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Makers of that bowling alley drone video reveal hardest flight maneuver

Right Up Our Alley

A stunning video (above) shot from a drone flying through a bowling alley caused a sensation when it appeared online earlier this week.

Captured by filmmaker and expert drone pilot Jay Christensen of Minnesota-based Rally Studios, the astonishing 90-second sequence, called Right Up Our Alley, comprises a single shot that glides through Bryant Lake Bowl and Theater in Minneapolis.

The film, which has so far been viewed more than five million times on Twitter alone, was shot using a first-person-view (FPV) Cinewhoop quadcopter, a small, zippy drone that’s used, as the name suggests, to capture cinematic footage. But you sure do need the piloting skills to make it happen.

Christensen worked with Rally Studios’ Anthony Jaska to plan the drone’s flight, which was tightly choreographed to seamlessly fit with the movements of actors — customers and staff — in the scene. There was no computer-generated imagery added, with the only post-production work involving the addition of an audio track to eliminate the noise of the drone.

The result is breathtaking, but how hard was it to shoot?

Speaking this week to local news site Kare, Jaska and Christensen revealed it took five practice runs and about 10 takes to nail the final shot.

“The first few, the timing was way off and we would get to a certain part and the bowler wouldn’t be there, or maybe the drone was a little out of position, so it was cool to see, halfway through the process, how we had to kind of re-structure everything,” Christensen told Kare.

Tricky maneuvers included flying between a customer’s legs and the part where the drone flies from the bowling lane to the area behind the pins — shots that Christensen actually managed to nail every time.

The hardest move, it turns out, was the opening shot where the quadcopter swoops in through the front door after flying down from high above.

The footage does include one crash though, though that was in the script. It happens at the very end of the video as the drone essentially becomes a bowling ball, hurtling down the lane before smashing into the pins.

Incredibly, the device was still in good working order following the dramatic climax.

“It actually completely went into (the pins),” Christensen said. “It’s got this little break on the protective casing, but it still flies perfectly and we flew it right after we crashed it into there.”

Not surprisingly, the film has impressed Hollywood, too, suggesting there could be some serious offers coming the way of Rally Studios before too long.

Lee Unkrich, director of the award-winning 2017 movie Coco, described Right Up Our Alley as “one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen,” while Todd Vaziri, a visual effects artist who’s worked on the Stars Wars movies and a string of other major hits, said, “This kind of wonderful photographic innovation adds to the language and vocabulary of cinema. Just beautiful.”

Suddenly got interested in FPV drones? The latest one to hit the market comes from drone giant DJI.

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Trevor Mogg
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