Swing Arm City

Camp 4 Collective is a team of creators that is not afraid to get dirty telling a story. Freefly has long admired their work, so when they were interested in putting the ALTA to the test with a motorcycle crew at Swing Arm City we were immediately on board. Once the project had wrapped we wanted to hear how their experience was. This is their tale.

The genesis of this adventure began as a seed. That seed evolved and encountered chaos and entropy (like all good adventures) and ended with a crazy final push and a lot of new friends made. Freefly came to Camp 4 Collective with an opportunity. We were the lucky ones to win the lottery and get to take a pre-production ALTA into the wild for something fun, wild and creative. Being an expedition production company, our minds first went to climbing, but with all the best locations scorched by the summer heat we needed a different idea. That’s when Kevin came into the scene, our talented young director at Camp 4. He developed a concept around the motorcycle subculture, a community that is rich with story and heart, his own community. Kevin had just completed a Western roadtrip adventure on motorcycles with moto-photographer Aaron Brimhall and they had the connections with local top riders. We hoped to shoot riders flying over the camera in ALTA’s top-mount mode and capture imagery that has never before been possible while also highlighting the passion of people who love life in ways that smash the norm.

Filmmaking is a team sport and we were really lucky to rally such fun team of talented people. The riders included Damian Garcia and Jamie Hashimoto, the Cafe Racer couple who are committed to the lifestyle through and through. Our stunt riders were Patrick Schooler and Justin Cox . They were really cool in working with us to strip all the flashy panels off their MX bikes so we could have a more stripped down and less flashy feel.

On the production side, we had SkySight as the main A-cam ALTA operators, and Jeff and Victor from Quadrocopter with another ALTA flying air-to-air behind-the-scenes aerials for almost every shot! My lovely fiancée Taylor was our chase driver and BTS shooter, our AC and technical ninja Rudy doubled as cook, and Taylor’s little brother Jack, Patrick’s wife Maryse and Kevin’s friend Matty acted as full-time assistants and hecklers for the crew.

Our first morning with the ALTA was a classic 5am sunrise start. I headed out with Soren, James and Erica of the SkySkight team to a high ridgetop to do our initial tests with the machine. Skysight has flown RED cameras on high-end commercial productions around the globe and were also instrumental in our shoot of Alex Honnold’s greatest ropeless rockclimb to date, Sendero Luminoso in Mexico, where they carried their custom CineStar 8 through 4 miles of jungle to the launch point. I could see the excitement in their eyes, now carrying the compact ALTA “pizza” up the hill for our first launch. Everything went smooth and we captured some of the beautiful scenics, including the one that opens the piece.

And then… the chaos and entropy. It was searing hot. We were gripped and nerve-racked at times, seeing the finest of dust particles blown and covering all of the camera gear as well as ourselves. I am used to operating cameras on big, snowy, high-altitude expeditions, which seem really hard on gear but realistically this dust is the biggest killer when it comes to all the tiny moving parts. For this shoot we were lucky to have the support of RED to be able to fly a Carbon Fiber Dragon, which saved us a pound off our payload and gave us the ability to fly an Angeniuex cinema lens, something that wasn’t possible with such ease in the past. Most of the shoot we actually choose to fly a Canon 1.4 24mm L series prime, just to get longer flight times and be able to do more dynamic moves.

As far the top-mounted move, we learned a number of fun tid bits along the way. Initially, we thought that we would have to rebalance the MōVI in some way but in the end it turned out to be as easy as taking off the landing gear and quickly flipping Freefly’s Toad in the Hole quick release to the top of the ALTA. It also helps to have your camera menus and monitors dialed to do quick vertical flips. The excitement for the technology and creativity was contagious as we experimented with shooting in the day and then into the night. I loved how it allowed us the get nontraditional drone aerials that almost looked like a cablecam shot, like at 1:25. It was amazing to experience how a drone can be a faster, more efficient and more dynamic way to achieve shots traditional done with cranes and dollies. The SkySight guys also mentioned how cool it was to now achieve fast-paced follow shots in top mounted mode. Normally the rotors bend down and get into the frame but not any more! Also the traditional looking straight up shots like at :41 were cool to see and we could bend all the way back down to meet the horizon as we approached our subject by rising.

One other shot to mention, which was a fun to execute, was the surfing shot with Damian and Jamie on the open desert road. We would drive and fly for 2 mile stretches of road by piloting and operating the MōVI M15 by a chase car with the monitors all mounted inside our truck. This allowed us to keep moving along the road in the beautiful sunset light and shoot take after take without resetting.

At the end of the weekend we were all mud-caked, crusty haired, and dehydrated but also creatively content and yearning for more. There is no doubt that the ALTA is the best tool out there for pro-level aerials in the most extreme environments on earth. We are really looking forward to taking it around the globe this upcoming year. Thanks again to the whole Freefly team for the opportunity. Your support and attention to us filmmakers really sets you aside in this crazy industry that is always evolving at at such a rapid pace.

~ Renan Ozturk of Camp4Collective.com

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