What a difference a year makes.

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I am making no apologies but this blog post is one that is a bit more personal as I reflect back on the year that has just gone.

Tomorrow 26th August will be a whole year since my redundancy.  I left TV land with a carrier bag of belongings had a few tears, after a few too many cocktails. For the record that’s probably three, as I am a light weight when it comes to drinking!

Whilst I was walking through Manchester City centre to the train station back to the Peak District, I started to worry what will I do now?  This would have been the third redundancy in my working life and I know what follows is always a period of no or little work. To be fair I had worried for a whole month but the walk made it seem very real.

I am a people person, I like working with people and like working in a team.  The demands over the four and half years or so had taken its toll on my social life.  I had totally embraced the work culture of a person working in TV.  The long hours, trying to keep on top the chores and personal admin in a few small hours on a rare day off.  Living out of a suitcase and feeling totally exhausted.  Part of this is my own fault, I am one of those people who loves working, I always have.  I love my work and to be busy and after life changed completely five and bit years ago. My job became a place where I could be myself for a few hours and then when I switched roles within that organisation. I used it as a distraction for the loss.  I really did throw myself whole heartedly at the work.

Now was going back to what I had before, a desk at home with a phone trying to create work for myself, the exact thing I could not face when I landed in Media City. Just me responsible for creating my own work not seeing a soul for days.  My dear now ex- colleagues had no idea about how I felt when I arrived, I left my emotions at the car park and threw myself into prepping cameras. Only collecting that emotion on the way back home. What would happen, if I couldn’t find work and people to see everyday?  In those four and half years, I had met so many many lovely people, talented and who shared a sense of purpose in creating content, who by their sheer kindness and friendliness gave me hope.

For a couple of weeks I watched rubbish TV, ran around the hills, edited showreels and went to bed in the afternoon.  I wrote a website, started blogging more and started looking for work.  Two weeks later I was making a film for Blackpool council, then a couple of other low key filming jobs and since then I really haven’t looked back.  The work has ebbed and flowed and when it flows I feel so lucky. I did apply for a number of job roles but it didn’t work out.

I have been a creator of my own opportunties, I am thankful every single time I get a booking from whatever source.  I have flown the drone for TV, for commercials, for a cinema release and also online content.

 

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Me flying the drone. Photocredit  Joolze Dymond

In the last year, I have learnt new skills and made mistakes, mistakes I made before to make sure it was a mistake the first time around.  My work now predominately comes from my ability to plan, script, shoot and edit films and the drone is a sideline but also a skill I can use to create content.  I am happy to work on projects that use one or all of those skills.

I have been reminded of the faith you have to have in your own skills to be my own champion when the chips are down. To be fair and professional when that client has decided he won’t pay or didn’t have the intention to pay anyway. There have been lows including a few months with little or no work. Two scary months in the spring where there was nothing on the horizon. No money coming in is quite scary to anyone with bills to pay.

I have reminded myself join with others on the journey of a solo creative life is really important, to not beat myself up about my excessive use of social media as it reminds me that there is a world outside.   I don’t know if I will stay freelance / running my own company but for now I am just going with it.  Now I have more time for myself and have seen family and friends a lot more and really feel life is a bit more balanced.

I still work hard but also know when to stop working and go for a walk, a run or just watch some TV. The house often gets cleaned and tidied properly and that makes me more creative and more motivated.   To take breaks to look for inspiration be that business inspiration or motivation.

Two things I have done that have inspired me most was going to Shadow and Lights filmmakers conference in Brighton.  I went to my first one when redundancy was on the horizon in July 2016 and then again in May 2017.  To meet fellow filmmakers who are making amazing films and content for brands and corporates, gave me hope that a mix and match approach could work for me.  Although most of the people I have met are in the South of England or based abroad, they have become part of my wider network and this has become a great supportive group to ask technical questions.  The work of this group and the people inspire me.

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Shadows and Light 2017 : Photocredit Christian Whitey Pokrywka

The second thing I have done for business networking, I have been attending Freshwalks which is like business networking never seen before.  To walk ten or so miles with fellow entrepreneurs whilst admiring the hills or getting stuck in bogs.  The type of person who attends a Freshwalks hike tends to be a positive and driven person.

I have improved my fitness and finally got out into the beloved hills of the Peak District, I have bounced ideas about and been given further opportunities.   I often think of it as a metaphor for business sometimes the terrain is up hill and hard and then it starts raining, and then your boots are giving you blisters to over come this you have to push yourself onwards and upwards to achieve the goal.  Even if you are freelance and happy to work alone having a few trusty souls and suppliers around you can help you achieve that goal or get up that damn hill!

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Freshwalks:  Photocredit John Shinnick

Thank you’s 

Thank you to those who have recommended me for jobs you know who you are, I really appreciate those recommends.  Dinner and drinks on me when you are avaialble 😉

Thank you to Leonie Upton, John Morrissey, Tracey Higgins for a day filming for international women’s day and for friendship going forward from that mad day! I still don’t like being in front of the camera, but thank you for the film.

Massive thank you goes to Ben Cambridge  editor extraordinaire and May Mulki who are my flight assistants thanks for being part of the drone journey!

To all my lovely ex-colleagues in TV land I really count you as friends these days. Now I have time for coffee let’s make arrangements.   Also a huge thank you to my long suffering Mum and Dad who often ask “what the hell are you doing next?”  But also show lots of support to my madcap ideas.

To my friends who don’t inhabit the world of work I do, thanks for waiting for four and half years of mad work hours to pass and it’s been great finally spending more time with you.

Thank you to Lens Flare TV for the opportunity to hire kit the latest kit, for excellent advice on camera and lenses.  Inspirational work from them (do check out their website)

Thanks to the talented photographer Joolze Dymond being a small part of the 5311 Media journey it is full of cycles, laughter and cake.  Thanks for respecting my request “please don’t photograph my face or get my bum in shot whist I am working!” Long may this association continue.

To the person that signed my redundancy paper work, deciding that the role I was doing no longer existed and sent me on my way, I thank you.

You know what I wouldn’t change this year of work. I thought I would have ended up temping in an office and it could not be further from the truth. Fingers crossed it continues to be positive. Life balance is nearly in reach.

Finally to the 17 clients for the projects this last 364 days…thank you for trusting me to fly a drone, hold a camera, to tell your stories and create films. I have made TV for Sky one, Sky Sports, BBC One and created online content as well as TV commercials, short form films for the web the list goes on. Honestly, I can’t believe how lucky I am.

Ha ha these BAFTA/ Oscar speeches just write themselves! 😉

Carys x

AKA The Drone Lass

 

I can be found on twitter  Instagram and FB  each social media feed often has different content

 

 

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360 Cameras and photography pt 2

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Me, Emma Gibbs on a tiny planet taking over the drone lass blog for another day!

 

In my previous blog post 360 cameras and photography pt 1   I talked about my passion for creating 360 content and I had managed to secure somewhere to post my new images.  This was an opportunity when taking photos on a radio outside broadcast I was doing some photography for.

The first obstacle was how to publish these photos. I wanted ‘true’ 360° images that you could have a look around, not flat modified versions – but neither Twitter nor Instagram support this kind of content natively. I looked at using third party sites such as Kuula and then sharing the content to Twitter but in the end the decision was made to just put my images onto Facebook where the files would be instantly recognised as 360° content and be viewable correctly on both computers and mobile devices.

This worked well, the only downside being that FB compresses images and 360° content doesn’t look anything like as sharp as it does when you view it via camera apps such as Theta’s own viewer. The response however was very positive and I found myself being approached a week or two later by the same department for more 360° images – but this time of an art and sound installation which had been created for Manchester International Festival.

This turned out to be a great opportunity and perhaps the perfect subject for a 360° capture. The artwork was made up of stories from homeless people that had been painted over the course of the festival onto cardboard which was fixed to the walls, floor and stairs of a disused shoe shop in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The venue was long with pillars dotted throughout; there were different lighting level and the art filled every wall and parts of the floor so visitors were completely surrounded. It was a work you couldn’t photograph in its entirety in a single frame and it was impossible to capture the feeling of how the words covered the whole room – unless of course you photographed it in 360°.

I photographed the venue using the Theta S (not owning a Samsung at this point) and took some images with a tripod and then some low down, placing the camera gently on top of the art in places where the public simply couldn’t stand. The resulting pictures captured the work really well and a couple of images were put on Facebook where they were used to promote a radio programme about the artwork, which was broadcast with binaural sound (making the fact that we had 360° images as well as sound even more sweeter). I also wanted to create images which could be used on Twitter and Instagram so made some manipulated flat images which showed the walls of the room shot from a higher angle using a tripod.

Then a colleague of mine suggested I look at making a rotating gif of one of my images to give the feeling of 360° on platforms which couldn’t support 360° content. We looked at a few ways of doing this but I was reluctant to use any method which wasn’t extremely quick and simple because a lot of my work involves me photographing events in real time where images need to be ready to use in seconds. We eventually opted for the paid app Pi2Video (which costs less than two quid), which enabled me to import 360° images, select the angle and speed I wanted to view them in and then make a short video clip of the picture rotating. I put one of these on my Instagram feed not knowing if it would play correctly or if it would be that satisfactory because you couldn’t explore the image manually – but the clip still got a great response so it’s a method I would definitely use again.

So that’s where I am on my 360° journey so far. I have plans to look at AV capture that can be viewed with or without a VR headset and I am keen to find more projects where 360° material will enhance the viewing experience rather than be an unnecessary addition. I would like to try out

More cameras and particularly those where the offload and stitch is relatively simple and would be accessible to self shooters (rather than complex rigs which use multiple cameras that require complicated stitching in edit afterwards).

As for the current crop of consumer cameras I don’t want to give my opinion on which is best because there are some great comparison sites out there such as threesixtycameras.com and thewirecutter.com and I have only used four different cameras so can’t comment on the whole range of makes and models available.

I’ve used the Ricoh Theta S, the Nikon KeyMission, the Samsung Gear 360 and the Samsung’s newer model the Gear 360 2017 (which allows for iPhone integration) and whilst every one of them has specific things which give them the edge of over the others, I’d happily use any of them. That said, when I bought a second 360° camera I went for the Samsung Gear 360 2017. My decision was partly based on the need for a camera that had decent video quality (the Theta’s video output is notoriously bad) but mostly down to price. The new Samsung has a slightly lower spec than its older sibling but not only does it work with an iPhone, it also only costs around £200 (unlike the previous model which still retails at well over £300). At the time of buying my Samsung I had also been trying out a loaned Nikon KeyMission and I liked it a lot. The Nikon is robust with a good weight (handy for when you place it windy outdoor places and then have to hide out of shot), it pairs with a phone reasonably well, the picture quality is great and the offload process is straightforward. But it costs over £400 and that extra £200 over the Samsung 2017 can’t be justified. If money is a consideration then it’s worth remembering that the tech is still quite new and the prices will come down and I’m not sure the Nikon can justify such a hefty price tag when there are now comparable cameras on the market at half the price.

Personally I can’t wait for the next crop of cameras and in the meantime I am going to continue exploring what I can do with this sort of material and build up my 360 chops until I am as familiar and comfortable with 360° capture, editing and workflows as I am with regular content.

Thank you for joining me these last couple of days

Emma x

 

Emma Gibbs
Emma Gibbs

Thank you so much Emma that was really enlightening and an enjoyable read.  

Carys x aka The Drone Lass

If you visit 6 Music Facebook page you can see some of the content Emma created ….shhhh 😉 

360 Cameras & photography pt 1

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From left to right:-                  Ricoh THETA S , Samsung Galaxy Gear 360 (2017)  and                                                Nikon Key Mission 360 Action Camcorder

Next two blog posts will be by Emma Gibbs as you know sometimes I hand the blog over to someone who has something to share that is drone or technology related.  Emma is a talented photographer and we often chat about different cameras so over to Emma.

Emma Gibbs
Emma Gibbs

For the past ten months or so I have been playing around with 360° photography. It’s taken me a while to really appreciate it. Whilst I totally understand the appeal of being able to capture an entire scene (including the sky above your head and the ground beneath your feet) I struggled to produce content which I felt had much impact and I was frustrated that it was difficult to widely publish the photographs in the form that they were meant to be seen – as images you could rotate, twist and explore.

On more than one occasion I nearly gave away my Ricoh Theta S, a 360° camera I had chosen purely because I owned an iPhone and therefore couldn’t use the higher spec Samsung Gear 360 which required a Samsung phone to operate it. The Theta lived in the bottom of my handbag; I would use it for occasional pictures but my increasing annoyance at my inability to get any output from it that I was happy with meant that one night when a guy down the pub started talking to me about his interest in 360° photography I very nearly whipped the Theta out and gave it to him. Fortunately good sense prevailed and it was this very camera which finally helped me develop my love of 360° content.

It’s still early days for consumer 360° cameras and as a result the image and video quality isn’t always as good as you’d expect which can be disheartening. Whilst venting my frustrations to a techie colleague at work I suggested that I was impatient for a standard of technology that doesn’t exist quite yet and my colleague said it was like when people go to a wedding with a point-and-shoot camera and then get disappointed that they don’t end up with DSLR quality photos. It was an accurate analogy; having a camera that can miraculously send stitched 360° digital images instantly through to my phone is so amazing that of course I expect the images to be as sharp as anything my other cameras can do. And to be fair, the pictures *do* look tight when displayed as flat equirectangular files (or even as spherical pictures via the camera’s accompanying software) but as soon as you view them spherically via sites such as YouTube, Flickr or Facebook the images lose a lot of clarity and you find yourself wondering why they don’t look as good as they should.

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One use for 360 cameras is a “tiny planet” image.  Media City UK and myself

So what’s it like to shoot 360° content? The thing I’ve found most interesting is that there are several ways to present your work. When I started taking 360° photos I found (to my disappointment) that I couldn’t put images that I could rotate onto Instagram because the platform didn’t support it. The 360° pictures I found on Instagram looked great but they had been twisted and manipulated, with many being made into flat ‘tiny planets’ which aren’t accurate representations of the subject they are supposed to be capturing. I had always approached 360° photography in a very literal sense, thinking it should show what a place was like from all directions, when in fact other ways of displaying 360° images are equally as valid and perhaps creatively more exciting. Where I had been looking for places that would be visually interesting to explore via a photograph that you could navigate around, I realised that I could also look at capturing other environments which had prominent landmarks or textures (such as grassy parks and wide open spaces edged with recognisable buildings) – and whilst they wouldn’t be that exciting as rotatable images they would lend themselves really well to spherical manipulation as flat photographs.

Realising that there is more than one way to approach 360° material was a bit of a light bulb moment for me but that said, I still wanted to find subjects and environments which would be enhanced by being viewed as a rotatable image. 360° visuals still felt a bit like a novelty approach to photography and I wanted it to be something that gave viewers an experience that regular stills or video couldn’t.  So I approached colleagues from a radio outside broadcast I was due to be working on and asked if I could take a few 360° stills along with the regular images I would be producing for their social media feed. I didn’t make a big deal about it or promise anything amazing but they agreed and so I had my pilot.

Join me tomorrow when I go into more detail of the pilot and the challenges of creating the images.

Thanks for reading

Emma 

 

Ricky Huntley Interview

Every now and then as you know I try to interview interesting people within the UAV industry.  This next interview is with Ricky Huntley from Sentinel Aviation

1-SafetyandCompliance

 

Please tell me how you got into the drone industry?

I have been working with unmanned aircraft for 15 years plus, initially I fell into the unmanned sector after the Regiment I was a member of became disbanded. During my time as a military operator I operated numerous drones from small unmanned systems to high altitude long endurance, after operating these systems on many operations worldwide I closed time on my Army career as a tactical instructor on unmanned aircraft.

Post army I joined an NQE as an instructor, this was back when the industry was very embryonic and there were only two training organisations against todays 30+. I have remained instructing until this present day however my role within the industry has been directed more toward safety and consultancy to the global market.

What do you like about your job?

What I love most about my job is engaging with people in the industry and passing on my experience and knowledge, being able to take someone from zero aviation experience to a level of underpinning knowledge is very satisfying.

Tell me about Sentinel Aviation?

Sentinel Aviation’s mission is as follows:

“Our mission at Sentinel Aviation is to apply the safety standards of modern commercial aviation to the rapidly developing unmanned aviation sector. Working to the highest standards we ensure the safe and efficient operations of Unmanned Aviation Systems for both operators and end users.”

Sentinel was established 3 years ago using both military UAV and commercial aviation experience to establish themselves in the drone industry. We now work with individuals entering the industry, and established commercial drone operations to enhance their operations particularly in the field of safety.

We have worked both in the UK and overseas and we also work for the Lloyds of London drone insurance industry. As an example we have advised from the newest teenage individual operator right up to a national navy as to how to enhance and develop their drone operations.

3.AuditandInspections

Why would I need the services of Sentinel Aviation as a new entrant to the UAV (drone industry)?

In essence at Sentinel we believe that there are no barriers to entry into the burgeoning drone industry, however, there are standard rules, regulations and procedures that need to be followed. These will insure that both individual and commercial operators do not harm themselves or indeed members of the public.

The opportunities for commercial drone operations are endless, most of these ‘uses’ probably haven’t even been thought of yet, but it will require skill, knowledge and experience to exploit these opportunities. Sentinel has the experience, personnel and skill set to take someone’s ‘idea’ or ‘vision’ for their company, develop it and then ensure that they can implement and execute that idea ‘in the operational environment’.

What services from Sentinel Aviation as an established Drone operator or Drone company can you offer?

Sentinel’s advice starts tight from the outset with helping operators identify the right drone for the right operation. Some drones are more suitable to operating in open and rural spaces, whereas others are better suited to operating in congested areas. What safety features do you need, do you need a quad or a hexacopter? What sensor do you need? Operators really do need identify what it is they are trying to do and what niche in the market are they trying to exploit?

Earning your UK CAA Permission for Commercial Operations is the first step for most people in setting out on their ‘drone journey’. Its what they do after that that counts. It’s a very easy industry to set out in, spend an enormous amount of money and not get very far.

From then on it’s about getting the work and maintaining currency of flying. The commercial manned aviation industry is a highly regulated and safety conscious industry. There is no reason why the drone industry should not embrace the culture of safety. Sentinel has embraced that culture and as a result we advise drone operators, end users of drones and the associated insurance industry on the following:

+ Commercial and Military Drone/UAS/UAV Safety + Drone/UAS Safety Audits and Inspections + Risk Management + Assurance and Compliance + Job Safety Analysis and Safety Documentation + Insurance and Legal Services (Accident Survey/Investigation/Analysis and Report Production) + Drone/UAS Airworthiness + Advanced Training and Development + Human Factors and Crew Resource Management (CRM) Training + UAV Pilot and Operator Medical Assessments

As an example CRM training is annual pre-requisite in commercial manned aviation and there is every reason why drone operators should embrace this, It will help avoid accidents. When it comes to medicals, this at the moment is not a requirement, but as drone operations begin to integrate with national airspace then it is possible that commercial operators will require ‘pilot medicals’ just like their manned aviation counterparts. Our medicals mirror those taken by the British Army’s UAV operators. It will almost certainly be the aviation insurance industry that will drive these requirements and changes.

We believe that commercial operators demonstrating themselves to be the safest operators are those who will eventually rise to the top of what is an increasingly congested industry.

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What are you hopes of the UK drone industry?

Our hopes for the UK industry is to work together to build a regulation that works for the people, as technology advances so does the need for change in regulation, legislation, and policy. This must happen to make commercial operations rules fit for purpose.

What about Worldwide drone industry?

Worldwide we should begin to see a harmonisation of rules, this is imperative to start to bring unmanned operations in line with manned operations.

What you you think about the negative press that Drones receive?

I suppose there will always be some negative press, someone always playing devil’s advocate however it is only a small few. Unmanned technology is not going away and will only increase, the sooner people start accepting the positive applications the quicker we can develop as an industry.

Three top tips for people who have obtained CAA PfCo? What should we be doing to improve.

If in doubt give Sentinel a shout!! Operators should never be left wondering why or second guessing their operations. Sentinel Aviation are here to support the industry’s operators with advice and guidance.

Continual improvement is key in aviation, skill fade is a massive factor in aviation accidents, conducting an annual refresher course will help lead the operator to professional development. During the refresher, the operator will brush up on regulations and planning and undergo flight evaluations for the experts to advise where necessary.

The operator should also remember to be proficient in their line of work they must practice meaningful scenarios, they will not advance their skill set by flying in a field every day. Where legal and safe the operator should be conducting flights that they would be doing on a real job.

 

http://www.sentinel-aviation.com/

 

Thank you Ricky for taking time for this interview.

If you are in the drone industry and would like to be interviewed please drop me a line

Thank you

The Drone Lass

 

I can be found on twitter  Instagram and FB  each social media feed often has different content