Drone Pilot Jobs‘Hard Knocks’: How filmmakers got that awesome drone shot

August 27, 2021by helo-10

The Dallas Cowboys were supposed to be HBO’s Hard Knocks stars this week, but a drone pilot and NFL Films producer/director stole the show.

FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys fans were captivated earlier this week when HBO’s third episode of “Hard Knocks: The Dallas Cowboys” opened up with a three-minute drone tour of The Star in Frisco.

The Star is where the Dallas Cowboys practice, and it’s also where the team’s corporate offices are located.

The shot, all done in one take, was nothing short of impressive.

The drone weaved down Star Ave., through a Ford truck, and then into the facility, where it creased through narrow doorways and hallways to underscore the prestige of the building.

All while actor Liev Schrieber narrated, “There’s nothing like it in all of American sport.”

The idea of it all came from a similar video/advertisement done by Sky Candy Studios for Bryant Lake Bowl and Theater in Minneapolis.

That video, posted on March 15 and shared widely among photographers, shows a drone entering a bowling alley/theater then winding down the lanes and by bowling balls on their way to knock down pins.

NFL Films Producer and Director Jason Weber saw that video and wanted to incorporate a similar shot on Hard Knocks.

“It was amazing,” Weber said. “It definitely got my attention when I saw it. We called those guys and told them we wanted to do something with them, and that’s how it all came about.”

Pilot Michael Welsh, who works for Sky Candy, flew the drone during the Hard Knocks shot and wore racing goggles so he could see where he was going.

Weber, also wearing goggles, sat next to Welsh and directed Cowboy staffers to open doors or do their everyday jobs at the facility as the drone flew by. 

“I’m glad that we were able to show off just how impressive that facility was in a unique way,” Weber said. “It took some time to get the choreography down, but everybody picked up on it pretty quickly.” 

Time was something Weber and Welsh didn’t have. 

Weber told WFAA that winds were working against the crew, and The Star was being prepped for a boxing match the day the shoot happened. 

The hope was to get the shot before the ring got set up in the middle of the practice field. Not to mention, drone batteries don’t last for extended periods of time. 

In all, Weber said it took about 15 tries to get the shot. 

“It was a decent amount of reps,” Weber said.”It was amazing what Mike had to do to pull it all off.” 

Some outtakes were shared on Twitter. One of the shots hit the cutting room floor when the drone failed to cruise through a statue of players huddling up at The Star. 

In another shot, a staffer failed to open the door to the facility in time so the drone could fly through, so the crew had to back up and reset. 

But in the end, it all worked out well. A viral Cowboys talking point was born, increasing excitement for the season. 

“We were really wondering if people were going to enjoy this long shot, you know, that made them feel like they’re flying through this space,” Weber said. 

“It seems like the reaction has been positive, and I was excited that I got to be part of that.” 

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