At the Top of Their Game: Interview with Philipp Reimer of theblackdrone GmbH

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Here at Droneblog, we’re always on the lookout for the truly extraordinary in the field of aerial photography and cinematography. When I came across theblackdrone GmbH and saw the quality of their work, I simply had to know more about them and how they have achieved their success. I was able to interview the founder Philipp Reimer, and am more impressed than ever. Read on.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. How did you get into drones?

My business partner Rico Nowara and me (Philipp Reimer) had a photography business back in 2005. After the Canon 5D Mark II with its Full HD Video function came out we quickly shifted to corporate videos, automotive films and commercials. As the first DJI Phantom 1 came out we saw the endless opportunities for our business model. We quickly integrated aerial cinematography to our standard productions on the ground and our customers loved the completely new and refreshing perspective. At that moment we constantly stepped up the game until today where we fly our own built heavylift systems with our own RED Helium 8K or Alexa Mini 4k camera with zoom lenses.

 

What is theblackdrone? What has the process of development been like for you, obstacles and successes?

theblackdrone is a service provider for aerial cinematography at first – but also a production company for film, cinema or tv formats. We not only use our drones, but also camera cars, boats, cranes, cablecams and other vehicles to get the perfect shot for our clients. The way to the top of the food chain was very rocky indeed. As we were one of the first companies in Europe flying huge camera rigs we quickly discovered that owning a camera and a drone is not enough. The industry demands quickly grew to a new level and we needed to grow as well . At this point we realized that we need to invent, design and build our own infrastructure to make our daily work routine more efficient and therefore more affordable by our clients.

The German law restrictions were also very tough at the beginning. Countless hours of preparation went into our permissions to fly in a nature reservoir at the island Sylt or inside the world famous Frauenkirche in Dresden. After a few years of experience you know how to tackle most of the problems but we are fully aware that we have to constantly improve to stay on top.

 

What equipment are you using? What influenced your decisions to use what you do? How does your equipment to allow you to do what you do?

The passion about aerial cinematography quickly emerged as we both were into the creative field of photography and cinematography. Pushing the boundaries further  and getting new perspectives was a huge thing for us. A drone allows us to position a camera anywhere on set doing slow dolly moves or attending a high speed chase on a very close range basis.

We basically used every single big drone on the market, as well as every major gimbal system. In the end we weren’t happy with most of them so we built our own drone in cooperation with our Swedish friends at aircam. This flat octo setup works like a charm. We can lift way more than any other drone (excluding the Shotover) on the market, flying longer as well. Our typical payload is around 10 kg which we can fly for 10-15 minutes. As our gimbal system we only use the latest and greatest Freefly System products since we started. We tried several other products but they all could not keep up with our demands. Right now the Movi Pro is definitely the best gimbal we had so far. The variety of lenses is nearly endless. We can fly all the Zeiss Master Primes, Anamorphic Lenses or Zoom Lenses like the Angenieux 15-40mm.

 

What unique skills does your team offer that allows you to stand out over the competition?

In our work environment you have to combine a few different skill sets to succeed – and also preparation is key. It’s not about what gear you own or which camera you have. It’s about the ability to understand the technical aspects of the drone, the physics of flying heavy camera equipment added with the experience of decades of cinematography to get the perfect picture. We speak the same language as the DOP on set as we worked as DOPs a long time. We also know every screw and piece of equipment we own, know how to set it up properly and how to fly it safely. Since we started adding drones to our portfolio in 2012 we never had a single crash. All the equipment is our property which allows us to modify it until it works best for us and our clients. Another reason to own your gear is that it adds flexibility to our workflow because we don’t have to rent something, which is probably not available short before the production. And of course the fact that we exactly know and trust our gear – trust is crucial in our business. Our customers come to us because they put their trust in our skills.

 

What clients and/or productions are you most proud of and why?

We basically travelled the world to fly for our customers. We are very proud to make a living out of what we truly love. Therefore we are proud of every single production we are part of or have directed by ourselves. However, there is one production which we organized, shot and postproduced for Mercedes-Benz we are very excited about. We had the opportunity to shoot a commercial for the upcoming F1 Grand Prix of Monaco with Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and their F1 cars as well as the brand new Mercedes-Benz Style Yacht, AMG Speed Boat and the S-Class cabriolet. Our whole crew did an awesome job creating this ad for Mercedes. This is also one of our advantages over our competitors. We are able to do entire productions with ground shots, aerial shots, working with superstars and getting the job done perfectly. We combine all the necessary skills to do this inhouse.

 

What is your vision for theblackdrone over the next 1-2 years? How do you plan to keep reaching forward?

The future for drones in general and the aerial cinematography field is very bright. We will expand our services to be a full production company with the ability to provide not only online aerials but also stunning shots from camera cars and boats. We will grow into new markets with 360° / VR and livestream as well as producing our own drones for special needs.

 

How do you envision your company helping to promote and develop the drone industry?

We at theblackdrone try to enable the film industry achieving impossible shots with our help.

The tools for this constantly evolve and we are in close contact with basically all of the major drone industry leaders (manufacturers) to give them the input they need to make their products even better.

The things our customers demand from our pilots are more difficult every day. We all need to work together to serve those demands to the best possible way. This involves daily training for our teams as well as a constant improvement for the equipment we use.

Philipp Reimer, theblackdrone

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