Video of the Week: A Postcard from Croatia

Croatia drone

This week I’m featuring photographer Sam Moore’s video “A Postcard from Croatia.” Sam and his girlfriend recently took a trip to Dubrovnik and Cavtat, Croatia, which are two beautiful towns along the coast. Sam didn’t have high expectations for capturing much with his drone but he took it along anyway and as you’ll see he ended up capturing some really unique angles of the seaside landscape. He told me that once he got in the air and saw the crystal clear water he knew he had captured something special. From the emerald waters crashing on the pale rocky cliffs to the orange glow of the sunset, Sam captures the beauty of Cavtat, Dubrovnik and it’s surrounding areas. Read More

2016 New York City Drone Film Festival

Randy Scott Slavin is the founder of the New York City Drone Film Festival and he recently announced that submissions have opened up for this year’s event which will be held in New York City in early 2016.

The NYCDFF was the first drone film festival that I ever heard about and it ended up selling out after all the amazing press it got. Last year’s judges included Adam Savage of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters and Eric Cheng, Director of Aerial Imaging at DJI to name a few. In some fun related news, one of my dronie films ended up becoming an official selection which was an honor (you can see it a the :25 sec mark in the video above).

The drone categories this year range from landscape and narrative to architecture and extreme sports. If you want to submit one of your drone films you can get more information by clicking here. If you would like to check out some of the amazing official selections from last year’s festival then check out this link here.

Be sure to scroll below to hear Randy answer some questions related to this years festival as well as his answer to my question about what he thinks goes into making a great film.


Q & A with Randy Scott Slavin, founder of the New York City Drone Film Festival

What exactly is the NYCDFF and how did it come about?
#NYCDFF is the first film festival exclusively dedicated to drone cinema. It came about when my video “Aerial NYC” went viral. I was looking around for a film festival to submit it to but there were none… So I decided to create one.

Drone technology and the creativity of the community is moving so fast. What makes this year different from last year?
As the aerial cinematography tools get better they enable greater creativity. The NYCDFF is dedicated to furthering the ART of aerial cinematography by showcasing the best drone films in the world and hopefully inspiring others to get out there and push the boundaries. This year will be different by virtue of the fact that this years entrants will have had the luxury of seeing the films and winners from last year. Hopefully this will have raised the bar of aerial cinematography.

What is the most popular drone film genre?
By far it was Landscape and Architecture. These categories are the most common subjects shot by drones. As drones have grown in popularity people are starting to shoot a greater variety of subjects.

In your opinion what goes into making a great film?
A good story will always help. Shorter is most always better. Editing is very important to a drone film… unfortunately many aerial cinematographers focus just on the shooting. Editing is a crucial final step in making a film. There should always be something amazing, special, exciting, unique or new in a film. Making a film is about wowing or moving an audience… what are you doing in your film to do that?

How many films do you anticipate showing this year?
Last year we had 155 submissions from around the world, we showed 35 and gave prizes to 8 films. This year we anticipate more submissions but will most likely only show 30 films. As in my editing comment earlier I need to make sure that the live event doesn’t keep people squirming in their seats for 3 hours.

How can people get involved in this year’s event as a filmmaker and as an attendee?
Get out there, shoot and make an excellent film. Submissions are open until December and I can’t wait to be floored by submissions. Tickets for the live event will go on sale early 2016. We hope that the aerial cinematography community will congregate in NYC for the chance to see the finalists on the big screen and take part in the panels, education and the parties.


For more information on this year’s festival or to submit a film check out the official website here.


Video of the Week: A Drone Over Italy

Vernazza and the Sea
This week I’m featuring a video from professional travel photographer, Elia Locardi. Elia captured this video during his 2015 Italy Dream Photo Tour. Elia says, “I try to share my vision with others so they can see things the way I do, full of color and emotion, depth and texture.”

That is exactly what this video does. From the beautiful shores of Vernazza, Italy to the rolling hills of Tuscany to the beautiful architecture of Civita di Bagnoregio, and the Vatican in Rome, the entire video is just breathtaking!

Tuscany at DawnFlorence ItalyBeyond The Vatican Rome

Filmed with a DJI Phantom 3, edited with Adobe Premiere and coloring applied using After Effects, and Adobe Photoshop.

To view more of Elia’s work visit his website or check him out on Instagram.

Video of the Week: Peru From Above

Drone Peru video 1

This week I’m featuring a brand new video from the guys over at Flightgeist which is a two-man New York team that consists of filmmakers Corey Eisenstein and Joseph Pickard. They recently went on a trip to Peru and drove from Ayacucho to Cusco, passing through nearly 400 miles of Peru’s most winding and hilly terrain. On the trip they climbed up through the clouds toward snow-capped peaks, then drove down into warm, lush river valleys.

Watch their gorgeous video below, the opening scene gave me chills (!) and then read the short interview I did with them after the jump!


What prompted this project?

Peru actually chose us!  Though we love to make aerial videos, we also make a lot of “standard” films and videos with, you know, cameras that don’t fly.  In this case, we were hired to work on a documentary project in South America that was not related to our aerial videos.  Knowing that there might be some unbelievable sights, we brought along a Phantom 3 to film with whenever there was free time.  We weren’t even sure that we were going to get enough footage to make a whole video, the main objective was to capture a few great landscapes.  It turned out that there was so much beautiful stuff that we had the raw materials to make a full video.


How did you come across these amazing locations?

The Phantom 3 was always ready to go, and when we were driving from town to town we would often see something unbelievable out the window.  That meant it was usually time to pull over for 10 minutes and do a quick flight.  A few times we were in a rush and unable to fly, and it is painful to think of some of the absolutely incredible landscapes that we just didn’t have time to drone on this trip.


Are there any interesting stories related to this shoot?

There is a shot at 2 minutes into the video flying through a valley where the clouds dip down close to the ground.  During this shot a hawk (or possibly an eagle, we’re not ornithologists) came screaming out of the clouds and sliced past the drone at full speed, missing it by inches.  It was a territorial warning shot!  We had chosen to fly the wrong valley.  We brought the drone back home at full speed with the bird circling overhead, ready for a fight.


What is something you learned as a result of working on this project?

We kind of knew it already, but this shoot confirmed: you basically can’t go wrong with rugged, textured landscapes and late afternoon light.  The play between light and shadow makes for a very dynamic image.

Drone Peru video 2


What is a tip you have for those looking to shoot amazing aerial videos like this one?

There are a lot of people out there capturing amazing aerial images.  The thing we see that holds many people back from making great videos is editing.  And we’re not talking about fancy effects, titles, etc.  We’re literally talking about editing down your number of shots and selecting only the best for public display.  Some people just can’t help but share everything they shot.  When you include a bunch of shots in your video that are just “good” it degrades your shots that are “great”.  A 2 minute video of mind-blowing shots is better than a 5 minute video that includes all your bad, okay, good, and great material.


What is next for you?

Flightgeist is working on a New York City aerial video.  We’ve also got plans to capture the changing of the leaves on the Northeast Coast this fall.



To connect with Flightgeist, check them out on Vimeo and Instagram. (Sound Design was done by Juan Felipe Valencia)

Gear links: LUTs from Neumann Films // Adobe Premiere CC // DJI Phantom 3 // ND Filters from PolarPro

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the SB 142 drone law, now what?

According to the Los Angeles Times, last night California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 142 which was proposed legislation that intended to restrict the use of drones flying over private property (you can read my post on why I urged the Governor to veto the bill by clicking here).

governor jerry brown sb 142 drone law

Vetoed Bill SB 142


Governor Brown vetoed the bill acknowledging that it was well-intentioned but he went on to say that it “could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action” whether or not anyone’s privacy was violated.

With this victory, it is now time that we address some of the issues raised by this bill

While I applaud Governor Brown for his veto decision and see it as a victory for drone users and the drone industry, I also believe it is now a call to action for us to move forward in addressing some of the issues this bill has raised so that we can arrive at a better, more balanced bill.


6 items that now need to be addressed include:


  • 1) Coming up with a clear definition of what private airspace ownership constitutes (James Grimsley has an excellent article on this topic that you can read by clicking here)


  • 2) From a privacy perspective, what is an acceptable altitude? Based on my experience it is very hard for anyone to gauge how high a drone really is and once a drone reaches past 125 feet the image details on the ground are hard to make out. So we need to establish what is fair and reasonable. Some leaders in the drone industry say that 200 feet would be a reasonable altitude (see here and here).


    • 3) Having better, more defined rules from the FAA (which is the national authority that has exclusive jurisdiction of the airspace in the US) so that local and state governments don’t have to navigate, manage or regulate the complex airspace system.


    • 4) Ways to better educate drone pilots so that ignorance is avoided and drone operators know, understand and follow the FAA’s rules (for more info on what the drone rules are click here).


    • 5) There should be a required license or certification of some sort for anyone who flies a drone to insure that pilots are properly educated and deemed responsible to fly.


    • 6) Lastly, those who fly/support drone technology need to help educate the public to the benefits surrounding drones so that the drone hysteria that is currently being fueled by the media can be remedied.

While this list doesn’t cover every single issue on the drone spectrum, I hope it can serve as a starting point for having meaningful discussions centered on safe, fair and respectful flying. We need to start researching, educating and conversing with the public and government officials on these issues so that we can arrive at solutions that benefit all parties, otherwise we could be in this same situation next year with another well-intentioned bill that misses the mark.