Award-winning wildlife documentary filmmaker Praveen Singh has just wrapped the second season of The Gaia People and The Habitat Trusts series, "On the Brink". Traveling all over India to highlight endangered animals in many types of terrain, Praveen took along a valuable crew member: Sachtler’s flowtech100 carbon-fibre tripod.
Filmmaker Praveen Singh has dedicated his career to wildlife conservation and awareness.
Praveen has a passion for animals and the natural world that reaches back to his boyhood. “My dad was in the Indian Forest Service, and I had plenty of opportunities to travel with him to many wild places in India. And then, when I was about 10, I saw some wildlife programs on TV and realized that’s what I want to do”.
After earning a master’s degree in Science and Natural History filmmaking at Montana State University, Praveen launched his career with a bang: he took the first prize for documentary in the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation College TV Awards (also known as the “student Emmys”) for his very first film, “The Indian Leopards: the Killing Fields.”
Many more years, films, and accolades later, Praveen has established himself as one of India’s most celebrated documentary filmmakers, spellbinding his audiences with tales of India’s magical and hidden places. “I always knew I wanted to come back to India to make wildlife documentaries. This land of a billion people has so many environmental and nature conservation challenges, and also success stories".
Go behind the scenes with Praveen in the video below...
Praveen’s work takes him to India’s most wild and rugged places.
Together with his wife and co-producer, Akanksha Sood Singh, Praveen just wrapped the second season of the acclaimed series “On the Brink.” The program spans diverse landscapes and unique locations throughout India, with each episode highlighting an animal species that is either endangered or vulnerable. Season two stars range from snow leopards, India’s iconic elephants, and Olive Ridley turtles to the croc-like gharials of the Chambal River, to the limestone caves of Meghalaya, India’s bat haven, and exotic pangolins – the only mammals with scales.
The primary gear setup for “On the Brink” was a Canon EOS C700 or Panasonic Varicam 35 cinematic camera with EF lenses, mounted on a Sachtler Video 18-S2 fluid head and Sachtler’s flowtech100 tripod. The crew also relied on infrared lighting and an IR camera for low-light shoots such as the bat caves and the mass nesting of the turtles. Shooting conditions ranged from sandy beaches and humid rainforests, where the temperature could reach 45 degrees, to locations high in the Himalayas, with night-time temperatures often below zero. The rugged carbon-fibre design of flowtech100 was up to the task, wherever the shoot.
Getting the shot, from the depths of bat caves to Himalayan heights.
The Meghalaya segment of “On the Brink” was especially challenging, taking the crew deep into a limestone cave to capture colonies of critically endangered bats. “We had to be able to capture small groups of bats up in crevices, where they might be visible just through a small gap. A traditional tripod would have been difficult or impossible to position for that small, narrow angle, but with flowtech it was fast and easy with the hinge locks enabling different angles”.
In another instance, the crew found themselves 4,600 meters up on a plateau in the Himalayan Spiti Valley, crouched down to film elusive blue sheep with the flowtech100 spread wide and close to the ground. “The ability to just take the off the centre spreader and get the camera down to 10 inches off the ground is a huge plus – it means we don’t have to carry an extra set of baby legs,” Praveen says. “We can also get the tripod up as high as 60 inches, which came in handy with the elephants. flowtech gives us the stability, flexibility, and ease of setup that are so critical for many types of wildlife shoots.”
Filming elephants on their level.
For the segment on Indian elephants, Praveen and his crew traveled to Corbett National Park, about 300 km north of New Delhi. “The elephant is India’s heritage animal and is classified endangered, mainly because of its loss of habitat,” Praveen says. “It’s the best place to see elephants in the wild in northern India and the grasslands of Dhikala, inside the park, offers amazing views. I’ve been fascinated and mesmerized by this place since my first visit there, way back in 1989!”
Finding the elephants was not a problem. Instead, the film crew’s main challenge was to adapt the camera angles easily for elephant-eye-level shots or at ground level, such as scenes of the huge mammals in the river. “flowtech and our Sachtler Sachtler Video 18-S2 fluid head gave us that flexibility,” Praveen says. “We did all of our shooting from the jeep, with the flowtech at full height. Even completely extended and strapped in to the jeep, the tripod gave us rock-steady stability without occupying too much space in the jeep.”
“We used the Sachtler head both on the flowtech and as a fixed bowl mount on the side of the jeep. Since the head is so light, it was really easy to move it back and forth between the two locations. At the same time, it has a payload capacity of more than 20kg, which could accommodate our big camera and long lenses.”
The right tools for telling a critical story.
“We need a tripod that’s not just lightweight and easy to carry, but stable and sturdy enough to handle the long lenses and bigger cameras that are the tools of our trade. It’s incredible that a tripod as light as flowtech can handle our payloads, which are often over 15 kilograms. With its fast setup and ability to manoeuvre in tight places and on difficult terrain, flowtech100 is the perfect solution as we visit India’s wild places and document animals ‘On the Brink.’’
While the first season of “On the Brink” was broadcast by the Discovery Channel India and Animal Planet India, the second season will likely be shown over OTT platforms. “Our primary motivation is to get the series seen by as many people as possible,” Praveen notes. “ROI is important, but spreading awareness about these amazing species – and what’s being done to help them – is our biggest motivation.”