Filming of spectacular action scenes is expensive and the creative possibilities are often limited. An ETH doctoral student has developed an algorithm that allows drones to implement the desired picture compositions independently. The film Skyfall has its viewers spellbound as James Bond attempts to neutralise his adversary on the roof of a train as it races through the desert. Here, tension is created using a series of rapidly changing camera angles: a close-up of Bond’s face, then a medium shot of the fight scene, and lastly a very long shot of the train, the desert and the two men fighting. This was an extremely expensive scene to film in terms of personnel, materials and technology. Several camera operators were deployed for hours on end at a number of different locations. And a camera crane even had to be mounted on the train’s roof for the spectacular close-up shots. Tobias Nägeli, a doctoral student in the Advanced Interactive Technologies Lab led by ETH professor Otmar Hilliges, is convinced that these scenes can be filmed with fewer resources. Together with researchers from Delft University of Technology and ETH spin-off Embotech, he has developed an algorithm that enables drones to film dynamic scenes independently in the way that directors and cinematographers intend.”

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