February 02 2022

BTS w/ Skydio Film Director - Skydio 2+ In Its Element: Location Unknown

Sierra Sarino - Senior Video Director, Skydio

Sierra Sarino

Meet Skydio’s Senior Video Director

My name is Sierra Sarino and I recently became the newest member of the Skydio creative team as Senior Video Director. From afar, I was intrigued by the capabilities of Skydio Autonomy and very impressed with the growth of the company. Prior to joining the team, my experience was limited to manual drones, so the introduction to autonomy has been really exciting. Since joining, I’ve moved to Redwood City and directed multiple productions for the launch of Skydio 2+ w/ KeyFrame. It’s been an exciting few months, and I’m looking forward to a long future showcasing Skydio’s innovative drone technology through video.

Sierra Sarino - Senior Video Director, Skydio

Story Inspiration

When I was in college, I took part in a friend’s production loosely based on an “astronaut” explorer on a desert planet and I really liked that visual. After using KeyFrame for the first time, I felt inspired to expand on that premise using continuous camera motion to showcase the journey through various “other-wordly” landscapes. I immediately called my screenwriter/filmmaker friend, Madeline Lootens (who also starred as the astronaut), and we started hashing out the details of the story. “Location Unknown” would soon take the stage as the first short story to ever be told with a single Skydio Skill. It was time to put KeyFrame to the test.

Sierra Sarino - Senior Video Director, Skydio

Filmmaking with KeyFrame

Cinematography often comes down to a struggle between the shot in your head and the tools or skills available. With the addition of KeyFrame, Skydio 2/2+ has become a much more useful tool that enables filmmakers to tell stories that were previously impossible. Skydio 2/2+ with KeyFrame is so intuitive  that there’s no need for the user to be an expert pilot or camera operator as long as you have a plan for your story, you can probably tell it better now with KeyFrame.

The goal on set was to use KeyFrame to film longer takes that let the viewer live in the moment while the scene of each location is revealed. Utilizing the precision of KeyFrame, we were able to capture shots that started close to the subject, and transitioned to reveal the vast landscape without any expert piloting or expensive gear. We easily accomplished the minute-long takes we needed to tell our story.My goal was for the audience to feel immersed in the Astronaut’s personal journey while also revealing the unique landscape of this new world. Skydio 2/2+ is the only tool that I can think of that would allow me to capture the shots I needed to tell the story in this way… at least within my budget.

In its element

Having the ability to precisely design the shot to transition from the alien horizon, through a canopy of trees, reveal our character and then let Skydio 2+ autonomously film the sequence was mind-blowing. Prior to KeyFrame, this is the type of shot that would require multiple operators and a giant crane. The drama that we built through these dynamic camera movements added a new dimension to our story-telling. It's just a matter of time before other filmmakers realize how powerful this skill really is.

Timing proved to be the biggest challenge we faced while filming. Coordinating the timing between a moving subject and camera required additional planning to make sure the camera was where it needed to be at the right moment. It often took multiple takes to get the timing right, but learning from each subsequent take, editing the positions of keyframes, and manually adjusting the flight speed as needed helped us nail the shot.

Sierra Sarino - Senior Video Director, Skydio

Sierra's Top 7 KeyFrame Filming Tips

  • Tell a story with your KeyFrames. Skydio KeyFrame was created with filmmakers, creators and storytellers in mind. For the best results, think about the story that you want in your shots. It can be as simple or detailed as you want, featuring a single shot or multiple strung together.
  • Plan your shot ahead of time. Take a moment to think about the movement of your subject, your flight path, and potential obstacles in the area, so you can frame and time your shot accordingly.
  • Practice makes perfect. Skydio KeyFrame is a completely new storytelling tool that enables incredible cinematography, but it requires a bit of practice to create mind-blowing and engaging shots. I suggest getting out a few times to practice the skill before you’re on set, so you’re 100% comfortable with how to nail the shot the way you want.
  • Edit your KeyFrames and adjust flight speeds.If you don’t nail the shot on the first try due to timing or framing, edit your keyframe points and consider adjusting the speed of the drone as it flies so you can more precisely time the shot with the desired action.
  • Be aware of your environment. Set yourself up for success by planning your shots where your Skydio 2/2+ is likely to perform at its best. Avoid extremely dense or thin obstacles, You’ll see much better results if Skydio has room to navigate as opposed to dodging obstacles throughout the entire flight path..
  • Place your first KeyFrame close to home. Placing your first keyframe points closer to your take-off location can help to ensure a more precise flight path. Additionally, because of Skydio's unique vision system, KeyFrame points set near objects and structures will be even more accurate than those further away from the ground.
  • Use “free-camera” mode for added control. “Free Camera” mode allows you to manually adjust the pan & pitch of the camera with the controller, as Skydio autonomously flies the path. This requires manual piloting skill and smooth fingers, but gives you more control and ensures you nail the timing.

Tag #SkydioKeyFrame to be Featured

I’m excited for filmmakers to realize how powerful Skydio KeyFrame is for storytelling. While some may be resistant to replacing traditional methods of cinematography, I believe those that understand, adopt, and practice with KeyFrame, will be rewarded with endless inspiration and creativity.

I encourage everyone to download and start practicing with KeyFrame to understand its capability. Even more so, think about the types of stories you want to tell with your drone’s new found capabilities. As always, make sure to tag #SkydioKeyFrame and @SkydioHQ for a chance to be featured on Skydio’s social media. We’re keeping our eyes peeled for the best KeyFrame videos we can share to inspire the Skydio community. Keep your eyes peeled for more opportunities to win big with your KeyFrame shots!