What I learned at The Sundance Film Festival

A couple of weeks back, I attended the Sundance Film Festival, one of the world’s most important venue for independent filmmaking. I wanted to meet the people who make those movies to better understand their expectations about Hexo+ and integrate that into our grand scheme.

 Small theaters and cafés along Main Street make Sundance a very cosy and friendly event class: left

One of the promises we have to our users is to give you the possibility to create footage you could only see on the big screen up to now, so it was a no brainer that we should immerse ourselves into the filmmaking community beyond our own experience in action sports. All those amazing shots that are usually made with cranes, steady cams or helicopters are widely recognized as beautiful, but they remain accessible to a lucky few only. Our mission is to make it possible for you to create similar footage with one single one tool, our user-friendly drone. But as much as we have our own idea of how to do this, we also wanted professional filmmakers to have their say on Hexo+. And sure enough, we made the right decision by going to Utah during this particular weekend.

The Sundance Film Festival takes place in the heart of Park City and essentially showcases the world’s very best independent movies, shorts and documentaries. I think it’s fair to say it’s a very inspiring and creative moment, so we worked to make the most out of it: we were given the opportunity to organize interviews with 25 of the best filmmakers, directors of photography, actors, producers, costume designers and of course movie fans, a treasure of input for our product development. In a nutshell, here is what we learned.

Everyone was unanimous that Hexo+ is a game-changer. The user interface, which enables anyone to easily understand the creative possibilities at hand, and the stability and novelty of the few camera movements we’ve developed so far were really well received. We were told Hexo+ could take aspiring filmmakers to new heights. Small budgets are frequently involved, yet quality shots are a must. How much better can it get than a completely autonomous flying camera, with no extra crew or piloting skills needed?

The FilmMakers Lodge @ Cinema Café was the perfect spot to exchange with people building up the future of movie making

According to our interviewees, Hexo+ would obviously be most useful for a Director of Photography, but also for many others could benefit from the tool as well. A director who wants to see a draft of what his aerial shot would look like for instance: this ‘setting survey’ does not require all the classical big equipment and preparation, but just a quick flight with Hexo+. Or an actor practicing his delivery for a monologue or even for an audition: with his own drone, one would now be able to record and rehearse the scenes, make changes, and improve on the footage being made, all on his own.

Matias Alvarez, Assistant Director and Producer, explaining how HEXO+ will help him on upcoming projects class: right

In terms of camera movements, the ones we showcased (Hover, Follow, Dolly, Fly Away and 360°Selfie) already surpassed their expectations. Most independent filmmakers struggle with the investments needed to make these angles happen. This being said, here are a few constructive remarks we want to take into account:

  • An interesting movement to add would be the ‘Fly In’, to show the environment and move closer to the subject. It’s a captivating shot which can really strengthen the story of a film: “getting intimate footage from a wide shot in a few seconds,” sounds exciting to bring to reality!
  • Another comment was that our first round of footage does not showcase enough close up shots, potentially revealing the subject’s emotions. Definitely something we’ll work on.
  • There ‘s a need for curved movements: the magic in motion pictures is made possible by the curved movements, shaped by the director’s hand. We definitely want to deliver movements that look smooth and effortless. Suggestions included having the option to decide if the drone’s movement during a fly away is going to be a straight or curved line.
  • Speed control is very important, because it’s key to aesthetically pleasing footage. Again, it’s a matter of the movements being smooth. Usually, camera movement are very slow in the beginning at the end compared to the actual movement speed mid-shot.
    There’s a necessity for control over the subject’s position in the frame: framing the subject in the center is not the most common way to compose a shot.
  • Being able to get from an eye-level shot to an aerial shot has always been a major challenge for filmmakers. Hexo+ has an incredible potential for directors to create fluid movements in such shots, as never before (filmmakers struggled to have the exact same compression settings on both cameras, and had to create Motion Graphics as to do the transition).

We are most definitely going to discuss and take this feedback into account, it’s awesome stuff for us, especially when our mantra is to co-develop the product with you guys, and we believe nothing is more important than great conversations with consumers and experts.

So in case you have some input of your own regading the use of Hexo+ in a filmmaking context, comment below!

Thanks for reading!

Medhi, Co-Founder

Comments/Discussions

Medhi
Medhi is a co-founder of the company, the youngest of us, yet probably the most hungry to get the word out there. He flies between Europe and the states preparing pitches on the plane while keeping a watchful eye on every single metric you can think of.