‘Return to Earth’: Behind the Scenes of the Final Shot in Hawaii

The final seconds of Return to Earth contains one of the film’s strongest shots. The concept of the final Hawaii segment was to capture all the athletes coalescing in one place, all in one “Frozen Moment.” This required the Anthill crew to film nine professional mountain bikers riding and merging into groups before all coming together to hit one final massive jump feature to end the film. The scene was also featured in the fourth episode of Return to Earth: The Series, The Islander, when we explored our history of filming on the Hawaiian islands.

The final shot (as the riders all hit the spine feature) plays out over 45 seconds in Return to Earth and happened in approximately 11 seconds of real-time. While this was quick to capture, the whole shooting process took hundreds of man-hours of planning, building and rehearsing to make sure every one of those athletes could take off and land safely. Then there were the challenges with capturing it all at the right angles, with the right framing, with the right focus, with the right timing.

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While the athletes all needed impeccable coordination to make the final shot work, the cinematographers had their share of challenges. Anthill director Darcy Wittenburg drove an electric motorbike along a trail that was specifically designed to allow him to follow the athletes’ choreographed movements down the mountainside. He wore a custom harness rigged with a heavy-duty steel mount, to which the Mōvi Prostabilizer and RED Helium 8k camera were attached. Meanwhile, Anthill’s DOP Darren McCullough controlled the camera from the front seat of a side-by-side that was just ahead of the action on a parallel road.

It wouldn’t be an Anthill film without something terribly complicated to push the riders and ourselves as filmmakers. After a full month of effort from everyone involved, the finished product more than paid off. We hope you enjoy the fruits of our labor.

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A HUGE thanks to everyone involved in making this segment happen:

– Builders: Dustin Gilding, Austin Davignon and Alexander Chisholme of Loft Bike Parks, Ben Byers and Adam Billinghurst.

– Riders: Brett Rheeder, Casey Brown, Matt Hunter, Reed Boggs, Ryan Howard, Thomas Genon, Brandon Semenuk, Carson Storch, Emil Johansson.

– Extra filmers, production and support: Fraser Newton, Scott Jewett, Zach Rampen, Matt Butterworth. Jo Osborne
Photography: Sterling Lorence.

Return to Earth: The Series uncovers some of the unique mountain bike community characters that helped make the film a reality. It was developed in partnership with Freehub Magazine with illustrations by Taj Mihelich and photos by Sterling Lorence.

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Return to Earth is brought to you by Shimano and Trek Bicycles featuring Brett Rheeder, Thomas Vanderham, Casey Brown, Matt Hunter, Reed Boggs, Ryan Howard, Joey Schusler, Thomas Genon, Brandon Semenuk, Carson Storch, Emil Johansson, Jackson Goldstone, Jakob Jewett and friends. In association with Pink Bike, Trail Forks, Evoc, Clif Bar, Sony, Whistler Mountain Bike Park and Freehub Magazine with additional support from Bike Park Lenzerheide, Spawn Cycles, Rocky Mountain Cycles. A 4K film by Anthill Films with art direction and creative by Good Fortune Collective.

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This article originally appeared on Bikemag.com and was republished with permission.

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