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Award Winning ‘Viral’ short film : TNQ

One day in Paradise – Pascal’s Story

Director Justin McMillan approached me for this awesome project shooting a short 2min
visual and lyrical documentary up in Tropical Far North Queensland near my home town
of Port Douglas. The competition required this film to be shot entirely on the GoPro
Hero 3 Black edition and within a nominated week. I loved this challenge and know very
well the abilities and limitations of the new Hero 3 camera, I was also able to act as a
location expert as this area of the great barrier reef has been my playground and back
yard growing up.

I enlisted the help of my Dad, Ben Cropp and his 60foot cat Freedom IIII as our base of

Adding to the experts was Guy Alexander from heliguy.tv who fly’s a multitude of
amazing UAV multi rotor aircraft enabling us to capture some amazing aerials including
the very cool ‘Dip Shot’.

Take a look:

Hot on the heels of award winning documentary Storm Surfers 3D, Justin McMillan’s
latest project ’1 Day In Paradise’ is one of 20 films made by top Australian filmmakers as
part of a short film challenge and campaign via SapientNitro Brisbane set against the
inspiring backdrop of Tropical North Queensland. Justin teamed up with fellow Storm
Surfers 3D Water DOP Dean Cropp who also grew up on the water in Far north


The 1Day in Paradise project was born out of a desire to reinvent or reframe the
traditional notion of what constitutes paradise. The brief was to create a two minute film
(shot entirely on the new GoPro 3 cameras) capturing Tropical North Queensland’s
diversity through inspiring, humanity filled narratives. This unique challenge, called to
mind Pascal, a 14-year old boy McMillan had met in Byron who’d been raised and home
schooled on a boat sailing the North Queensland coast.

McMillan remembers meeting Pascal.Says McMillan: “With a surfboard tucked under one arm and a snake wrapped
around the other, he kinda reminded me of that magical time I too experienced just prior to adulthood. Pascal is an
anomaly. I was struck by how his deep connection to the sea and nature is at odds with typical distractions kids have
these days. He’s not the kind of boy to be bothered with iPhone apps and technology entertainment. In fact, I don’t think
he’s ever eaten McDonalds!”Inspiration for this project also arose from McMillan’s own early influences.Says McMillan:
“The film Stand By Me has stuck with me since I was a boy. It drove me to take Pascal back to his childhood paradise
basing my entry around his potent memories of the region.”

Pascal’s journey unfolds lyrically as he relives his formative years walking, diving, fishing
and flying us through the coastline that touched him so deeply. As he freely explores
nature in its purest form, this disarmingly intimate film reveals spiritual pull of this
region on one so young.

McMillan called upon long time friends, Dean Crop (underwater DOP) and Guy
Alexander (RPA pilot) to donate their time and found that the smaller crew quite

Says McMillan: “We were able to go with the flow and let Pascal lead us…hence the
footage feels incredibly un-formulaic.”

The music was another gratis element crafted by Guy Brown at Nylon.

Says McMillan: “Guy is just so talented. We sent him some footage early on and he
literally had the score pretty much done by the time we’d finished shooting.”

Andrew Holmes from Heckler took control of the edit crafting the imagery in line with a
script that McMillan and Pascal had developed together.

“I love working with the guys at Heckler…they’re an amazing group of skilled individual
who embrace the opportunity to do something different.”

Shooting on Go Pro cameras had its advantages too.

“These cameras just get better and better making complex projects like this possible
without any loss of quality.”

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How to shoot a world first 3D surfing film : Storm Surfers 3D


How did we shoot Storm Surfers 3D

Dean Cropp : Water DOP

We started with some big expectations of what we wanted to achieve, I wanted to get
right in close to the action, take the audience on the wave, into the wave, ride with the
surfers, feel the fear and exhilaration we get staring down the barrel of a 30foot wave.

Whoa moments but with some huge technical and environmental problems to overcome.
So we did what all professionals do….

we Googled it!

And found out very quickly that no one had done this before and there was no one 3D
camera on the market from Sony, Panasonic or anyone that we could buy off the shelf and
make this movie with.

So myself and Stereographer Rob Morton started researching, having 4-5 hour
prototyping meetings. Dreaming up the cameras needed to shoot Storm Surfers 3D, from
what was available and affordable.

No camera was safe from being torn apart and re built into a 3D Frankenstein, and
attached to boards, boats, planes and people.

We got some great advise, but often added to that was, IT WONT WORK IN 3D, too much
movement of the horizon will make people sick and the water splashing on the lens will
make peoples brains explode. Pow, all of a sudden we could be making a zombie surf

Anyway after spending hours designing stabilizing systems that could keep the camera
level we watched some of our test shots from an un-stabilized Frankenstein camera or
Drainpipe Cam as one of our directors Justin McMillan called it because the test housings
I built mostly out of Fiberglass and PVC storm water pipe. We found that if I framed the
shot so most of the subject was not moving around wildly then sick bags were not

Water splashes were fine but drops on the lens were a problem and a 3D killer. Again
after alot of trial and error, we found that spinning front elements on the big cameras and
I invented a custom airjet system that kept the lenses clear on the smaller cameras
worked extremely well.

There were many prototypes, Some worked,

these didn’t.

I built at least 10 prototypes and we used I think 4-5 of them on the shoot, mainly
because the 3D Gopro came along and I was able to mount it in so many new places that
no other camera could go, it performed much better than anyone expected.

So we now had all our Highly modified cameras albeit a little garage engineered.

We had a fridge sized Sony EX3 rig, A Beamsplitter with SI2K cameras, The Pano 3DA1 in
a surf housing, 4 Sony TD10s 2 of them I had in underwater housings, 15 3D GoPros but
we lost 6 of them. They were on boards, handles, Jetskis, bodys. We had more cameras
than letters of the alphabet!

Here is Dry DOP : Dave Maguire (he never stayed very dry) and Stereographer Rob
Morton and 1st AC Rich Kickbush.

BTW – much of this engineering was done on the above water cameras by our 1st AC, rig
tech guru Rich Kickbush. I looked after building the water cameras, 3D GoPros, JetSki’s,
air-knifes etc myself usually late into the night and many times all night to have them
ready for a surf mission. My partner Sally was starting to wonder what I was up to in my
workshop every night.

WHY so many cameras? Because each camera fit a specific role mainly because of the
interactual of that camera (the distance between the lenses). The Pano worked on the
back of the Jetski but not in the water, the lenses were too far apart that’s where I would
have to swap to the TD10 and a smaller IA. The fixed interactual of these ‘Side by Side’
cameras limits the acceptable 3D you can shoot on that particular camera and the size
and weight of the camera could limit your life if you get caught in the impact zone.

Choose your Jetski Driver well, he has your life in his hands.

Here I found out the hard way that when your driver is half your weight there is an
imbalance on the Jetski, and as we came down this wave, the ski Dived like a submarine
and here you can see it shoots back to the surface with Itchy still onboard but leaving me
behind to get bounced along the reef. In the foreground there is one of the directors, he
drove for me from that day on.

Here was OUR closest call.

75km off the coast of WA, Im busy setting the camera up for the next shot, Juz is busy
telling me how he plans to get closer and see that little 12 foot wave blocking our view of
the 30foot monster we can’t see coming…… well a few moments after this shot was taken
we saw it and took off full throttle from a wall of white water as far as the eye could see
coming at us like a freight train.

So we found that rather than let the ‘Limitations’ we were told about 3D limit us in how
we wanted to shoot this movie it became a shooting style. Depth and perspective became
our new favorite toys and the more we played around with the rules of 3D the more shots
we found looked EPIC in 3D while in 2D you may not have given them a second look.
There is always beauty in the wildest conditions. Even running from that monster wave
on the Jetski I kept rolling on the white water trying to overtake us and when I had to
dive under a wave at Depot bommie I filmed the jagged rocky bottom, both shots made
the film.

So with all our cameras deployed this is how we covered the action, or the surf missions.

The Gigantic fridge sized Sony EX3 3D rig operated by the other DOP – Dave Maguire,
Stereographer Rob Morton and Rich Kickbush, would be mounted on the back of a boat
with a usually very competent mostly crazy skipper. They would run down the channel at
the end of the wave just out of harms way, most of the time. Here’s where it almost went

No.. Wait it did go quite wrong here!

Myself and Director Justin would be on the jetski with the Panasonic 3DA1 in a surf
housing and we would be closer right on the edge of the breaking wave, and follow the
surfer sometimes or wait for them to come to us following through to the pickup or

If we stopped because of a wipeout or waiting for the next set Itchy or I would jump in
the water with a smaller camera and film close ups of the surfer.

The rest of the time Cameras mounted high on the Jetski or low on the rescue sled
captured all the action between Ross and Tom.

Now Once on a wave a camera mounted right on the nose of the board captured a perfect
view of the surfer attacking the wave, add to this the handle that gave us 3 amazing
angles, from behind the surfer deep in the barrel, this was the shot I had dreamed of,
another shot looking back at the surfer and the churning wave and one we didn’t expect
was a shot just as they popped to the surface and their first reaction after that
amazing ride. There is a very good reason my camera handles have a crooked shape, ask
me sometime!

Also there was sometimes a camera in a chopper overhead, nothing fires people up more
than a low flying helo like something out of Apocalypse Now.

To shoot a Documentary, especially one like Storm Surfers you have to be passionate
about the subject and love film making and it helps to be both. In all the driving rain, long
days and nights, cold weather, very cold water and waves so big they take your breath
away, The first time I saw the wave at Ship Sterns Bluff I thought OH Sh#! That wave
has TEETH. In all these tough conditions I cannot remember anyone saying, I really don’t
want to do this today.

Except when you get SeaSick, it is inevitable with the boat rolling and pitching, the
stresses of getting camera gear ready and the wild nature of the surf missions that even
those with concrete constitutions can be wiped out by seasickness. I remember our final
mission to the secret reef 75km off the West Australian coast, I was paired with a young
19yo camera assistant named Kyle. He was so excited to be part of Storm Surfers and
on the Water unit. I asked him, “Do you surf”? Not really… “Been out on boats much”… Not really… he had no idea what he was getting himself into! Until we were a few miles
out to sea and you could see the realization wash over Kyle’s face as the lights of
Geraldton faded in the distance, and the pitching rolling boat took hold of him.
Kyle and I got all the cameras setup on the Jetski’s and boards and the main camera
loaded in its housing with Kyle needing only a few trips to the rail to unload breakfast.
But as the mission continued and Kyle had the fiddly job of recharging Air tanks, changing
SD cards and batteries on cameras he went down hill fast. Justin and I got back on the
boat to find Kyle curled up the deck, head hanging over the side surely wishing he was
anywhere but here. Justin put a hand on his shoulder and said “Man, We realy need you”!
That raised him from the dead, the fisherman deckhand explained in maybe a little too
much detail how to take motion sickness medication ‘Not by mouth’ and after 15min of
private time I had my Camera assistant back. Kyle did his job, no matter what in the
toughest conditions. He knew he was a critical part of the team and never let us down I
was so impressed by this.

You don’t have to be as crazy as Ross and Tom to work on Storm Surfers but it sure
helps, if you’re in the camera team!

Dean Cropp : Water DOP : Ocean Wrangler

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Check out our 10/10 review from the Toronto International Film Festival

TIFF 2012 Review: STORM SURFERS 3D Hangs A Perfect 10
Posted on September 12, 2012
Ryland Aldrich, Festivals Editor

There have been plenty of arguments made about the merits of our current 3D cinematic boom. While much of the talk focuses on ticket prices and the gimmick factor, one common discourse is that the experience of watching a film in 3D actually distracts the viewer from the story being told. The argument goes that if the viewer is busy saying, “cool!” then the story’s curtain of escapism will be torn away.

It’s in a new wave of documentaries that we have seen the most successful implementation of 3D thus far. Wim Wenders’s modern dance doc Pina led the way with a remarkable cinematic experience that was enhanced by its 3D cool factor without the trapping as a narrative distraction. Yet to truly take off, sports documentaries are bound to be a subgenre that utilizes the technology to its best effect. That is most certainly the case with Justin McMillan and Chris Nelius’s Storm Surfers 3D. Filmmakers take note: This movie defines a new generation of 3D action sports filmmaking.

The escapist curtain may have been ripped away by the “wow” factor, but there’s still a compelling story that’s told in Storm Surfers 3D. The film throws us right into the crazy lives of famous Australian big wave surfers Tom Carroll and Ross Clark-Jones. These best pals were fixtures on the surf competition tour in the 80s and 90s and then transitioned to big wave riding when that took off in the last decade. Now they travel around Australia with their trusty storm forecaster Ben in tow, hunting for the craziest waves on the planet.

The guys have a natural dynamic that makes it fun to just hang out with them as they goof around or discuss the old days. Their ideas on manhood and the difference in their outlooks on risk as they careen towards middle age makes for very strong narrative backbone. But let’s be honest, what you really want to see in a 3D sports movie is the action, and in this department, Storm Surfers 3Ddoes not disappoint.

From beginning to end, this is some of the most impressive surf photography around. The waves are enormous and the scale is brilliantly defined with the fantastic 3D. Never has a movie theater felt so much like the open ocean when the waves project and recede from you. The film is some kind of cruel dance between wanting to hide your eyes from the gnarly wipe outs (and there are a great deal of them), and not being able to tear your eyes away from the gorgeous scenery.

Both entertaining and engaging, Storm Surfers3D is a new high water mark in action sports filmmaking and an experience not to be missed on the big screen.

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Storm Surfers 3D has been officially selected for TIFF (Toronto international Film Festival)

I am the Water DOP on this film, developing many new camera systems to get these WILD angles.

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Sorry it is all a bit sparse… We are still under construction! Watch this space though for Stock photos, HD stock footage, Gear hire and exciting 3D developments.

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