6 December 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network

Irish Film and Television Network




Features & Interviews

Skytango CEO Steven Flynn talks Drones and the Irish Market with IFTN
21 Jun 2017 : Katie McNeice
Drone software is one of the fastest-growing technologies in Ireland and the EU, offering an abundance of possibilities to filmmakers in terms of what we capture, how we capture it, and how it affects our storytelling.

Not only that, they are becoming an integral part of promoting our natural landscapes in tourism and related industries, and for coverage of events and other media. With this also comes the obligation to stay up to date on rapidly evolving regulations, and a need to educate ourselves on the dos and don’ts of using drones in Ireland.

Steven Flynn is an Emmy Award winning Filmmaker and CEO of Skytango, a business at the forefront of the drone industry in Ireland. He talks us through the company, from its early days through to the services filmmakers are now availing of.

IFTN: Firstly, tell me a little about Skytango; when did the business first start and how has the drone industry in Ireland evolved since?

“Skytango was formed in September of 2015. We started building the software when we saw consistent problems with how the business of drone filming was done. Customers who could only afford “one shot” but still took a day to do, budgets that were just “too high”, landowners not having a say in how drones were flown from their land, and that doesn’t even address the issues around accidents and insurance rates. So we began looking at ways to provide more value to the business of flying drones, while also looking for ways for customers to get more value for their money spent.”

IFTN: Talk me through the services you offer on the site and how they benefit professionals in film and television?

”Skytango is in a real growth phase. As a marketplace the services we offer are designed to work together. So for us, it’s been a slow burn to get this off the ground. Building a marketplace is hard as you don’t get sellers without the buyers, and you don’t get buyers without the sellers. So we’ve been very patient as we roll out the different parts of the service. Currently we offer integrated booking services for buyers to find the right pilot including tendering for jobs, bidding and awarding jobs, and communications threads to keep it all clean. We’ve recently added a new stream for news services like RTÉ and the BBC and newspapers…really anyone looking to find pilots in real-time to enable the customers to quickly award a job to a pilot and get them on their way to return the media for a deadline.

”For the pilots, we offer them a place to promote their services, bid on jobs, a payment system, and the ability to curate their own stock library assets for long term rewards. All of this has been growing over the last 18 months, and this fall should be the time we really start to populate the platform with various content from around the world.”

IFTN: I notice you've got a lot of great content on your website, from following updates to EU regulations to tracking the cool and innovative things people are doing with drones. Do you think we in the film industry in Ireland are taking advantage of this activity?

“What is really interesting about skytango.com is the content you can find. We’ve spent a lot of time developing relationships with drone companies and thought leaders around the world. Our blog has become a great source of content for many people when they want to see what is going on in this space. I do think that some Irish pilots are some of the best in the world. They fly in high winds and are now regularly flying in the rain (the camera and lens are now the one piece of kit that can’t get wet). We have some of the world’s best custom built drones flying around on film sets, but I always think there could be more. Maybe one thing that is holding us back a bit is giving more authority to licensed pilots, and enforcement against those that are flaunting the rules with their drones.

IFTN: What are some of the more interesting projects and pieces of footage you've captured since the business was founded?

”One of my earliest projects, and still one of the most unique, was a job for John Beatty, a Dublin based artist. Back in 2013 he brought us up to Donegal to fly a drone from a mountain top down into the valley, and then into a building, up a glass hallway into a room to land on a big white disk. The heavy lift drone was carrying a custom made robotic pen that once on the ground wrote out the letters “No Boots On The Ground”. It was an installation piece, and while we shot it in chunks, it was really a great challenge. In this piece there is a shot of this large drone flying up a glass corridor, shot from the outside of the building. It looks faked, but we really did it.

“We have also just finished flying the last season for ‘Vikings’. Flying an Arri Alexa over walls of flame, and chasing boats across Lough Dan in high wind has been loads of fun.”

IFTN: Finally what advice would you give to filmmakers looking to experiment with drones for the first time?

The two best pieces of advice I give for using drones are two fold–one positive and one cautionary.

Learn Jazz! Drones have become so easy to fly that you can really take your time and come up with great things to do. They have a way of surprising you when you get them moving. So often I see Directors and DOP’s come up with this great shot that is amazing in their mind’s eye. Then for whatever reason it just isn’t quite working. Weather, difficulty, timing–something is making it just not be right. And yet, I’ve watched the real shot float by as the drone was transiting to position one, and yet nobody was really thinking about that moment. Go in with a direction, and then let the timing and path unfold and you’ll be surprised at what the camera will give you in unexpected moments and angles.

”Don’t get cocky! These machines are getting so dependable and easy to fly that you can easily get complacent about all that is going on around you. In addition when something does go wrong (and it will), you better have enough practice to be able to recover the rig in full manual mode. You don’t ever want to be the person who puts your production in the news for the wrong reasons, as it’s just not worth it. So know the rules, respect them, and hire a qualified pilot to fly legally in whatever area you need coverage.

Visit Skytango Online

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