Capturing and Editing a Cinematic Building Demolition With a Drone

Capturing and Editing a Cinematic Building Demolition With a Drone

As I was browsing Facebook, my attention was caught by a short video made by Arthur Nguyen. The brief video depicts demolition of two university residence buildings but what got me hooked was the way Nguyen recorded and edited it, which made me want to watch it several times in a row. I reached out to the young artist behind this video to find out more about why and how he created it (and on a student's budget!).

Nguyen, who's a 22-year-old student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, found out about the demolition plans only the night before. UNL Communications and UNL Engineering departments were documenting the demolition with drones and as such had cleared the air space for the duration. Because he wasn't commissioned to document the event, he had a free reign to be as creative as he could be. Drawing inspiration from "Sam Kolder and Peter McKinnon, who use speed ramping and reverse playback in their work and who exploit digital manipulation and fast camera movements for stylized transitions between shots," Nguyen opted for DJI Spark at 1080p30 to record this.

Albeit Nguyen admits it's not the best drone out there, it was a good choice for a student who cannot afford high spec equipment just yet. Currently, Nguyen focuses primarily on private client work and not corporate or commercial, the sheer spectacle of an aerial shot combined with “good enough” image quality and resolution are enough that the average person typically doesn't pick up on any lack of quality. So for how much it costs, the Spark offers a lot for his work.

I took off about 15 minutes before the planned demolition to figure out where I needed to be in the air to get the framing and camera movement I wanted, practiced the flight, then flew back, landed, swapped batteries, and took off again. I was back in position about a minute before the demolition happened. The shot was a simple backward and upward flight that required no tilt adjustment. I flew in Sport mode to enable higher max speed so that the footage would show more significant camera movement for such a short recording of a large object so far away.

Nguyen used Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2017 to edit his video and the final product was 15 seconds long. Short enough to keep people's attention, who viewed it on Instagram and Facebook, but also long enough to capture the audience, such as myself. The video was uploaded only two hours after the demolition, which was still fresh in local people's minds. Nguyen believes the quick upload resulted in positive feedback from the viewers, but the video has since caught the attention of people out of the state, and beyond.

Although building demolition videos is not something Nguyen specializes in per se, he does inject his love for videography in his photography shoots, thus creating more engaging content that focuses on "unfiltered emotion" through "rapidly switching between photo and video while shooting portraits." He notes, interlinking the two mediums in delivering his client's work has given him a very positive feedback, and client's friends and acquaintances are more likely to engage after he delivers his "quick, 60-second, social media-shareable videos for clients of their sessions."

Find out more about Nguyen's work on his Instagram.

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Anonymous's picture

Anete, did Nguyen notify the FAA and Lincoln Airport about his flight? Did you know that The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is within 5 miles of Lincoln Airport. Did you know that the Nebraska Air National Guard has its 155th Air Refueling Wing based at Lincoln Airport. Let me guess, you did not ask or check. I do hope I am wrong. I understand that everyone loves all these beautiful and unique sights, however, I do believe that one day soon drones are going to be banned for most of us. It is because people do not respect the rules and websites such as F Stoppers should not be promoting these illegal activities. I get it. You and others need page views. However, you are doing a serious disservice to the people who use drones the right way.

Anete Lusina's picture

Edited the article to clarify that the author indeed did have airspace available, I just hadn't mentioned it before.