Featured Filmmaker: Chris Pritchard

One of our latest additions to the Porta collection, Chris Pritchard, is a Los Angeles based time-lapse specialist and cinematographer whose stunning timelapses of cities and landscapes near and far require him to explore, hike, and get out of his comfort zone in order to capture vignettes of different places. Pritchard specializes in 8K timelapses and high quality visuals and has worked for clients such as Apple, Nike, Ford, Panasonic, and Warner Bros to name a few. Pritchard’s work is currently on view on the US Bank Tower lobby screen in DTLA.

How did you get into photography and filmmaking?

I fell in love with travel when I was younger, and devoted all the time and money I could toward it. I bought my first digital camera to help document those travels. I had a career in IT and never expected it to be anything more than a creative outlet. But I started licensing my imagery from all over the world as stock, hoping to slightly offset the costs of travel, and ended up in the right place at the right time. It took off and became a successful side business.

There was a lot of pressure in the stock world to expand into motion and video, but I wasn’t very interested in creating traditional video. I was enamored with showing the world in a way our eyes cannot see so I started experimenting with timelapse, which achieved that goal while also putting some of my technical knowledge to use. Processing timelapses from RAW still images was a very manual process a decade ago, but I loved the challenge and appreciated the ability to create high resolution and high quality content with cameras I could actually afford to rent or own.

These days I am a full-time creator and do a mix of commissioned work for clients and continue to create content for stock licensing. Timelapse is still the majority of my work, but I also dabble in other specialty niches like aerials, slow motion, 360 VR, and some traditional video/film work.

What type of gear do you use? Favorite cameras, lenses, setups?

Mostly DSLR’s for my timelapse work. I’ve owned/used all of the big three (Canon, Nikon, Sony), but my current kit is Nikon D850’s – the best timelapse camera ever made in my opinion. High resolution, fast speed (continuous, not burst), and great low-light and dynamic range. An amazing combo.

For very high resolution work, I use Phase One medium format cameras – allowing 12K and now 16K native resolutions and incredible image quality.

Can you describe some of the technical challenges with the type of work that you do?

Much of my work is based on scenes with a lot of color and exposure change over the course of the sequence. This means reading the scene in real time and making camera adjustments, and then smoothing it all out in post. Things have gotten much easier over the years with the aid of specialty software, but it’s still a challenge and takes a lot of time to perfect. Storing and processing sequences of 8K RAW stills, at around 50-60MB per frame, also requires a lot of horsepower and a nonstop need for redundant storage. As computing power has progressed, so have the cameras. This is a never ending (and expensive) challenge to stay on top of.

A lot of your work puts you at the right place at the right time – how do you strike a balance between planned calculations and chance?

Great question! I try to plan as much as possible, but there’s always a certain amount of chance. I can meticulously calculate and plan exactly where and how I want to shoot something, but once I’m there I usually adjust at least some parameters once I read the scene in real life. I’m always at the mercy of natural light. I’ve learned to read and predict light pretty well from experience, but it always keeps me guessing and I’m often wrong.

Creating timelapse has taught me to be a much more patient person. Not only in terms of when I’m shooting, but how often. Changes in clouds, sun or moon placement, or atmospheric conditions mean I sometimes have to reshoot a number of times to find that balance between calculation and chance.

What do you think the future of camera technology will bring? Is there something you’re most excited about seeing in the future?

Camera tech has advanced so much in recent years! I welcome further advancements in dynamic range and low light ability, both of which are really important to my work today, and are necessary to push it to the next level and make more things possible.

But what I’m looking forward to most is the day when high-speed and slow-motion capture becomes more accessible. Slow motion is the other component of showing the world in a way our eyes cannot see, but the technology has remained very expensive.

What is your favorite location you’ve traveled to and photographed and why?

I’ve been really lucky to visit a lot of amazing places, but I have 2 favorites.

Japan – The first place I went to when I started traveling and the one I’ve returned to over 10 times since. It has everything, from a varied and stunning natural world to incredible and wondrous cities. Most of all, Japan has a really unique energy that I love to experience and capture – it is hectic and fast-paced yet calm and peaceful at the same time. A perfect blend of highly functioning and energetic cities coupled with the considerate, calm and relaxed nature of Japanese culture.

New Zealand – An absolute paradise for a photographer, and the place where I really developed a much stronger love for photography. It’s also the first place I saw and photographed a truly dark sky, teeming with stars. I’ve since been back three times and always find more amazing and unique scenery with every area I visit. It’s hard to find any place in New Zealand that isn’t gorgeous.

Do you have any special projects or destinations coming up?

I just finished a project for Disney on the holiday transformation of “it’s a small world” at Disneyland. This was really cool to witness and capture from such a behind the scenes perspective. The attention to detail that goes into these transformations is incredible. You can see the video here and here.

I’m also really excited for a few upcoming projects that will take me to the Caribbean and back to Japan!

You can catch some of Pritchard’s work playing on the 8k OUE/US Bank tower lobby screen in Downtown Los Angeles and you can follow him on instagram here.