An ambitious new film from producer Terrence Malick and cinematographer-turned-director Tom Lowe promises to bring "unseen sights and breathtaking perspectives to the human eye for the first time," according to the official synopsis for Awaken. Indeed, the trailer, seen below, features awe-inspiring 4K footage from all corners of our planet, calling to mind a fusion of Planet Earth and Tree of Life. Set to the tune of M83's soundtrack, the film aims to explore humanity's relationship with technology and the natural world.

"One of the early driving forces of Awaken," said Lowe in a statement, "was to film the natural world in a way that could compete on a spectacle level with large visual-effects-heavy blockbusters, but to capture everything 'in camera' with no effects, compositing, or post-production tricks of any kind."

To film Awaken, Lowe and his team spent five years creating custom camera rigs designed to capture the world like we've never seen it before. Among other feats, the team adapted a gimbal to capture astrophotography timelapse at night from a helicopter in flight. (More on that below.) The film also features technical innovations in time-dilation, underwater, and aerial cinematography. 

22ftmotioncontroltechno_1Credit: Tom Wolfe

Lowe and Dubai Film (who helped produce the film in its country) worked closely with Mark Roberts Motion Control in England to design and modify a SuperTechno 22-foot Technocrane into a 9-axis, fully motion-control “Timelapse Crane” capable of moving a camera nearly anywhere in 3D space with unprecedented mobility and precision. 

Seb_3885Credit: Tom Lowe

Lowe worked with Kessler Crane and iTrack in the USA to conceive, design, and manufacture an autonomous robot called a “Timelapse Rover,” a fully motion-controlled camera platform running on Kessler Cinedrive moco software and iTrack guidance and stabilization hardware and software.  

The Rover uses gyros, accelerometers, a sophisticated Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), and encoded motors to keep its own chassis level at all times, regardless of terrain. It also uses an Inertial Navigation System (INS) for course self-guidance, with additional deployable local radio array (RF) for increased, pinpoint accuracy. 

F1truckswedenCredit: Tom Lowe

Dreamcore and Dubai Film worked closely with Shotover, a camera-stabilization company, to develop the F1 and K1 camera gimbal systems. Lowe later modified the F1 system to accept custom camera configurations, allowing for the filming of astro-timelapse sequences at night, even from helicopters in flight—a first in the history of cinematography.