Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia

4-11-2018

After my first Drone Racing League experience at BMW Welt in Munich I got asked to join DRL again during the season finale in Saudi Arabia. A week to never be forgotten, thats for sure!

It was quit the journey, flying from Amsterdam to Dubai, from Dubai to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and a transfer of roughly one hour to a new city called "King Abdullah Economic City", also called KAEC. Imagine a city that is closed off, not accessible to the public, only for people who got invited or that work in there. A pretty strange concept if you ask me. Most of the time the place felt deserted, which also explained why everything looked so new and untouched: the crowds visiting this place were minimal. Due to the fact that it was a closed off city we were allowed to roam the streets freely, but were not allowed to leave the city without a guide or what so ever.

The DRL Racer 3

I settled in my way to luxurious hotel room (thanks Saudi!) and after catching up on some sleep I decided to walk to the event site. Then it hit me, literally, the temperature was around 40°C with a humidity of 80%. A short walk of 10 minutes got me soaked through and through. Even during the event that was held at night times I could have swapped t-shirts every 10 minutes, but I just learned to except  that my cloths were gonna be soaked all the time. To give another example: my camera needed to be outside 30 min. before I started shooting, other wise it would be all fogged up, even the sensor AND inside an air-sealed lens, everything would fog up. Insane working conditions? Yes, pretty much! But hey, it was the DRL season finale, I would have worked in any weather conditions for that.

After settling in for a day I got my first assignment on the second day. Join 4 DRL pilots during a school project, learning kids how to build a DRL Racer 3. Afterwards make a short broadcast item of it that will be aired on Saudi national television and used as a filler during the event. I am at my best with assignments with a short turn-over so this was text book for me. I had a great time shooting and really nice to see that the kids were super interested in building a drone. The more I was surprised in how fast they picked it all up. Around 9 in the evening I delivered the following item:

Season finale time! We had 2 days of shooting, the first day was practice day combined with a short live broadcast for Saudi national television. The last day was planned for finals. The track was in-sane. They took a small part of the city and turned it into a race course. Something you really have never seen before. Just like in Munich, there was a live crowd during the finals and I was really surprised how much the 3000 visitors were involved in the race. With every heat the crowd counted down on full volume and went completely nuts as soon as the drones took off from the start grid. Never seen anything like that during a European race, not even at the Shanghai drone race where the crowd was enthusiastic as well.

To be honest, I have never witnessed so much tention during the races. All the pilots were so dead set to win this season finale and call them self the "DRL World Champion".  Of course I was rooting for my fellow Dutchie Ralph Hogenbirk / "ShaggyFPV", but I had to say, if there was one pilot flying super consistent the entire event, it was Paul Nurkkala aka "Nurk". So when I was asked at the beginning of the finals days who I thought would win, my answer was "I hope Shaggy, but I think it's gonna be Nurk". And I turned out to be right. After tons of super intens heats, the big finale was there. I was holding my breath for almost the entire race because it was so tense.

Afterwards there was a small ceremony for Saudi press, but then came the real bummer. Due to many delays during the event (think of technical issues, or broadcast hold ups), I had to go to catch the plane that was booked for me, before the real ceremony began. I stalled my transport to the airport as much as I could, but to bad, I just had to go.  Bummer for me as also for DRL because they missed a ceremony photo (since I was the only photographer for DRL on site). All in all it was a week to never forget. To travel all the way to Saudi for this event, the side events, hanging out with the pilots and crew, tons of laughs. I will never forget these 2 mind blowing DRL events and want to thank them again for having trust in me and giving me such an opportunity.

Below you'll find some photos, you can also visit the DRL - Saudi Arabia Finals Collection

Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia
Shooting the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia

We Are Electric VFX Split

2-11-2018

Since We Are Electric (Indoor) is coming up AND we got 3rd place in the "best aftermovies of 2018" on Festileaks.com, I wanted to do a little special, just like I did with DeWolff.

Every one that ever has done a project with me knows that I like to keep things simple and straight forward. No poehah, no unnecessary crew members, just people that I know what they can do and go for it. We Are Electric Weekender 2018 was no different: just me and Lars on camera, Jurriaan on media management and Tessa running social media. Lars is pretty damn good in catching ambient shots and I'm more of the artist shots guy. Perfect combo for the weekend!

We shot the aftermovie with 3 camera's. I used a Sony FS7 (my go to camera for productions like this) running on S-Log 2, most of the time on 180FPS. Lars shot on his A7SII on Cine4. Why did I choose to let him shoot on that setup? Because it's his rig and knows it through and through. Would it be a heck of a job to colorgrade those to camera's to look alike? Yes, it definitely was!

As a bonus we used the GoPro Fusion 360 camera to add some diversity into the shots. I wanted to work with a 360 cam for a long time now and when the organizer asked me to do something new and fresh with the aftermovie I just had to use it. The up side is that you can shoot and do all the framing in post-production. From wide shots, to "tiny world" shots to ... well basically everything. The down side is that processing these files takes ages. First you got to stitch the footage of the 2 camera's to 1 360 video file and then the editing starts. All in all it takes tons of time, but the result is so awesome if you ask me.

Anyhow, because there were 3 camera's used with 3 totally different color profiles, grading was a nightmare. I wont lie to you, I often cursed while grading, but in the end I think it all turned out great! And to be clear, all clips were graded seperately to get the best result and NOT by applying a LUT to them. I wonder how many people really saw that we used total different cameras. But here it is, the grading and VFX split of the We Are Electric Weekender aftermovie:

Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League

24-10-2018

The Drone Racing League, the Formula One of drone racing. It's run by the company that published a video early 2016 which got me addicted to this "sport of the future". Two and a half years went by and now? Now I'm shooting photo- and video for that USA based company who got me crazy about droneracing in first place.

A drone racing buddy of mine that goes by the nickname of "ShaggyFPV" ended up in this league with his superb drone racing skills. After a few races I asked him if he could put in a good word for me as a photo/videographer. A month went by and I really didn't think anything was coming out of it. Until I suddenly got an email if I possibly had time to shoot the DRL race at BMW World in Munich. After some skype calls and e-mails, I was driving towards Munich on a Friday morning at the end of July. I was so so so super stoked to be part of this gigantic media circus.

I shot some drone races before, some local races, the MWC Shanghai Drone Race and also the DCL final in Berlin in 2017. So I knew the drill for the most part. As a pilot myself I understand racelines (so I know where the drones will be) and get which perspectives are going to end up looking good on a photo. It's a huge advantage and also during the event in Munich it made such a difference in how I could snap some shots. The thing is, in all previous races I could go and stand wherever I wanted, note: everywhere but at my own risk. Not at DRL though, there is a pretty secure system around safety and to be honost, I'm glad they take safety so seriously.

Each heat (whether it's practice or a real race) in DRL works with timeslots of 5 minutes of preperation. In these 5 minutes, the course is opened for a select group of people to forfill their job. Mine ofcourse is setting up a camera for the next heat and getting the angle I want to photograph. After those 5 minutes, the course must be cleared, no one is allowed, no matter how important you are. So how to take those shots? A remote trigger is the magic word. I have 5 minutes to frame a new shot, adjust my tripod (because of the long exposure shots) and see if I can remote trigger my camera from a safe location. 5 minutes seems long, but trust me, picking up your camera, seeking a new vantage point, testing your shot and be safe in time is shorter then you might think.

Besides the long exposure shots I also took shots of the tech-ops at work, aswell as the stars of the show: the DRL pilots. I'm super thankfull that my employer at DRL gave me total freedom during the event concerning where to be at what time, as long as I had the shots. Again, it helped me so much that I already knew some of the pilots and understanding them, so the connection was made easily which also resulted in some cool personal upfront shots that I otherwise would never have made. All in all, it were 3 days of shooting that I will never forget and in which I learned so much about this aspect of (live broadcasting) event photography.

DRL Munich was just the beginning. Not long after DRL Munich I was invited back by DRL to join them at the DRL season finale in Saudi Arabia. Due to NDA's I can't post anything of that trip yet, but I'll get back on that on my blog asap! 😎

Below you'll find some photos I took, you can also checkout the full DRL @ BMW Welt Munich collection.

Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
Dream jobs: photographing The Drone Racing League
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