Video: Nine Pros, One Shot - Behind the Scenes of the Return to Earth Finale

Jul 22, 2020
by Anthill Films  

The final seconds of Return to Earth contains one of the film’s strongest shots. The concept of the final Hawaii segment was to capture all the athletes coalescing in one place, all in one “Frozen Moment.” This required the Anthill crew to film nine professional mountain bikers riding and merging into groups before all coming together to hit one final massive jump feature to end the film. The scene was also featured in the fourth episode of Return to Earth: The Series, The Islander, when we explored our history of filming on the Hawaiian islands.

during filming of Oahu segment of Anthill s Return to Earth Hawaii
Getting in the practice laps on Oahu

The final shot (as the riders all hit the spine feature) plays out over 45 seconds in Return to Earth and happened in approximately 11 seconds of real-time. While this was quick to capture, the whole shooting process took hundreds of man-hours of planning, building and rehearsing to make sure every one of those athletes could take off and land safely. Then there were the challenges with capturing it all at the right angles, with the right framing, with the right focus, with the right timing.


While the athletes all needed impeccable coordination to make the final shot work, the cinematographers had their share of challenges. Anthill director Darcy Wittenburg drove an electric motorbike along a trail that was specifically designed to allow him to follow the athletes’ choreographed movements down the mountainside. He wore a custom harness rigged with a heavy-duty steel mount, to which the Mōvi Pro stabilizer and RED Helium 8k camera were attached. Meanwhile, Anthill’s DOP Darren McCullough controlled the camera from the front seat of a side-by-side that was just ahead of the action on a parallel road.


bigquotesThe biggest problem we had was maintaining the signal from the control terminal I was using. We needed to stay ahead enough to not be in the way, but too far ahead and we’d lose the signal and the shot would be done. I was in the front seat of the side-by-side controlling the panning, tilting, focus, zoom… all while I’m getting thrown around from all the bumps in the trail.Darren McCullough, Anthill co-director

It wouldn’t be an Anthill film without something terribly complicated to push the riders and ourselves as filmmakers. After a full month of effort from everyone involved, the finished product more than paid off. We hope you enjoy the fruits of our labour.

Loft Bike Parks and the team pitching in to get the spine feature built

Ryan Howard airs over Thomas Genon Reed Boggs Matt Hunter Ben Byers and Brett Rheeder during filming of Oahu segment of Anthill s Return to Earth Hawaii

The team behind the Return to Earth Hawaii segment

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A HUGE thanks to everyone involved in making this segment happen:
Builders: Dustin Gilding, Austin Davignon and Alexander Chisholme of Loft Bike Parks, Ben Byers and Adam Billinghurst.
Riders: Brett Rheeder, Casey Brown, Matt Hunter, Reed Boggs, Ryan Howard, Thomas Genon, Brandon Semenuk, Carson Storch, Emil Johansson.
Extra filmers, production and support: Fraser Newton, Scott Jewett, Zach Rampen, Matt Butterworth. Jo Osborne
Photography: Sterling Lorence:

Return to Earth: The Series uncovers some of the unique mountain bike community characters that helped make the film a reality. It was developed in partnership with Freehub Magazine with illustrations by Taj Mihelich and photos by Sterling Lorence.

Return to Earth is brought to you by Shimano and Trek Bicycles featuring Brett Rheeder, Thomas Vanderham, Casey Brown, Matt Hunter, Reed Boggs, Ryan Howard, Joey Schusler, Thomas Genon, Brandon Semenuk, Carson Storch, Emil Johansson, Jackson Goldstone, Jakob Jewett and friends. In association with Pink Bike, Trail Forks, Evoc, Clif Bar, Sony, Whistler Mountain Bike Park and Freehub Magazine with additional support from Bike Park Lenzerheide, Spawn Cycles, Rocky Mountain Cycles. A 4K film by Anthill Films with art direction and creative by Good Fortune Collective.

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16 Comments

  • 32 0
 Nine Pros, one shot = Eight Pros
  • 10 0
 8 pro bike riders and 1 pro rally driver!
  • 9 0
 Speaking of this I was super surprised to see that Semenuk podium'd over the weekend. I know he's done smaller Canadian rally events but he even said going into his first US Rally race his only only goal was to complete such a long ass race, and had virtually no expectations of placing that high. Truly a testament to how much work he puts into his crafts. I'll always miss him in slopestyle comps, but seeing him find another past time and give it all and end up landing a driver spot with Subaru is just plain great. I know US Rally drivers can barely hold a candle to WRC racers, but I'm eager to see what the ceiling is for this guy behind the wheel. Not even a fan of rally racing at all, but I'm certainly enjoying the fact that Brandon didn't simply drift off into obscurity after he decided to stop competing in slope. Looks like he has another career he gets to shoot for. Road the shuttle with him at Coast Gravity a few years back and chatted a bit. Literally the nicest guy ever. All of the comments in years past about him being some poor sport, no-smiling, depressed kid on Pinkbike over the years couldn't be further removed from reality.
  • 4 0
 If only every mtb video was shot like this
  • 3 0
 edits/efforts like this will bring mtbkg to new heights. what an awesome job!
  • 3 0
 Ugh. Can’t figure out where they filmed this. Doesn’t look like a public riding spot. Have to rewatch.
  • 1 0
 West side someplace no? Just judging by the light. Does Oahu have that color dirt all over? But yeah - hana hou watch um again!
  • 3 0
 My friend thinks around Laie.
  • 1 0
 @twozerosix: my guys think a farm in Waialua. Mohala Farm. The last shot looks kinda from that angle.
  • 2 0
 Great shooting, electric motorcycle is Surron light bee
  • 1 0
 The dirt looks amazing there
  • 1 0
 Not to be mean but it’s got a ton of iron in it so it stains everything and in the wet it turns into brown ice.
  • 1 0
 Ryan Howard s massive helmet makes him look like an alien.
  • 3 2
 £1rßt!!!
  • 5 0
 In a Unicode world that reads: *mind blown emoji*

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