This Light Artist Used a Drone to Paint Stop Motions in the Sky

This Light Artist Used a Drone to Paint Stop Motions in the Sky

A light painter has explained the process by which he was able to utilize a drone and create stop-motion animations drawn in the sky — of Pikachu and a game of Tetris, no less.

Russell Klimas studied videos of Tetris and the movement of its game pieces, subsequently creating layers in Photoshop to replicate the motion. He says the grid format of Tetris made it easier to calculate the movements for each different frame that was required.

Speaking to PetaPixel, he recalls the technicalities:

I placed the overlay in Google Earth for that specific frame, and after measuring the length on the ground, applied that vertically into the air as altitude for each shape. This was made from a total of 23 frames at ISO 200, f/6.3, around 60 seconds for each frame and three drone batteries used.

For another animation, Klimas brought to life a horse galloping above LA’s skyline. Each picture was shot at 10 frames at ISO 100, f/10, around 172 seconds. He reveals that it took 11 hours to complete.

The next one he worked on involved a very clear message: "Stay home." Wanting to attempt writing in the sky, he shot at ISO 200, f/10, and a variable exposure time of 14 seconds to 210 seconds, which drained five drone batteries in the process.

For the big finale, Klimas decided to take on the painstaking task of drawing a running Pikachu. “I wanted to see what it would be like to have a looping animation that wasn’t just a static image in the sky, and this was the result,” he says. The 11 frames required were shot at ISO 100, f/10, around 209 seconds for each image, burning through 4 drone batteries. A friend advised it would need around 8 pixels moved to the right for each frame in order to make the animation come alive.

A picture using Google Earth to give perspective

It wasn’t without complication, though, as Klimas reveals towards the end of drawing his Pikachus, his drone got stuck in a tree 20 fett in the air.

I believe we are still just at the beginning of what can be done with drone light painting, and it can be pushed even further. I’m so excited to see where it goes and so grateful to have a community around me that is willing to explore this new frontier.

The pure dedication and patience is admirable, to say the least!

Klimas extends thanks to Oliv Yeh and Krzysztof Dziądziak for working through the math to make this happen and to Jonathan Bogaert and Jacco Veldscholten for writing code to make executing it easier.

See more of Klimas' work on his website.

All images courtesy of Russell Klimas and used with permission.

Jack Alexander's picture

A 28-year-old self-taught photographer, Jack Alexander specialises in intimate portraits with musicians, actors, and models.

Log in or register to post comments
1 Comment

Wow, excellent images and article. I really like this post. I am also the owner of one website related to drones.

We present a highly informative article posts quadcopter drones with and without cameras. Also, we have published a series of buying guides for drones for all budgets. Please have a look at our articles on