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  • Joel Hans

Churchgoing Drone Takes Big Risks for Ethereal Architectural Shots

Video: Vimeo user

At Drone 55, we’ve seen just about everything when it comes to aerial cinematography—tracking sports cars down winding mountain highways, straight-down shots over beaches, high-flying aerial video over skyscrapers—but this effort from aerial cinematography company BigFly impresses for one stunning and potentially dangerous reason: it takes an X8 drone indoors. To be specific, it takes the drone into Eglise Saint Louis, a neo-Byzantine church in western France.

Risk is inherent any time a drone takes flight for aerial videography, but bringing all the gear into such an enclosed space made for a stressful shoot. The filmmakers say they were nervous, fully aware that a moment’s distraction could send their expensive set-up into a wall or sculpture. For other indoor shoots this may not be an issue, but Eglise Saint Louis is the only church of its kind in that area of France, and its architecture and furnishings carry both historical and spiritual significance to churchgoers. Thankfully, the two-man team at BigFly have extensive flying experience and can operate under pressure.

The results are simply stunning—every operation is perfectly smooth, to the point where some shots appear like carefully constructed computer-generated graphics. In order to capture views of the church’s domes during aerial filming, and to give viewers a glimpse into details of frescos and windows that would otherwise be out of reach, the team mounted the gimbal and camera on top of the platform. Twisting motions and a wide-angle lens, along with some added smoke for effect, give each shot an ethereal feel.

BigFly is the handiwork of Frenchmen Guillaume Juin and Joris Favraud, and it’s truly a team effort—Juin handles piloting the drone itself, while Favraud operates the gimbal and camera. That should come as no surprise to those experienced in drone cinematography, as achieving such precision would be almost impossible in the enclosed space of the Saint Louis Church. Their efforts are already being recognized worldwide and in film festivals around Europe.

The teamwork present here is impressive, but their gear set-up will also impress many: a Gryphon Dynamics X8 1200mm, which allows for an 8kg (17.6lb) payload with its 8 coaxial motors; a Ronin-M gimbal from DJI, which allows for 360° camera operation; and in the case of this film, a Sony a7S II. According to their website, they have already upgraded their gimbal to support those higher payloads, which will allow them to shoot with Red cameras, ARRI’s ALEXA Mini, and much more in the future.

We’re excited to see what they come up with next—indoors or outdoors. For more, be sure to check out more of BigFly’s flights and films on their Vimeo page.

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