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Concordia announces inaugural drone videography course with indie filmmaker Diego Rivera-Kohn

Set to take off May 19, the four-week workshop is designed to attract students from a range of disciplines
April 17, 2023

A small electric drone flying in the sky Photo: Josh Sorensen from Unsplash

The popularity of aerial filming with drones has exploded in recent years. By now, chances are we’ve all seen someone fidgeting with a high-tech console while staring up at the sky.

As the technique has opened a new horizon of possibilities for filmmakers, artists and industries of all kinds, Concordia will be offering 14 students the chance to take a four-week course on the subject beginning May 19.

Introduction to Drone Videography is a collaboration between the Faculty of Fine Arts and Concordia Continuing Education (CCE). The workshop is one of the first of its kind at a Canadian university.

“We are thrilled about our groundbreaking partnership with Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts,” says Isabel Dunnigan, associate vice-president of lifelong learning at Concordia.

“This collaboration allows us to deliver Montreal’s first university-level drone workshop, and it motivates us to continue our mission of developing innovative offerings that serve the city’s diverse communities.”

Over 15 hours of total class time, participants will learn the basics of drone videography from award-winning documentary filmmaker Diego Rivera-Kohn, MFA (film production) 08. Rivera-Kohn also coordinates the digital animation program.

Learning will take place in the classroom and outdoors in the field, and each class will cover everything from safety to ethical considerations. Students will learn the technical aspects of drone operation and flight-plan creation. They’ll also explore artistic and cinematic techniques to create a narrative out of aerial footage.

New tools for new perspectives

Drone filming has transformed traditional and social media in only a few short years. The method has attracted hobbyists and professionals alike who are able to upload footage directly onto any number of platforms.

“It’s a new tool that allows for new perspectives. These shots and images used to be super expensive to get,” says Rivera-Kohn.

“It’s kind of like when they introduced the Steadicam or the dolly. It’s been pretty disruptive and revolutionary. Now you see these shots everywhere.”

The course is designed to attract a diverse cross-section of people and industries.

“We’ve really broadened the scope in considering who might be interested in this workshop,” notes Alicia Apostolakos, an instructional designer at CCE.

“It will be great for cinema people, for sure. But it will also appeal to people who are curious about drones and have never worked with them before. It could really benefit workers and their companies across all different industries.”

Corralling a ‘Wild West’ drone culture

Rivera-Kohn started filming with drones in 2019. As he points out, students can expect a learning curve as the regulatory framework around this technology is evolving.

“Most of the airspace is controlled if you want to fly in cities. There are also ethical and safety concerns,” he says.

“For a while it was kind of like the Wild West outside, especially for certain kinds of drones that don’t require licenses. You need to really know what you’re doing. We’re trying to create a safer drone culture.”

Still, Rivera-Kohn foresees all kinds of applications for this type of videography.

“We’re going to see drones being used more and more in a professional capacity. Whether in real estate, agriculture, security, firefighting, outdoor sports or geography, this revolution will continue to grow,” he says.

He adds that he is most excited to pass on the narrative and cinematic techniques he has picked up as a filmmaker.

“Honestly, I just want to share the passion that I have for drone filming and transmit a bit of the beauty that I experience when I do it. For me, that’s what it’s all about.”

Introduction to Drone Videography runs from May 19 to June 9. Spots are limited to 14 students. Classes will take place on Fridays from 1­ to 4 p.m. at Sir George Williams Campus and in the field. Find out more about the workshop.

Check out the other programs and workshops on offer at Concordia Continuing Education.

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