The timelapse footage that took 15 years to create

A documentary recently released on Netflix, Fantastic Fungi, by filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg features timelapse footage of fungi that he’s been creating over the course of 15 years. Schwartzberg describes the film as “consciousness-shifting”. It shows a wide variety of fungus, from the edible to the deadly, to those that can clear oil spills and even help trees communicate.

Most of the footage is captured indoors with Schwartzberg explaining that a crucial element is the need to have lighting that is constant. “I think the biggest surprise for people watching the film is that they think it’s all filmed outdoors,” he says. “There are a lot of reasons why you can’t film timelapses of plants and fungi outdoors. Number one: there is wind, which would make the object shake and rattle and look like a Charlie Chaplain movie. Number two: there are bugs and other elements that would interfere with filming.”

And the process is particularly time-consuming, so it’s no wonder this has been over a decade in the making. “I am shooting one frame every 15 minutes, that means I’m shooting four frames an hour, times 24, is 96 frames. 96 frames is four seconds of film,” Schwartzberg says.

Schwartzberg relied on lights that he was able to program so that they mimicked different times of the day. He used a custom intervalometer that triggered both his grow lights and studio lights. The grow lights were connected to the intervalometer which allowed for the effective simulation of a real environment. Leaving lights on all the time would have killed the mushrooms.

Check out the documentary on Netflix.


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