Learning to fly with DJI's Mavic 2 Pro by Glenn Dixon

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A few years ago I remember watching open-mouthed as my uncle flew his drone high above the backyard of his coastal home. While inspired by the image making possibilities I was put off by the setup and calibration time required to get the drone airborne. It simply wasn’t feasible for me to spend that much time preparing the drone for flight while working alone on set. The evolution of drone imaging technology and recent changes in commercial flying regulations in Australia has finally made it feasible to utilise these remarkable tools in my freelance filmmaking projects. 

Now you simply fold out the legs, attach the rotors, connect the remote, dock the smart phone, check your surroundings and take off! I used my Mavic 2 Pro for the first time on a commercial shoot last week in regional Tasmania and I was rolling the first shot within three minutes of arriving on location!

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has introduced a new 'excluded' category allowing you to fly for profit if your drone weighs under 2 kilograms and you abide by the specified safety regulations. They also have a great free smartphone app “Can I fly there?” that plots your location on a map in relation to nearby airports and hazards. It’s an essential tool to plan your flights.

Below are a few early test shots from my practise flights. I’ve included the ungraded D-Log footage in addition to footage captured using the default colour mode. Enjoy.

Technical: I'm yet to find a D-Log to REC.709 LUT to accurately grade the D-Log footage. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

Happy and safe flying!

Mini documentary: Visible in ice by Glenn Dixon

Ice is an inspiring photographic subject seemingly infinitive in form, colour, reflectance and textural varieties. Ice also contains evidence of the rapidly changing atmospheric conditions surrounding our planet. The story of our changing climate is visible in the movement and chemical composition of ice. The duality between artistic expression and the science of climate change has ignited a personal journey to discover my role as a world citizen and realise the impact of my actions.

In this mini documentary I juxtaposed visuals of Iceland's Solheim and Vatnajökull glaciers with industrial soundscapes. These sound recordings which depict manufacturing and domestic consumption create a striking effect when presented alongside the idyllic imagery.

Photographs below made by Glenn Dixon in Greenland and Iceland during June 2018.

For a deeper exploration I can highly recommend viewing the Chasing Ice feature documentary by James Balog and his team on the Extreme Ice Survey. It's a challenging film and an incredibly important one.

Designing a visual identity by Glenn Dixon

I’ve become painfully aware the communication of my professional visual identity has been ad hoc, experimental and inconsistent. Design elements for my branding were selected from templates offered by web hosting companies, spreadsheets and business card printers rather than being underpinned by a holistic and deeply considered strategy. As a result my website, project proposals, invoices, print books and business cards conveyed disparate messages over time. I'm now on a journey to implement a brand identity that unifies and accurately communicates the evolving story of my freelance practice. 

Images above: An early concept by Principle Design.

I’ve been creating a life and living through my freelance filmmaking practice for six years and I’ve resisted reaching out to a brand partner until this point. Not only was there a financial hurdle to overcome but deep resistance within myself; ‘I don’t think I’m ready yet.’ ‘Perhaps I’ll wait until I know what projects I want to make and who I want to make them with.’ ‘Perhaps I’ll work out my brand offering and design a solution by myself.’ These considerations played out in my mind until I realised two key things; 1) Now is almost always the best time to begin. 2) I’m never going to be capable of doing this alone.

I’ve commissioned Principle Design, a branding and graphic design studio to help make this a reality. The process so far has been incredibly insightful and exciting. During the discovery phase, one activity in particular had a significant and lasting impact on the way I think about my practice. We arranged fifty or so photographs of automotive vehicles on a table and began describing my practice though the characteristics embodied in those vehicles. Through analogy and abstraction I discovered new ways of articulating my service offerings with minimal emotion or industry jargon. The designers helped me realise things I’d never considered.

This week we identified the concept that will underpin the visual identity. The next steps over the coming weeks will be refining the designs and publishing. Through the process I have become far better acquainted with my own brand stories and been equipped with the language to articulate them. This realisation is perhaps just as valuable, if not more so than the initial project deliverables.

Pre-visualising video with animatics by Glenn Dixon

Video above produced, filmed and edited by Glenn Dixon Visuals for Conduct’s Rapid Design and Validation process. Pre-visualisation was an essential part of the pre-production process.

Animatics are the first glimpse of a concept translated to video. They are storyboards edited to dialogue and music allowing the production team to experience motion and timing. Communicating through animatics reduces the ambiguity of orally describing a scene, shot or edit.

Many of my clients appreciate the experience of pre-visualising a video before we begin filming. When the project scope allows for the creation of an animatic, many issues can be identified and solved before they become problems further down the production pipeline. I aim for speed and clarity over beauty. The purpose is to clearly communicate and align on a vision. Together we undertake a rapid prototyping process until we are ready to proceed with the next stages of production.

My process involves photographing hand drawn storyboards and adding them to a Premiere Pro sequence. I record my own voice reading the script, source a sample music track and add these to the timeline. I time each storyboard to the script and music to see if the sequence I planned on paper works in a video. If I need to add a new shot, I will create a quick photoshop sketch and insert between existing storyboards. For a three minute video, I typically spend two - three hours on an animatic.

I’d like to sign off by sharing this spectacular and insightful side-by-side comparison between Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel and an original animatic.

Mini documentary: Los Reyes by Glenn Dixon

Los Reyes or The Kings is an annual festival in Spain celebrating the three kings' pilgrimage to Bethlehem. I’m not sure why an essential plot point such as this visit to a small town in Mallorca was omitted from the biblical account. I was visiting family in Llucmajor during this year's festival and created this short video piece. This is a beautiful celebration which honours intergenerational connection and a sense of personal belonging.

This footage was captured at 50 frames per second (fps) and conformed to 25fps in post-production. For me, the subtle use of slow motion compliments the emotions of the crowd. I would have loved some higher quality audio recording equipment however I only had my little Sony A7s and two lenses on me at the time. I included ‘atmos' sound captured via the cameras onboard microphone in the mix, those who speak Mallorquín may pick up some dialogue.