Pig’s Eyes In The Sky

8 years ago | Words: Andy Wigan

More and more footage is being shot from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) these days, whether it’s for Hollywood blockbusters or action sports film clips. We spoke to an Aussie at the cutting edge of aerial filming, Pixel Pig’s Jorden Bethune.

After more than a decade as a commercial photographer – shooting everything from real estate to arty portraiture to some of the world’s best action sport athletes – Pixel Pig’s Jorden Bethune has a new obsession: aerial filming and photography. Contrary to what some believe, this involves much more than sticky-taping a GoPro to the underside of a remote-control helicopter. Having spent more than a year jumping though licensing hoops and custom-building some of the most sophisticated UAVs in the country, Bethune has now teamed up with Andy Richards. The duo, in collaboration with Swarm UAV, plan to generate the sort of world-class HD Aerial Video they believe will soon be in high demand.

Ahead of Friday’s Transmoto-exclusive release of Lewiville – the duo’s ground-breaking clip that features Victorian Pro motocrosser, Lewis Woods – we sat Bethune down to get an insight into his new aerial world, and where he hopes it’ll take him.

Transmoto: How did you and Andy Richards strike up a working relationship?

JB: I was introduced to Andy by a mutual friend, and we immediately recognised that we had complementary skill sets. My background is in commercial photography, whereas Andy has 15 years’ filming experience in TV, motion pictures and high-profile advertising campaigns. Together, that lets us cover everything – stills, video, aerial, creative direction and post production. In other words, the operation can offer a turnkey service.


^ A sneak peek at our exclusive video featuring Victorian rider, Lewis Woods, dropping tomorrow.

What sets you guys apart?

By using a three-axis stabilised, two-person operation – a pilot and camera operator – we’re all about offering high-quality HD Aerial Video. I pilot the copter, while Andy feeds me instructions on where he wants the camera – whether that’s a tiny GoPro or a huge Red Epic camera. The camera mounts we use not only allow us to provide a steady and clear image, but we can control the position and aim of the camera remotely, too. We’ve got control of every facet of it.That’s very different to what is produced by using a smaller scale quad-copter mounted with a GoPro. RC flying machines allow for high-definition, close-range aerial filming, photography and data acquisition. And obviously, it’s significantly more cost-effective than using a full-sized helicopter.

What does it take to become properly licensed to fly a UAV commercially?

A lot more than people think! To legally fly UAVs in Australia, you must hold an Operators Certificate (OC) that’s issued by CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority). This involves passing a PPL (Private Pilot Licence), logging the required flight hours, and writing a detailed Operations Manual and Risk Assessment plan. Getting a Controllers Certificate (CC) – someone who can operate underneath a company that holds an Operators Certificate – involves intensive flight training, theory, logging the required flight hours and passing a flight assessment through CASA. Only then can you be fully insured and be considered a legitimate operation.

“There are a lot of unlicensed UAV operators who can expect a tap on the shoulder from CASA before long.”

Jesus, those qualifications sound more like alphabet soup!

Yep [laughs]. I now hold a Remote Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) license issued by CASA, and I’m an accredited DJI Remote Control (RC) Multirotor and Fixed-Wing Pilot. That means I need to complete a Pilot’s Logbook after every flight, just as a helicopter or fixed-wing pilot would. Same applies with logging operations, maintenance and procedures.

Is it true that CASA has got their eye on unlicensed UAV operators?

Yep. From what we hear, there are a lot of unlicensed UAV operators who can expect a tap on the shoulder from CASA before long. CASA take their airspace very seriously and tend to dish out steep fines rather than gentle warnings.

Explain how flying a UAV via those goggles actually works.

Flying UAVs in what’s called First Person View (FPV) is pretty challenging. It involves mounting a small video camera and analog television transmitter on an RC aircraft and flying by means of a live video down-link, displayed through video goggles or a portable LCD screen. When flying FPV, the pilot sees from the aircraft’s perspective, and doesn’t even have to look at the aircraft. As a result, FPV aircraft can be flown well beyond visual range. In fact, the aircraft’s range is limited only by the range of the remote control and video transmitter.


So, tell us about the Lewis Woods shoot – “Lewiville” – the first of your collaborations with Andy Richards.

Well, I’ve photographed a bunch of motocrossers over the years, and working with young, up-and-coming talent is something I’ve always enjoyed. Seeing as I’d photographed Lewis on previous occasions, I thought he’d make a great subject for an aerial art project. Plus he’s a really nice kid. Lewis was keen to be a part of the project, and he worked with us both from concept through to execution. We hooked up at the recently revamped Bacchus Marsh facility in Victoria, and Lewiville was born. We can’t wait to see what sort of feedback we get after it drops this Friday.

Where to from here for you guys?

We’ve got some big projects lined up for 2014. We want to take this to a high-end market, and we’re in discussion with some pretty big brands and agencies for the commercial and cinema work we’re interested in. The guys I’ve partnered with have the backing to get us there and are willing to drop big money into a new copter if it means getting us that next level of job. It’s a very exciting space to be in right now.

Transmoto‘s exclusive new video featuring Victorian rider, Lewis Woods, is set to drop this Friday. Check out a few images that Pixel Pig’s Jorden Bethune captured at the shoot to get you amped. Also, be sure to check out Bethune’s website (www.pixelpig.com.au) and Richards’ all-new website (www.lensman.com.au).

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