I talked with Michael Izquierdo to learn more about his work as a drone operator in his stunning 24 Hours in Los Angeles Drone Timelapse.
Michael Izquierdo is a drone pilot for Beverly Hills Aerials, a fully licensed, insured FAA 333 exempt, part 61 and 107 day/night certificate holding aerial cinematography company based in Beverly Hills, California.
They specialize in filming in closed motion picture and television sets creating dynamic, highly difficult aerial drone shots with superior precision. Their clients portfolio include top brands of the likes of Audi, Nike, and Ralph Lauren Polo and media companies of the likes of The Wall Street Journal, NBC and CBS.
I recently happened to watch one of their video – 24 Hours In Los Angeles Drone Timelapse – which is a great example of their ability.
What I most appreciate about this stunning video, shot entirely in Los Angeles, is that it combines advanced aerial filming skills with local regulation. A shining example of drone operation compliance.
Capturing an urban environment with drones can be tough when dealing with drone regulation and safety requirements, but 24 Hours In Los Angeles Drone Timelapse demonstrates how amazing results and compliance are not mutually exclusive!
“This video is the result of a 3 month drone journey throughout Los Angeles. We used every waking free moment to scout, plan, and shoot a variation of iconic locations and inspiring architecture. We shot approximately 50 different locations and only selected the absolute best shots. Our focus was on precision, speed, proper time of day, and most importantly, safety.”
- Tell me a little about your background and how you got into using drones?
- What do you like most about being a professional aerial video producer?
- The 24 hours in Los Angeles video was awesome in so many ways. Tell me where you got the inspiration for the piece and how it came to fruition?
- How big was the team filming in the field for your sequences of 24 hours in Los Angeles, and what roles did they play?
- What drones did you use and why? Did you build them or did you use commercial models, and if so did you modify them?
- Tell me about the cameras you used to shoot and why you chose them? Did you change cameras for night shooting?
- Did you experiment with exposures to get the right look?
- You say on some occasions you had to return several times to the same location to get the best shot. Tell me a little about that.
- What were your top challenges of drone filming in 24 hours in Los Angeles?
- Did you have a specific shot list at a location or was it more opportunistic?
- Did you use mixed filming, editing and special effects techniques to get the final version?
- What software did you use in post and what was your workflow?
- How important is drone regulation and compliance to you?
- 24 hours in Los Angeles is shot in a busy urban environment. How did you ensure that you always complied with the regulations when filming for this project? What kind of safety measures did you put in place when shooting?
- Did you run into any regulatory problems during filming?
- If you were to do another 24 hours project, what city would you choose and why?
I grew up building model airplanes and I remember my dad obtaining his pilot’s license purely for recreational use. He took me on one of his lessons where they practiced stalling and I remember loving it. During the beginning of my drone career, I quickly realized that getting a pilot’s license was mandatory.
The fact that my team and I can use our creativity to literally capture never before seen perspectives.
Caleb des Cognets, my chief camera operator, and I often plan passion projects. This one was a combination of some of the shots we had been thinking about for years but never executed on.
4. How big was the team filming in the field for your sequences of 24 hours in Los Angeles, and what roles did they play?
We were at least 3 people: a drone pilot, a camera operator, and one or more spotters.
We used an Inspire 2 which is without a doubt the best ready to fly drone you can buy with the most high-speed precision.
We used the x5s which is DJI’s built in camera on the Inspire. We did not change cameras for night shooting but we did change between 12,15, 25 and 45mm lenses.
Oh yeah, the exposure experimenting was a really fun game, especially for the time lapse clips. Most time lapses would run through an entire battery. We sometimes came home with nothing but terrible and in our opinion unusable footage.
Flying through the CAA (Creative Artists Agency) building was literally a drone dream of mine for years. I live down the street and always drove by. After finally getting our Century City delta airspace waiver approved we drove by to shoot it one evening around sunset. The roads were packed with cars and filled with people. After a quick conversation ending in the realization there was no way we could hold the pedestrian traffic safely, we put it off.
We returned, I don’t even remember how many more times, only to leave without flying. One Sunday morning which coincided with some sort of holiday I can’t remember which one, Caleb pushed me to go back. I had pretty much given up on the ability to do it safely with no people around. We got there around 6am and there was literally not a car or person in sight. It was beautiful. I flew through it twice at full throttle in attitude mode which resulted in one of the shots you saw in the video.
Navigating the FAA waiver approval process for up to 6 months in order to obtain the waivers for spots such as the Hollywood sign, Beverly Hills sign, CAA building, NBC Universal.
The majority of it was opportunistic. We returned to a few locations after seeing the footage we shot and wanting to do it a little better. We would go back there to get it perfect.
We did not use any special effects. Caleb and I both edited. No clips were sped up. Caleb color corrected all the shots.
We color corrected in (Adobe) Premiere and edited the footage in Final Cut.
Incredibly important. I’m one of the first guys to have got a 333 exemption and pilot license. Now, all you need is a part 107. I feel that, before, with the stricter requirements, it helped to maintain a certain level of professionalism with the drone pilots. Now, someone can buy a Phantom and has an aerial business the next day.
A good example of our respect for the regulations and compliance that I remember is when we discussed openly the Hollywood sign shot and everyone kept telling us to just do it because it’s been shot by drones a million times before. But we waited until we got the waiver, and literally shot it the day after we got our waiver. It literally changed nothing about how we did the job other than the fact we did it the right way with FAA approval.
— beverlyhillsaerials (@9021drone) April 9, 2017
14. 24 hours in Los Angeles is shot in a busy urban environment. How did you ensure that you always complied with the regulations when filming for this project? What kind of safety measures did you put in place when shooting?
We planned most our locations in G airspace (i.e. below 14,500 feet) which requires no additional waiver. We made sure we could see the entire environment well. We never flew over any people and sometimes used spotters to monitor the road we were flying over and tell us when it was clear. We also monitored radio frequencies in order to hear what was going on in the sky. We held and/or ruined a lot of shots when we saw/heard low-flying helicopters.
One day a police officer approached us and we weren’t sure what he was going to say. But he ended up asking us to take a picture of him with our drone!
We have this written on our dry erase board in the office… We are not sure but we have discussed San Francisco and San Diego. Possibly international… We really need help figuring that part out, if you have a good suggestion. Please do share.
Thanks for the interview Michael and you are always welcome here in Dublin – although I can’t guarantee the weather 🙂
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