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  • Writer's pictureExtreme Aerial

Extreme Aerial Case Study [HGTV Episode Saved by the Drone]

We were asked to film in Big bear Lake California for an upcoming seasons episode for the HGTV show Log Cabin Living.

The show features the historical and all American aesthetic of log cabin homes and the modern transformation they’ve undergone. The purpose of this episode which aired October 2016, was to showcase both the homes and their setting. The scenic area of Big Bear Lake is filled with wondrous forest and mountain views, plus the town’s namesake, the lake. There’s so much that adds value to a home, and location is a major part of that.

Ground cameras alone can’t capture the majestic snowy ski slopes, the forest properties, the sprawling lake views, and the lovely log cabins nestled into them. That’s where aerial drone cameras and their expert cinematography pilots come in.

We had been hired as the camera crew had crashed their own Inspire drone due to the extreme conditions and tight maneuvering, and didn’t have the correct flight permissions at that time to accomplish everything they needed for the episode. So they contacted us, Extreme Aerial Productions, knowing we have all of the proper legal permissions to fly and pilots skilled enough for this complex film shoot.

We had to travel with two Inspire drones using the X3 cameras as the X5 system hadn’t been launched yet, filming in the snow and sub zero temps - which was a real challenge for the batteries as the aircraft can’t take off if the batteries are too cold.

We arrived on location at the first house on a glorious crisp morning flying around a large log cabin on the shore of big bear lake with much of the lake frozen solid. We had to combat negative four degree temperatures and having batteries that would only last 8 mins in flight as it was so cold. At the time this was the best that drone technology could offer. We had to hold them in the car heater airflow to get them up to operating temperature even after we added the foam battery insulators provided by DJI.

For the highest quality filming, having the best suited equipment for the task at hand is a must in addition to understanding exactly how to handle that equipment. We regularly upgrade our equipment so we’re always prepared with the best technology available for even the most extreme filming conditions.

The glare the light was harsh so the episode director was very precise in the angles needed and the smoothness of the shots. The final shot that was used was a fly down from a tall pine over an old weathered tree trunk towards the home over the snowy field and out to the frozen lake which came out gorgeous. Our extensive experience both as drone pilots and videographers paid off on these tough shots and the folks at HGTV were more than impressed.

It goes to show that not just anyone can operate a drone.

The second home was a huge challenge as the lot was very narrow covered in telephone wires, power lines and deep snow so drone landings, take off and maintaining line of sight was a challenge even for the most seasoned of pilots. Add to that the random heavy snow flurries, this caused many challenges. The shot list for this home was fly at the front and over and down and through the trees out to the lake which sounds easy enough were it not for the multiple telegraph wires strung between all the trees and the very fine metal filament used for hanging Christmas lights across the yard.

Once we got into two foot snow we realized this was preventing us from flying the shot we needed so we climbed out onto the top balcony to fly the reveal we needed and the money shot the director really needed which was a dolly move sweeping the shore line looking back at the home keeping it in frame. We finally managed even with these difficulties, but the shot was ultimately never used as the neighbors for the homes kept getting in the shot.

The trials and tribulations of filming!

At dinner that night Brandon the director photography looks at Fritz the producer and said “you should have seen this guy fly through the trees and past the wires. Wait til you see the footage, I'm so glad you didn’t make me try and do it with our drone!”

Since then we’ve taken on more projects working for big names like Netflix and Boeing. As technology improves Extreme Aerial Productions has been able to take on even advanced projects such as panoramic and virtual reality. From photography for real estate, and full video footage like what we did for this episode of Log Cabin Living, drone footage adds extra visual depth to any project. To see more, check out our portfolio or contact us!

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