Solar Eclipse: 25 Crews Will Shoot the Occurrence for Upcoming Large-Format Documentary

People wait to open at Saluki Stadium to watch the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 -Getty-H 2017
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A whopping 25 movie crews will be positioned along the path of totality Monday to photograph the historic solar eclipse for an upcoming Imax large-format documentary about Albert Einstein, with a working title of Einstein’s Incredible Universe, from director Daniel Ferguson and production company Cosmic Picture.

“I scouted about five states along the path of totality” including Oregon, Wyoming and South Carolina, Ferguson told The Hollywood Reporter of the plans. “This will include locations over the Grand Teton. I’ll be on Jackson Lake in Wyoming with [the doc's] director of photography Reed Smoot.

“I have never seen an eclipse. The majority of the DPs have never filmed an eclipse before,” he admits. “We’ve had conference calls and asked the crews to rehearse. People get incredibly overwhelmed — some are prerecording what to do and will wear an earpiece. You have to be in the right position with the right lens.”

Among the cinematographers participating in the shoot is James Neihouse, a self-proclaimed “eclipse chaser” whose credits include Imax documentaries A Beautiful Planet and Hubble. Neihouse (who has also had the enviable job of providing cinematography training to NASA astronauts headed to the International Space Station) will be in Casper, Wyo., close to the center line of the eclipse, shooting with a Canon C700 4K camera.

Says Neihouse: “Another team will shoot aerials with an Arri Alexa 65 large-format camera. Others are using a broad spectrum of cameras, including Reds and still cameras. Some will be doing time-lapse photography.”

Plans are to incorporate the footage into a segment of the Einstein documentary that examines Sir Arthur Eddington’s experiment during the 1919 Solar Eclipse, which helped to prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. In fact, one of Ferguson’s crews intends to reproduce Eddington’s famous experiment on Monday.

For Neihouse, Monday’s shoot will mark his fourth eclipse. His prior experiences included photographing the solar eclipse of May 10, 1994, from El Paso, Texas, and the solar eclipse of July 11, 1991, from Mexico. For the third, the July 22, 1990, solar eclipse, he was in Finland with a pair of Imax cameras, but clouds blocked out the sun.

“It’s an amazing experience,” Neihouse says of witnessing the occurrence.