller Solo DS20, and the manfrotto tripod with 503 head. I also used my new Kessler Crane Signature Edition Pocket Dolly which goes on sale for $995 in September. Pre-orders will be taken soonish I believe. If you can’t afford it check out the Pocket Dolly V2, is great too but doesn’t have the new gearing, drag control, feet or bag.

ALSO, lots of timer remotes, 3 power supplies and a brilliant battery brick for the 5d/ 7d by Switronix. it’s the Powerbase 70 and gives you about 6 times longer than a standard battery, it also has a d-tap out to power other things. ESSENTIAL for timelapse. I did have 3 power supplies for the cameras but one of them is 3rd party and this caused an issue. In the hotel there were LOTS of power cuts, every time this happened the Canon ones simply restarted, the 3rd party one said “cannot communicate with battery” which made it useless. It was $50 so it’s fine for normal use, just not here. That is when the fat battery of the Nikon D3s which goes on forever, the 1dmkiv and the Switronix battery pack saved the day.

Switronix power base

For the timelapses I shot AV mode mostly which causes lots of flicker, had the F stop around F5.6 or so, interval I believe was 7 seconds as I used 64gb UDMA cards so had the space to fill them up. Quality was medium or large. Yes lots of flickering so I used the FCP plug in called “long exposure” part of CHV ELECTRONICS Time Collection which costs $40. Bargain! I use it for almost all my timelapse.

The amount of time between shots comes down to two things, space on card and how long you have. You need 24 photos for a 24p video frame so keep that in mind. Too few photos and the computer needs to work them out, too many is fine as you can speed them up! Most of the nightime exposures were relatively high ISO of around 1600 with 30 second exposures as it was SO dark. When the cloud cleared and the moon came out the ISO could be dropped right down.

I stayed for one night out of three in “The View” Hotel. You have to stay there. It’s worth the $200 for this basic hotel as the view literally is breathtaking. Most of the shots in the second half of the film were taken from my hotel balcony.

To make sure the cameras were ok in the rain i covered them over with plastic. After my 7D died in Florida (still waiting to get it back from repair a month later!) I am very cautious about this weatherproofing now!

So, yes , I used 5 cameras at once. Not in the grasp of most, but this was simply as I needed to maximise my time, with two more days and just two cameras I could easily have done it. I wish I did have more time…I will certainly go back!!

Quick recap of gear used:

Cameras used:

1 5Dmk2 for video. Shot in 30p as was new and it didn’t have the new firmware on it incredibly so conformed to 24p in post. No big deal. It’s upgraded now!

Timelapse cameras:

Another 5dmk2, 2 x 7d, 1Dmkiv, Nikon D3s

Tripods used 2x Gitzo Travellers, Miller Solo 3 stage carbon fibre with DS20 head, Manfrotto with 503 HDV head (sticky!), heavy duty gorillapod.

Lenses used:

D3s: 21mm, 50mm, 85mm Zeiss ZF

Canon: 14mm F2.8, 17mm TS, 24mm TS V2, 24mm F1.4, 35mm F1.4, 50mm F1.2, 70-200mm F4 IS, 70-200mm F2.8 IS, 1.4 extender

5 intervalometers (timer remotes), 2 official canon ones, 1 official Nikon one and 2 third party ones.

Oh, all graded as usual with Magic Bullet looks, 20% of at checkout with code bloom20. Cropped to 2.35:1 in FCP using the built in plug in “widescreen”.

Anyway enjoy the film and do listen to the commentary. If there are any of my films you would like commentary of let me know!

Monument Valley from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

For a full description of shoot and gear please visit my website and also a 12 minute commentary.

http://philipbloom.net2010/08/02/monumentvalley/

Monument Valley commentary by PhilipBloom

The photos below show you the number of cameras I had going at one time as well as “The View” hotel and my crappy Ford Edge rental that got stuck in the sand 🙁 !!

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Comments

  1. One day, man, I’m going to link up with you and I gotta spend a day doing timelapses with you!

    Nice use of the sound, and a very kool vibe by using the tilt-shift lenses. Now we just need “James Earl Jones” voice-over on top of it … and National Geographic will be calling!

    ‘J-dog

  2. Hi Phil.
    You spent a lot of efforts to this one.
    Again a great movie (but not your best one;)
    Do you did some grading on this?

    cheers

  3. What an amazing location I’ve been trying to get some time lapse shoots done out in open plains or deserts like this. Great stuff as always!

  4. Looks great.

    Didn’t know your 7D had died. I’ve always been careful in rain, if you don’t use the weather sealed L’s water can easily creep in by the lens, and even if it doesn’t flood it or hit the contacts as it heats up if the sun comes out you’ll get condensation inside. I do know a 1DS is cup of coffee proof however ;o)

    Also – HOW MUCH KIT!!

    Kit whore or what??

  5. Hi Phil!

    Big fan. Just about to download your 7D instructional video …

    Quick question: I’m going to get the Canon 7D. My budget will only allow for three Zeiss primes to start with. I will mainly be shooting short marketing videos, interviews, and some short narrative — for now.

    Which three lenses would you recommend in order?

    I was thinking 35mm/f2 (effectively 50mm), 18mm/f3.5 (effectively 28mm) and 50/f1.4 (effectively 80mm) …

    Also, will a Fader ND filter work for all three sizes? Any Zeiss lenses it WON’T work for?

    Thanks for everything — you rock!!!

    Anthony

  6. Very very good!

    A few questions if you can where did you get the license for the music and could you let us know how you achieved a 2.35:1 widescreen in Final Cut Studio?

    1. Apply the Widescreen filter to your clip(s) or nested clips. Export with custom size: 1920×817 with crop selected. Done.

  7. Hello Master Bloom

    I want to ask you a simple question (for you), because I’m starting to make films with my 5D. How can I make Timelapses without the remote control? Because I’m waiting for mine and it’s still on the way…

    Cheers

    XG

  8. Nice idea to provide the commentaries on SoundCloud. Thank you for the download.
    Personally, I would like to hear your commentary on Dungeness and A Day at the Races.
    This Monument Valley film is mesmerizingly awesome!:-)

    cheers

  9. You captured the essence of an amazing place. Having spent much of my life there, it holds a special place. Thank you for doing it justice.

  10. About to watch it now, just wanted to know what lenses you used on the various cameras? And what happened to your 7D? Water damage??

  11. Well done, looks amazing, I understand how much worked you put in to achieve this video. Next time it would be great if you did the same to Uluru in Central Australia.

    Cheers

  12. Mate!
    I’m heading to Monument Valley later in the month… You beat me to it!
    Also been fascinated by it for years.
    Heading to Australia anytime? I believe you worked in the UAE with a mate of mine, Steve French. Aussie DOP.
    Stay well.

      1. haha yeah he told me the dramas of that doco.
        Hopefully catch you in Oz in Nov.
        Just sent you a vimeo link to a teaser for a short I shot on the 5D. Your thought’s would be appreciated!
        Cheers

  13. Simply superb images, Philip. Reminds me of the beginning of one my favourite films, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

  14. Awesome! Want to go back there and stay in that hotel. 🙂 Excellent choice of music (again) – love the lightning & the rainbows!

    Technical question: doesn’t one of your zillion cameras suffer from hot pixels? I did notice some when I did a night timelapse; apparently quite normal on long exposures, but annoying nonetheless. Shooting RAW seems to help, but that just eats away too much memory. Are you lucky with not having pixel-issues, do you remove them in post, or maybe you’ve found another solution?

    Keep up the inspiring work!

    1. yes I have two cameras which have hot pixels. my original 5dmk2 has LOADS and needs to go in for repair. I need to find a good post solution myself!

      1. CHV Electronics also has a great filter for dead or hot pixels. I have a single group of hot pixels (about 3 or 4) on my 5DM2 that show up consistently in one spot in high ISO shots. CHV Noise Collection’s Dead Pixel works well to remove it. I could send the camera back to Canon to have the pixels “mapped out” but do not want to part with the camera that long. So CHV’s Dead Pixel is the answer for me. Christoph doesn’t live far away from me either 🙂 He’s in Marietta, Georgia.

        Beautiful film as always, Phil. One of my favorite parts of the country. You’ll have to go back again someday when you can take the magnificent drive across Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah.

        1. I agree – don’t want to part with the camera that long. Thanks for the tip Carl, will look into that!

    1. I thought the same thing when I saw the shot of the hotel. But the one in the Bond movie is actually in Peru, just google ESO Hotel.

  15. Amazing video and also nice commentary, your voice very pleasant to listen to. Keep ’em coming!

  16. Stunning images, great job with the edit and the commentary track was brilliant.

    I grew up in the southwest and the desert has something about it that can’t be described, just experienced. It’s like the ocean in that way.

    The images are so clear that they seen almost 3D. Did you use a filter for IR?

    The 2.35 ratio plays well with your eye for landscapes. Cropped in FCP?

    Thanks for sharing this lovely work.
    -a-

  17. Again – great shots , loving the feel of the place – talk about multi tasking though with that many cameras / so much footage impressive you managed to get this out so quick!
    Just in case no-one else lets you know – 2:13 is a very awesome shot – great composition, would loved to see a time-lapse of it when you go back 🙂
    what wide angle lens did you use most ?

    Also would love to hear commentary on San Fran’s people and Above Skywalker !

    ps – Above Skywalker page missing?
    http://philipbloom.net/2010/03/15/24p/

    Take it easy

    Seb

  18. Wow that shoot looks like it was so fun. Going to have to travel out to Monument Valley one day to take in the sites and snaps some photos. Awesome Work!

    Unrelated Questions
    * Is that the hotel from Quantum of Solace?
    * When will your Philip Bloom pocket dolly become available to the public on Kessler’s site?

  19. The clouds cover in several shots makes me feel like I’m underwater. The rainbow in the timelapse is great, so pretty. Thanks for this blog, you did monument valley justice. Great edit too, nice screen direction and pace. I enjoyed the sound mix where the lightening struck and then faded away, very magical. Awesome work Phil, and thanks for the audio commentary.

  20. Beautiful shots in this film! I really enjoyed the timelapses, especially the two that show the rainbow. I would love to film out there one day, at least now I know that it’s not luck it just takes booking a room there ;).

  21. Great results Phil – I really enjoyed a lot of the tiltshift shots – have such an organic feel to them. Audio commentary was great!

  22. Great film, great compositions. Loved the commentary, please do more on any of your films.

    Also, what bags did you use to cover the cameras?

  23. Gorgeous! I loved the commentary as well. That was really interesting and useful. The rain and storm made it special; sunshine would be like everyone else. I did laugh at all the timelapse cameras going at once, thinking you were making fun of yourself… ooops. Sorry. You were serious.

    I was in Monument Valley about 100 years ago shooting stills for Porsche. I was surprised by how contained the place was and how dependent on the light. You really brought out the special beauty.

  24. Any tips for getting focus at night? I mostly just do it by trial and error since I can’t see a darn thing but waiting 30 seconds to see if I guesstimated right isn’t the most efficient thing. Last night I set focus to infinite for the stars and that was still off.

    By the way. Love the 2.35:1 Perfect for this kind of landscape.

    1. The way I get focus at night is to find a bright light far away (to get infinity focus) and turn the ISO way up and use Live View to get focus. Then you can back down the ISO and you’re in focus for your 30 second exposure shot without having to wait 30 seconds each tiny adjustment.

  25. got stuck out there, eh? was your ford edge the awd version? personally, i wouldn’t go out there w/o my 4×4. lived in az for 6 yrs. and learned that the hard way:-)

  26. This and skywalker ranch are your best videos. This had a Close Encounters of the Third kind feel to it. Great job!

  27. Is there any chance to have the 5dMkII having the same 720P modes as the 7D ? Would it be technically possible ? (I don’t know, sensor size issues or simething…)

    Oh and by the way : IMPRESSIVE timelapses !!! Astonishing !!!

  28. Thank you so much Philip. You are an excellent teacher, and the commentary is very much appreciated. What a great resource you are!

  29. Phil i loved having your commentary and hearing your thoughts. It really was a neat way to connect with your amazing vision! cant wait for the next one!

    thanks
    -Pjakob

  30. WOW! The rainbows were a GREAT catch! That was absolutely incredible watching them fade in and out and hue shift during the sunset. Being from Utah I’ve seen and take lots of video and photos of redrock and canyon land, but _that_ rainbow sequence is the most amazing thing I have ever seen come out of there. Next time you’re in that area, it would be worth your time to skim through Valley of the Gods, Bridges, and if you can get over to it, Zions, as well.

    So whats your favorite lens and it’s settings, after this shoot, for sunset on redrock? Do you find it better to shutter drag or give aperture priority when clicking sunsets, especially in the dancing light and changes of of light from clouds?

  31. Man, nice film. That is such a magical place. Was there a few years ago when The View had just opened up….like literally, a day or two before we arrived – just a couple of days after Christmas. Didn’t even have all the rooms finished yet. I could spend a week their shooting. The lighting there can change in an instant and the sunsets are amazing. Glad you got to go there.

    You should check out White Sands, New Mexico next time you are “Out West”. Pretty amazing place too.

  32. Phil,

    What a wonderful film and watching it again with your commentary was VERY interesting. The amount of work and patience it must take to make a film look so relaxed. Great images.

    Regards,

    Adrian.

    PS: Any chance you could fit in my ‘warehouse’ shoot end of Aug beginning of Sept? 🙂

  33. Hey man,

    Awesome job as ever really impressed with it. I have to say, I watched it the second time listening to the new arcade fire song the suburbs 6 seconds ahead of this.

    Have to say, truly phenomenal.

  34. Great piece, Phil! I really enjoyed it! The sunrise and rainbows are lovely, and you can see the amount of work put into it. Almost can’t believe you shot this in such a short amount of time…

    The Gustav Holst planets are some of my favourite musical pieces (went to a live philharmonic performance of them once. Amazing!) and fit the images very well.

  35. Philip, when you shoot in Av mode, how long do you set your remote to take pictures? Like when it goes day to night, it may need to take a 30 sec exposure, but during the day a 1/250. Do you do in manually?

    1. everything had a 7 sec interval. obviously less photos were taken at night but all the daytime stuff was sped up so it evened out

  36. It’s a beautiful sophisticated production, and a pleasure to watch, but the dedication in your effort to document the process and pass that on is equally impressive. Thanks for the hard work.

  37. Phil, do you know if anyone makes a v-mount battery pack for the DSLRs? Seems like one of those would power a DSLR for days!

    Also, do you have any clue if Canon will ever release a mark 3 version of the 5d? Perhaps once with BNC out and RAW video 😉

  38. Amazing work !
    Remind me the Kata Tjuta and The Uluru in the bush in Australia, beautiful sunset and sunrise with the different colors too, you can feel the aboriginal spirit when you walk around. YOu should definitely go there to view that and me I should go to Monument valley ! ahahah
    Thx again mate.

  39. Incredible piece, and the Gods smiled upon you while you were there. The weather, the rainbows, the colors. Fantastic film. It is one of my favorite places on this earth.
    I photographed Monument Valley and Arches National Park a few years ago. It is on my site at http://www.solaresphotography.com – travel
    Again, fabulous work. I’m just beginning to dive in the the HDSLR game so now I’m a bit more inspired.
    thanks

  40. Have you ever watched any of the quatsi films(Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi)? I bet you are nearing enough footage to build your own audio-visual feature. I am not sure what you would want to allude to with the images, but it would be fun project to undertake.

  41. Philip, Love this! I really really enjoyed watching this again with the commentary! so awesome! I would greatly enjoy more of your videos with commentary!

    1. thanks Brandon and everyone else with the kind comments. I loved making this more than anything for ages. a dream come true

  42. Phil so its a battery plus has a v-mount on it to mount v-mount batteries? I was a bit confused and the website was kinda vague.

    Regardless it looks very useful.

    J

  43. Phil,

    Beautiful imagery as usual. I’ve been having a hard time getting the 2.35 widescreen matte on one of time lapse clips after doing a scaling zoom in FCP. Is there a trick to it? It seems like it zooms right past the matte.

    Thanks,

    Eric

  44. really dig the floating rainbow shots. like you said you really lucked out there… some of my favorite shots are totally unexpected.

    this would make an awesome “in a big country” by big country video.

  45. Wonderful film, Mr. Bloom. It’s special that your passion for the subject and process has as much impact as the film itself!

    One subject you’ve NEVER touched on – and I wonder about constantly. How the heck do you travel around the world with all this GEAR?

  46. Thanks so much for commentary Philip, it made so much more interesting to watch the video.

    Hoping to get over to London for the Picadilly Circus meet-up – what a brave choice of location lol!

  47. simply stunning. literally breathtaking. I guess you really cant beat the full-frame goodness of the 5dmkII. I was going for the 7d, but I don’t know!
    I feel like if I’m going to get with a dslr, I might as well get the best.
    also no magic lantern for the 7d which makes me sad 🙁

    I can’t thank you enough for the detailed commentary. VERY helpful.

    would love to hear one for “sea” and “salton sea” -please, please, pretty please!! 🙂

  48. good job man. Makes me wanna go even more. Did you do this stuff all on your own? I mean, do you not have a travel companion – it seems too nice a place to not be able to sit with someone to share it with (not offering, just saying)

  49. Great work Philip. Easily your best short film to date! Enjoy being back in London briefly, you must miss you cats!

  50. Phil,

    The your work with the signature pocket dolly looks awesome! What are some of the improvements from the V2? Anything you think could be better on it?

  51. Loverly stuff! How do you keep up with everything? and produce great work.
    You are here, there, doing all sorts, I do admire you. Jack of all trades, master of most of em.

  52. Amazing country, that — glad a “furriner” got a chance to make it visible to those Americans who forget about it. Excellent job.

    As for The Searchers, the opening is the 2nd greatest insult to Arizona of all time (used to be the first but the US Gov’t rode in). Calling it Texas would be akin to calling the Lake District part of France.

    Hope you got a chance to see the lava flow sections along the interstate up in Idaho. And you need to come back and see Arches and Canyonlands in Utah as well. Might as well just move here… you’re famous.

  53. Awesome ! A wonderful film.
    The dancing clouds, successions of rainbows, breathtaking scenery and timelapses ; this mystical and hypnotic atmosphere… Wow !
    I understand why it was your dream to go and shoot there and you did more than well.

  54. Ah, the desert loving English. It’s a romantic place… when there is nothing, you fill in the rest with your thoughts. It’s not hard to see how people like T.E. Lawrence fell in love with the desert.

    You’re starting to grow an American soul.

    Hope you enjoyed it as much as we enjoy it. There are pockets of this stuff all over America. You don’t even have to look very far. I had waterfalls in my back yard growing up (they were twenty feet wide with ice in January). I never thought of it as anything but normal. Like every kid had cliffs where you could find arrowheads.

    Next stop, the Everglades. First rule: Don’t get eaten by a gator.

    It’s good to document your life.

  55. Great Job Philip.

    About the manfrotto tripod. Which model is that, is it the “055xProb” with the “503 Head”? In addition, is that setup decent for panning? By the looks of it, it seems it may be a bit light for steadiness.

    Again Great Job, I love your work. Next time you find work on the West Coast. You should check out Arizona and Utah, the landscapes are amazing.

  56. The commentary with pause/play v.o. brilliant! Loved listening to the commentary, it felt like I was watching a discussion with a director at a film festival. The rocks at 2:13 look like magnificent buildings in a Roman or Greek city in biblical times! Bravo!

  57. Timelapses are pure awsome!

    I love the flute, it kind of reminds me of kill bill Vol.2. the scene where bill is revealed playing the flute.

    p.s. I just found out sony released an alpha dslr that records avchd in both live view and through the ‘pentaprism’view finder. the models are called:
    the sony a55 and the a33.

  58. do you know when the signature dolly will be available? i was about to buy a pocket dolly v2 today, but your sig appears to be worth the wait!

  59. Hi I am madly looking for the instructions on post workflow for time lapse videos in your blogs and videos but I can’t for the love of 5D find it. Can you let me know? I want to know how to put all of it together once shot 🙂

    Many many many thanks in advance 🙂

  60. Simply stunning Philip! I don’t live too far from Monument Valley (about 8 hours by car), and spend a lot of time photographing in the area. But I have never been lucky enough to see this much gorgeous cloud cover in 2 days of shooting, let alone rainbows. Usually the area is plagued by endless days of blue skies without a cloud in sight! You must have some very good connections… 😉

  61. Philip, very beautiful video! I’ve been out there twice this year and it’s awe inspiring. You should go to the southwestern part of Colorado, Telluride down to Durango, incredible scenery also.

  62. Hi Phillip,

    I love your Monument Valley meteorlogical overload! What a great two days for sure.
    I am struggling with flicker and read here that you chose “long exposure” from CVH. I did not see how to apply it to remove flicker. Can you shed little light?
    Thanks for all you do…

    Ken