In all of its ambiguity, confusion, and larger-than-life qualities, the Internet is a wondrous place for showcasing talent and innovative drone pilots and drone work. Going viral and attracting people’s attention is getting more challenging by the day. The drone pilot we were talking with has succeeded in that numerous times. Whether through collaborating with big names or presenting breath-taking locations from a unique point of view, Victor Chu has been making headlines in the drone industry. The same goes for his company, which specializes in FPV drone videos and production.
Read more about his career milestones, his company’s most prominent works, and how having two drones equals having just one drone.
Credits to Sky Tech One
A Drone Pilot, Executive Producer, Director, and Entrepreneur
When you combine New York City and FPV, one of the first names that come up is Victor Chu. He is the founder of the company Sky Tech One and is an executive producer and director.
He started off doing photography for the news. “I worked for a couple of years in the New York Daily News – one of the top newspapers in the city – doing photojournalism. Also, I have credits in the Wall Street Journal and New York Post.”
After that, he started his own photography company and was doing weddings, events, and similar gigs. His career changed forever in 2014 when he bought a drone – DJI Phantom 2 with a GoPro Hero Black. “I shot something for my demo reel about the Five Boroughs of New York City and it went viral on YouTube. Now it has over 700,000 views,” he adds.
Credits to Sky Tech One
Moreover, the milestones didn’t stop there. So far, he has been featured in many prominent world media, including Gizmodo, TIME, The New York Times, Yahoo, BBC, and more. “That kickstarted my drone business and after that, I was getting a lot of phone calls – there were a lot of people who wanted to be friends or to hire me,” he told us.
At that time when Victor started the drone business, he explained to us he was doing half of the work with drones and the rest still with ground photography. “Over the years, I was doing less ground photography and I was using drones more – approximately 80% of my work at one point was drone-related, 10% ground photography, and 10% ground videos.”
Now he and his company are widely known for FPV videos. With a real passion in his eyes and expression, he told us all about the packages they offer. It was this passion, dedication, and diligence that led to them landing some of their biggest projects. “Our work for The New York Public Library, which we did twice, was featured in the news again and was covered by major outlets.”
Credits to Sky Tech One
In his free time, Victor is working on his personal projects involving drone photography and drone videography. Two of his drone videos, which were shot in Nova Scotia, Canada, and the Jiu Zhai Gou National Park in Central China, have attracted thousands of eyeballs on the Internet.
TDW: Way before FPV drone videos were a thing, in the 2000s, you became proficient in remote control fixed-wing aircraft. They were challenging to control when compared to the drones we have nowadays. So, how has this experience and knowledge helped you with flying drones?
V.C.: Absolutely, the remote control fixed-wing aircraft were very hard to fly. You need to know a little bit of air physics, master the controls, have dexterity with your fingers, and similar.
I loved flying with those planes, but one of the biggest issues was that they crashed now and then. After a few crashes, you had to get a new one. Now, they aren’t really practical to fly around the city where I live although I’d love to do that again someday away from the city.
In terms of drones, they are more like remote-controlled cars where they just hover above the place where you’re flying. When I got my first drone, I remember so vividly how intuitive and user-friendly it was. However, to get smoother shots and more cinematic footage, you still need a little more time. Also, a little bit of planning and thinking is crucial.
The model airplanes for sure gave me the experience to fly drones, even more than what I needed.
TDW: DJI Phantom 2 has been your gateway into the world of drones. What other drones are you flying now?
V.C.: I have a Mini 2, two Mavic 2 Pro’s and a Mavic 3 Cine. I like to keep things small, so, if I need an Inspire, I would just call my friend Vlad Taukachou.
If I had the time, I would get into FPV and creating FPV drone videos. However, firstly, I just don’t have the time to practice because it takes years of practice. Secondly, I don’t have time to fix them. Thirdly, I don’t have the dexterity to fix them [laughs].
Credits to Sky Tech One
TDW: In your opinion, what are, the best features in your drone fleet? What are the features that drew you and the ones you use the most?
V.C.: Typically, we use the Mavic 2 Pro the most because of the quality.
We found the Mavic 3 to be in this really strange zone between the Mavic 2 and the Inspire 2 because it’s pricier and yet we and most of our clients are satisfied with the Mavic 2 Pro as is. It comes in that small consumer size, but the videos are better, especially during sunsets, sunrises, and in high-contrast areas. I am also a fan of Mavic 3’s camera because it provides that extra level of professionalism and is more cinematic.
The Mavic 2 is great as well, but when you use it in low-light surroundings, it starts to break apart. So, if you’re taking a photo with it, you can decrease the shutter speed and get some better quality and reduce the noise in the photos.
I feel that the best thing about it is the gimbal. Besides the GPS feature and the stability thanks to the gyroscopes, the gimbal is just amazing and makes the shots very smooth. It’s incredible where technology has gone when it comes to photography.
However, I feel like clients don’t see much of a difference in terms of typical uses between the Mavic 2 and the Mavic 3.
When it comes to the Mini, I don’t fly it too much.
TDW: These are great tips. So, a guy with such diverse experience must have some memorable stories with flying drones…
Then, I heard that the sunset is at 6 o’clock. I wanted to capture that, too, so I set my watch to 5:30 so that I could make it. When I got there at 6, I shot the sunset – it was fine but I wasn’t too impressed with it. I only had four batteries and I used up all of them, so I decided to just walk around on foot. Suddenly, at 7 o’clock, there was this beautiful, pink and purple sky – everything around was in these two colors.
Actually, I found out that it was daylight savings time. So, practically I went there at 5 o’clock instead of 6 o’clock. I had like no battery left and I was panicking like crazy.
Luckily, at least, I managed to send the Phantom 3 out from the parking lot, which was a while away from the spot I wanted to capture. In the end, I got an okay shot that wasn’t planned.
Speaking of it, the issue with flying the Phantom 3 at sunset is there’s a lot of noise, so it wasn’t as good a photo as the one I got in the daylight.
I drove back the next day at the same time at sunset. But, the sunset just wasn’t the same. Next time I’ll take a better shot.
TDW: Oh, no – at least you have the motivation to visit Ireland with your drone another time. Speaking of all travel destinations like Ireland, Vietnam, China, and the rest, which ones from those that you’ve visited are your top favorites? Also, which ones are on your bucket list?
V.C.: I would mention Iceland as my number one. Then, Ireland, for sure. Also, Australia and Nova Scotia might be among the top three, too.
When it gets to cities, it’s a little tough these days. I recently went to Spain and France and most of the places in the cities were banned from flying drones.
I’ve gone to five out of seven continents, so South America and Antarctica are the next two continents that I want to go to. I believe South America is a lot easier to get to and has a lot of wonderful locations like Patagonia, and plenty of nature.
TDW: Great choices! Once you take these raw shots and raw FPV drone clips, it’s editing time! What kind of software do you use and why that in particular?
V.C.: I use Adobe Premiere. The reason for that is because we collaborate a lot. For example, my editor will cut the video up and give me all the good clips. Afterward, I select the music and start laying down the clips.
When I edit, I want to make sure that the audience is going through an experience rather than just watching a video. That’s why the music and the clips have to match up. Sometimes I listen through to 30-40 different tracks. Sometimes I’ve even asked some musicians to use their music in my videos. They typically say yes and I am happy that I’ve worked with awesome and talented people. Some days I use music that I find online on subscription-based websites dedicated to that.
With the video transitions, I tend to use just cuts. When there’s a beat in the audio like a heartbeat, I always cut the next clip to match the tempo. When there is a cymbal, I typically use a crossfade
Sometimes, I shoot in D-Log and sometimes in regular profile. I find myself shooting more in a regular profile now because I want to edit the content really fast. Heavy editing isn’t my thing – I am just playing a bit with the exposure, warmth, color temperature, tint, shadows, and highlights.
For each video of around 2 or 3 minutes, it takes me about 10-20 hours to make it ready for publishing.
TDW: It definitely takes a lot of time and effort. Editing is an important part of YouTube and you being a YouTuber, how do you feel about the platform?
V.C.: I love YouTube as a platform – it’s easy to use and it’s perfect for drone videos. The cool thing about it is you can get paid running ads and that helps content creators a lot. You can even make a couple of hundred bucks a month.
Still, it has its tricky aspects – the title and the thumbnails have to be great and it’s a challenge to generate a lot of views and go viral these days.
I want to get into TikTok, as it’s, I believe, easier to publish viral content.
These two platforms are more horizontal versus vertical videos. If we want to publish on TikTok, we have to do another (vertical) cut, because I don’t want to just chop off the sides and hit ‘post’. That way a lot of the good stuff might get chopped off, too.
We’re getting into Instagram Reels, too – plus, the videos there easily translate to TikTok.
Credits to Sky Tech One
Becoming a Drone Entrepreneur: How Sky Tech One Has Gone Viral with FPV Drone Videos
TDW: You mentioned doing wedding photography and ground photography. When did you start your company Sky Tech One and decided to involve drones? What was the initial point when the team came together and how do you look at that from this perspective?
V.C.: Technically, the journey started in early 2015 when the video truly picked up steam. At first, it was just me and I was shooting everything. I was getting around one or two jobs a month. The clients were smaller and only a few of them were medium-sized.
Before doing FPV drone videos, one of the first big things we started doing was helicopter videography and photography. I think someone brought us in to work with one of the major real estate developers in New York City where we were supposed to shoot videos from a helicopter. When I look back on it, we didn’t do a great job in terms of the videography because we were using the Osmo, which wasn’t entirely suitable for helicopter videography and we were not really doing it the right way.
We ended up doing another helicopter gig and we did better this time around. As we improved and learned, we slowly got more jobs.
Then, in 2019, I took a break from the company, almost like quitting everything. I was focused on a startup with my buddy – we were creating an app and we were completely immersed in the startup world.
TDW: How has this experience changed your drone business?
V.C.: During my startup days, I learned a lot of things about management and entrepreneurship. So, when I quit the startup in 2021, I pushed for my company – Sky Tech One – to expand.
We have tried our best – last year we were doing a lot more drone-related jobs and less regular photography.
A lot of folks reached out to us, including drone pilots and FPV pilots to fly for us. We look at their portfolio and their FPV drone videos. If we like it, they get a contract. If not, we still encourage them to come back or train with us. When there is potential in a drone pilot, we try to keep them in the circle and involve them in the work.
I’ve worked with my buddy Vlad Taukachou for several years – he is fantastic with his drone. He has a Mavic and also does ground videography. He’s our go-to guy and someone I like collaborating with often. Furthermore, in the company, we have a couple of producers, Tita Vongpradhip and Nora Bode, who help me just figure out the logistics and we have a few pilots in and around New York City who we work with often.
Credits to Sky Tech One
TDW: One of the highlights of your company’s work so far is the drone video of the Van Gogh Experience that everyone was talking about. You’ve also collaborated with the New York City Public Library. Besides putting out awesome videos, these videos are for a noble cause – to promote art and beautiful architecture and landmarks. So, how do you decide to take on a project? In the cases that we mentioned, were you approached or did you approach them?
V.C.: Definitely! In fact, they approached us for the Van Gogh gig. We were working for a video production agency that was working for Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.
We were originally supposed to fly FPV in that one. As it wasn’t bright enough, we ended up using the Mavic 2 Pro.
Credits to Sky Tech One
For the New York Public Library, it was the opposite [laughs]. Originally, we were supposed to use the Mavic 2 Pro. After we suggested doing FPV drone videos and showing them the famous bowling alley video, they agreed we could do that, too.
The New York Public Library wanted to innovatively present its new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, located in Midtown NYC. We were in charge of directing and producing a video that showcased the marvelous area using FPV drone technology. That way, viewers get to experience the grandeur of the space in an exciting and bird-like flight experience.
A lot of clients typically come to us now. We’re constantly working on our website and making sure we are visible online, which helps a ton.
Credits to Sky Tech One
Time for More Tips and Tricks
TDW: What are some of the tips and crucial lessons you’ve learned along the way in terms of flying drones or running a drone business?
V.C.: Undoubtedly, flying drones is different from just taking some pictures from the ground. Drones are aerial vehicles and you need to know how they work. So, you need a lot of flight time to be confident at a job. Doing similar jobs to the ones you’re going to do is increasingly helpful for your confidence.
Flying a drone takes a lot of practice. You need to learn as much as you can about your drone, take a test, and understand the material needed to pass Part 107. Also, you need to understand the physics behind the drone.
If you’re going to fly professionally, you’ll need two drones – always one as a backup. If you have two drones, that equals one drone. Subsequently, having only one drone with you means you don’t have a drone.
In terms of running a drone business, first and foremost, it’s important to have insurance. However, to run a business, you need to think about it from an entrepreneurial point of view rather than a drone pilot’s point of view. It’s a different way of thinking and not everyone can have an entrepreneurial mindset.
You need to get the experience and constantly learn if you want to run a drone business (and any other business) successfully.
Also, don’t price yourself too little. Drone videography (and FPV drone videos) are not like ground videography – you’re facing more risks and you need more experience and knowledge to do it well. Simply put, there are more pieces to the puzzle. If you’re charging the same as what you’re charging for ground photography/videography, you’re selling yourself short and you’re also bringing down the market.
TDW: What lies in the future for Victor and Sky Tech One? Can we expect to see more FPV drone videos?
V.C.: Running the business and trying to maybe establish a base in another city. I want to collaborate more with pilots that I like working with.
Currently, I am interested in drone racing a lot, too. So, we’ll see what comes out of that. I would like to do more research and see what I can do in that segment of the industry.
Vincent Van Gogh is credited with the quote, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” When we are chatting and getting to know drone pilots like Victor Chu, we realize that drone creators just like all artists should embrace their courage and just do the things they are passionate about.
We, at The Drones World blog, sincerely thank Victor for the lovely talk, his exquisite answers, and the time he spent in our company.
Do you know a drone pilot we should talk to so that they can share their story with the rest of the world? Please write to us in the comments!
All photos featured in this blog post belong to Victor Chu or his company Sky Tech One.
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