Pro Moviemaker Spring 2019


“We’re nowusing focused lights that are a lot more efficient and super bright, allowing us to create the equivalent of daylight exposures”

The first film to utilise the night flying technique was The Light , co-created with director Brandon Bray and pilot Brad Mei. This represented a steep learning curve that hugely influenced everything that came after. In this personal project, the aerial lights are seen against the background of a misty woodland and they follow a running figure through the trees. It’s an ethereal and unreal sequence, sometimes seen from ground level and at other times from the air. It hugely adds to the tension in the film. The Place Where was a subsequent passion project that came about on the back of Sessler’s wife telling him about a flooded mine in Upstate NY. “On a family trip over the summer we stopped there and I took some still photos with my Canon 5D,” he explains. “The location is absolutely stunning, but I didn’t really have an idea for it at the time. “Fast forward to later in the year and I’d just upgraded to the wonderful Red Monstro Vista Vision sensor and was looking for an interesting way to show off what its low-light capabilities could enable. This was in tandemwith my latest tools: the X-Jib (a portable, telescopic jib), a ‘tube of death’ smoke machine that I’d built and, of course, the drone lights. The mine was a perfect location for what I intended to be a visual poem and helped tie everything together. We worked there

much more complicated than daytime flights. The main drawback is that quick location changes aren’t usually possible: if something hasn’t been thoroughly scouted during the day, we can’t fly there. It might be right next to our location, but it would just take one hidden phone wire or other obstacle you can’t see at night and you’d have a disaster on your hands.” The dramatic nature of Sessler’s night footage is enhanced by the drones themselves carrying powerful lights that are then used to great cinematic effect. “Developing the drone lights has been a long journey,” he says. “Back in 2016, we started with very small light-ribbon LED Chinaballs that were suspended below the drone on a 50-100ft long string, and the next generation was a hard mounted Chinaball with 60ft of high-output light- ribbon. The following year, we started flying a 900W LED on the MoVI and since the summer of 2018 we’ve been using a 1600W version with parabolic reflectors. This is hard mounted to the drone and roughly draws 85 Amps. “These are rigs weighing approx 30- 40lbs and they’re used on the ALTA 6 or 8. The lights were originally designed for a 360° throw and optimised for on-camera usage, but we’re now using focused lights that are more efficient and super bright, allowing us to create the equivalent of daylight exposures at night.”

IMAGE In Mémoires, Tim used a combination of moving and stationary aerial lights

for two days and I spent several evenings shooting some of the other exteriors.” Flying UAVs at night commercially is usually personnel-heavy, with three people required for the lighting drone and possibly another four dedicated to the filming drone. Where personal projects are concerned the numbers might have to come down a little, but set against this is the fact that there is usually more time to play with if the desired shot isn’t achieved in the first take. Some of the shots for The Place Where were, in fact, achieved by Sessler on his own, utilising a locked-off camera so that he could safely operate the lighting drone. “Looking ahead I’ve got tonnes of ideas floating around my head for how those lights can be used and how they might be pushed in ways we haven’t seen yet,” says Sessler. “While most drone lighting has been very effect driven, I definitely think we’ll also see it being used more like traditional film lights. “In my light test, Mémoires , I tested a mixture of moving and stationary aerial lights. The flexibility of those allows for a painterly quality and, as LEDs become increasingly powerful, the sensors more sensitive and drone flight times longer, there’s a big market waiting to be explored. Adding colour and eventually even DMX controllability to the mix will simply open even more doors.”

More information Mémoires :

IMAGE Over the years Tim has developed powerful drone lights that add extra drama to his night-time footage



Powered by