Tell us a little about Helivate Films and your role there.
Helivate Films is a small company that focuses 100% on getting cinematic footage that stands out from the rest. I am the owner and pilot at Helivate Films.
How did you get started in the drone industry? What type of training (formal or otherwise) did you get?
Ever since I was a little kid I was entranced by airplanes, especially helicopters. As they flew overhead I would always watch them, dreaming of how one day I would do some kind of work either flying them or building them. As I grew older my passion started to head toward film, but I still had a huge desire to work with technical things and the problem solving aspect of work like that. So, a couple years ago as I saw the technology of Multi-Rotor UAVs developing, I couldn’t resist the idea of getting one.
…before I started the business I bought a small MQX quadcopter and trained on that for months
The only problem was that I was attending school working towards my bachelor’s degree and couldn’t afford to spend money on something that expensive without some way of making money back. I decided that since I had many contacts in the film industry I would take a risk and start a business called Helivate Films to see if I could be successful at it. But before I started the business I bought a small MQX quadcopter and trained on that for months, going out every single day and flying it till I could do it perfectly. Once I could fly that with ease, flying the larger ones with GPS flight controllers was a breeze.
Now the challenge was incorporating cinematic film movements and angles to get unique and high-end shots. Helivate Films started out with a small custom quadcopter and a goPro, slowly moving up in size. Our team currently uses the lightweight Panasonic GH4 on my own custom built DJI S1000 with a Freefly systems MoVI M5 as the gimbal. We also expect to be including another large octocopter to be able to fly a Red camera and fulfill the needs of some of our larger clients.
I work closely with another aerial team known as CineChopper. They have a flight school called CineChopper University. They are constantly updating their website with knew ideas and tutorials for the aerial videographer.
What resources are you using to develop your skills and knowledge?
In the world of aerial cinematography there really will never come a day when you can settle for the knowledge you already have. It is advancing every day, so we as enthusiasts and professionals must advance our knowledge every day as well. There are a few things that I do. The first is that I work closely with another aerial team known as CineChopper. They have a flight school called CineChopper University. They are constantly updating their website with knew ideas and tutorials for the aerial videographer. I also am constantly working on film projects outside of Helivate Films. Being an aerial videographer is more than just being able to fly a helicopter, its about know film and what a good film looks like and how to make those cinematic movements. So when I’m not working on Helivate Films projects, I’m working with one of my closest friends and his company Urban Tent Media, producing and filming high end commercial, music, or any other kind of video. Doing this really has been one of the more important aspects to Helivate Films because one of the comments I receive is that the difference between me and other aerial teams is that both the pilot and camera operator are experienced film makers, making it much easier for a production to explain how to get shots or just trust that our team will get amazing footage with our own ideas.
What advice would you give to others who want to get started flying drones?
My first piece of advice would be to follow the rules. It won’t do the industry any good if drones are banned because people are flying irresponsibly. The second would be to learn film, because there is much more than just being a good pilot. The third would be to start small. It is a risky business, and starting small gives you the opportunity to charge less and build experience on real jobs while not having the risk of not being able to give the client what they wanted when they are paying top dollar for aerials. My final suggestion is to build your own UAV. This will teach you many of the technical aspects of the UAV that you will need to know when problems arise.
Share an experience of a failure you had (a crash, equipment failure, etc.) and what you learned from it.
When you are flying multi-rotors for a living, or even as an avid enthusiast, you will have many technical difficulties and many crashes. I share several stories on my website, helivatefilms.com, but one of my favorites is from this past summer at the Salt Flats in Utah. We had arrived the night before a big two-day shoot and gone to do a test flight, but my entire flight system was unresponsive. There was no reason for it not to work, and to make things more difficult, the system would work perfectly while in my hotel room but not outdoors. After 5 hours of trying everything I could think of it was 1:30 am (we had to be up at 5:30am to get out to location) and still nothing would work. I decided I would do one final thing and reset my DJI flight controller. To my relief, this worked and the rest of our shoot went flawlessly. UAVs can be complex systems and you must know how to problem-solve any issue that may come up.
The possibilities of UAVs in our future are limitless and inevitable (which I believe to be one of the greatest things).
Where do you see drones and drone technology in the future? Give an example of a real-world application of drone technology that you envision.
The possibilities of UAVs in our future are limitless and inevitable (which I believe to be one of the greatest things). I think that Amazon has the right ideas for real world applications. One of the greatest applications I believe is using them for search and rescue.
Is there an aspect of drones that you’re particularly interested in at the moment?
The technical aspect still has much of my attention. I have always loved building and creating things, and with drones I can experience a little bit of that.
What was the best piece of advice ever given to you?
If you’re having success with it, give it your full attention.