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Podcast: Small Town Aerial Videographer to National Geo

DroneFutures.org: Hello and welcome to SightLines, a talk show by DroneFutures.org in which we speak with the leaders in the drone sector to learn what’s on the horizon and how to make the most of this increasingly popular industry. As most of our audience knows, our society is really becoming increasingly permeated by multimedia and

DroneFutures.org: Hello and welcome to SightLines, a talk show by DroneFutures.org in which we speak with the leaders in the drone sector to learn what’s on the horizon and how to make the most of this increasingly popular industry. As most of our audience knows, our society is really becoming increasingly permeated by multimedia and electronics, with more and more industries choosing advanced advertising techniques. There are some interesting ways for them to gain an edge over the competition. Today we’re going to be talking to Trevor Thoms, the founder of EpicJib Aerial Media. He’s working with businesses of all types in the Canadian Prairies to add greater dimension to their advertising efforts with drone photography and videography. Trevor welcome to SightLines and thanks for joining with us today!

Trevor Thoms: You’re welcome.

DroneFutures.org: So if the popularity of sites like YouTube and Shutterfly are an indication, we all love videos and great photography. And so I guess it’s no surprise that the average consumer seems to want more and more video of amazing images when they’re looking for a service or a product to buy. So how are you using drones in particular to give greater depth to these advertising efforts of businesses in your area?

Trevor Thoms: Yeah currently we’re using aerial photography and video for corporate videos, I guess, featuring mainly farming operations, golf courses, and the mining sector here in Saskatchewan. We’ve taken aerial video and TV commercials and broadcast TV programs as well. So, you know, we’ll entertain pretty much all other applications of UAV services as the client needs as well.

DroneFutures.org: Okay. So it sounds like a pretty wide variety, but primarily focusing on video or photography as well?

Trevor Thoms: Video is probably mainly what we’re focusing on currently today.

DroneFutures.org: Okay. And as we’re going into the summer season, you’re probably doing a bit more for those businesses that are maybe tourist-focused, such as golf courses, those types of things, is that right?

Trevor Thoms: That’s right. Yeah. Actually we’ve got some shoots planned within the next month here for a golf course up north here. And that’s going to be also featured on a 30 second commercial that’s gonna broadcast on TV.

DroneFutures.org: Cool. So what would a golf course, for instance, have done in the past if they wanted to get photos of their course for advertising purposes?

Trevor Thoms: I guess, without the UAV technology, I guess you’d basically be stuck to ground shots and those kind of applications, whereas now we can get those aerial shots of the golf course, the way it’s laid out. Basically, we can give the consumer or their users a way to see how the ball travels down the course as well. So we can give them that bird’s eye view and that aerial shot of how that operates, how that works.

DroneFutures.org: And so are there some things that you’re doing specifically for the purposes of making the golf game a better game?

Trevor Thoms: Yeah I think if a person has that perspective, of you being the ball, let’s say. People can see the course from above and, you know, basically get a better idea of how they can play their game, I think.

DroneFutures.org: Okay. Have you received any feedback from either the players or the golf course owners as to how this type of aerial photography is impacting their business?

Trevor Thoms: Well actually, we’re shooting that stuff here shortly. So, that’s something we’ll know about, you know, within the next two weeks here. Get some feedback from this guy.

DroneFutures.org: Ah so it’s a new thing for you?

Trevor Thoms: Yep.

DroneFutures.org: And would you say—well how long have you been in operation?

Trevor Thoms: A year and a half now commercially.

EpicJib Aerial videographer

DroneFutures.org: And you started doing primarily agriculture?

Trevor Thoms: Yeah. Corporate videos for agriculture last year. We shot a video featuring a fertilizer company. So basically we got aerial shots of, you know, the farmer in the field with their equipment applying fertilizer and seeding at the same time. So that was one of the things we did last year, last spring.

DroneFutures.org: So these were corporate agriculture shots?

Trevor Thoms: Yes.

DroneFutures.org: And so for what would they use those images of the tractors and the seeding and that sort of thing?

Trevor Thoms: They basically use those images as a promotional video. Typically every year they have trade shows here in Saskatoon, so they’d use that as a background to play and show potential clients kind of the shots and the different way that the farmer’s actually utilizing his equipment in the field.

DroneFutures.org: Okay. So this would be for companies like John Deere?

Trevor Thoms: Yes. The pretty clear one we did was a fertilizer company—nature’s alpine fertilizer. So they wanted to showcase the efficiency of a large farming operation. And so we got a lot of aerial shots and put together a 2-3 minute video in regards to that.

DroneFutures.org: Great. And so you’ve been around for about a year and it sounds like you’re already expanding the types of services that you’re offering. Have you found that you’ve been doing a greater variety over time as your client base grows?

Trevor Thoms: Actually, it was oh probably a couple weeks ago, we had an engineering firm wanting to attach their flir camera to our UAV. So what they want to do is get aerial shots of a bridge deck to be able to see where the moisture is in the underlying layers of the bridge. Then at that point, they can determine what areas of the road need to be repaired and the corrosion I guess—they can determine the corrosion based on the images they get from that.

DroneFutures.org: So what has been your main strategy in terms of gaining new clients or breaking into new sectors?

Trevor Thoms: Let’s see. Strategy about basically advertising? Or?

DroneFutures.org: Sure. Yeah.

Trevor Thoms: I think well, I guess the Internet plays a massive role in connecting to our clients and our services. So the videos on YouTube, Vimeo and other social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram play a huge role in getting the word out there to our potential clients. And that’s basically what we’re using to target our audience and get the word out there.

DroneFutures.org: Okay. And which channel would you say has been the most effective in terms of generating interest in what you do?

Trevor Thoms: I’d say that probably YouTube or Vimeo is probably one of the main areas that get the interest in to our product, for sure.

DroneFutures.org: And other than gaining interest, building a client base, are there other challenges that have been particularly unique to building a drone videography business in the Prairie Provinces.

Trevor Thoms: Well, I mean we do a little bit of advertising on Kijiji as far as getting our name out there. I also work for Global TV here in Saskatoon, so they kind of utilize me as another option to get their product out the door, so they can offer those services and utilize my company and our technology to get those better shots, and get those awesome shots.

DroneFutures.org: Okay. So you presumably have a few connections in the media industry, which may have helped in some of your work as well?

Trevor Thoms: Yeah. For sure, for sure. I mean—like right now, we’re doing a project with Camera Motorsports, they’re a stock car team here in Saskatoon, so in the next week, we’re going to be doing a shoot at Autoclearing Motor Speedway. So we’re kind of cross-promoting all of that and it’s going to kind of be a first for Saskatchewan, or Saskatoon I should say, that the race track is going to be featured, and a car team camera with Camera Motorsports you know racing around the track and we’re gonna be getting some epic footage of that happening.

DroneFutures.org: Ah. So would you say that’s one of the more exciting projects you’ve been able to work on?

Trevor Thoms: Yeah. We’re really looking forward to that. Also, this last fall, we shot some footage of a harvester in Saskatchewan. It was just—it was an amazing way to showcase the hardworking farmers of our province. You know, growing up on a family farm and now being able to tell that story from above opens a whole new perspective of the farming operations. So some of this footage—actually it’s B roll footage, in a two-hour program called Mankind from Space. So this aired in May, I think it was, on Discovery and then on National Geographic.

DroneFutures.org: Wow. So you’ve been contributing to some pretty big projects?

Trevor Thoms: Yeah exactly. I’ve got to say, we were pretty proud of that; you know, just seeing EpicJib on the credits along with NASA, that pretty much brought a pretty big smile to my face.

DroneFutures.org: How did you land that job?

Trevor Thoms: Well believe it or not, actually Darlow Smithson, I think it’s a company out of London. They happened to be roaming around on Vimeo and they happened to see some old footage that I had on there of some harvest operations. And they gave me a call, and tracked me down basically, and it just happened that we were shooting harvest footage at the time. So I mean, it kind of worked out more perfect, to have them call and we’re out capturing harvest footage.

DroneFutures.org: Well, do you anticipate that that will lead to additional contracts with National Geographic or Discovery Channel?

Trevor Thoms: You know, we’re hoping so. I mean, that would be awesome. I love working on projects like that and such a high profile kind of project. So, that’d be great.

DroneFutures.org: Sure. And has that—have your credits on that project generated any additional interest in your services, do you think?

Trevor Thoms: I mean possibly, but I mean with just the simple EpicJib on there, people would have to basically go on the internet and search that name, to actually come and find us. But the name is kind of unique, EpicJib, so if you type that in Google, we’re the first thing that comes up for the first three pages.

DroneFutures.org: Right. Now I noticed that you’re also a member of Air-Vid pilot directory. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Trevor Thoms: Yeah, actually, just basically over the Internet, or Facebook and YouTube, all those channels; I think it’s Patrick that runs that. So he’s created a directory of pilots that are insured and certified, and basically we’re listed on his directory amongst hundreds and hundreds of other pilots across the world on there as well. So we’re a part of that group. And his stipulations are that you have to be insured and you have to compliant with, say, Transport Canada, and their regulations in order to be on his site.

DroneFutures.org: And has that been useful for growing your business as well?

Trevor Thoms: Yeah, I think so. I mean, just because the internet’s so vast, you get a lot of people researching it and they come across these sites, so that’s basically how randomly we’ll get an email inquiring about something and they’ll mention that they’ve seen us on this particular site or that particular site. So it—definitely those outside sources drive people towards looking at working with us.

DroneFutures.org: For sure. I understand that you’ve also received your ROC-A radio license as a UAV pilot. Can you tell me a bit about that process?

Trevor Thoms: Right. Basically, at this point, Transport Canada regulations stipulate that pilots that fly UAVs for commercial purposes over, I think it’s 2 kg, must have pilot training pertaining to UAVs and ROC-A, which is like the Restricted Operators Certificate Aeronautical. So, currently there’s no UAV schools in Saskatchewan, so what it is I had to go to Alberta—there’s a Canadian center for unmanned vehicle systems out there. It’s like a 2-day UAV ground school that covers topics that are deemed essential by Transport Canada.

DroneFutures.org: Okay. And is it an expensive process?

Trevor Thoms: Actually, it’s not too bad. You know, it was basically $500 for the course plus books and other small materials like that. Considering what you learn and what they teach you, it’s definitely a value in my eyes.

DroneFutures.org: Okay. Alright. So, I guess I’m interested in knowing how you think your business is going to be developing over the coming years?

Trevor Thoms: Well, you know, currently, I work a full-time job—so that’s 40 hours a week—and then basically I spend another 40 hours a week in the evenings and weekends promoting and trying to gain more clients and get the business going. And to be honest, trying to keep up with [social media] postings, letting people know what you’re doing there—in itself, could be a full time job. In the years to come, it’s hard to say. With more and more people getting and wanting to know more about UAV services, it could eventually turn into something that I do full time and kind of fall out of my regular day-to-day job.

DroneFutures.org: Is that something that you hope will happen, or do you want to always keep your foot in the media industry as well?

Trevor Thoms: Well, yeah. Working for yourself—ultimately that’s what I would like to do. I mean I have a fairly decent job of where I am at right now. So I think for the time being, I’m gonna play both sides and continue my day job and do that—unless the demand gets to the point where I can’t keep up with both. So then I’d definitely switch over to working for myself.

DroneFutures.org: Okay. Great. Well, thanks again Trevor for chatting with us today. You can find Trevor and EpicJib at EpicJib.com. That’s E-P-I-C-J-I-B dot com. And thank you audience listeners for joining us for DroneFutures.org’s SightLines, where we discuss the future of the drone industry. Thanks again!

Trevor Thoms: Thank you!

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Trevor and EpicJib Aerial Media will be at the upcoming DroneFest in Gull Lake, SK. Attend the event to check them out!

 

If you’d like to be interviewed by DroneFutures.org to tell your drone business story, get in touch with us!

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