Last Friday was a record-breaking day for golf enthusiasts world-wide. Two of the world’s best golfers, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, participated in a one-on-one golf duel. Having scored 19 majors between the two of them, they competed for a $9 million grand prize on the Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas.
The event proved an extraordinary match-up, as well as an excellent promotional opportunity. This was the first pay-per-view golf event in history and demonstrated the power of merging of two behemoths in telecommunications and entertainment– AT&T and Time Warner.
When the Aerobo Drone team was asked to provide aerial broadcast coverage, they knew they had to take all the possible precautions to ensure smooth execution of all the aerial shots of the golfers and the course.
The Logistical Challenge in Aerial Broadcast
Time Warner asked Aerobo to broadcast aerial video of the entire golf-course– all 18 holes. The team was expected to exhibit the layout of the course to the millions of people watching the broadcast just a few hours before Tee off.
Because of logistic constraints, this shoot had to be executed by a single team of four people: a pilot, a camera operator, a visual observer, and a production assistant. And they’d get one chance to get it right. They would have to execute a perfect flight in one take, 18 times in a row.
When Technical Director Suresh Kumar started working on figuring out the appropriate takeoff and routes, he quickly realized he needed a more-sophisticated tool than a marked-up 2-dimensional map that suited the purposes of most other jobs.
He decided to pilot Vermeer, our augmented reality pre-visualization tool.
3D Pre-Visualization Aligned the Creative and Technical
Typically, Suresh and his drone team get on a series of creative calls, travel to the location for several scouts, and practice several runs to align with the production team on the aerial shots. This time, they wanted to get on the same page, faster.
Suresh used Vermeer to pre-design the flight path.
The software works by displaying a miniature, interactive 3D map of the environment to the user. The user then manipulates the camera by physically moving their iPad or iPhone through the environment.
For this project in particular, Vermeer partnered with Geomni, the leading aerial imagery company, to get the most accurate 3D model of the golf course possible. With both the drone team and the production team looking at the same, miniature environment in 3D, they had a common reference point to plot out exactly where the team planned on flying.
Once the team had decided the optimal routes and in which order, they recorded a flight plan for each hole using Vermeer. Suresh physically pushed the phone through the 3D environment to design the exact path that the camera would be flying.
The entire team was able to pre-visualize the shot, talk through alternatives, and ultimate align on how to pull of the aerial broadcast of the tournament.
The Tech and Future Applications
The Vermeer team piped in the most accurate 3D model of the golf course available from Geomni. Geomni provided oblique imagery as raw data, and a 3D specialist put all the meshes together, optimized it for mobile, and anchored the optimized model onto Vermeer based on the geolocation of its pivot point.
In broadcast production, this type of previsualize and pre-planning can save hours of labor and thousands of dollars of costs. Instead of flying in members of the production team and drone crew just for practice rounds, everyone could be aligned virtually.
Most importantly, the production team can maintain creative control. Rather than try and communicate their vision to third-party drone pilots, they can create the pre-vis themselves and hand them over to the team to execute.
Vermeer is currently released as a consumer photographer and videographer app, but the team is exploring enterprise applications. Vermeer currently has two other film projects that are planning on piloting custom-built versions of the app that makes use of high-quality 3D maps.