When we were asked to produce a promo of a Light Sport airplane utilizing our drone gear, my creative wheels started spinning. The entire process took about 12 days of production and post production, stretched out over 3 months. We had several issues to battle such as restricted airspace, weather and just the normal “on set” challenges.
Flying drones is the main thing I’m extremely passionate about with my work, and I wanted to execute shots that no one has seen before. I wanted to show shots visualizing the Bushcat airplane from a perspective no one has seen before. This entailed very precise flying and coordinating with my drone team and Lenny, the pilot of the Bushcat. During pre-pro we always create a shot list. This list tells us what we need to shoot during production so we don’t forget anything.
The main issues with drones is that airplane pilots don’t want you near them for obvious “collidable” reasons. In this case, we were doing the opposite. We wanted the drone in close proximity with the Bushcat during flight so we could create the epic cinematic imagery we needed for this promo. This entailed flying right next to the plane sometimes as close as 40 ft away at 60 mph. Fun times!
Whenever shooting anything, film, commercial, music video, etc., location is very critical. The Bushcat promo needed to show how the plane can go just about anywhere on most terrains. This is why we shot in two totally different locations, the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Coast. We went ahead and scouted both locations so we know where lighting is best at various times of the day.
Golden hour (am & pm) were our sweet spots for shooting the Bushcat plane. We got to enjoy a lot of “specular reflections” that really helps sell the shot.
Being able to pull shots off like this requires your aerial team to be in sync. My drone team and I have put in countless hours of practice, training ourselves for this type of extreme droning. I will say, this is when each team member needs to be spot on with their roles. We had three team members on the ground, pilot, gimbal operator and a visual observer. Precision is critical. One mistake and its all over!
As a pilot I rely heavily on Grant, my VO (visual observer). For very specific shots, I refer to my FPV (first person view) monitor a lot during my flight. Grant also has a FPV monitor with him so he can cross reference between FPV and LOS (line of sight). As a drone pilot, it’s so essential to have both FPV monitor and camera feed reference monitor. I use both constantly, especially during the difficult shots.
Ryan, my gimbal operator and I had to be in sync with my flying and his camera movement. We call this process “the dance.” This is where we both were able to use our filmmaking experience as cam ops to execute these cinematic shots.
Having the Right Tools
As many of you will know, we’ve been flying heavy lifter drones since 2012. So much has changed over the years and it’s so amazing what tools we have to work with nowadays. We’re flying Freefly Alta 8’s and 6’s, along with the MoVI Pro. I can confidently say if we had any other gimbal or drone, we would not have been able to execute the shots we acquired on the Bushcat shoot. The Alta 8 is a work horse, and a fast one at that. I can get up to 50 mph in just under 3 seconds. The Alta 8 along with the MoVI Pro are like two peas in a flying pod! Most MoVI users will know there are always limits to the pan motor when flying profile shots and flying against the wind. The M15 always would lose it’s pan hold around 28 mph. Since we needed to fly at 60 mph to keep up with the Bushcat, the MoVI Pro was the only option.
Communication is one of the larger roles each team member has, and we need to be sure we’re all on the same page. To assist our team, we all use EarTec wireless headsets. These are huge in that we can talk to each other without being right next to each other. We can chat as a group at the same time utilizing the “open com” features of the EarTec headsets.
Anytime we’re shooting aerials, our first choice is Red Weapon Series (Scarlet-W, Weapon, Helium, Epic-W, etc). Several reasons are listed below:
- Image Quality (Redcode RAW footage)
- Overcranking at high frame rates
- Integration with MoVI Controller (full camera control including playback via the MoVI Controller)
- Light payload (Full setup with MoVI Pro and FIZ – 16.3 lbs)
I’ve been shooting with Red for several years now, and have grown accustom to all of the aspects of Red. Don’t worry guys, next to Red, Alexa Mini would be my next choice.
We shot with our in-house Red Scarlet-W on the Bushcat promo. The incredible dynamic range makes this camera a dream in the sky. Any time you’re shooting aerials, there’s usually going to be some extreme lighting differences between the sky vs. the ground/shadows. Without RAW, finding that happy medium where you’re not blowing the highlights or killing the shadows is impossible. Red has never failed us!
The final stage of any production the editing stage, a.k.a. – post production. We spent over 50 hours editing the entire 3:25 promo. Editing includes:
- Logging footage
- Editing footage
- Voice Over
- Color Grading
Overall post production went well and we mastered the final in 4K so enjoy!
If you’re interested in hiring us to produce a promo for you utilizing our tools and filmmaking abilities, we’d love to chat. Feel free to give us a call. You can call us directly here.