From the Cutting Room Floor to Flying Drones

#DellInsideCircle member, Adobe Expert Trainer, and the co-owner of Mid-Atlantic Drones, Luisa Winters uses her Dell Precision 5750 workstation daily.

Luisa Winters, co-owner of Mid-Atlantic Drones, is an Adobe Expert Trainer, a certified pilot, and has more than 30 years’ experience in video production and cinematography. In 2011 she became interested in “the tripod that flies.” Luisa now combines her passions and expertise to capture award-winning footage for clients across real estate, construction, agriculture and other industries.

As a #DellInsideCircle member, Luisa uses her Dell Precision 5750 mobile workstation daily. We sat down with her to hear more about the role of drones in the construction industry, the appeal of Adobe After Effects, and the evolution of video editing tools. 

Matt: As an Adobe ExpertTrainer, what video editing tools are you most excited about?  How has the use of Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro evolved over the years?

Luisa: Years ago, people were either trained as Motion Graphics artists or editors; rarely both. Nowadays it is so easy to move from one program to the other using Adobe Dynamic Link that it makes sense that there’s an overlap in skillsets.

Some of the most useful tools in both Premiere Pro and After Effects are Lumetri for color correction, plus Motion Graphics Templates. Content Aware fill in After Affects has enhanced my drone shots by allowing me to safely (and easily) remove unwanted objects from moving shots. Productions in Premiere Pro lets me create episodic YouTube videos easily by putting all my previous projects in the same productions so I can refer to them quickly.

Today, the incredible speed at which we can accomplish things has accelerated my ability to do more creatively.

How has the evolution of technology impacted your career and the work that you do?

One thing that has changed rapidly throughout my career is technology – fifteen years ago, it would take hours to process images, but now it can be done in minutes. Faster processing and more powerful workstations like the Precision 5750 let me deliver better projects. It is not that they make me a better artist; it is that they give me more time to try new things. As creators, it’s important to have time – that’s the beauty of technology to the service of art. 

Any advice for someone starting out in editing, cinematography, or drone operation?  

I think the best advice I can give anyone in this area is to just get out there and do it. Sometimes my students tell me they don’t have a job yet, so they cannot practice editing or flying a drone. But if you don’t improve your art, how do you expect to get hired? You have nothing to edit? Create it! If you have a phone or a GoPro, make and edit your own video. We all get into this line of work because we love it, so practicing should be fun and not a chore.

Let’s talk about your current role. How established is the use of drones in construction, and how has the pandemic changed the nature of your work?

 The use of drones in construction is common, not just for technical data such as collecting measurements and volume information, but also for progress reports. Clients like to monitor job progress and they don’t always have to opportunity to visit the site as frequently as they like. It’s an effective way for clients to view near real-time updates. All we need to do is put the drone up in the air and go!

With your extensive experience in the media and entertainment industry, did you find it challenging moving into drone work?
There are lots of synergies between the two – the technology we use, and the rendering workflows are similar – we’ve just swapped out keying, compositing and masking for maps and data collection.

There is still a lot of After Effects work going on with drone work – for example, lots of 2020 marathons were converted to virtual runs. For a few clients, we were tasked to add sponsor banners throughout the run route using After Effects. This was challenging as it used the camera tracking feature in After Effects (3D camera tracker) and then I had to add the banners and even rotoscope where needed. It was time-consuming, but the clients where thrilled! 

What is the best or most memorable project you’ve ever worked on?

We recently captured the demolition of four radio towers, which was all over the news in Washington, D.C. We arrived on site at 7:00 am, the explosions happened at 9am, and by 2:00 pm we had everything complete and uploaded! It would not have been possible without the speed of the technology I am using right now.

About the Author: Matthew Allard

Matthew Allard sits in the Dell Precision workstations team and leads strategic alliances for the Media and Entertainment industry, working closely with Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), customers and technology partners. He has more than 20 years of experience within the tech sector, and prior to Dell, he held marketing and product management roles at Autodesk, Avid Technology, Schneider Electric, Microsoft Softimage, Media 100 and X-Rite. Matthew lives with his family in the greater Boston area and loves movies, seafood and checking out live bands.