An Interview with KopterCam, “ShowReel” Category Winner at t…

KopterCam, an organization  aerial cinematographers, blew it out of the water with their showreel at the NYCDFF this yr, as you may see for your self above.

As we watched all of the reels at the movie pageant I had a sense that theirs would win. The work was wonderful in each reel, however KopterCam had achieved an additional degree of high quality within the syncing of their music with what was onscreen, and with the continuity of pictures from one shot to the subsequent (simply how they pulled this off is one thing we’ll contact on after we get into the interview in only a second—seems discovering the proper music and utilizing that as a guidepost in modifying is important to their course of).

The KopterCam crew relies in Helsinki, Finland (some superb work is popping out of Finland recently—it’s additionally the place our current interviewee, director and animator Lucas Zanotto, lives and works), and it’s price mentioning that along with being unimaginable cinematographers and pilots, they’re additionally very nice guys.

We’re grateful they gave us the time for this in-depth interview, and we need to give a particular shout out to Marco Godles, KopterCam’s CTO and one in every of their RC pilots, who was instrumental in getting this interview collectively.

Now let’s dive in.

Begin Interview:

UAV Coach: That opening shot in your reel with the snowboarder leaping from one roof to a different is superb. Can you inform us the story behind that?

KopterCam: This shot was filmed as a part of a snowboarding documentary referred to as Ender that was launched final yr, produced by Pablo Films and Red Bull.

The documentary is concerning the lifetime of Eero Ettala, one in every of Finland’s best snowboarders, and tells the story of his ardour and dedication in pushing the bounds of snowboarding over the previous decade. The shot was at a roof hole in Helsinki, shot within the early hours of the morning. The hole itself spans about 40ft with a drop of about 50ft. (Yikes!)

It’s spots like these that Eero has made iconic throughout his years snowboarding the streets of Helsinki. We’ve been filming with Eero for a number of tasks throughout the previous 5 years and there’s by no means a boring second. Only final week, he launched his newest challenge Helsinki Transitions, which additionally pushed the bounds of our drone filming.

UAV Coach: It appears such as you guys do work for the films (until you simply occurred to return throughout pirates on the open ocean 🙂 ). Can you inform us concerning the film that seems within the reel, and different film work you do?


KopterCam: Our predominant focus is aerial work in TV and have movies. We focus on heavy carry rigs, often carrying cameras such because the RED epic or Alexa Mini.

The pictures with the pirates at 00:13 and 00:46 had been filmed as a part of a Finnish TV sequence referred to as Heroes of the Baltic Sea. It was a totally decked out pirate ship and we truly filmed in the course of the Baltic Sea, between Finland and Estonia.

We had been taking off and touchdown from a separate boat that was often used for scuba diving, so it had a big sufficient platform, however this additionally created the troublesome challenges of flying from a shifting object out at sea, wind velocity, and likewise dealing with the commonly unstable platform of a ship on water. 


It’s conditions like these the place having a dependable crew and gear is actually essential. But when all of it comes collectively, you handle to seize nice moments!

The movie trade in Finland is kind of small in comparison with most international locations, and we’ve been fortunate sufficient to be a part of most of main productions, particularly as drone cinematography has actually boomed during the last couple of years right here. We have additionally finished productions outdoors of Finland, working rather a lot in India and Morocco. One of the newest tasks final yr was filming for the brand new season of Prison Break in Morocco. That was tremendous enjoyable!

UAV Coach: Describe what Koptercam does in a single sentence.

KopterCam: We use the most recent in UAV and digicam expertise mixed to push the boundaries of what’s doable to seize in digital cinema and media.

UAV Coach: There are so many superb moments in your reel (one in every of our favorites is the excessive distinction shot on the sand dune at :58. So stunning!). What are a few of your favourite pictures from the reel, and why?


KopterCam: It’s troublesome to decide on a stand-out favourite shot, but when I needed to, it could undoubtedly be the amusement park shot at 00:38.

To offer you a small again story of the shot, it was filmed at an amusement park referred to as Imagica, about two hrs south east of Mumbai, India.

During filming that space of the park was closed to the general public and all of the folks on the experience had been extras. They had been all given instructions by the Assistant Director, in accordance to the story board, to not look at or focus immediately on the digicam and drone at any time. But evidently this one man by no means acquired that message, and he gave us an epic response that wasn’t deliberate or wished, and which produced an unusable (however superb!) take.


Spontaneous moments like these are a part of what makes drone filming so thrilling, and that’s why that shot made it into the reel.

UAV Coach: Something that stands out in your reel is a way for drama and pacing. Can you inform us about your modifying course of, the impact you had been making an attempt to create, and the way you pulled it off?

KopterCam: Creating a reel showcasing your personal work needs to be probably the most difficult issues to do as a inventive course of—not solely do you as a creator have a visible connection to the footage, however you even have an emotional one.

Visually, it may very well be a really primary shot, but when it has a memorable again story (just like the one I discussed above), it can clearly really feel extra particular to you than others. So it’s discovering that center floor of how you should use the footage to inform the story to your viewers, after which an entire lot of compromising.

There had been MANY pictures that we lower out of the ultimate consequence to get to this showreel. For our course of particularly, we began with the music. We wished to create a sense of epicness, and the music is the very first thing that creates that temper.

We have tried to edit tasks up to now after which add music because the final step, and so they by no means fairly work out. Music is a key praise to showcasing your footage.

Then it’s about compiling and chopping segments from authentic footage right into a single location for ease of entry and assessment. It’s then all the way down to trusting the editor’s imaginative and prescient in placements, cuts, transitions, and move. If you’re doing the edit by yourself, it’s usually worthwhile getting outdoors opinions that you simply belief to be goal, and asking folks to present you constructive criticism. The first model of the reel by no means appears something like the ultimate model.

UAV Coach: What have been a few of your favourite tasks as aerial cinematographers? What have been a number of the most troublesome?

KopterCam: During 2016, we had been closely concerned with filming for a World War 2 historic drama manufacturing referred to as Unknown Soldier with Finnish director Aku Louhimies. It’s tailored from the perfect promoting 1954 novel, and there are two earlier movie variations from 1955 and 1985.

This manufacturing stands out for us, for one, as a result of it’s a very important film launch for the 100th anniversary of Finland Independence, and secondly, due to its ‘push-the-boundaries’ movie methods. Aku Louhimies and DoP, Mika Orasmaa, actually tried to push the probabilities of what may be achieved with aerial cinematography at this time, and we had been actually stoked to be a part of their imaginative and prescient.

There’s all the time the standard difficulties and hurdles it’s important to overcome when filming with UAVs—climate being the commonest—after which issues like restricted flight occasions and gear malfunction that may all trigger surprising down time.

Operating in excessive temperatures can be very troublesome. We have filmed in -30°Celsius proper as much as +45°Celsius. It’s while you begin to attain the extremes that you begin to face restrictions in all of your gear, and it’s important to know your gear and perceive the place your limits are.

Apart from dealing with the weather, It’s these ‘one take’ pictures that may be essentially the most difficult.

The eventualities the place there’s some type of giant motion, explosion, or harmful stunt that may solely be finished as soon as, and also you solely get one probability at capturing it completely. In our reel, at 01:28, there’s a automotive flipping on a mud highway. This was captured for a film referred to as Bodom, and it was a kind of stay stunts that might solely be finished as soon as, pushed by a stunt driver with a number of cameras and rigs set as much as seize the identical shot.


UAV Coach: How did your crew first get entangled with aerial cinematography?

KopterCam: I teamed up with my colleague David Brickhill-Jones again in 2010 as he was searching for new and out of the field methods to movie the game of orienteering.

David competed on a world class degree and wished to carry extra curiosity into his sport with extra dynamic movies. With our data of RC techniques and my primary expertise in electrical engineering, we constructed and examined a pair totally different techniques, and ultimately had essentially the most success with a system from MikroKopter, out of Germany.

It was very rudimentary and wasn’t going to win any magnificence contests, however it labored. There was nonetheless a heavy quantity of post-processing and stabilization to be finished on the footage to make even half the captured materials useable, however the preliminary idea was there and we continued to construct on it.

It wasn’t till the brushless gimbal revolution in 2012 that we actually began to see the boundaries being pushed of what was actually doable with drones and cinematography. I can say certainly that I don’t miss the sleepless nights within the storage fine-tuning settings, solely to have a heavy touchdown the subsequent day after which needing to rebuild but once more. But that’s what it took again then.

UAV Coach: What drone(s) do you fly, and what cameras do you utilize?

KopterCam: Our workplace is stuffed with totally different random drones we’ve constructed through the years, however proper now we primarily fly customized constructed X8 heavy carry drones from and Gryphon Dynamics. With these setups we carry the RED Epic or ARRI Alexa Mini, often connected to a Freefly Movi gimbal. These setups typically vary from 6-8kg relying on the lens configuration at the time.

We even have DJI’s S900 and S1000 rigged with Zenmuse gimbals and GH4 setups, and doubtlessly different smaller digicam setups. There are sure purposes the place we use Phantom or Inspire drones. We have simply began utilizing the Inspire 2—it’s actually a thoughts blowing machine.

UAV Coach: What are your predictions for the way forward for aerial cinematography and the drone trade usually? Please be happy to reply at size (what you see method down the highway, what you see for subsequent yr, the place you see laws headed within the U.S. and overseas, new purposes, and many others.).

KopterCam: It has actually been a rollercoaster experience thus far already, and its unreal to think about the place we’re headed.

The incontrovertible fact that there are already plans in place to have automated business drone fights in Dubai is unimaginable. The expertise is getting pushed out at alarming charges—whilst professionals in our subject we discover it troublesome to maintain up with the most recent releases and traits. It’s actually no surprise that day by day a drone regulation someplace is being modified, revised, or abolished.

Drones have gotten simpler to fly, extra sturdy and dependable, cheaper, and primarily extra shopper pleasant. These are all nice issues, and hopefully these enhancements will degree out the fluctuations of continually altering laws. I might truthfully discuss for days about drone laws, however my greatest hope for the future is to have some type of standardization.

At least with aerial cinematography, I feel there’ll all the time be a degree of creativity, artwork kind, and ability that any kind of automation won’t be able to duplicate. Personally after I fly any Phantom or Inspire drone, I have a tendency to show off each sensor and automation that I can. Otherwise I simply don’t fairly really feel in management whereas piloting (though it’s nice to have these choices).

But the guide choice is one factor that might change fairly quickly. As laws get tighter and stricter, the quantity of guide overrides might begin to diminish. It received’t shock me if DJI’s GeoFencing may even begin to embrace some form of max top and distance limits based mostly on geo-location and native authority limits.

Beyond regulatory limits, we’re additionally going through new journey limitations with drones day by day, primarily due to batteries. Just lately we’ve seen sure airways ban laptops and tablets from cabin baggage due to their batteries. Air journey is a big a part of our operation and we’ve skilled many setbacks due to inconsistent airline info, and uninformed workers who aren’t acquainted with right procedures and limits (even with the identical airways on a distinct day or week). 

To account for these uncertainties, we now have to pre-ship batteries to movie areas. In some instances we’ve even bought batteries at the placement and left them in storage upon departure. I’m hoping that at least within the short-term future there may very well be the chance to lease drone batteries, both from rental homes, and even from different drone firms within the areas of journey. In the long-term future, I’d like to see a brand new kind of battery expertise that may very well be safer, have an extended shelf life, and longer flight occasions.

360 Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, 3D Modeling, Mapping, Aerial Thermography… the checklist goes on! Aerial cinematography is simply a small a part of the ecosystem that drone expertise has the potential to be.

It’s secure to say, I’m excited for the long run!

Below are some extra spectacular movies from the KopterCam crew. Enjoy!


Zacc Dukowitz

Zacc Dukowitz

Zacc Dukowitz is the Director of Marketing for UAV Coach. A author with skilled expertise in schooling expertise and digital advertising, Zacc is enthusiastic about reporting on the drone trade at a time when UAVs might help us stay higher lives. Zacc additionally holds the rank of nidan in Aikido, a Japanese martial artwork, and is a broadly printed fiction author. Zacc has an MFA from the University of Florida and a BA from St. John’s College. Follow @zaccdukowitz or take a look at to learn his work.

Zacc Dukowitz

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