The Challenge

Present the desperate plight of the endangered whooping crane while leaving the audience with a sense of hope for the future.

Over-hunting and habitat destruction have decimated the whooping crane population, and in 1942, only 22 birds remained alive. Without wild adult cranes to show the chicks how to migrate, the species didn't stand a chance. A dedicated team called Operation Migration determined to take on the role of surrogate parents and train the birds to fly with ultralight aircraft, guiding them along their ancient migratory route. 

Still Life Projects was commissioned to create a four-minute video that would showcase the program's vital work. No one told us we would have to also pose as the chicks' parents by wearing baggy white suits with dark mesh screens covering our faces. Needless to say, the disguise itself presented a challenge for our film crew.  As the cranes get older, they get a bit more aggressive and curious, so we did a lot of the filming tucked behind camouflaged blinds. 

Another crucial element to the filming was timing. We got incredibly lucky to witness a chick hatching, so we were able to lead the viewer through the whole life cycle of these cranes from birth to adolescence, and then onto training for the migration journey.  


The Insight

Saving a species from extinction is not for the faint of heart.


Our Role

Concept Deveopment, Production, Editing, Motion Design, Color Grading, Audio Mixing, Mastering

The Solution

Create a film that serves as a guide through the life cycle of a whooping crane born in captivity to one that is self-sufficient and migrating on its own. 

It was a balance weaving together the footage we collected over the course of several months with the hundreds of hours of footage recorded by the pilots and trainers. Since we only had access to the cranes in captive environments, their images of whooping cranes in the wild and along their migration path flying with the ultralight were priceless to us. In the end, we were able to tell the story chronologically since we witnessed the first moments of life as the chick hatched. As a result, you feel like you're on the journey with these cranes - and you recognize the fragility the species faces. 

The video premiered at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s annual fundraiser in 2012. It continues to bring awareness to Operation Migration and the delicate future of the whooping crane.