In August 2015, I was delighted to take part in a ten day lab at Secret Hotel in Denmark. The lab brought together artists and theorists with an interest in landscape dialogues. The works made during the labs varied from performance, through to sculpture, poetry, writing and film. The lab offered me an opportunity to work with artists from other disciplines and discover how they saw using drone technology within their practice.
I worked with Dagmar Dachauer, dancer and producer, and Mikkel Hobitz Filtenborg an acrobat, to explore using micro drones to capture a performance in a tree. The choreography work was an extension of work Dagmar had done previously with her award winning film Treo. Here a ‘treo’ is made between the tree and two performance artists. We worked with one tree, the two dancers developing a choreography, whilst I captured the work in progress on film via a micro drone.
Working with the micro drones proved challenging in this environment. The micro drones are very susceptible to wind, meaning they are easily blown off course whilst in the air. Also, they can’t fly into long grass, or into the leaves of the tree without becoming stuck and crash landing. Combining this with two people dancing, at one point five spectators, and a narrow area to fly in between the grass and tree leaves, and the wind made capturing footage for longer than a few seconds in a steady shot difficult! Further to this the SD cards collected the footage inconsistently, with a whole afternoons work being lost at one point. This meant that when I came to edit the film, I had only a mornings worth of footage, which whilst amounting to an hour of film of the artists moving, it contained a lot of the same movement being practiced, as they developed the work.
Ways to improve capturing the performance would be to use a higher quality drone, they are more stable, and the footage would be better from the outset. More time with the performers once the choreography was more developed would also have led to a longer and more accurate depiction of the work. Also being clear that the drones don’t have be used to make the entire film, but as one way of capturing the footage, could’ve been better emphasised both my me, and within the film itself. The final film is made up of only the test shots from the first morning, as the second session was lost due to technology, and the third was too close to the screening to be used in the editing process. A final way to improve a future session would be to bring spare SD cards, and to check more often what has been captured so as not to loose an afternoon of work.
The lab proved to be a useful and very enjoyable way to test out filmmaking with micro drones, it’s given me lots of learning to use in the other outdoor drone workshops I’ve run subsequently. Teaching people from different nationalities how to fly showed me the importance of emphasising different skills, and helped me develop a universal introduction to flight to make sure the drone isn’t flown off into the wilderness! You can check out the results of the drone, tree and dance experiment below.