Wetenschap - 5 november 2010

Film project gets flying start

When this winter is over, hundreds of high-spirited Dutch people with high-speed cameras will be making films of flight art. This plan won Wageningen scientist David Lentink and his team the Annual Academic Prize last week.

All that enthusiasm. That's what Sander Gussekloo looks forward to most. Even more than buying the best high-speed camera in the world and the scientific possibilities that come with it. Gussekloo and team leader David Lentink are the founders of the Flight Artists, the winner of the Annual Academic Prize in Leiden last week, an award for the best plan to bring science to the general public.
Yes, he had expected to win, says student Thijs Bosch without hesitation. 'Our presentation was really extraordinary. We brought in entertainment and tried to keep everyone captivated with theatrics in that quarter of an hour. All the other presentations were just standard Powerpoint lectures.' Bosch is one of the six students in Lentink's eleven-strong team. 'We showed in our dramatization how to communicate science in a pleasant and original way', adds Lentink's colleague Margo Sauter.
With this performance, Wageningen has certainly set a new standard.  In addition, jury member Piet Borst praised the way the Wageningen project plans to bring the public into contact with science. 'You're getting the public into your research. That's a very unusual and unique way of public participation.'
7500 images per second
'The public will become researchers; the researchers will become the public', is how Patricia de Cocq summarizes this approach. 'Everyone has the curiosity of a scientist inside. We want the people themselves to take part in the research.' And that's exactly what will happen. More than 700 candidates have so far signed up to film flight art. That will be possible when 21 high-speed cameras are purchased: 20 of these will be able to shoot 600 colour images per second, and a super camera can easily capture 7500 images per second in HD-format. (A normal camera works with 30 images per second). The super camera itself costs 70,000 euros and will be bought with the prize money of 100,000 euros. The supporting equipment will be bought with a 100,000-euro contribution from the Executive Board of Wageningen UR.
Filming will be done from spring to autumn next year, when the sky will be rife with all kinds of flying, drifting and flapping beings. The aspiring filmmakers will first undergo a course. Thijs Bosch, a bat fanatic, just can't wait to hold the camera in his own hands too. 'As far as I know, no high-speed films of bats in nature have been made before. This project will produce a lot of new film material. And all these images will be made available to everyone. That will certainly lead to some very nice things. Even if it's only a fascination for flight.
The films from the Flight Artists will be released to the world in various ways. All the films - probably hundreds of them - will be placed on YouTube. The television programme 'Vroege Vogels' will give extensive coverage to the project; so too will the websites 'Natuurkalender' and 'Natuurbericht'. The Ouwehands Zoo will feature flight art throughout its 2011 opening season and let its trained birds be used during courses. In the NEMO science museum, workshops on flight art will be held in the autumn of 2011. Artists at Laarman Lab will put up an exhibition on the flight films and their makers. And to top it all, there will be a film festival in the Forum to show off the films in February 2012.
Films made by the high-speed cameras
Films by the super camera
 

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