Reaching for the Sky
Reaching for the Sky
Author: Ben Libby, Creative Director, Bear Notch Studio
Contributing Author: Derrick Bozkurt, Founder, House in Motion
Have a fear of heights? I’m pretty sure we all do, whether you’re on a ladder painting grandma Betty’s house or flying a drone and have that weird fight or flight response just seeing that imagery may scare you. Today, is a phenomenal day because I’m chatting with Derrick Bozkurt who has been a long time friend and colleague for various projects. Our first project together was with a company called Archon Games which was working on a first person shooter RPG called "TechnoWizard" ahhhh, the memories.
Derrick is also currently working in real estate but beating the status quo by aiding consumers with visuals in Virtual Reality (VR) and Drone Photography in both consumer and commercial real estate.
[Bear Notch Studio]: Remember the time we worked together at Archon Games, and you were the lead sound engineer? What made you transition from video games to doing photography, virtual reality and aerial photography?
[Derrick Bozkurt]: I do remember those days! They were great indeed, and we all had a ton of fun working on the “TechnoWizard” project together. Video games have always been my favorite form of visual entertainment, and I was excited to get to lend an ear to its soundscape. That was one of my first gigs coming right out of audio engineering school, and I had the opportunity to work on various other projects – Some with you as well – as a sound designer and composer as time went on. The Flying Cloud projects we were a part of were ahead of their time, and I’ll never forget some of the field recording sessions for our CGI monster, or overdubbing myself 100x to create a crew anthem. One of my other favorites was a game called “Z-Day”, which was an ambitious “Zombie-Survival MMO” back in 2009. Although some of these projects never saw a major release, I learned a ton, and made some great connections that I still keep in touch with today.
Photography has always been a passion of mine as well, and throughout my teens onward, I oftentimes had a camera in hand or nearby, documenting all sorts of adventures. While in college, I even got to take some classes back when they were still teaching them out of darkrooms. There is nothing quite like developing your first roll of film, and seeing the projected images literally appear before your eyes. I remember when my family got our first digital camera – It was a 1 megapixel Kodak, and it was amazing at the time. During my tenure at Apple, I was always impressed with the image quality increases year over year in regards to mobile devices. Seeing how the field has changed and adapted through the years has been very interesting, and when technologies that enabled feature rich virtual reality and flying 4k cameras became affordable, I had to be an early adopter of these new perspectives.
Nowadays, I use the skillset I have developed in these areas to also complement some of my other endeavors. Being able to apply these technologies in my own business has enabled me to provide a comprehensive set of products in the real estate and media services that I offer.
[BNS]: DJI among others releases a lot of different aerial products, what has been your favorite so far? Can you go in depth about features?
[DB]: My first DJI drone was one of their Phantom series. I had been closely following the company during their earlier years, and was really impressed with what they had been able to accomplish in the arena of consumer drones in general - It’s crazy how far they have come just in past few years. My favorite ‘prosumer’ model from them is the Phantom 4 series. I honestly have not had the opportunity to fly their bigger rigs yet, but would love to get my hands on them. However, having recently picked up their Mavic Air model, I have to say that it is currently my favorite, largely because of the sheer portability of it. Even though the whole thing can fit in your pocket, you still get a 4k/60 FPS; 1080p/120 FPS camera with a 100 Mbps bit rate. Although the sensor is a little smaller, even the 12 MP stills turn out great, and being able to shoot in RAW is great. Furthermore, some of their secondary features such as pre-programmed video captures, 360 photography, and gesture controls really add to the overall package. Rumor has it, they will be releasing a new addition to their lineup this summer, so I’m looking forward to seeing that.
[BNS]: When on a photography or video campaign up in the sky, have you ever lost a drone? If so, how did you feel?
[DB]: Fortunately, I have never lost a drone to date; the safety and location features of the ones I fly are actually very good. As long as one knows how to set them up, and fly with care, it’s actually pretty difficult to get yourself into much trouble. There have definitely been some adrenaline-inducing moments when the quad loses remote control reception and you have to rely on these safety measures, but I have not experienced any problems yet. I do also have a standalone GPS locator that I affix to mine whenever I feel the need, which mitigates the risk of a lost drone even further.
[BNS]: Would you ever try to ride one of those human drones? (Apparently they use them in Dubai for filming). If you lost control, what would you do?
[DB]: Haha, I have seen a couple of those – Reminds me of those single-infantry flying machines the military was developing back in the 50’s & 60’s. Although the technology behind our modern products is great, nothing is ever perfect or truly fail safe. I doubt I would ever get on one of the current generation ones without enough altitude and a parachute just in case something did happen!
[BNS]: You had a big transition going from Audio to Video / VR, what have been some experiences or failures you learned along the way?
[DB]: There are definitely some large and important differences between these fields and technologies. However, audio, music, video, virtual reality. . . They are all just components to the greater product or experience being created, and I am thankful to have the opportunity to learn and practice all of them. Taking into consideration how to weave visual aspects, sound design, and music all together can really make or break an experience. These components each draw upon our different senses, with the goal of creating a unified experience itself. The best creators I have seen are experts at knowing how to play these elements off each other, and this is something that I strive for myself in my own productions.
For example, one might have limited options in making a certain transition or cut from one scene to another in a film. The mood, atmosphere, and general tone of the next scene may be radically different. In situations like this, transitioning into the next sequence by the creative use of sound and/or music can make subliminally prepare the viewer, making that transition much more pleasing and natural.
Some of the most interesting challenges that face the industry right now is implementation of audio in a virtual reality environment. When it comes to determining positions and spaces in the real world, our ears are incredible pieces of hardware, and rely on a complex balance of phase, amplitude, environmental physics, and even the dimensions of our own heads that ultimately gets translated by our brains. Emulating this same type of experience in a virtual world is one of the more interesting challenges of virtual reality. There are some incredible tools out there that are truly at the forefront of their respective fields, and it is exciting to see the changes and improvements as this field continue to evolve.
I think the most important failures I have learned from all stemmed from situations that arose unexpectedly that I did not have a pre-emptive recourse for. Situations like failing gear, bad weather, scheduling short sights or the like happen to the best of us. Of course, you cannot really account for every variable that you might encounter in the field, and there is also that aspect of spontaneity that you also need to balance. Being able to adjust on the fly in any situation is imperative, and keeping your post production skills up to speed is always helpful. Sometimes, these originally perceived failures can actually turn into some of your best work, so a lot of it is mindset and perspective. The best any one can do is take account for what they have control over, have a backup plan, and be ready to adapt in your work.
[BNS]: For those who want to get more into aerial photography, what would you recommend to get started? Any specific drone models, hardware or software?
[DB]: For aerial photography and videography specifically, I recommend going with one of DJI’s Mavic or Phantom series. Both of these lineups have a few versions that pack various features, depending on what you’re after, and will be less risky that throwing a few thousand dollars-worth of hardware into the air for the first time. You can really get a lot out of the source material I post production; and Adobe has probably the best all around editing suite for photo/video. Personally, I use Adobe products for photography, and Final Cut for video in most of my work.
After getting started, if you have determined to make this a source of income, or take on some bigger projects, it is imperative to get your Part 107 sUAS license from the FAA. Firstly, it is a legal requirement if you are doing any sort of commercial work with your drone. Secondly, you will learn quite a bit about reading flight charts, contacting air traffic control, weather, and other factors that may have an impact on your operations. Education is key for so many things, and have definitely helped me avoid expensive mistakes, and recover from compromised situations.
Derrick Bozkurt lives and works in Denver, Colorado, and spends his time working in the fields of real estate, UCAAS, and media production.