Odds are, you’ve seen VideoFort’s work — their footage has been used in Hollywood movies, award-winning TV shows, and broadcast TV commercials. Their work has found them shooting stock on a globe-spanning cruise and flying through explosions. Not too shabby for a day job.
What are some productions you’ve shot for?
Members of the VideoFort team have shot for every major film studio and TV network. Some of our most recognizable work is included in The Hunger Games series, The Transformers series, Suicide Squad, Fast & Furious, Tropic Thunder, and goes all the way back to Lethal Weapon 2 and Die Hard.
We’ve also done work recently shooting aerials for the Netflix Original Series Narcos and HBO’s True Detective. And if you see a car commercial with aerial cinematography, that was probably us too.
When shooting aerial, what are your biggest concerns?
The #1 and paramount consideration is always SAFETY. No person or living thing should ever be put in jeopardy to achieve “the shot.” Our teams go through intensive training programs to ensure we all make it home to our families at night.
The biggest challenge we often face is something we can’t control: the weather. We don’t have the luxury of working inside on a stage where we can control all the lighting and keep the rain or snow at bay. So planning our flights and shoots around the weather forecast is a huge part of the job.
Besides making sure the weather conditions are safe for flying, our aerial DPs know exactly the right times of day to capture certain shots and get the best results based on the angle of the sun.
What’s been your most challenging shoot?
One of our most challenging was out on a private Caribbean island a few years ago. The only way to access it was via boat or seaplane, so the logistics of getting our crew and equipment onto the island were quite challenging — especially since we had a lot of specialty equipment, like drones and underwater camera housings. Plus, any time you’re transporting equipment across international borders, there’s a binder full of paperwork that goes along with that.
Definitely when a couple of our cinematographers got to shoot stock footage on a luxury cruise that circumnavigated the globe over a four-month period. They found themselves in exotic locations, literally all over the world, and captured unique footage from a stock perspective. Not to mention, they had the experience of a lifetime witnessing all these new locations and cultures. Lucky for us, they brought their experiences back for the rest of us to see and use via their footage.
When do you shoot your stock footage?
We shoot stock footage year-round, whenever the opportunity presents itself. We have a great team of visual experts who are always eager to get out there and shoot anything visually stimulating.
Through our partners at REP Interactive, we are lucky to find ourselves in unique parts of the world, and in our days off, we’re always out exploring new locales and shooting nature content or aerials. Anytime we find ourselves somewhere new is a chance to strike stock footage gold.
Any plans to explore 360 video?
Absolutely! We’re always keeping an eye on video trends, and 360 video is really taking off. We’re in the beginning stages of researching the best camera offerings for our purposes and determining what types of 360 stock footage clips will be in high demand.
The final piece to the puzzle is figuring out how to mount and shoot 360 video from a helicopter, but our extremely talented team of technicians will solve that challenge with ease.
What are your favorite kinds of projects to work on?
Our favorite projects fall into two categories. First is action films and shows. Obviously flying through explosions or shooting a car chase scene can really get the adrenaline flowing — that’s what we live for.
We also love shooting nature footage. A large part of our stock footage collection actually originates from our work on the BBC’s Planet Earth series. We love bringing images of our planet’s natural beauty to the masses.
What’s in your “camera bag”?
When it comes to shooting aerials, we have a strong network of partners all over the world who we call on when our work takes us to the far corners of the globe. For equipment, we keep an array of R3D and ARRI cameras in our kit and have a nice collection of lenses to fit every need. We’ve also had some fun shooting high-speed footage with Phantom Flex 4K cameras and are fans of DJI’s Phantom and Inspire drones.
How has our Liftoff program helped your workflow?
Liftoff has been a great experience. In building our collection of footage over the years, we quickly realized how labor-intensive and time-consuming organizing, meta-tagging, and cataloging our footage was. Liftoff takes all that pain away. We’ve delivered several terabytes of raw footage right out of our cameras to Liftoff and have been amazed at how quickly the footage is up on dissolve.com and generating revenue.
What are your three shoot must-haves?
- Something worth shooting — whether it’s a city we haven’t shot before or an event. It’s even better if we can capture it from an aerial angle, providing a never-before-seen viewpoint.
- Our amazingly talented team members
- A can-do attitude and a wild thirst for adventure
Meet Derek Armstrong McNeill
Derek McNeill has been telling visual stories most of his life. The Seattlite first honed his eye working as a photographer in the US Air Force, then worked in advertising art direction and design. He now divides his time shooting his own documentary projects and stock footage. “After carrying around a camera kit for years, telling visual […] Read more