Love at First Flight: Luna Moth Mating

Last time on the Pondemonium blog, we discovered the luna moths had freshly emerged from their cocoons, and were clinging to the side of their habitats. Yesterday morning, when we opened the studio, two of our luna moths were actually mating!

In the wild, the female luna moth will pick a hidden location to make sure she is safe from predators, and then release pheromones to attract her mate. Males can detect the pheromones from miles around, and are equipped to be much better fliers so they can wing their way to a calling female. Once they join their abdomens, they can stay together from a couple of minutes to up to 2 hours. After they disengage, the male won't live for long, but the female continues on for several nights, laying eggs in little clusters on various host plants like sweet gum and black walnut trees. 

Luna Moths Mating

Luna Moths Mating

So before they could pull apart, we raced into full production to capture these two mating in front of a blue screen. This allows us to key in a natural forest setting during the digital effects phase of post production. In need of more set supplies we put our intern Owen to work painting more board chroma blue for the background. 

Owen Ackerman (Intern) working on a blue screen

Owen Ackerman (Intern) working on a blue screen

After the paint dried, we delicately transferred the pair to a glass enclosure for filming.

Until next time! 

The Luna moths have emerged!

One of the most mysterious and rare moths that we have in our area is the Luna moth. In the 15 years we have lived on our property, I have only seen one and it was resting in the evening, silhouetted on the sliding glass door of our house. It was most likely attracted to the indoor light. For Pondemonium, we wanted to reveal more about the life cycle of the Luna moth so we found a place on the web where we could order cocoons and then we created a large enclosure out of mosquito netting where we could film them in our studio. We had hoped to film them emerging from their cocoons but it happened right in the middle of our daughter's 10th birthday party! Now we're setting up the high speed Phantom camera to capture them in flight!    

Check Out Mother Goose

Here at Archipelago we're always looking for the latest scoop on our area's wildlife, you never know who has decided to become your new neighbor. So when one of our own Pondemonium crew members let us know about a goose nest on their property, we just had to check it out. 

This proud mamma started sitting on her eggs some 30 days ago. We filmed her at night with a GoPro that modified to film using infra red light, which gave us the chance to see her nocturnal activities without disturbing her unduly. Check out the rig below: 

Mother Goose and the IR Modified GoPro Rig

Mother Goose and the IR Modified GoPro Rig

But the month has passed, and now we have a gaggle of goslings to film with our RED Dragon! Below are some of the highlights: 

Next spring, who knows? They could return to begin a gaggle of their own!

Stay tuned for more posts from the pond!

Setting the Stage for Suburbia

It's a beautiful day in Westchester, and the Pondemonium crew is gearing up to shoot the other key focus of this project: suburbia. To explore how a typical suburban neighborhood changes throughout the seasons, we've rigged this camBLOCK on top of our pickup. This way we'll get a smoothly controlled pan where we can showcase the area in one wide sweep. Check out the rig below: 

Left: Darryl Curry (Assistant Camera)

Left: Darryl Curry (Assistant Camera)

Doesn't Darryl look in his element up there? 

Darryl Curry with our RED camera and motion control rig from camBLOCK

Darryl Curry with our RED camera and motion control rig from camBLOCK

Later this afternoon, we marked the spot unobtrusively, so we can return and shoot the same scene throughout the changing seasons. With a sprinkle of movie magic, we can make the shots fade into each other and display the yearly cycle in a single smooth movement. What will it look like finished up? Keep tuning in to find out!

Until next time! 

Spotted Salamanders in Teatown - Oh My!

Every year, right as spring creeps around the corner, a little head pokes out of the frosty forest floor on an epic quest. That head belongs to the amphibian below. This brightly speckled creature is the aptly named “spotted salamander” and he’s coming to a vernal pool near you. 

Spotted Salamander

A “vernal” or “spring” pool is a pool that appears just as spring begins. It either fills up with rain or emerges from beneath an ice cap. This fellow has spent has spent a long snowy winter frozen in the leaf litter near the Teatown Lake Reservation, but as temperatures climb to a balmy 45°F he returns to his vernal pool. Just like salmon, spotted salamanders return to the pool of their birth when the frost melts to find a mate. The shallow and seasonal nature of vernal pools keeps them free of fish, but deep enough for little salamanders to develop in and find food. However, these pools are so shallow and easy to overlook that people can have an immense impact on them without even realizing it. Though the spotted salamander itself is listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, their habitat is threatened by acid rain and suburban development. Vernal pools have thus earned a special place in this project, and this species is a key component in this engine of biodiversity.

FYI: Salamander larvae also eat mosquito larvae, so keep your helpful neighbor safe. 

To help spread the word, these frisky amphibians will have an audience this year. Cue the awesome slider rig:

Slider Rig Left to Right: Michael Male, Darryl Curry 

Slider Rig

Left to Right: Michael Male, Darryl Curry 

You're all jealous I'm sure. So Michael (Cinematographer) and Darryl (Assistant Camera) are on the case, to capture the seasonal migration and mating of spotted salamanders...in 6K. For reference, Star Trek into Darkness was filmed in 4K. Can you say epic footage? 

We needed to find a way to film these guys that replicated their breeding pools, without letting them get away (you try hunting for salamanders in a pond, they're good at hiding). The solution: we made the fondly named "Salamander Salad Bowl." Director Andrew Young is setting the shot below. 

Salamander Salad Bowl Left to Right: Darryl Curry, Andrew Young, Michael Male

Salamander Salad Bowl

Left to Right: Darryl Curry, Andrew Young, Michael Male

The "salad bowl" is a flexible sheet of mesh that we glued hundred of leaves to using "aquarium-safe" silicone. We then draped it over a kiddy pool, and voila! A vernal pool set, where we can place our spotted stars and film them "on set, on site." That salamander glamour shot above was taken in the "salad bowl." 

He's ready for his close up, Michael. 

Stay tuned!