The story begins about 2.5 years ago, when being given a tour of Red Bull’s generously stocked Equipment Pool, amongst the plethora of cameras and endless walls of lenses, I was shown a custom Octocopter. Designed to carry such cameras as RED’s Scarlet, at a time when the only cameras flying around at this time were GoPros.
The Octacopter in action with a battery pack and 1x head.
The main thing about this piece is the muscle behind it, and it opened a lot of doors regarding what equipment could be used. I wanted to take the idea as far as I could right away, I knew that a hot shoe flash just wouldn’t cut it since one of my favorite things to do is add to the daylight already in the scene.
The existence of this drone got the gears turning in my head. Not being a filmmaker, my idea for exactly how to use it was motivated by allowing me to get light into places it’s not typically possible to do so.
Being a biker myself, instantly I thought of slopestyle MTB, since the prominence of the jumps usually limits a photographer to placing any additional lighting behind the jumps and lighting the subject from below.
This isn’t ideal since the eyes and brain can recognise, even subconsciously, that something that isn’t quite right since light very rarely occurs from beneath in nature.
I touched on some of these points in the video, but the ELB 400 itself was a huge catalyst in making this shoot happen.
The form factor, in that it’s a separate pack and head system, allowed us to distribute the weight optimally in the center of the drone. With a head weighing in at a mere 250g, it’s no problem if this is off axis as the drone self-levels itself.
Not only was this package exactly suited to what we needed, but with the Skyport Plus HS transmitter allowing me to change my settings while it was airborne, made it extremely user-friendly.
Of course, the Hi-Sync functionality to allow me to reign in the ambient light, allowing the rider to pop.
With my idea down in pixels now, it was quite satisfying but at the same time not quite as outstanding as I’d hoped. The main image worked perfectly but I realise now that it might not be so obvious to the untrained eye.
Technically, everything worked as expected, and in that respect as a proof of concept it was a success. The next step for me is to take it to another sport where it will make more of an impact!
With such packs as the ELB 400, coupled with the trend of the commercial drones getting stronger and more intelligent, I can’t help but dream of what exactly might be possible in the future. Take the newest drones and their subject tracking ability. How about a 3-point light setup that leaves your bag and tracks your subject automatically? All in an integrated and dedicated flash drone package?
Sign me up!
Keep your eyes out because this is going to be the next big thing.
Note: The photos were altered in post-production to fit to the Red Bull branding guidelines.
Advanced technology in photography is about creating images we could only imagine before. Original photographers couldn’t even dream shooting downhill skateboarding with the ELB 400.
“Let me start by telling you that the Skyport Plus HS will change your life if you shoot anything that moves faster than a shuffle.” – David Robinson