XM2 drones play pivotal role in film industry

May 17, 2019  - By

When it comes to producing film imagery, it’s all about perspective.

Picture this: You’re in a courtyard surrounded by four high-rise buildings, looking up. You’re tasked with flying a drone equipped with a movie camera between two of the buildings, and then up one of them.

It’s a challenge, but perspective is critical when it comes to filming technology-focused movies like Pacific Rim: Uprising.

High-resolution imagery has become a critical component for Hollywood film producers over the years, and drones have played a paramount role in offering unique viewpoints.

More importantly, drones allow users to capture imagery that humans alone can’t produce.

XM2's Aaron Corera discusses the company's drone imagery at Xponential 2019. (Photo: Allison Barwacz)

XM2’s Aaron Corera discusses the company’s drone imagery at Xponential 2019. (Photo: Allison Barwacz)

XM2, an aerial cinematography and photography company based in Melbourne, Australia, uses drones to capture this compelling imagery. The company has worked on a number of big-name projects, including Pacific Rim: Uprising, Thor: Ragnarok, Aquaman, season two of Westworld, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Star Wars: Episode IX.

Star Wars: Episode IX was certainly a big challenge,” said Aaron Corera, drone pilot and safety manager at XM2, at an education session at Xponential 2019. “It was a massive challenge logistically to get all of our equipment over there, and then in an environment where there’s very little infrastructure, essentially, to be able to do some high-pressure tasks. It’s just a matter of being well prepared, being switched on and working through a checklist to make sure every box is being ticked.”

The company has manufactured a number of its own drones to meet the needs of its clients. One of its drones — the XM2 Sierra — is capable of carrying payloads up to 66 pounds.

“It is designed to be able to carry cameras that traditionally aren’t drone-based cameras,” Corera said. “That aircraft can carry the same cameras that are being used for the ground-based shooting, and that’s a big advantage. Having all platforms using the cameras saves them time in post-production.”

The company’s other house-manufactured drones include the Tango, Echo and Inspire Pro 2, which have been deployed over a number of the company’s projects.

The work didn’t come immediately, though. The 14-person staff at XM2 has only been working in the film industry for about seven years, Corera said.

“The work came in bits and pieces, and we gained momentum into it a little bit, then realized, ‘There’s a real opportunity here,’” he added.

One of the biggest challenges the company has had to face is unfamiliarity with the products and what XM2 can offer.

“I think one of the challenges includes familiarity, ultimately,” Corera said. “And that’s familiarity in the systems for the client and what it can and can’t do.”

Because a lot of people aren’t familiar with drones and the legal requirements to fly them, XM2 has had to find alternatives for client requests, as well as educate and ensure the safety of the people working around them.

“From the people management side of things, when we’re operating on a film set, it’s about coordination between the people that are involved in the shot itself and then the people that are managing the film set,” Corera said. “And then there will generally be on-set safety, as well. We’ll have a briefing in the morning, and explain what we’ve got planned for the day.

“When it comes to a specific shot, we take it upon ourselves to know exactly where everyone is, exactly what they’re doing and where they’re going. We make sure everyone knows what the plan is and what to do in case something goes wrong. It’s a combination of technical safety protocols and people safety protocols.”

Still, as technology evolves, the demand for high-resolution, drone imagery does, too. It’s all about perspective and, more importantly, capturing imagery from a viewpoint otherwise unseen.

About the Author: Allison Kral

Allison Kral is the former digital media manager for North Coast Media (NCM). She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she received a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She works across a number of digital platforms, which include creating e-newsletters, writing articles and posting across social media sites. She also creates content for NCM's Pit & Quarry magazine, Portable Plants magazine and Geospatial Solutions. Her understanding of the ever-changing digital media world allows her to quickly grasp what a target audience desires and create content that is appealing and relevant for any client across any platform.