Right Up Your Alley is not your regular YouTube video: the choreographed bowling alley shot is an impressive show of drone control and expert cinematography. Jay Christensen is on the pilot’s seat!
The first thing I did after watching Right Up Your Alley was to pick my jaw from the floor. The one minute and 27 seconds sequence shot inside Bryant-Lake Bowl & Teather, a vintage bowling alley, cabaret theater, restaurant and bar in Minneapolis, is, as someone commented on YouTube, “Outstanding. Seriously some of the most impressive work I’ve ever seen in 20+ years of video production”.
When I received the link to the video, sent by ProVideo Coalition’s editor Scott Simmons, I spent the next ten minutes watching, over and over, not believing my eyes. Yes, I’ve seen footage from racing drones, which is impressive to watch, but this is not just a drone racing through a predefined course, this goes beyond all that, it’s an example of excellent drone control to serve a purpose: incredible photography. Everything, from the choreography to the sound design makes you want to watch, over and over. That’s what I did and keep doing. But there is more than one video…
I shared the video with my son João, who knows a bit about drones and filming, having taken a practical course on flying drones for video work, and he was amazed. As he commented, almost anyone can fly a drone these days and capture video, but this takes things to a whole new level. This is not simply good flying, it’s a very well timed and planned shot that shows the potential FPV (First Person View) drones have when used to create cinematic sequences. No way you could do this with your regular drone, and Jay Christensen, the videographer signing this epic shot confirmed already that this is done with a FPV drone.
The new DJI FPV, a racing drone for filmmakers
The video just gave me a reason to mention here at ProVideo Coalition the most recent drone from DJI, the DJI FPV, introduced as the key to reinvent the drone flying experience. Revealed on March 2, the DJI FPV is introduced as a new type of drone with an intuitive, immersive flight experience never available until now.
The new DJI FPV combines the first-person view and high-speed performance of racing drones, the cinematic camera sweep of traditional drones, the safety and transmission technology of DJI’s leading consumer drones, and an optional innovative single-handed motion controller that allows pilots to control the drone with just hand movements. DJI FPV creates a new drone category, and opens up new worlds of possibilities for content creators and drone fans from beginners to experts alike.
The DJI FPV ecosystem includes the drone, goggles, a dedicated remote controller, and a new intuitive motion controller option that steers the drone based on the movement of your hand. The drone features high-performance motors for incredible speeds, an intuitive user interface and the latest safety features for greater control. The new FPV system lets pilots see from the drone’s perspective in low-latency high definition thanks to O3, the third iteration of DJI’s proprietary OcuSync technology. Its unmatched reliability and transmission range help pilots capture ultra-smooth and stable 4K video at 60 fps with the assistance of RockSteady electronic image stabilization.
Empty streets and empty seats
With the introduction of DJI’s FPV drone, shots like those from Jay Christensen will tend to become more common… but the photographer and videographer is a pioneer in this type of shoot, an art he has been practicing and refining for a while now. In fact, the Right Up Your Alley is not the first video he creates using the technique. Either under the name JayByrdFilms, cooperating with Rally Studios, SkyCandy Studios or as Jay Christensen, the videographer has published videos that confirm he has been refining the technique. Feast your eyes on this treasure trove!
Together with cinematographer Michael Welsh of Roseville, Jay Christensen filmed the empty streets and buildings of Minneapolis during the COVID-19 lockdown, using DJI Inspire 2 drones, a moving experience you can read about in one article from Deanna Weniger published by TwinCities.com. It’s a more classic approach in terms of image capture, but the roots for the other videos are clearly visible.
With Michael Welsh and SkyCandy Studios, Jay Christensen captured a bike riding inside the Rosedale Center for their 2021 Spring Campaign, another – insane – example of the options a FPV drone gives to creative artists. But from the House FPV video to the Movie Night FPV, shot inside the Mann Theatres Plymouth Grand 15, the Target Center video, the one for The Berkman Apartments and the exciting shoot at Moose Lake, Minnesota, the photographer as honed his skills.
Getting the timing right
Some will say that the Right Up Your Alley video is not real, but in an article published by FOX9 website, Jay Christensen reveals that “the aerial tour is all one shot as the drone moves through the bar, bowling alley and theater” adding that “it took a few takes to get the timing just right.” The process is not new to him, though, as Jay Christensen and “his coworkers at Rally Studios have also completed several one-take fly-throughs for the Timberwolves, the Grand Theater in Plymouth and the Rosedale Mall.”
It’s clear that the final video is the result of a lot of post-production – the sound, for example, is not coming from the drone but captured at the different locations – but the result continues to be the same: this reveals some Top Gun flying skills along with the ability to build a cinematic narrative. It’s true that the final sequence in this video shows the drone crashed – although it survived -, but for many of these “missions” Top Gun pilot and videographer Jay Christensen was “in and out” of the mission area. The Rosedale Mall FPV is a good example of how the shoots work.
Like any good Top Gun pilot, Jay Christensen has been practicing his skills for a long time and the Right Up Your Alley is just the revelation of a drone pilot and videographer that deserves to be hired as a specialist in an area that the film industry is using more and more. Enjoy!