All was quiet on the UCLA campus at 6 a.m. Barry Yang sought a filming location that would capture the essence of the university that has become his home over the last three years.
He opted for an iconic shot to open his short drone film: a sweeping view of the lone flagpole that opens to the four stately buildings of Dickson Plaza. He made sure the area was clear of others before he used a remote control to lift his drone into the air, sending it on a journey that would capture otherwise unseen views.
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Yang, a third-year political science and economics student, wanted to make a drone film over UCLA because he believes drones are the future of filmmaking technology and he appreciates the beauty of the campus, said the former Daily Bruin contributor.
“I have a drone now and might as well as take advantage of the time and be like a first mover in a sense,” Yang said. “I want to see what I can create before the market becomes really saturated and everyone is flying one around.”
Yang spent around two hours on Nov. 5 handpicking locations around UCLA and filming them. The drone captured aerial shots of the sprawling campus, which Yang then edited into a 1.5-minute video titled, “UCLA by Air.”
Alvaro Wong, a fourth-year political science and environmental systems student, has worked with Yang on projects for the Campus Events Commission. Wong said Yang’s choice to utilize drones is innovative because they save filmmakers valuable time and money.
“With the increase in the availability of this technology, we don’t have to rent a helicopter to get the shots that Barry’s getting,” Wong said. “He is essentially a cinematographer in the sky.”
Yang walked around UCLA for about two hours, capturing 15 minutes of footage altogether. He edited using the software Final Cut, added some color to the shots and cut the running time to under two minutes, he said.
Adam Takatsuka, a third-year psychology student and friend of Yang’s, feels that “UCLA by Air” is a departure from the photography Yang usually does for others.
“When you watch (the video), it makes you want to come (to UCLA), regardless of your background. It highlights every positive aspect of the campus aesthetically,” Takatsuka said.
Yang plans to release a series of drone videos titled “Views from the Twelve” featuring different locations around Los Angeles including Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Mulholland Drive and the Hollywood Bowl.
Yang’s shots in Santa Monica included the Yacht Harbor sign, the Santa Monica Pier, Ocean Avenue and the Santa Monica State Beach. Filming challenges arose as a result of local law enforcement’s concern over privacy issues and Coast Guard regulations, Yang said.
After gathering different shots over a one-hour period, Yang was told he could only continue shooting legally if he chose to do so over the water, he said. As a result, Yang was able to capture the wipeout of a surfer that he hadn’t planned on filming.
While Yang doesn’t feel it’s plausible to shoot entire films using drones alone, he says that for passion projects and scenic flyovers for commercial purposes, few filmmaking tools can capture the same essence that drones can.
“It’s one of those things that everyone enjoys in moderation… You have to be very selective (with your shots),” Yang said. “And it’s definitely not something that has been as widely used as it’s going to be in the future.”