Riding Skippers

Skippers Canyon is such an epic place to practice making video.

ABOVE: Multi talented and helpful Stephen did the hard work riding and walking back up the Skippers Canyon Bike Trail for the shots to make this video.

Since the arrival of my flying camera, my Phantom 3 quadcopter, my whole focus has been on developing the skills and techniques to capture cinematic video and tell stories about our epic landscapes. This week, my good friend, the multi-talented Stephen offered to come out to Skippers Canyon and ride the bike trail while I filmed him from the air.

“Skipper’s” embodies so much of what makes Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago awesome in the true sense of the word. It is wild, rugged and untamed on a scale that dwarfs humans and rich in stories of men’s struggles to scratch wealth from the land. This makes it the perfect practice subject. So it was great to share the process of scoping out shoots and programming them into “missions” for the quadcopter to fly, while Stephen did the riding.

We basically flew the whole sequence twice, the first time going to points on the envisaged flight, noting their location and altitude relative to the starting point and programming them as waypoints into an automated plan. The quadcopter then set off on its own, flying and filming Stephen as he rode. The scary moments came as the machine disappeared behind a giant rock outcrop, using GPS to find it’s route and later as it flew straight into the side of the hill behind me instead of over it as per my program. Clearly, one-metre tolerance in altitude is cutting it too fine.

The biggest struggle has been in the editing. Filming is getting easier and the library of video is filling up, but editing takes so much more space and computing power than photography. My eight-year-old iMac struggles to display and render fast enough to be able what I’m doing. It makes editing a slow guessing game. This video, begins to tell a story, and captures the scale and grandeur, but needs more of Stephen’s ride and a close-up of him to really finish it off. We were lucky enough, however, to get one of the rafting buses negotiating the road.




Martin Kohn
Martin Kohn

Author