“If you watch the next Pirates of the Caribbean film when it comes out, you’ll see lots of our work. You can already see some in the new trailer actually. Our crew and aircrafts do a lot of work in both the cinematography and industrial field, and this was one of our coolest projects yet!” - Quentin Peel, Production Manager/Camera & Drone Tech of XM2.
Drones are revolutionizing the film industry, making previously difficult shots much easier to accomplish and achieving shots that were previously impossible. At the forefront of this innovation is the Australian drone company XM2, whose drones have worked in the cinema field on such feature films like Pirates of the Caribbean 5, The Dressmaker, Lion, Pacific Rim 2: Maelstrom, commercials with Kia, Toyota, Subaru, LG and even documentaries with David Attenborough; Great Barrier Reef.
As a newer form of film technology, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have proven to be very versatile in their ability to film aerial shots. The problem though is that, for a number of reasons, producers have a need to see their shots in real-time when filming with drones. First, they want to make sure the shot is captured with precision. Second, real-time images reduce time spent in the air, which is less time spent over potentially dangerous terrain. Third, the schedule and timing of shots airborne and on-ground need to be choreographed to match precisely. And lastly, any delays in filming means more costs for the production, so less time equals less costs.
Since the beginning of its inception, XM2 has turned to Teradek’s Bolt line of zero-delay solutions, and now with the Bolt 3000 the range is even greater. The Bolt is mounted to the drone and transmits less than 1 millisecond of delay to the team on the ground. In addition, in the past only standard definition was available, which was inadequate because users couldn’t gauge exposure and focus. With the Bolt, details are enhanced with high-definition 1080p video.
This introduces a whole new level of efficiency to the filming process never experienced before. “For us to have zero-delay and be able to extend that out, it makes filming so much better. The projects we work on generally have a high cost involved and any delay in time is a cost.” says Quentin. “We have seen on sets the time wasted for having to change out malfunctioning downlinks and to avoid this we use Teradek.”
At the same time, the Bolt line of devices has been used by the media industry for on-ground filming. Wireless zero-delay enables the entire production team with a screen to see the shot in real-time, keeping every department of the team on the same page. They also cut the need for excessive cords that spread like weeds on production sites.
The partnership between Bolt and XM2 has expanded far beyond the world of cinematography. XM2 is highly sought-after for their work in the industrial world. The team uses drones equipped with Lidars (Light Detection and Ranging) and photogrammetry to survey geography for companies as well as locations for filming studios. They do thermal imaging from their drones. Even inspecting power lines are in their scope of abilities.
XM2 is making big headlines and big organizations have begun to take notice. Just last year, XM2 was invited to join Ausfilm, a prestigious consortium of film production companies in Australia that brings filmmaking around the world to the country, making them a highly sought production team in Australian cinema.
UAVs will be the next revolution in filmmaking technology, and with its rising popularity will be a similarly growing need for high-quality video monitoring like Teradek’s Bolt. Whether it’s on the ground or in the air, productions will always benefit from seeing shots in real-time.