By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
When you’re shooting a big budget war film like Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, you pretty much have any tool and toy you need to get the complicated shots that are required with explosions, choreographed warfare, and complex set locations. So when 3D Robotics got the call to use their Solo drone on Bay’s set, you can imagine the excitement in realizing that as a cinema tool, the Solo had arrived.
“The drones were the camera platform, but they also serve as part of the story telling. They became a great way to show geography, which is so critical to tell this kind of story.” – Dio Beebe, Director of Photography on 13 Hours, Videomaker
As you know, the 3DR Solo is a $1,000 drone that flies with a GoPro hooked under it’s belly. With the ability to recreate the same shot over and over thanks to their Smart shots feature, the Solo becomes a motion control apparatus and cable cam all in one, with no wires or cranes to guide its path. This kind of smart flying means that filmmakers can put Solo in complex and dangerous situations on a movie set, that they would rather not put a $100,000 RED EPIC DRAGON camera package.
“With as busy as Michael was on set, I figured we’d get the chance to show off Solo to him, get and idea what he liked and didn’t like, and maybe get some good footage,” said 3DRs Colin Guinn, “but then Michael was so impressed that we ended up on the call sheet for the next three nights.”
3DR Technology officer Colin Guinn took Solo to the set of in Malta and Morroco last summer in order to get the director’s opinion of the Solo’s capabilities before the drone began shipping.
“The amazing thing about this drone that even the professional drones that we shoot with don’t have, is this cable cam function,” said Bay. “It’s amazing.”
Guinn and his team was able to familiarize Bay with the Solo drone features and controls, and within 15 minutes, the director transformed into a drone pilot to get his first shot.
Then Bay asked Guinn to create a shot that would mimic the point of view of a mortar shell impacting the roof of a building. “It was the most complicated shot I’ve ever tried on a movie set,” Guinn said. Guinn used Solo’s orbit smart shot, which would lock the camera onto a spot and stay there while Guinn operated the Solo drone with altitude and radius to recreate what he saw in Bay’s animatic. “Even the most complex cranes on set wouldn’t be able to do that,” Guinn said.
“I’ve always enjoyed the rush of a high pressure situation, but this was a whole new level. Once they started the sequence of explosions, there would be no going back.” – Guinn
From there, Bay had an even more challenging shot ahead, flying the drone through a complex greenhouse like battlefield filled with concrete archways, overgrown grass, dozens of extras, and 75 explosive charges. Guinn had to fly a tight path with only a few feet to spare between the grass and the concrete arches.
A challenge for even the most steely eyed drone pilot, but when you toss in the 3 AM shot time, dozens of extras, and a ton of explosions, and you can imagine the challenge of pulling off that shot. But with the Smart shots capability, Guinn was able to recreate the same shots they had practiced a few hours before and get the shot in one take.
“Luckily, we got a dynamic and immersive shot that no other equipment could have created,” Guinn surmised, “it was easily the most amazing drone shot I have ever been part of.”
And Guinn says that through the Solo and smart shots, that kind of movie magic isn’t just available to Michael Bay. Anyone can get it.
Hat tip: Videomaker