Shot over the course of a year – within 10 miles of his home in the UK – Thomas Dolby’s new film, The Invisible Lighthouse, depicts the closure of a historic lighthouse off the coast of Suffolk, at an island location formerly used as a testing zone for experimental weapons. The lighthouse featured in a notorious UFO incident referred to as "the British Roswell." Dolby had to make several clandestine off-the-radar trips to capture his footage.
The film recently won him awards for Best Documentary Short and Best Director at the LA DIY Festival. He is taking it on the road this Fall, screening the film in old movie theaters throughout the country. He personally performs the score and songs and narrates the story, live to picture, with the help of a traditional Foley artist.
Part of the fun for his project, Dolby says, was researching the new technology that helped him bring his vision together. The DIY shooting package he chose consisted of GoPro cameras, a Panasonic HC-V700M, and an AR Parrot drone with a built-in 720p camera.
Dolby taught himself Final Cut Pro X and cut the film in his self-designed wind-and-solar-powered lifeboat studio. While editing, Dolby realized he needed to open up the project visually, and turned to Shutterstock for additional footage. Best known for his MTV videos and 80s megahits such as, She Blinded Me With Science, Dolby has spent the last 12 years as musical director of the TED Conference. It was here that he became aware of Shutterstock, a leading provider of high-quality, royalty-free digital footage. Its extensive footage library became an integral part The Invisible Lighthouse.
"I needed a crowd scene, a plane landing, a lighthouse beacon revolving, an airport electronic board, and some time lapse shots of L.A. at night," he explains. "I made this project on a tiny budget so there was no way I was going to be able to travel to shoot this footage myself. I was amazed at what I could find on the Shutterstock website."
Dolby created a Shutterstock clipbox, downloaded low-resolution watermarked 'cutting copies' of the clips, and edited them into his master; then once he was 100-percent sure of the content, he changed over to the HD version. "This method of viewing and editing footage through Shutterstock is ideal," he says enthusiastically. "It means I can complete my film assembly using quick-to-download, low-res media and price out the final result within my budget. Then, what a joy it is to switch to the high-res footage." Dolby says the fact that the Shutterstock collection comes from hundreds of professional cinematographers all over the world gives it a breadth that he has never before seen in a film library, and adds: "it's nice to know that their hard work is being fairly rewarded."
"Thomas Dolby has been a multimedia pioneer for over thirty years," says Ben Pfeifer, VP of New Business at Shutterstock. "It's gratifying to be a part of his creative process for The Invisible Lighthouse."
The Invisible Lighthouse follows the path Thomas Dolby took with his critically acclaimed album A Map of the Floating City and the groundbreaking FloatingCity.com transmedia game.