Eric Sterman’s Mesmerizing Drone Reel

There’s a very strong chance that over the course of this Winter season you found yourself gazing at your computer screen, jaw slightly unhinged with a wide-eyed stare at the video before you. And there’s and even better chance that on the other end of one of that endless stare was one of the many drone clips featuring the expert pilot work of master drone operator Eric Sterman. The combination of Sterman’s expertise and one of the most fruitful Winters in recent years amounted to a slough of some of the most awe-inspiring views that the North Shore has to offer.

So, in celebration of unhinged jaws and thousand-yard stares, we present a compilation reel of Eric’s top ten favorite clips he’s filmed over the past few months. The above two minutes highlights everything from breathtaking scenery to flawless Pipeline and all that’s in between. Come for the surfing, stay for the beauty – or visa versa, Either way, you’re staying. Even for this interview with Eric below.

SURFING: Your footage looks blatantly different from the average drone shooter. Why is that?
ERIC STERMAN: I’ve put a lot of flight time into my drones and continually research drones and how they operate. This has made me both confident and comfortable with flying, which has helped me obtain the type of footage I have. Equipment also helps with how different my footage looks — using a stabilizer gimbal for my cameras allows me to have steady and smooth shots. Right now i’m using a 3 axis gimbal called Gremsy H16, enabling me to carry almost any camera and lens.

Is this a 1 man operation? And how are you controlling everything?
Most of my work is done as a one man operation, where I’m able to both fly the drone and operate the camera’s gimbal. Occasionally I require a dedicated gimbal operator for more technical shots. This is done by having another person control the camera gimbal while I man the drone or vice-versa. Each of us have our own controllers to do our specific duty, however we need to be in full communication with each other to be able to obtain the shot needed.

How long can you fly for at a time?
I can fly anywhere from 10 min to 20 min depending on weight of crafts and batteries.

What’s the hardest angle to get and why?
The hardest angle to get would be a tracking shot. This is done when the drone moves in one direction while the camera moves in another direction simultaneously until the object being shot passes by the drone. This is hard because there is so much movement going on. While the drone is flying one direction, the gimbal is panning and keeping the object in center while compensating for both the drone and object movement. There is a lot of operation involved when it comes to this and a lot of trial and error.

What’s your favorite angle/subject to shoot and why?
It’s probably obvious but my favorite subject to shoot is Pipeline. I grew up with Pipeline in my backyard, so being able to watch one of the most incredible waves in the world being ridden by the best surfers in the world has been an remarkable experience. Being able to experience Pipeline from this whole new perspective has given me an even greater love and appreciation for both surfing and my home.

Out of the 10 clips you chose as your “best of,” which one stands out the most to you and why?
The Jamie O’Brien clip in Tahiti, when he’s in the barrel holding the drone and releases it while coming out of the barrel is my favorite. This is because it took a lot of communication, risk, and talent to pull a shot like that off. Everything about it was pretty difficult. Jamie pulling into a huge Teahupo’o barrel with a drone in his hands was probably the hardest part. But it was also hard not being able to communicate with him and tell him when to let go of the drone, operating the drone from a boat, and only being able to see what I was shooting from my line-of-sight because my monitor wasn’t working. In the end, I loved the risk involved and was beyond stoked to get the shot I had been dreaming of.

What is a goal of yours for this year?
I’m always trying to find ways to push drone cinematography to a whole new level. My goal this year is shoot with new ideas and hopefully get some footage that will inspire others.