“Noname,” one of three RiverQuarium gopher tortoises, grazes while Michael Watchulonis of Montana Productions films her in 3D. Wachulonis and his brother Michael were were filming part of their third area documentary, MicroPlanet 3D, which will premiere this summer at the Flint RiverQuarium Imagination Theater.
ALBANY, Ga. — The brown, helmet-shaped resident of the Flint RiverQuarium offered no real effort to escape. In fact, it may have enjoyed the opportunity to wander about seeking new flavors for its “salad” dinner. In any case, the Georgia gopher tortoise (Gopherus Polyphemus) seemed oblivious to the giant 3D video camera of Michael and Daniel Watchulonis and to their periodic repositioning of the reptile.
The Watchulonises were in town Monday filming segments of Montana Productions’ movie-in-progress, “MicroPlanet 3D,” a documentary of area animals and eco-systems. “MicroPlanet 3D” is expected to be completed and ready to premiere at the RiverQuarium’s Imagination Theater in late summer, Michael Watchulonis said.
Montana Productions has two completed documentaries currently showing at the Imagination Theater: “Alligator Kingdom 3D” and “Fire Ants 3D,” said Wendy Bellacomo, marketing manager for the Flint RiverQuarium.
Michael Watchulonis said he and his brother have recently worked “in, on and beneath Lake Blackshear,” filming inch-long glass shrimp, as well as crayfish and tiny flat worms living in the “muck” at the lake bottom.
According to the video team, their expertise is primarily in the area of video production, rather than with the organisms themselves. They do, however, incorporate the help of experts.
“Fire ants, for an example,” said Michael Watchulonis. “It makes sense for us to go to (the experts) who know about them. We want to know what happens when fire ants find food. What happens when they get flooded and how (the ants) behave at night versus the day. What are their mating behaviors? They can tell us what to look for.”
In the case of “Noname,” the RiverQuarium tortoise, convenience was the order of the day.
“We wanted to get something of these creatures like the gopher tortoise, which is a protected species. We can’t just go into the wild and start grabbing gopher tortoises. We want to be responsible, so we got in touch with the curator here at the RiverQuarium and asked what was the best way to get good footage.”
The camera team employs a special high-tech, high-resolution video camera, which effectively produces near-twin images made at slightly differing angles, Michael Watchulonis said. The angle difference is similar to the way humans view with two eyes, making 3D viewing possible.
Richard Brown, curator of the Flint RiverQuarium, said the RiverQuarium would be providing other animals for filming, including river frogs and tiger salamanders, a Georgia species.
“The nice thing about filming animals in captivity is they’re not as squeamish about being filmed while people are around,” Brown said. “They make good stars for these type projects.”
After the Albany premiere, “MicroPlanet 3D” will be submitted for purchase to international 3D video and film festivals, Michael Watchulonis said.