Racing across the iconic rooftops of Istanbul, their feet leap from dome to dome. As they flow through the urban landscape, the young men almost make it look easy – but they've been honing their craft for a decade. This is leading free-running collective Storror, taking up Canon's challenge for a world first: to cross continents using parkour.
Armed with Canon EOS M50 mirrorless cameras and Canon EOS C200 video cameras, the team of seven took to the streets and skylines of historic Istanbul in Turkey – a city that straddles two continents – to free run their way from Europe to Asia. The resulting video captures the physical and mental challenge as the team tackles moving obstacles and leaps across everything from cranes and shipping containers through to traditional Turkish carpets being carried down narrow alleyways. The film culminates in a complex stunt jumping onto the roof of a passenger ferry as it passes under a bridge, carrying them across the Bosphorus Strait to the cargo seaport of Haydarpaşa in the Asian part of the city.
"We'd never thought about crossing continents with parkour before, so it seemed like an epic feat to try to accomplish," says Sacha Powell who, alongside Toby Segar, is the main filmmaker in the group. From humble beginnings posting funny videos of jumps online, Storror has grown to prominence in the parkour movement thanks to the premise of making the impossible possible, and is now approaching 2 million subscribers on YouTube.
Crossing Continents granted the team access to some of the most exciting landmarks in Istanbul, from Galata Bridge to the domed rooftops near the Süleymaniye Mosque. For Sacha and Toby, who are both parkour athletes themselves, the brief offered the opportunity to push their filmmaking to new levels – and to focus wholly on being behind the video camera.
"Some of the spots were insane, places we've wanted to jump on for years but never been allowed to," says Toby. "For this project, Sacha and I were solely camera guys and directors. We were thinking about doing some parkour as well, but we realised this was our first chance in a long time to put all of what we had into filmmaking and to push what we can do there."
The kind of filmmaking required – covering rapid movement, split-second decisions and complex action, often at great heights – is possible only because they perform at the same level as the rest of the team, which they have been a part of since 2010. "Being parkour athletes helps us to know how to film the movement and how to follow the guys onto the obstacles to get a variety of shots," says Sacha. "You can get closer and actually run around with the athletes. We don't really follow rules or industry standards, we experiment for ourselves, and what we are happy with, we produce. Creating new content for Storror is our life goal now."
When capturing the action, it's all about complementing the movement and skills of their fellow team members. "If there is a move that is really difficult but it doesn't look insane, it's our job to portray that movement in the best way, to make it look as physically difficult as it can," says Toby. "After that, we worry about getting the angles to look better for the film and the edit."
Crossing Continents was a departure from Storror norms, turning their usual tight-knit team into a crew of more than 50, including drone operators and stills photographer Samo Vidic. "It's the first time we've ever had that level of help," says Toby. "Canon and the crew were basically facilitating our idea, which is really awesome. The production was all up to us, and it was amazing to have that flexibility and freedom to do something we've always wanted to do."
The project is all about inspiring people to experience their own 'first', says Lee Bonniface, Marketing Director for Canon Europe. "We are delighted we were able to support Storror become the first parkour group to cross continents. We challenged them to attempt something bold and to capture their experience to inspire others to do the same. While we don't expect everyone to be quite as daring, every day can produce a first and Canon will help you capture it."
The concept came to life over a week's shoot in April. "We were filming with the Canon EOS M50 and Canon EOS C200, and using gimbals to get the nice flowing movement," says Sacha. "The Canon EOS M50 cameras are very similar to what we usually use because when we are on our adventures and trying to climb on roofs, we don't want heavy cameras. The M50 is very compact, which is perfect for what we do."
"Since this shoot we've been using them constantly for vlogging and general action shooting, because they're the perfect hybrid camera," adds Toby. "It's nice to have something that is an all-in-one. And, in the edit, I was genuinely surprised how much the quality of the M50 held up to that of the C200." The Canon EOS M50 ended up taking over all the fast-moving shots, allowing Toby and Sacha to get close to the action, with the Canon EOS C200 used for wider tripod-mounted shots, as well as on the drone.
One of the Canon EOS M50's standout features was autofocus, says Sacha. "When we're shooting with gimbals, we've never been able to change focus mid-shot, while we're sprinting. The best thing about this camera was that we could track the person in shot and it would just autofocus to the tracking on that person, which I thought was incredible."
So how much of their nail-biting action scenes are planned in advance? "It's a combination of planning as much as we possibly can and then leaving everything up to chance," laughs Toby. "Certain elements change, such as whether the guys are feeling strong enough to do the moves they wanted."
Some scenes were blocked out in detail, such as the stunts in the shipping container yard, where a playground designed by Storror was custom-built for the shoot, ensuring the surfaces were safe to land on and the containers were the right distance apart, to the inch, for the team to perform their runs. Other shots were, by their nature, more fluid, such as the "intense" sequence of jumps from a bridge onto a moving boat. "We realised that when you're filming on water, nothing is the same every time," says Sacha. "You could try performing it exactly the same as the last take, but the boat could be a metre out."
The finished content has proved to be something special for Storror. "It was a surreal experience the first few days – you were trying to catch up with how big this project was," says Toby. "It ended up being one of the best films we've ever done."