Saturday, October 18, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 72 Meet Tom Daymont, Aerialvideographer of the St. Olaf's Invitational Cross Country Meet

October 16, 2014
Interview with Tom Daymont Minneapolis , MN

Recently I became aware of two videos taken at cross country meets using drone technology to film the events. The first was from a high school meet in Utica Park , Maryland, and though filled with noticable editing flaws, it had sections that were truly inspiring and caused me to make several comments about it to the Penn State Track and Field Alum website that had linked it.    I put the link on our site and within a few hours someone wrote and said basically that if you think the Maryland meet was good, you ought to see this one.

 When I opened this link, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The video was from the 2014 St. Olaf College Invitational Meet in Minnesota. The photography was stunning, the mass of runners at the start funneling into a narrowing outlet to the course, the colors, the Fall leaves, the trail cut through prairie grass and then through a wooded area flanked by a giant wind turbine. The placement of the camera was such that the photographer/director obviously knew the course very well. I could have sworn somebody was filming from a giant water tower, the picture was so steady. Additionally a musical score was added to the film. I knew then I wanted to talk to the person who had put this together.
Tom Daymont and His Production Crew and Equipment at the
St. Olaf''s Invitational Cross Country Meet
Backtracking through the internet I found that Tom Daymont in Minneapolis had produced this film. I contacted him online, and he agreed to talk to me about the making of the video. When I investigated a little further, I learned that Tom’s mother, Chris Daymont is the longtime cross country coach at St. Olaf’s. Tom attended St. Olaf’s and competed on the soccer team. He referred to himself as the family black sheep who didn’t run cross country or track.

On our website, Gary Wilson, former coach at U. of Minnesota and meet director of the Roy Griak cross country meet wrote to us mentioning that he had wanted Tom to film this year’s Griak meet, but they couldn’t get clearance from campus security in time to set up the filming. Hopefully this will not happen next year.

Speaking to Tom Daymont I learned the following. This was Tom’s first go at filming a cross country meet. He’s been flying drones and doing filming for about two years. He has shot a lot of stills and likes to photograph buildings and monuments as well. When asking him about restrictions in filming, I already knew a bit from some internet research. Obviously you cannot fly around an airport (not closer than 1.5 miles), definitely not over a military base, and surprisingly not over a national park. He also informed me that FAA regulations restrict hobbyist flying higher than 400 feet above ground level. Most of the film of the cross country meet was at 300-350 feet. There is software on the drone that lets the pilot know when he is approaching maximum allowable ceiling. Tom controls the drone with basic controls and monitors the view with a separate 7” screen that he can view while he is flying. Tom’s girlfriend worked with him during the meet watching what was going on from ground level in case Tom lost visual connection. From the video you can conclude that they obviously knew the course very well. A battery only lasts about 15 to 20 minutes, so to film even the shortest cross county event you will have to bring the aircraft down and refuel ie. change batteries. In terms of dollars Tom figures you would need to invest about $2,000.00 in drone, software, batteries, camera etc. to make a film of this caliber. He currently flies a DJI Phantom II drone, with a Go Pro camera mounted.

Asking him how the picture is kept so steady, he relayed that there is a device on the drone called a gimbal (more $$$) that levels the camera. What about wind? If the wind is under 15 mph, he can fly. The drone also has a GPS system to help keep it in the right place and even program a flight path.

Want to go cheaper, like the drone that costs $79.95 online, you probably won’t even be able to take it outside, and it won’t be powerful carry a high quality camera.

About other events or things he would like to film, Tom’s answer was events where people don’t generally get the aerial point of view. Getting that view from a whole new perspective is so interesting. He’d like to film a marathon someday. He also would like to film some golf courses, perhaps to promote themselves on a website. Sounds easy, yes? No. For a golf course you have to work in the daytime when there is light to film. Unfortunately golfers want to play in the daytime from the crack of dawn. The drones are somewhat noisy, and you don’t want to upset the golfers, so finding adequate time to make film is always a challenge for filming golf courses.

When I asked Tom about gatecrashers to big events that are open air, he mentioned that there are usually fly over restrictions to those kind of events. I’m also reminded of a recent international soccer match between Serbia and Albania that got stopped and then canceled when someone flew a drone carrying some kind of inflammatory message on a flag over the game and down onto the playing field.

Despite the downsides to the technology, the upsides seem to more than outweigh the them.

At this point in time, there are a lot of commercial enterprises offering to film sites on the ground. I don’t know the quality of their work. I only know that what I’ve seen of Tom Daymont’s work, I find it extraordinary . Good luck with the Griak meet in 2015. We’ll be watching for it.

Here is a link to a clip of some of Tom Daymont's  other work.  

For more info on challenges of filming cross country with a drone go to :

1 comment:

skwilli said...

When I first put the link on the blog I was aware that this was the beginning of something quite profound. I wished I could find out more about it and report it like it should be reported. Lo and behold George has done that for us. Thanks for following up on it in such a good way. The cordial relationship between our somewhat dissimilar blogs leads to a result that is synergistic, 1 + 1 = 3, as it were. I am in your debt and will link to this post with pride.

V 8 N. 43 Book Review "My Marathon, Reflliections on a Gold Medal Life" by Frank Shorter and John Brant

To read an autobiography of someone who was a contemporary, though miles above one's own abilities in the sport of long distance runni...