EARTHLY PERSPECTIVE AT A COSMIC SCALE

The ESO Observatory in Chile allows scientists to glimpse deep into space and make important observations about the universe.  Recently Microsoft has partnered with the ESO to help them process enormous amounts of data from their observations.  To highlight this effort, RUN collaborated with Microsoft to help tell the story of the tech being used in this facility as part of their Today in Technology series.

The La Silla ESO facility is located in a remote area of the southern Atacama Desert in Northern Chile.  This location is far from any sources of light pollution and has one of the darkest night skies on planet Earth, which makes it the ideal place for observing the cosmos.

While the location of the ESO provides for an interesting backdrop for in visuals, it presents several challenges from a production standpoint.  Gear and crew were narrowed down to the essentials to remain agile for remote travel.  This production was shot over the course of two days on a single camera, with a crew of 4 people.

In order to establish the scientific purpose of the ESO and to provide historical context for their efforts, the video opens using archival footage from the 60’s and 70’s of the Apollo Space program.  Our Microsoft hosts act as curious observers to this unique and important facility. Interviews with ESO scientists were conducted on-site to obtain an authentic insight into the facility and the people working within it.

Capturing the scale of operation was a challenge. The sheer size of the telescopes is difficult to show from many vantage points. Wide angle lenses, camera pans, and human “models” were used to convey the sense of scale to the audience. The telescopes are so massive, it’s hard to understand without some sort of context.  Interior shots move and tilt to show the details and movements of the telescopes, with the footage often including a person to help give a sense of scale.  Showing the enormity of the facility, required that the crew worked beyond the telescopes’ platform and into the desert to capture wide, exterior shots.

The video was used by Microsoft and the CELA team to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing. The voyage of discovery that inspired decades of technological innovation lives on today at Paranal Observatory where scientists hope that new data will one day lead to ground-breaking discovery.