How the experts got the amazing ‘eaglecam’ shots

Falconer Franz Schüttelkopf and nature filmmaker Otmar Penker share their secrets.
A new perspective - the eaglecam during a flight over a ski run
A new perspective - the eaglecam
By Thomas Wernhart

You remember the video of the eagle attacking a chamois goat, right? What about the eaglecam view of the bird flying through the Ski Flying World Championship course at Hahnenkamm?

Now, we’ve taken a look behind the scenes to speak to the experts behind the camera about how they got the incredible footage.

We’ve spoken to falconer Franz Schüttelkopf and Brothers of the Wind director Otmar Penker to find out how they got the incredible shots.

More: See an eagle chase down a chamois in the Alps

See an eagle complete a ski run here

How do you train an eagle to fly with an eaglecam?
Franz Schüttelkopf: The important thing is to understand the language of the eagle, and that depends on the experience of the falconer too. The eagle has, of course, to be allowed to develop just as a wild eagle would. He has to learn to fly perfectly and be socialised during its upbringing so he behaves properly during filming in the wild against his wild cousins.

How long does it take the eagle to get used to the eaglecam?
For a ‘film eagle’ it is crucial that he gets used to filming equipment from a young age, so it becomes normal. This is so he behaves both before and during filming in a natural, stress-free state.

Falconer with eagle
Perfectly adapted

The camera technology is pretty amazing, right?
The eaglecam was made in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute in Erlangen and developed by Paul Klima from Falkenhof Lenggries. They produced an ultralight backpack that is adapted precisely to the form of the golden eagle. The camera system is placed so only the image sensor and optics can be seen. The aim was to develop a camera system and holder that makes it possible to document the flight of the eagle as it occurs in nature. Weight and form were crucial so the eagle is not irritated in their natural movements.

See what it’s like to fly with an eagle

What’s it like for a director to work with eagles?
Otmar Penker:
By constantly monitoring the entire site with binoculars I know from experience that you can see all sorts of wildlife and many situations that would otherwise remain hidden. The most important thing is to know where to look. The clip of the chamois and the eagle went around the world and capturing this natural spectacle is like getting an Olympic gold medal for a filmmaker.

Missed the footage of the eagle and the chamois? Here it is...

What’s important when becoming a nature filmmaker?
When searching, I suddenly discovered an eagle which was just about to cross the valley. To capture an eagle flying several hundred metres with the camera, I had to start it first and begin to turn the flight. What happened in the next few seconds was unimaginable. The whole spectacle was not long, about 20-25 seconds. What I was able to capture randomly, and with good luck was a spectacle of nature. I can only guess what was happening. Probably, it was an inexperienced young eagle which was trying to capture a goat. It was only when his mother wanted to attack the eagle, he jumped on it.

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