This weekend, 3DR and the filmmakers behind the movie Sugar Mountain screened a short film at the Robot Film Festival in San Francisco, and took home the award for “Best Telepresence” — i.e., “seen through the eyes of robots”! (Watch the winning film here, or at the end of this post.)
The Botsker-winning short, Robots in Alaska: The Making of Sugar Mountain, features astonishing aerials of a team of Australian adventure skiers on the glacial slopes of the Chugach, in a remote corner of Alaska. The aerials were provided by a pair of Irises, nicknamed Bert and Ernie, which 3DR’s Brandon Basso gave the Aussies, along with a few hours of training, before the crew headed north. The team had to learn everything else on the job, which involved skiing up to 20 miles a day, packing and unpacking, flying, moving, and repeating it all again — not to mention figuring out how to keep batteries warm and solder replacement motors in -20 F temperatures.
Cinematographer Danny Coolahan gave a talk about the experience at this year’s DroneCon, explaining how all their gear broke eventually in that forbidding environment, even his $10,000 camera — but he couldn’t repair that camera the same way he could easily repair Iris. Said Basso, “That fact alone is a huge testament to all the sweat that went into designing and producing the aircraft. It’s sometimes all too easy to forget that these things ‘just work’ today because of literally years of software development on one of the best-supported open source robotics projects ever.”
The winning film is a witty “making-of” short in anticipation of the crew’s feature film, Sugar Mountain, coming this November. Filmed over the course of a month around a remote fly-in glacier camp near the Arctic Circle, Sugar Mountain is the story of a team of city folk from Australia on a quest to climb and ride Alaska’s Sugar Mountain — a mythical peak that may or may not exist beyond the dreams of the crew themselves. Showcasing 3DR’s world-first drone technology, the film is inspiring both cinematically and personally, the glittering Alaskan slopes standing for the ambition, fear, and adventure of any passion pursuit.
Thanks to everyone from the crew, 3DR, and Helly Hansen apparel who helped make this ambitious vision a reality! Enjoy the movie!