Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron shot by drone

Helicopter Film Services (HFS) used the Aerigon UAV to shoot aerial footage for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Footage was fed directly into ILM’s VFX pipeline from the rig.

“The Aerigon drone was able to fly at lower altitude than the helicopter, giving us more dramatic sweeping camera moves than we'd have been able to get otherwise,” explained Christopher Townsend, Production VFX Supervisor on the film. “It was quick and efficient to get it flying, with real-time visual feedback. The resulting footage was great, stable, and clean, which was an absolute necessity as we were using it as background plates, into which we added CG VFX elements.”

HFS captured footage on set in Hendon, near London, for ten days during production of the film with a three-person crew and a RED Dragon.

Jeremy Braben Aerial DP and founder of HFS, said, “Drones can leap about, but the Aerigon is the most stable drone we’ve seen without depending on post-stabilization. There isn’t the buzz or vibration with the Aerigon gimbal.”

The crew shot background plates and live action, under instructions from Joss Whedon, director, John Mahaffie, the second unit director, Ben Davis, the DP, and the VFX supervisors, including Townsend.

“We could be working to the directions of three different people, all on the same day,” said Braben. “That made time in the air a premium during production.”

HFS created aerial view plates of a town before and after its destruction. The camera was aimed to cover off the set in tiles, so the plates would cover more space than the camera’s field of view. The VFX team built up a 3D model of the town using these plates.

“There were shots that we could only do with the Aerigon,” Braben said. “For one shot, we flew it from the top of a building, passed it through a portico, and brought it out the other side. You can’t really do that with a wire cam.”

On set at Hendon

On set at Hendon

Pete Ayriss, who flew the Aerigon on the set, is an RC championship pilot who has done a lot of 3D flying and has been piloting camera drones for five years. A camera technician assistant rounds out the crew. The Aerigon can carry over 20 lbs. of camera kit, meaning that HFS can carry the camera equipment Braben favours, such as the latest ARRI Alexa Mini.

“It’s when we add a zoom lens to the camera, that the Aerigon becomes the only cinema drone capable of doing the job,” explained Braben. “The weight shift of adding one of these lenses to the camera doesn’t affect the balance. With the Aerigon we can choose lenses that fit, are light, and that productions like.”

Lenses used were: the Angenieux Optimo 15-40 mm zoom, the Zeiss lightweight LWZ 14.5 to 45 mm, and the Zeiss Master Anamorphic Primes. Whatever lens and camera he chooses, the Aerigon gimbal and controller give him full focus, iris, zoom controls.

“Drones are definitely having an effect on lower-budget productions that require an aerial shot,” Braben added. “You’re seeing this happening in television. There’s definitely an artistic advantage to getting some shots with drones that, until now, have been almost impossible to get.”

HFS has used the Aerigon onInto the Woods, and upcoming films such as Now You See Me: The Second Act, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Spectre, and The Huntsman.

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