01 —The Dream Becomes The Standard
It goes without saying that everyone’s ultimate fantasy is flying like a bird above a beautiful, sunny, and picturesque urban or rural landscape, of course with all the proper training, permits and clearances. These were simply flights of fancy just a handful of years ago, but now these flights are a reality.
Drone and aerial cinematography has revolutionized the industry over the past decade by capturing vantage points that were once simply impossible, and Barbershop has been at the forefront of the revolution since its inception. In fact, Barbershop was the first media production company in Canada to be licensed from coast to coast in each certification zone (back when specific zoning permits were a requirement).
Now, spectacular aerial cinematography isn’t a novelty, but an essential ingredient in modern video production.
“Almost every one of our productions include some sort of aerial cinematography, and the demand for it isn’t slowing down,” said Alex Stevens, Senior Producer with Barbershop Films.
“Whether we’re working on a big-budget commercial or a smaller video, clients are always telling us that they’d love to get some aerial footage involved.”
The vessels used to capture aerial images come in almost infinite shapes and sizes, from tiny UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to aerial filming helicopters, but in general, can be divided into three basic categories: helicopters, drones, and FPV.
“Each tool has its advantages, and offers a different set of price points and visual quality. It’s about choosing the right tool for the job,” said Derek Baxter, Senior Producer at Barbershop Films.
We won’t bore you with a deep-dive into the requirements and rules of aerial photography, but it is important to note that it is a highly regulated space, and as such, Barbershop has Advanced Certified pilots in order to meet virtually any airborne request. To learn more about Transport Canada’s drone operation regulations, click here.
“Aerials provide tremendous upside for our clients. From FPV to more sophisticated drones, to the most advanced helicopter systems used in future films, we have the experience across all ranges of aerial cinematography to navigate the right approach, the complexities of where its filming, and fitting them into each budget range,” said Baxter.
02 —Capture The Big Shot
Close your eyes and think of the most impressive helicopter shots you’ve seen. You’re thinking of Sylvester Stallone hanging off the landing skids with one arm, aren’t you? More specifically, think of the most impressive grand vistas or cityscape shots you’ve seen of New York, Toronto, or Vancouver. Those shots were almost certainly captured via helicopter (sans Stallone), and if you’re thinking of Vancouver, there’s a chance those images were captured by Barbershop.
We have over a decade of experience of working in nearly every capacity of aerial photography, including producing aerials via choppers for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and Paralympics, Tourism Vancouver, and Tourism BC (now Destination Vancouver/BC). Our helicopter work has used state of the art aerial systems like Cineflex (V14) and Shotover, with the best digital cinematic cameras, from Sony to RED.
The challenges? Helicopter aerials typically begin at $25,000/day, and Transport Canada has more than a few things on their checklist before liftoff, including detailed flight plans and restrictions of height (no less than 1,000 feet). By contrast, drone aerials can start as low as $500/day. But, if you’re wanting those grand vistas and cityscapes, it’s to the choppas.
“There’s really no substitute for helicopter aerials,” said Baxter. “There’s only so much you can do with a drone. If the scale of your project allows it, if you need a wide city shot, helicopters are still the gold standard.”
03 —The Power of Flight at Your Fingertips
Whether you’re an ultra high-resolution digital camera, or a rebellious teen, being grounded sucks. Barbershop wants to make sure your projects never feel stuck.
The explosion of drone technology has taken us across Canada shooting jaw dropping aerials; from vast mountain ranges to bustling urban centres, from pristine coastlines to golden prairie fields. And, our Advanced Certified pilots have the ability (with the proper clearances) to fly in controlled airspaces, over bystanders, and near airports and aerodromes.
“Our experience and length of time flying drones really sets us apart,” said Stevens. “It used to be a rarity to have a helicopter or drone shot. Now it’s an incredibly important tool in the toolbox to be able to offer our clients.”
And, we are equally serious about proper drone safety and regulations as we are about creating breathtaking aerial photography. We see the limitations of drones, like being restricted to 400 feet or less, as advantages. Whereas helicopters can achieve epic shots on a grand scale, drones can provide a completely unique and epic shots on a more intimate and human scale. One such example from our ‘Fuelling Life’ campaign with FCL: an intimate shot of a couple on a bike ride is complemented with a dynamic aerial of the couple framed against a grand mountainous landscape.
04 —The Future of Cinematography
One of the newest, guaranteed-to-knock-your-socks-off developments, not only in aerials, but in all of cinematography, is ‘First Person View’, or FPV drones, which offer an incredibly immersive experience for the viewer. FPV drones can be as little as a couple hundred grams, which allow them to fly almost anywhere: indoors, through a car door, under a tree branch, over a water fountain, under Stallone’s arm, you name it.
The drawbacks? Unlike a drone or helicopter, and FPV drone can’t sit and hover in the same spot. So, shooting with an FPV drone typically means careful choreographing and multiple takes in order to ensure the high-speed takes are executed to perfection. But the visual experience FPV drones provide is something extraordinary.
“It’s completely revolutionized cinema,” said Stevens. “They’re still innovating with things like FPV, so who knows where the future of drones will go.”
Check out our recent FPV work with Langara College. – Do we have a link to this? Good question. I couldn’t find one on the site.
So, whatever your project is, we have your aerial needs covered.
“There’s a surreal element to the cinematography that’s created when you get off the ground,” said Baxter. “It creates a wow-factor. And it’s amazing that we can add that wow-factor to any level of the project, even if the budget is modest.”