Great Success! Panasonic Eclipse Live by Solar Power

On Wednesday morning (the 14th of November) Far North Queensland was treated to a once in a lifetime spectacle: a Total Solar Eclipse. Bright and early that morning Visual Obsession, Empire Entertainment, Dentsu Japan and Panasonic Japan began preparations to live stream the Eclipse using state of the art astrophotography equipment from 4 Mile Beach, Port Douglas. An estimated 30,000 spectators lined the beach from various hotels that back onto the popular tourist strip of beach, with the Sheraton Mirage Eclipse Eve Party taking place the night before. A second location setup was also organized at Fitzroy Island - to ensure maximum visibility, and also to provide a fallback for any weather conditions that may plague the visibility of the sun.

Months of research, preparation, management and troubleshooting paid off - as the project succeeded with no major issues. Serious concerns about weather and visibility conditions kept the team anxious and on their toes. Our stage was set up the day before on 4 Mile Beach at the Sheraton Mirage’s Crystal Chapel. In the lead up to the event, several test broadcasts were undertaken: with heavy winds and varying rain threatening the quality of the broadcast. At one point the wind was gusting so furiously that our stage’s roof integrity was compromised, forcing our team to remove the cover off of our shelter. Fortunately on broadcast day, there was almost literally no wind or rain!

At one point the wind was gusting so furiously that our stage’s roof integrity was compromised, forcing our team to remove the cover off of our shelter.

Spectators and the team rejoiced just before totality (the moment the moon fully eclipses the sun) as the sun peeked through a clearing in the large pocket of cloud coverage at just the right time! The moment of totality was truly spectacular: as all surroundings suddenly darkened and the surrounding temperature dropped an estimated 6 degrees celsius!  A flock of birds flew around erratically on the horizon: seemingly confused by the event.

The project was an enormous success - with miraculous weather conditions and a fantastic team. Over 800,000 people tuned into the live stream which was broadcast on the Panasonic Ustream Channel. The stream was also broadcasted as part of Channel 7’s “Sunrise” & the WIN network’s “The Today Show” resulting in what its sure to be millions of viewers! Imperfect Mum blogger Kristy Vallely was in charge of monitoring and replying to comments on the “social stream” - with many viewer’s praising the availability and quality of the footage.

The project’s motto was “Filming the Sun - Using the Sun”, as all of our equipment was completely solar powered. On site was a rig consisting of 9 large HIT solar panels - which was then used to charge 16 portable Panasonic Batteries and a collection of standard rechargeable Panasonic Eneloop AA sized batteries. These batteries allowed our equipment to be powered with ease, with each lithium battery containing a standard wall socket.

Our photo/video equipment consisted of:

  • 3 Skywatcher Black Diamond Telescopes: 2 for the Port Douglas Location and one for the Fitzroy Location.
  • 2 Meade LX80 Automated telescope mounts: 1 for each location - which allowed us to directly align our telescopes to celestial objects (for example: the Sun or Venus). Once aligned, this mount is capable of tracking objects without adjustment: on the day - our mount managed to track Venus with stunning precision for almost 2 hours.
  • 5 Panasonic Lumix GH2 Cameras: 4 at the Port Douglas site & 1 at the Fitzroy Island site - Consumer grade cameras with full HD video recording capability. These were fastened to our telescopes using special T-Ring Adapters.

Prior to the event, Visual Obsession began location scouting the 3 possible locations for the project: Port Douglas, FItzroy Island and Mount Carbine. Port Douglas & Fitzroy Island were selected, due to Mount Carbine having poor remote internet 3G connection.

For the past few month’s, preparation for the event has kept us busy: with most of our crew being put on-site for the project. Hours of work were put into assembly and testing of our telescope rigs at various locations. You can view photos of our testing, and the resulting photos of the tests here.

Heres a breakdown of the team members involved: Port Douglas Crew:

  • Kevin Austin, Ewan Cutler, Charlie O’Leary, Corinne Shardlow, Randal Kelly, Kristy Vallely, Jenny Austin and James Lippmann (Contracted by Visual Obsession for the project) from Visual Obsession.
  • Theodore Miller from Empire Entertainment.
  • Ryo Nakagawa & Keita Kado from Dentsu Japan.
  • Hisao Tsugita, Scott Mellish and the “Channel Panasonic” Film crew from Panasonic.

Fitzroy Island Crew:

  • Christopher-Jay Mcnamee, Benton Brown and Nakita Bottrell from Visual Obsession.
  • Sohei Hirao from Empire Entertainment.

Everyone at Visual Obsession would like to thank the excellent team and all members involved in the project - What a Crew! It was great working with you all and we wish you all the best for the future!