We’ve been interviewing winners from this year’s New York City Drone Film Festival over the last several weeks, and it’s been a pleasure to get so many different perspectives on aerial cinematography, and to get such an array of insights into how these directors work.
This week’s interview is with Giles Campbell Longley, a Parkour filmmaker who directed “Cala d’en Serra – Drone Parkour,” which won the “Extreme Sports” category at the NYCDFF this year. The video was shot by Kie Willis—who is also a professional Parkour athlete—and the Parkour was done by Eric Moor.
Giles has been filming and doing Parkour for fourteen years, and his perspective and experience are invaluable when it comes to talking drones and Parkour filmmaking—let’s dive right in.
UAV Coach: This video is so fun to watch. What were some of the challenges you faced in making it? Did anything unexpected arise?
Giles: I think the biggest challenge we faced when filming this video was coming up with enough movements for Eric in an environment that was so unsafe. We found the location via drone racing videos online and booked flights with no idea whether or not the structure would be safe enough to jump on.
The whole thing was incredibly sketchy and we ended spending a ton of time testing and strengthening areas of the building so they could be useable.[Check out the behind the scenes video at the end of the interview to see just how sketchy this spot was.]
UAV Coach: Eric Moor’s Parkour is really impressive in the video. What was it like working with an athlete doing stunts like that?
Giles: I’m a full time Parkour filmmaker & Kie Willis (the drone pilot on this project) is actually a professional Parkour athlete himself, so we’re very used to shooting this style of movement. Eric is one of our closest friends and he’s incredible to work with, both in his determination to repeat something until it’s perfect, but also because of his sense of humor.
UAV Coach: Editing is an important part of why your video is so amazing. How long did you take with post-production, and how did you work in the editing room to make sure the end result matched up to the vision you first imagined when you started the project?
Giles: The edit didn’t actually take too long, about two to three days. Every night after shooting we would get back to our hotel and play with the selects so by the end of the trip we already had a solid idea of how the final piece would look. Then it was just a case of polishing things up.
UAV Coach: Tell us about your company, Visive Productions. Is this the kind of work you typically do?
Giles: Yes, I’ve practiced Parkour since 2003 so the sport is well and truly engrained in my life. I got into filmmaking because I just wanted to film myself and my friends, and everything has just evolved from there.
Giles shot this video back in 2010—the costumes are silly, but the Parkour is seriously impressive
UAV Coach: Did you have to secure a permit or deal with any other kinds of regulations to fly your drone in Ibiza in order to shoot the video?
Giles: No, we didn’t obtain any permission to shoot there. We wouldn’t have considered the location if it was built up and had a lot of people frequenting the area, as we try to avoid flying anywhere that could cause any safety issues.
The area itself was technically fenced off but there were many spots that didn’t have fences.
Luckily the location was incredibly remote, and due to the fact that we filmed it in the off season (December), we only encountered a couple of people during the whole week of filming. Visitors ranged from family’s coming in to explore, birdwatchers, and even some trials bikers who worked their way down the nearby cliff face and into the courtyard.
UAV Coach: How did you first get involved with aerial cinematography?
Giles: Years ago we had a couple of friends who built their own drone and mounted a small Sony camera on the bottom of it. We played around for a day in an abandoned estate and instantly saw the potential it offered to capture Parkour from the air.
Unfortunately the drone setup was rather temperamental and we didn’t get to utilize it as much as we would have liked. However, within a couple of years the consumer market for drones expanded, with companies like DJI coming into the mix, and we’ve been playing ever since.
UAV Coach: What drone(s) do you fly, and what cameras do you use?
Giles: Currently we work with the DJI Inpsire 1 with the X5 camera.
Another amazing video from Giles and Kie
UAV Coach: What are your predictions for aerial cinematography, and the drone industry in general? Please feel free to answer at length (what you see way down the road, what you see for next year, where you see regulations headed in Spain or elsewhere, new applications, etc.).
Giles: I think in the near future things are going to get a lot more exciting when it comes to aerial cinematography.
I guess my thoughts always apply to the action sports-filmmaker perspective, but when drones such as the early DJI Phantoms came into play, videos suddenly became oversaturated with rather boring over-the-top or high-up angles. These looked spectacular but were too tame for my liking.
Drones have the ability to travel at rapid speeds while making movements that were literally impossible a few years ago, unless you had a helicopter, yet for some reason the majority of people in the action sports world still seem to opt for what are relatively simple shots and flight paths.
The moment we got our hands on the Inspire and had the potential for rapid movement coupled with independent camera movement, we knew we had to push the limits of what we thought was possible.
Now with the rise of racing drones, and incredible small cameras such as the GoPro Session, I’m hoping to see more people utilizing these tools to push things even further. The benefit of racing drones is that their movements are less stabilized than something like a DJI Inspire, so when it comes to action sports you can create something far more visually stimulating.
Regarding regulations, I think that unfortunately we will see these getting more and more strict in the near future.
With drones being so accessible, it just increases the chances of reckless pilots putting other people in danger, effectively spoiling the fun for people who are trying to push their creative boundaries while being sensible and safe. I don’t really know what the end point of this will be, but I seriously hope nothing major comes into play, like an outright ban on drones.
In the first question of the interview Giles talks about how sketchy the location was where they shot the video that won the “Extreme Sports” category at the NYCDFF this year. Here’s the behind the scenes video that shows just how unreliable some of these structures were:
Want to see more of Giles’ work? Check out his showreel below: