Meet this month's featured creator, William Briscoe. Based in Alaska, he specialises in capturing stunning time-lapse video of auroras and the night sky. His vibrant Northern Lights clips are undeniably breathtaking and his most recent drone footage captures the stunning Alaskan landscape.
What is your background and how did you get into 360 video production?
My background is quite diverse and not what you might expect from someone who found themselves drawn to the visual arts. After graduating from High School, I joined the Navy and spent four years there, followed by a decade or so working in the construction trades. Somewhere in there, I ended up with a B.S. followed by an M.S. in Environmental Science, and moved to Alaska to start a new career as a project manager managing environmental investigation and remediation projects.
What drew me to 360 specifically was seeing a viral Facebook video in 2016. I clicked on it, noticed I could move it around, and thought it was the coolest thing.
So I went down a Google rabbit hole to learn how such a video is formatted, tagged, etc. A YouTube crash course on 360 panoramas was also part of the learning journey. Then I bought some DSLRs, and fisheyes and figured out how to fire them. Next thing you know, I’m creating 360 Aurora timelapses in early 2017, and buying more gadgets for different types of video and subject matter thereafter.
What initially drew you to capturing auroras?
Soon after moving to Alaska (around 2013), I saw the Northern Lights for the first time and started taking photos of them, the Alaska wilderness, and everything else Alaska has to offer - it truly is a splendid place, both in summer and winter… And so started the most expensive, and rewarding hobby I have ever had.
What are some of the challenges of filming auroras in 360?
It’s cold. You’ll be up all night. You are gambling on both a space weather report and an earth weather report being correct in the location where you are going, and you can expect to return home empty handed for one reason or another about 60-70% of the time.
The weather messes with the electronics. The frost will fog up a lens very quickly if you don’t figure out a way to keep it thawed for the night. Internal Lithium Ion batteries? Forget those: you are packing lead acid batteries since they are reliable in the cold and powering the cameras externally. As for the power cords from the cameras? Bring extras - at 20 degrees below freezing, the cords snap like twigs. And your problems are multiplied by the number of cameras in the rig.
I have described the nightmarish every night scenario of shooting the Aurora. But, the satisfaction the next morning when you collect your gear and everything miraculously stayed running through the night makes the whole thing worth it. Sitting back in the warm truck watching the show is also a bonus.
My advice to those wanting to capture the aurora: don't expect to be successful all, or even most of the time. This takes a lot of practice. You're going to learn a lot of hard lessons, and you're going to need a fair amount of luck. Perseverance pays off though.
How do you find the perfect time and location to shoot?
I have alluded to luck quite a bit here, and luck most certainly plays its role. But here are ways to stack the deck in your favor:
And finally, what is your favourite piece of content available on Blend Media?
I think Air Pano’s footage of Angel Falls is my favourite. It is well executed and they did an excellent job with the post processing given the tools at the time. As someone who has got into shooting 360 drone footage in the past few years, I can certainly respect the time and effort that must have gone into creating that work.