June 28, 2022

Aerial Cinematography Made Easy - Behind the Scenes with Filmmaker Alex Hogue

Kendall Martin

Kendall Martin

Alex Hogue on production in british columbia
Skydio freelance video producer, Alex Hogue on set of Skydio 2+ In Its Element - Mountain Biking Slab Heaven, B.C.

Filming action sports with autonomous self-flying camera drones makes life easy for video producers & content creators. Ex-GoPro storytelling extraordinaire, Alex Hogue, utilizes Skydio Autonomy (unmatched drone obstacle avoidance) to capture incredible drone photography/cinematography, whether he's working on set of a video production set or filming his own outdoor solo-adventures.

Alex has become so much of a Skydio expert through his projects with Skydio and his personal use, he's now a regular member of the Skydio production team, thanks to his outstanding post-production and filmmaking chops. In fact, he recently filmed and edited our latest Skydio 2+ In Its Element episode entirely solo.

Introduce yourself, tell us about your background, and what you’re most proud of accomplishing.

I’m Alex Hogue, 33 years young, currently living and playing out in Bend, Oregon. On the career side of my life; I’ve been running my own video production and editing business since 2020 (because covid). Since that allows me to pick my ‘official’ title, I’ll go with ‘Professional Outdoor Adventure Filmmaker’. Previously, I worked on the media team at GoPro for 7+ years. Editing, shooting, pitching, planning - basically if you’ve seen a GoPro video in the prior years, you’ve probably seen some of my work.

In the years before that I’ve worked for several other video companies making everything from Jeremy Jones Snowboard Films, to historically accurate National Park documentaries and US Army Superbowl commercials. I firmly believe it’s important to have a good work / life balance, so in my personal time I’m usually snowboarding, mountain biking, running, playing hockey, dirt biking, or failing to learn guitar.

Alex Hogue at RedBull Rampage
Alex Hogue Rigging GoPros for athletes at RedBull Rampage

How did you get involved with Skydio?  

As athletic and outdoorsy as I am, I’m also a total geek when it comes to technology. I started flying camera drones back in early 2015 when they were starting to become popular in the consumer world. I was hooked, I thought they were so fun, and the quality of the shots would instantly raise the production value of any video I made.

Eventually I also helped test and launch the GoPro Karma drone. Well, we all know how that campaign went…fast-forward a few more years and a lot of the amazing people and friends I worked with at GoPro were now at other rad companies, including Skydio.

Skydio Flight School filming
Alex Hogue filming footage for Skydio Flight School

Skydio’s Senior Producer, Phil Matteinni (GoPro Alumni and friend), called me up a few days before Christmas in 2020, “Hey Alex, we need some help finishing up editing on this Skydio Flight School episode… you interested?”. At the time I had never even seen a Skydio drone and had no idea how smart this drone really was (or if it worked the way say it does). After creating a few Flight School episodes, I felt I knew how to confidently let the drone fly itself, and learned and all of its features. A short while later, I was shooting my own drone photography content for the episodes. That evolved to shooting and editing/shooting/producing other Skydio drone content as well. I couldn’t be more pumped to be involved in shaping the media production side of things at Skydio.

Alex Hogue and Phil Matteini filming skiing with Lynsey Dyer
Alex Hogue, Phil Matteini, and Lynsey Dyer filming skiing on set of Skydio Flight School

Do you have experience flying manual (non-Skydio) drones? If so, How has Skydio been different? Any stories you’d like to share?

Oh boy haha. Over my years flying quadcopters, I’ve experienced quite a bit. After flying various consumer camera drones from multiple brands, it was inevitable that I’d get sucked into the FPV / Freestyle drone black hole. I love it. Skydio and FPV quads are totally different tools for different purposes however. I’ve custom built a few FPV camera drones, and I still continue to fly those as well.

FPV drone with controller
Alex Hogue's FPV gear

FPV quads are fully manual, no gps, no hover, insanely fast, and because the control of them is fully independent on each axis (this is why you can do flips and such) they require hours of practice, ideally in a simulator. Even with years of typical consumer drone flight time, I feel confident saying that any individual with no FPV experience would not be able to pick up a controller and fly a FPV style quadcopter without a near instant crash. It takes considerable practice to build the muscle memory necessary for basic FPV control.

Skydio drone filming Alex Hogue snowboarding
Alex Hogue snowboarding on set of Skydio Flight School

Skydio is different in so many ways. I literally watched (ok..edited) a few Flight School Episodes, went backcountry splitboarding on a sunny powder-filled day and self-captured some sweet aerial photography …of myself. I’ve never had any drone footage of myself snowboarding (for some reason they won’t give me a RedBull logo on my helmet..)  because no one’s ever there to film me!

My Skydio 2+ has followed me through some insane stuff that there’s absolutely no way I (or anyone else) could pilot through and still maintain a shot. It’s one of those things that you kinda need to ‘see it, to believe it.’ 

Skydio 2+ follows me anywhere

Skydio 2+ follows me anywhere

Enter: Skydio, your personal drone that follows you, which transformed the previous concepts of what’s possible with drone footage. Since that first time flying, I’ve logged considerable hours on Skydio drones in numerous places and environments. My Skydio 2+ has followed me through some insane stuff that there’s absolutely no way I (or anyone else) could pilot through and still maintain a shot. It’s one of those things that you kinda need to ‘see it, to believe it.’ 

While adventure touring on my dirt bike I purposefully put it ‘through the ringer’ - (thousands of fire-burned tree stumps at high speed flying backwards type of stuff), and to my surprise I still went home with a fully functional drone. Pop the SD card in the computer and I’d literally tense up watching some of the moments in the footage as the drone dodges through trees at near incomprehensible speeds. Bonkers!!!

Darren Berrecloth and kenny smith mountain biking british columbia
Darren Berrecloth and Kenny Smith climbing The Slab.

Tell us about how you ended up in Canada with Darren Barrecloth and Kenny Smith for this production.

Honestly, a pretty similar story here as to how I started with Skydio; Phil called! HAHA. I had also been lucky enough to previously work with Darren Barrecloth out at RedBull Rampage. Darrens vision for the trip was one-of-a-kind, and an exclusive opportunity. These types of trips are very rare, and I’m humbled and honored to have been offered the trust to tackle it. After meeting with Skydio Senior Producer -  Phil Matteini, Devon DiPitetro of Skydio Consumer Marketing, and Kendall Martin - The longtime Skydio guru of many hats - I got my marching orders and was booking tickets to Canada, researching COVID border protocols, and pulling my camp gear out of the closet…

That terrain looked gnarly! What were some of the challenges the team faced on the production?

This production had all kinds of challenges. With that in mind, everyone was professional and well adapted to the demands of adventure filmmaking in remote areas.

Skydio In Its Element behind the scenes of hiking
Climbing to the summit of Slab Heaven

To list a few challenges we faced during the production: the amount and weight of gear for each individual, packability, food, grizzly bears, weather windows, physical abilities, charging equipment, elk sausage farts..and much more, including some of the sketchier ascents/descents I've ever witnessed on a mountain bike. Keeping the bike’s clean wasn't one of the challenges however - it’s solid rock everywhere out there, so after 3 days of riding, the bikes still looked brand new.

Skydio production campsite
Slab Heaven production basecamp

Any specific stories or moments stand out from your time on the Slab with Kenny and the Claw?

This trip was full of memorable moments - that’s what life is all about! One that stands out is ‘Rock Bowling’. After hiking around on massive slabs for days with 4 other guys, things start to get weird. This is how Rock Bowling was born. Basically, take the biggest rock you can find, roll it down the perfectly smooth granite slabs and see who could get the farthest before it stopped or just completely exploded. We experimented with all shapes of rock and a bunch of different slopes. Yea - very 5-year old of us, but it made for some great laughs.

Alex Hogue rock bowling on set
Rock bowling on set Slab Heaven production

Some other memories that come to mind: my first time finding and eating wild blueberries, jumping in one of the freezing cold alpine lakes to rinse off in the evening, staying in my tent all day during a non-stop downpour of rain, and of course the unimaginable beauty and remoteness of the area we were in. Oh - and at one point I was packing up a drone on this huge slanted slab and the case (drone, gear and all) nearly slid off a couple hundred foot cliff - I managed to snag it just in time though ;)

Skydio 2 dodging trees following dirt bike
Skydio 2 flying in trees while following Alex Hogue as he rides his dirt bike

I was purposefully testing it to get lost, crash, or just fail - I ended up with some pretty sweet self-captured dirt bike footage. It just seems like that shouldn’t even be possible.

Testing drone tracking and obstacle avoidance

Testing drone tracking and obstacle avoidance

What is your favorite shot from the video and what is your favorite shot you've captured with Skydio?

There’s so many beautiful shots that were captured on this trip, it’s hard to choose. The shot at 2:11 is a top for sure. It has Darren and Kenny riding along the edge of a couple hundred foot cliffside, and jumping over a gap. It communicates how remote we are, how big the granite cliffs are, and how high-stakes the riding is. I feel it's a great representation of what Freeride Mountain Biking is, and the drone captured the scene perfectly.

Darren Berrecloth and kenny smith mountain biking british columbia
Darren and Kenny biking a sketchy line: Slab Heaven, British Columbia

From a broader view, my personal favorite Skydio shot is the one I mentioned earlier. Dirt biking through an apocalyptic, fire-scorched tree cemetery while my follow drone tracks me while dodging an insane amount of trees. I was purposefully testing it to get lost, crash, or just fail - I ended up with some pretty sweet self-captured dirt bike footage. It just seems like that shouldn’t even be possible.

How is filming with Skydio different from other drones/cameras?

This simple answer is, it’s easy. It’s the only follow drone I'd feel comfortable allowing fly itself, thanks to it's unmatched drone obstacle avoidance. It's also the only drone I'll teach new pilots how to fly within minutes. With some basic drone tips, tricks, and safety knowledge from Nicole Bonk (host of Skydio Flight School) - you’re set up for success.

Launching Skydio 2 with phone app
Alex Hogue's first time flying Skydio

FPV is a gamble. You can capture incredible shots, but the battery time is short, and crashes are inevitable, even for experts. Generally, there's no way to move the camera independently of the flight path, so filming options are limited. Other camera drones may have subject-tracking and obstacle avoidance, but these are unreliable features - seriously, watch the YouTube reviews. Skydio is smart and has gained my confidence, while surprising me time and time again with their drones ability to fly themselves and avoid obstacles time and time again.

I can track myself, track someone else, fly backwards through obstacles, program KeyFrame cinematic shots, and the Skydio App works really well. 4K60 is my go-to for my camera drones, as this gives the best of both worlds (resolution & slo-mo). Skydio takes full advantage of the Sony CMOS sensor on Skydio 2+ and has incredible software tuning resulting in amazing camera image quality, so you can export and share your full resolution clips from the app and not worry about post-production or editing.

Anything you’d like to add about yourself or the production?

My first drones were huge, and very limited. Drone photography tech has evolved so much that I couldn’t even imagine flying those old manual drones without the drone obstacle avoidance built in on the Skydio 2+. With that in mind, if you do fly, do it responsibly and take consideration for your surroundings, safety, and the environment.

Darren Barrecloth mountain biking british columbia
Darren Berrecloth mountain biking Slab Heaven, B.C. at sunset.

I’m incredibly grateful to Skydio and Darren for the opportunity. This trip was one of the best trips I’ve gotten to experience on a career and personal level. My immediate goal is to become even more involved with drones as a production tool. Meanwhile, I want to teach, inspire and continue my self-growth and awareness journey. All while continuing to craft powerful, thought provoking, authentic content that generates a deeper connection with viewers. I had to overcome some challenges as a kid (just like everyone) but I continually look at what I’ve accomplished and I want to share that experience and prove that it’s possible with the next generation.

filmmaker Alex Hogue
Skydio video producer Alex Hogue out in his element

If you’re reading, and want to join this effort - send me a message on IG (@ahhogue) or cruise over to www.AlexHogue.com to view more of my work.

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