Our first job of the year came on a cold, but dry and clear Sunday morning down on Bournemouth beach.
The X8 awaits the completion of the umbrella arrangement, for its moment of glory in front of the Bournemouth locals
It was an advert for 3 Mobile. We’d been booked by Cow PR and were working alongside events company The Ministry of Fun. From the early hours the Ministry team had been arranging 660 beach umbrellas in the sand. The finished arrangement was a Spanish flag spelling the words Viva Espana, and of course there was only one way to capture it – our mid-sized X8 and a Canon 5D!
The shoot consisted of still shots from above and a short video involving a vertical jib up to around 160ft. We did two versions of this, one with and one without a bikini-clad model lying on a lounger in the centre of the flag talking on her phone – as we jibbed up and away from her, she closed the umbrella above her to complete the image.
Spain comes to England – our aerial view of the scene on Bournemouth Beach
Wish you were here? On a British beach on 4th January in a bikini!
We were not jealous of the model, being in such a state of undress in the January cold – with the additional factor of an extra-chilly downdraft from the X8’s propellers!
The people of Bournemouth were incredibly curious, not only about the giant flag on their beach, but as always our rig got a lot of attention too. It was great to work with such an organised team who handled closing off the roads and clearing the beach brilliantly, which takes a lot of stress away from us when shooting in such a busy location.
What a team! The Ministry kept spirits up, especially with their MC Hammer-style traffic control lollipops.
Our efforts were covered in the Daily Star and the Bournemouth Echo.
Imagery from the shoot will appear in Three stores nation wide.
One of the video clips accompanied an article on the project in Event Magazine.
Ever wondered what summer-friendly venues like safari parks do to keep visitor numbers up during the colder months while all the monkeys are sleeping?
We were called by CGI and production giants Framestore, who had been commissioned to produce a TV advert for Longleat Safari Park’s winter programme, the Festival of Light. Among other things, this would comprise of hundreds of illuminated Chinese lanterns of all shapes and sizes, spread amongst the grounds and in trees.
David Hogg from Horizon Imaging was piloting or us on this shoot – a very experienced pilot, and all-round nice chap.
This was to be a night shoot, though the time required to prep would have us arriving long before dusk. Our journey took us into wonderful Somerset countryside, to the stunning Elizabethan stately home and seat of the Marquesses of Bath, Longleat House set in acres of beautiful landscape gardens.
“Longleat House 2012″ by Saffron Blaze – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
On the site recce, we saw an amazing, huge dragon statue, which had been built almost entirely of china plates. Adding to the magic was a rainbow in the background.
Longleat Chinese Dragon – Amazing bit of craftsmanship.
The front of the Dragon showed amazing attention to detail.
During set up in the afternon, we were buffeted by 30+ mph winds, and the likelihood of doing any aerial shots during the night was looking ever-smaller.
Once the rain came, we decamped to a nearby marquee, to continue setting up under shelter. We realised that this marquee was where the Chinese lanterns were being constructed, and we were soon joined by about 20 Chinese craftsmen who were checking out our kit. It was a funny situation to be sure – in the depths of the English countryside we were surrounded by these guys who didn’t speak any English and we didn’t speak any Chinese, so after a few appreciative nods between us we carried on working, though they didn’t leave for another half an hour at least!
Who’s more interested in whom? David setting up gimbal while the lantern craftsmen look on.
Due to the fact that we were shooting in the dark, a camera with great low-light capability had to be used. We rented in the recently-released Sony A7s, which can push its ISO up to the mind-boggling 410,000!
Small but serious imagery weapon – the Sony A7s.
By the time darkness had settled in, the wind had miraculously dropped to within safe operating levels, so we were suddenly good to go.
Our shots included flights over an amazing illuminated chinese pagoda, and tracking past crowds surrounding the dragon made of crockery. In the dark, all parts of the dragon were lit with thousands of LEDs – also the dragon’s head turned and emitted smoke – quite a sight!
Longleat Chinese Dragon – Amazing by day, staggering by night!
Our flights over the lake, toward the House itself and the illuminated elephants and the crowds of people around them, were the most challenging as the wind was picking up again, and being ready to launch on the queue of a 2nd Assistant director controlling a crowd of 200 people from the other side of the lake, was not always simple!
Our view of the action from across the lake.
Once we had finished, packed up and had some dinner it was around 4am. On the way out we saw the crew preparing for another setup of ground shots, showing a herd of animals crossing the plain. A serious amount of light required to illuminate those trees – really impressive production value.
Another part of the shoot – huge amounts of lighting power required to illuminate this scene.
The drive home was long, but at least the lack of traffic made it a little easier!
Click below for the finished advert. The curse of working on adverts and short form content is that the shoot / edit ratio is extremely low. This 30-second advert was not exception, and only one of our shots made the final cut. Not to worry, more for our showreel!
In flight by the iconic Orbit, and Olympic Stadium Credit: Paul Sprinz | Stripe Media
Things really get exciting for us when we can film in iconic locations. The ability to gain that elevated perspective of places which have been seen by millions, very much floats our boat.
Stripe Media got in touch as they were making a film to promote apprenticeships at Olympic Park. They required some ‘hero shots’, showing each of the chosen apprentices working in their realm, then jibbing up and out to show their location within the iconic park.
The project was commissioned by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), which is responsible for the long-term development, management and maintenance of the Olympic Park and surrounding area after the London 2012 Games.
David Hogg of Horizon Imaging was on board again for this shoot, providing quality piloting skills.
Our first location on the day was the riverside, opposite the Aquatics Centre, and near to the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the UK’s tallest sculpture. We tracked our apprentice Paris, who is a landscape gardener, along the riverside grass banks which he maintains.
After shots around and past the Orbit, we headed into the Aquatics Centre, with its striking wave-shaped roof.
This was a challenging location, as the air was very warm and humid. Bringing the UAV in from the cold weather outside, we had to leave it into a warm but dry area in the building to allow it to acclimatise, without developing condensation on the camera lens, or more importantly, the flight controller circuitry.
Inside the Aquatics Centre. It may have been humid and full of concrete and steel, but at least it wasn’t windy! Credit: Paul Sprinz | Stripe Media
Once this was achieved it was into the swimming area. Inside, flying in GPS mode is out of the question. Being surrounded by concrete and steel did not make the flight controller happy, and we had to recalibrate the compass several times. In addition, the humidity of the air can affect the stength of the 2.4GHz control signal, so we had to carry out a range test.
Our apprentice here was Tom, and we were to allow him to walk into frame as he surveys the pool, then jib forwards and up, to reveal the wider view of the space, but keeping Tom in frame. This took a few attempts, but director Paul was very happy with the result.
Our shoot overran by 3 minutes, cutting into Tom Daley’s training time (stood in background). Sorry Tom!
Whilst we were filming, Olympic diving legend Tom Daley was in the Media room doing interviews. We overran our shoot slot by 3 minutes, which cut into Tom’s training time. This gave me a chance to apologise / have a chat, and I’m pleased to say he was a really nice bloke.
After lunch, it was onto the stadium itself. The amount of work going on here was absolutely astounding – as many people know it’s soon to become West Ham’s new football stadium. A new roof is being installed in order to cover every seat in the house, which is no small job!
A far cry from Usain Bolt and Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony… Olympic Stadium / West Ham Football Ground
Chris reveals the City of London behind Olympic Stadium. Credit: Paul Sprinz | Stripe Media
Here we performed upward reveals of the Stadium roof with the works going on inside, and also tracked round the stadium to show its context in London – the building staying centre frame while the London skyline changed in the background.
Our final shot involved three apprentices who work within the Stadium complex. It was to be another low-to-high reveal, but we tried to fit more action into the shot. We queued one of the digger drivers to drive across into shot as we tracked back.
It’s useful to have an industrial hose on hand! David waits for the road to be de-dusted before take-off
Our first attempt flagged one of the classic problems of flying in construction sites – the dust which is kicked up by the propellers. Not to worry, help was close at hand, and one of the construction workers was happy to dampen down our flight path with an industrial hose which was conveniently parked nearby.
Following this it all came out really well, and was the last shot in the video.
As the light started to fade, it was off to the Stadium office to remove PPE, then pack down. A long and tiring day, but we were very pleased with the shots we managed to get of this amazing location.
The video can be seen below. It was premiered at the Mayor’s Office / London City Hall in March, during National Apprenticeships Week 2105.
NDA’s put a stop to this post going out earlier. It was written back in May, which feels like a long time ago!
We were asked by The Production Factory to be involved in a fashion shoot for Selected clothing brand.
This was predominantly a stills catalogue shoot by Tomo Brejc, but we were asked to join US-based DoP and steadicam op Franklin Guerrero to provide aerial images for the accompanying video. The location was a fantastically grand manor house called Wrotham Park, set in 300 acres of pristine parkland near Barnet (which it has to be said, sounds less exotic).
Wrotham Hall from above
This was an incredibly busy shoot for the stills guys, with many costume changes, lighting set-ups and to top it all off, the outside shots were set in the snow so despite it being a warm and bright day, Snow Business were on set to bring winter to the shoot.
Photographer Tomo Brejc and DoP Franklin Guerrero work around The Bentley S3 Coupé, with David Gandy and Chloé Bello modelling
This gave us some time before our shots, giving us the rare opportunity to get to the food first! Not only that, but extra time to set everything up, so we took the chance to mount one of our Gopro’s next to our Canon 5d Mk3 with 24mm prime lens, for some bonus aerial stills. We also got some test flights in and a chance to admire the grounds.
Behind the scenes, Moviehook waits patiently for the real shooting to begin…
Our shots for the afternoon shoot were to capture the models walking out of the house and driving away in a rather nice 1964 Bentley S3 coupé, provided by Studio 434, and one of the many cars in their remarkable collection.
Now let’s have some fun!
We started with simple tracking shots, then as Tomo got an idea of the possibilities, it developed into a backwards tracking shot of the car to 45º jib up to reveal the house and the grounds behind it. David Gandy was driving the car, and we gave him the signal via walkie-talkie, to start the movement.
It was a challenge to accurately track the car from a distant start point, but Paul pulled it out of the bag and Chris kept the moving object in frame, to the delight of the clients who were all gathered round the monitor.
Click here or the image below to see a short edit of our favourite shots.
Frame from our backwards-tracking shot of the Bentley
A good day. Lovely location, great crew, amazing food, and finding out that we have the final shot in the film made us very happy!
Click here or the image below to see the finished film.
David Gandy on set for Selected brand fashion film
We were called by Agile Films with an unusual request: to shoot a 2-day music video for the Canterbury-based psychedelic funk-rockers Syd Arthur.
The unusual bit was that they wanted us to shoot the whole thing! We wouldn’t be just a unit of the camera department, but the complete department itself. Which means I would be DoP for the first time in a long time. Kneel down and kiss my light meter! Well in fact, it’s an anemometer / wind speed gauge, but important to have something hanging around one’s neck nonetheless.
The other thing which got us excited was that the director was being flown over from L.A. – music vid and graphic design virtuoso Robert Hales. Originally from North West UK, for the past 15 years he has been living in the US, directing for the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, Miley Cyrus, Red Hot Chilli Peppers , Tame Impala and Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’, which netted him the 2006 MTV Music Video Award.
An early start from London brought us to a commune in the rural outskirts of Canterbury, where we would shoot the main performance pieces. It was a beautiful location with wooden huts, bluebell meadows, chicken coup… and no electrical power. Luckily we knew this in advance, and had booked a generator.
A beautiful clearing among the bluebells for the band to set up.
After briefing the band, we set about doing various passes over and across them. Some of this was close-range stuff, which required precise shot-planning with Robert in advance. The upwards jibs looked great as they showed the wider aspect of the clearing to the woods and fields beyond, with unpolluted views all the way to the horizon.
A bird’s eye view over Syd Arthur, playing in classic English countryside.
Focus-puller James Leckey joined us again this time – his support and experience really helped to streamline our workflow on a shoot where we had no breaks while ‘A’ camera did their thing, as is the normal way of things. Thanks James!
Director Robert and the band look over the shots during a break
There were a pair of angry geese wandering around in a threatening manner. At one point I was running to the generator to charge some batteries and the geese appeared, blocking my path. I would have just pushed past them, but one starting hissing with its tongue out like an All Blacks rugby player and I though it was going to go for me, so remembering Crocodile Dundee I stared back, made a few funny noises, and slowly crept past, covering my raw animal fear rather well, I thought.
The goose from hell!*
(not the actual one from the day, but a close match)
Our favourite shot involved tracking from the front of Fred the drummer, to up-and-over him. This did create quite an down-draught on his hair, but Robert said he liked it, so we carried on!
We also enjoyed tracking around Raven Bush (nephew of Kate Bush) playing mandolin amongst the bluebells.
Raven Bush on the violin
After this, the heavens opened with an un-forecast shower, so we decided to pack up and move on to the next location, which was an old ‘sound mirror’ near the edge of the cliffs on the other side of Dover. Sound Mirror is the title and cover image of the album, and Robert’s plan was to get shots of this piece of pre-radar technology from all angles.
The weather wasn’t being particularly kind with thick, low cloud and a strong onshore breeze as we walked onto the clifftop. The existence of the cloud meant we could actually see the updraught as it hit the cliff and rushed upwards. These are unpleasant to fly a multi-rotor in, as it’s the equivalent of an aeroplane flying in turbulence.
Paul explains the finer points of an up-draft (to whoever will listen)
Thankfully the shots we needed didn’t require us to fly out over the cliff edge. We shot multiple angles of the sound mirror and the band, and it was off to the pub for a well-earnt dinner.
Early the next morning we were up at 4.30 to get shots from the outskirts of Canterbury. Our vantage point from an empty field overlooking the town enabled us to get some great dawn shots.
Overlooking part of Canterbury from a field
As we were packing up the rain came again, so we had to improvise. Using the gimbal, we got some moving shots from within the town, out the window of the moving crew van.
Heading out further back into the countryside, with the rain still coming down we set up the gimbal in the back of the van, and drove along an empty country lane with the back doors open to get close, moving shots of the band walking. These came out very well, with band and director pleased.
Chris preps the gimbal for something a little different to the norm
After this we had secured a location at Kent university, to film the band at a curious-looking maze-without-walls on the university campus. With these shots in the bag, Robert called it a wrap and we all went off for a very tasty late-lunch at a market-cum-restaurant in Canterbury.
Syd Arthur pick their way out of the Ultimate Labrynth
It was a long two days with a lot of flying and some creative problem-solving, but it felt good testament to the reliability of our kit, and resilience of our crew. Go Skyhook!
We look forward to seeing the finished video, which is currently being edited in L.A. – we’ll let you know when it’s out!
When we shoot with a rented camera – which happens quite a lot – I ask to have it delivered a day in advance so that it can be balanced on the gimbal.
Here’s a quick explanation of what that involves.
To be correctly balanced, the camera must sit straight on all axes while the gimbal is unpowered, i.e. it must not tip forward or back, or left or right. Furthermore, the camera should be able to be moved to any position in the pan, tilt, or roll axes, and stay in that position.
The reason for this is that the gimbal servos or motors which stabilise the camera during flight, must be doing the minimum amount of work possible to keep the camera level. If they are struggling to hold an unbalanced camera to horizon while also stabilising the movement of the aircraft and actioning the commands from the camera operator, then you will not come out with a satisfactory piece of video.
This process can be quite tough, as once balance is achieved on one axis, often this upsets balance on another axis. What often follows is a quite bit of tail-chasing and lots of allen key work, in order to get every axis happy. Balancing the pan axis is another thing altogether, and involves hanging the whole aircraft sideways, balancing the CoG of the gimbal and camera, so that it will not swing or rotate at any point.
Following the balancing procedure, the gains of the servos / motors have to be set. Changing these gain settings will alter the ‘responsiveness’ of the motors to react to aircraft movement in order to keep the camera level. Too low, and the camera will be too slow in stabilising and the shot will suffer. Too high, and the axis will ‘jitter’ as if it’s had too much coffee, again ruining your shot. These settings are changed by hooking up the laptop to the gimbal, testing the camera’s response to movement, changing the settings, testing again, and so on. The secret is to have the settings as high as possible, but without any jitters. Stabilising while also responding to a command from the Cam Op often create more judder, so it’s a fine line between right and wrong and you need to check in every scenario!
This whole ‘balancing act’ can take several hours or more on some occasions, which is why we ask for the camera in advance. From experience in our early days, doing this whilst on set, and while the clock is ticking, is not a good idea!
It’s much nicer to show up on the day knowing everything’s ready.
Click below to see a timelapse of Chris balancing a Canon 5D with 24mm prime lens.
Chris balances the Canon 5D Mk3 with 24mm prime lens on a Cinestar 3-axis gimbal
We were called by advertising agency Pace Media to provide them with aerial shots for a bingo commercial.
The location was Gunpowder Park near Epping Forest in North London.
We were shooting on top of a grassy mound in a big open space overlooking trees and fields beyond, it felt like London was a long way away!
Chris and Paul prep the octocopter with a nice countryside view for company
Focus puller James Leckey gives us a grin and nicely set-up camera
The weapon of choice was our heavy-lift octocopter MovieHook, as we were shooting with a RED Scarlet camera. To save weight and minimise camera size, we strip RED cameras to their minimum and power them with our own Li-Po batteries through a custom-made cable.
RED Scarlet set up to fly, and powered by our blue LiPo battery (bottom right)
The story involved an actress running with a butterfly net and trying to catch a bingo ball masquerading as a butterfly, to win a £55 bonus through the website.
Actress Heather Rayment chases our post-inserted butterfly friend as we track the action
We performed a number of different tracking and jibbing moves including a diagonal descent which starts wide as the actress enters frame, then enlarges her as we descend and move towards her. This was to be the opening shot in the advert.
Our favourite shot came when we had to give the point-of-view of the butterfly as the actress tried to swat at us. We circled her at different radius and heights, which gave Chris a nice challenge, trying to keep her in centre of frame!
Heather tries to net herself a bonus as we give the POV of the butterfly
We performed a big upwards jib looking down on the actress, which was to be the closing shot of the advert.
Our high jib shot went from 6 to 200 feet.
Just as we landed after a good take, the skies dealt us an unbelievable hail storm, so we covered the kit and headed to the cars to sit it out. It was 2 hours until we could get shooting again, but we managed to get all our shots and more before wrap time.
MovieHook takes shelter while we wait for a hailstorm of biblical proportions to pass
It was great to be on set with such a solid crew, and planning aerial shots with actors is something we look forward to much more of in the future! It was also our first experience of shooting material to have CGI added later.
Chris discusses the next shot with Director Joe Morris (right) and DoP Jordan Cushing.
The crew stands by for playback of an aerial shot
Click the image below to see the advert itself, which is now showing on ITV.
Here’s a Behind-the-Scenes video of the day. Thanks to Pace for putting this together!
Looking forward to working with @PaceMediaNick @Jordan_Cushing @1st_AC and @HeatherRayment again.
In the meantime, check ‘em out on twitter!
On a March weekend that felt like June, we were up and out early on our way to East Grinstead. We joined director David Garcia and the Zenith Cinematography team to help shoot the launch advert for a new luxury cosmetics brand which uses real gold leaf in its products.
Our first location was a picturesque manor house, which incidentally is also the UK headquarters of Scientology! We would be working with a chauffeur and luxury Jaguar for the shots here.
Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead
We set up outside in the sun while the rest of the crew prepped for their ground shots with the actress.
Attaching the air frame to the gimbal
Our first shot involved tracking back at eye level as the car pulled away from the house, then jibbing up and away to reveal the beauty of the house and grounds beyond. This sort of shot is where a 2 man aerial crew comes into its own, allowing precise flight of the octocopter and complex camera movements to be made at the same time.
Going through the shot with Director David Garcia
Paul shows the ‘flying face’, which means it’s time to get serious!
Click here or on the image below to see the shot itself, and the workings behind it:
MovieHook lining up for the Jaguar shot
After a few variations of the first shot we packed up and headed to location two – Wier Wood Reservoir, a few miles down the road. This place was cool – the moody light of the tree-lined car park contrasted with the huge, calm, sun-lit reservoir beyond.
Ready for the shot as the sunset prepares for some screen time
Magic Hour! With the limited time characteristic of shooting at this time of day, we arranged the shot which involved tracking over the moving car, then up and over the tree line to show the dusky lake scene beyond. As we continued our ascent, the parallax changed to open up the view of the lake extending into the distance. It was rather magic!
Here’s the shot (or click the image below)
Skyhook Lake Shot – Behind the Scenes
As night set in, we made good use of our navigation lights for the final shot: aircraft stationary over the forest to give a bird’s eye view of the Jaguar driving along the rough track. This shot is not available to see yet, but it will be soon! Check our Vimeo Page to see it when it does!
MovieHook is ready for the night shot
An wonderful shoot with stunning locations. Very nice to work with David and his crew again, we look forward to seeing the finished article!
We were extremely chuffed to be asked to film aerial shots in Italy for a documentary about Royal chef Mario Andrisani, on a journey back to his home town to rediscovered his culinary roots, and meet some of the individuals who inspired him.
Easy rollin’ at Bari Airport
Luckily for us, his home town is Matera – a stunningly beautiful old city in the southern region of Basilicata. It is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, and its historical centre the ‘Sassi’ is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Matera Old Town and Cathedral
The jagged relief of the town gave us a huge potential to play with foreground and background – the most enjoyable shot came from a tightly-queued jib-up as Mario stood on a rocky outcrop over the town, and introduced it to camera as we flew up past him, and on to an ever-ascending panoramic of the view below, with the Gravina Canyon further below that.
Mario Andrisani introduces Matera from a vantage point
Click below to see a behind-the-scenes video of the Mario jib-shot over Matera, including the shot itself! Best viewed in HD directly from Vimeo.
The hospitality and cuisine were right up there with the views – we stayed in the luxury cave hotel La Dolce Vita and ate vast amounts of tasty local dishes at the Casino Del Diavolo (The Devil’s Casino).
Technical-wise: filming in a canyon is pretty difficult – there were some mean updrafts blowing up the cliff edge, which made for some rather nerve-racking moments as MovieHook was thrown around while we navigated into the centre.
Flying the canyon – hairy times!
Later that afternoon we walked down into the ravine itself, to get shots of Mario foraging for wild Thyme.
This enabled us to shoot the town from a low level, which also showed the curve of the river to great effect.
Gravina Canyon with Matera Sassi in the background
The next day we visited Roseto, where one of Mario’s culinary friends had renovated a castle overlooking the sea, and created a restaurant to be reckoned with.
Roseto Spulico Castle
For the first half of the day, the wind was gusting to 30mph so we had to see ourselves through a double-main course lunch until it calmed down a bit – it’s a tough life!
The finest Tagliatelle I have ever tasted. Top-end seafood was to follow!
The afternoon brought low winds and great shots of the castle teetering on its rocky precipice.
Roseto Spulico Castle
The final shot of the day was at dusk, with Mario and his wife sat on the rooftop of the castle enjoying a meal with a wonderful view.
Moviehook awaits the final shot of the day
A pretty good shoot, all in all – we look forward to more international projects!
*In-flight still images: GoPro Hero 3+. BTS images: Panasonic GH2 and iPhone. Flight camera: Canon 5D Mk3.
Our entry into the golf club marketing world has been picked up by major golf website, GolfBusinessNews.
The article, which can be seen here, has already generated interest from a number of clubs across the UK.
We look forward to receiving more calls, as the word spreads about how beneficial our services can be to the promotion of golf clubs, by showing potential customers exactly what kind of playing experience the course will give them, right on the club’s website.