Michaelangelo Masangkay – Founder, Top Drone

For this, the 39th episode of the StartWell Podcast we sat down with the founder of Top Drone – a Toronto based film production company that exclusively works with Drone technology on projects for entertainment and commercial purpose.

In the conversation, Michaelangelo tells us how he got started with drones and what sets his company apart from others getting started in this emerging type of cinematography.

In a rush? Here are some highlights from this conversation

  • Drone technology and its accessibility. (0:29)
  • Using drones for filmmaking. (3:21)
  • Marketing and regulations for drone operations. (11:08)
  • Legal drone operations in Toronto. (13:50)
  • Scaling a drone-based production business. (20:19)
  • Film production in Toronto, Canada. (23:07)
  • TV production, technology, and evolution. (28:55)
  • Filmmaking, technology, and content creation. (32:02)
  • FPV drone technology for cinematography. (37:55)
  • Drone piloting and cinematography techniques. (41:07)
  • Drone technology and commercial opportunities in the film industry. (47:45)

Spend time with this conversation - here's the full transcript

Qasim Virjee 0:29
Hello and welcome back to another episode of the start. Well, podcast. Once again, I am Qasim in studio here on Kingstree West in downtown Toronto. This time joined by my guest, Michael mussen. Que Yep, who is the founder owner of a really interesting company we're going to dig into, which is called Top drone. Yes. Welcome back to the studio. Yeah.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 0:52
Thank you for having me.

Qasim Virjee 0:53
It's a pleasure, man. I love the idea of drones just conceptually, the idea of having these unmanned vehicles that we can kind of remotely control. Let's just jump straight into it. Sure. So I'd love to hear how you became a drone pilot to start with? Yeah, no.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 1:14
Well, I used to be into video games a lot. When I was a kid, I dropped it. Laughter You know, you kind of grow up a little bit, and I couldn't have time to do it. Especially in my line of work is just, there's just no time. So when

Qasim Virjee 1:27
you drop video games, what was the console? That was your last console?

Michaelangelo Masangkay 1:31
Playstation? Three. Whoa. Yeah,

Qasim Virjee 1:35
I was gonna say Super Nintendo. That was mine. Yes. I'm old school man.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 1:39
No, I was still going. Still going for some time. But it was mainly sports games. Okay, so it was NBA 2k For sure. And NHL. So we only sports games for the most part. Yeah. But when I've been in the industry, I've been in film and television industry now for, I guess from 2006. Okay. So it's been some time and I would travel a lot, I, before the pandemic, I was traveling quite a bit. And during that time, I also had a family. And I wanted to travel with them. So the first time I brought them out, you know, you don't want to be I'm already Asian as is. I don't want to propagate a myth and have another DSLR. And to like, be, you know, taking photos. So I was like, You know what, I want to get a little different angle. Okay, so I was looking at the price point and looked like getting into the marketplace was about the same price as getting, you know, a consumer drone. So, like a small little DJI Mavic air, right. Loud weed. So

Qasim Virjee 2:46
this is only a couple of years ago, this

Michaelangelo Masangkay 2:47
is just three. This would be three to four years ago now. Wow. Okay. Yeah. Yeah, it's been it's been relatively, yeah,

Qasim Virjee 2:55
that was just about the time where the kind of like prosumer models were dropping below 1000 bucks. Right?

Michaelangelo Masangkay 3:00
Yeah, that's right. So it was becoming a lot more accessible for people to, you know, to, to really take a hold of it and like, just have fun with it. Yeah. And during that time, I was like, okay, you know what, I'm gonna go and take this with me on my travels. And with my family, so I took it to Cannes Film Festival. Oh, nice. First time. Right. And I was scared because, you know, you fly it over

Qasim Virjee 3:24
the festival. You were flying in on the closet, like over there? Yeah.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 3:28
So I have, I have friends who are like, who had like the sweets, you know, the penthouse suites at like the Miramar and that the Grand Hotel. So there, they knew that I had a drone. And they were like, Why don't you come fly it off our balcony. So no. One can say no to that, you know, like, I can come and go to your penthouse suite. So yeah, so I launched it there. And I got some amazing shots. And just like what the thing there is that the French, you know, the French military, they're, they're like, they're scouring the streets to keep it safe, obviously. So we've had to count like to be really high up in the air so you can be heard because that drones really loud. It's a high pitch. Hallmark noise that that it makes. So you got to keep it nice and high to keep it out of earshot. After that, then I met my family and went to Venice. Oaks. I met them there. And I flew over the Grand Canal I woke up nice early, like footage of flying over the Grand Canal 5am You know, everything's just quiet and some boats floating through. And that was gorgeous. I was starting to fall in love with it a lot. And I went to Rome and I was like, you know, iffy about that. Like dance is busy. This dance is busy. Yeah. So at the hotel we're staying at Oh no, this Milan. So I flew it there. No problem, got whatever. And then Rome was like, okay, you know what? Um, I should start looking into this a little bit more, right? I was, I was starting to enjoy it more. And it was like harkening back to my video game days. So you know, the dexterity of the thumbs and doing all the movements and controlling it was like, This is amazing vantage point. And

Qasim Virjee 5:15
of course, this is family travel. So it didn't take you away from like, you know, I like sometimes when the I don't know, I'm like this, like, if I'm trying to make a film about my trip and be a little bit like artist about it, then it can, I can get pretty good about capturing clips. Yeah, in this like, very tasty way. Like, I'm not really there. And it's I'm just hanging out. And I'm taking little clips, and no one even knows when they see the film like family at the end of the day when I'm like, Hey, I made a movie of today. They're surprised that I haven't got that footage. Yeah, but with a drone. You have to be of course,

Michaelangelo Masangkay 5:48
yeah, there's a lot of things taking consideration. I mean, your surroundings for sure when you're launching, right. So that's definitely one of those major things. So it wasn't too intrusive. I was trying to make it so that it wasn't taking away from our trip. By all means, but it got to a point where I was like, I got to start taking this a little more seriously. Enjoying this this much. Yeah. So when I came back here, I looked into it. And there's 2018 Yeah, there's 2018. And I was looking into it. And I was like, Okay, it's not bad to get your license.

Qasim Virjee 6:20
But 1000 bucks, where do you get your license? Or at that time, where where do you get it from?

Michaelangelo Masangkay 6:24
So there's one of our like, partner schools, training centers is our past center, they used to be alto helix. So they they do industrial applications, and drones. But they train the fire departments and police force, they consult with no Transport Canada for their regulations for drones as well. At that time, back then the regulations were a lot more loose, loose, in terms of it wasn't it wasn't really there to regulate consumers or enthusiasts, it was there to regulate operators, people who are in business for drones, now that it was becoming a more consumer accessible, then they had to change up the regulations. So they had to really dive in and change it. And I knew that that was coming. So they were changing the regulations, which always gonna be June 1 2019. And I was getting licensed and certified 2018. So I was looking at it and and because I'm in the film and television industry, you know, people will ask me, okay, I can get some shots here and there for us. Sure. And I was like, it really makes a difference, you know, like independent films are on such a budget. Yeah, you know, gone are the days that you would get a helicopter, while you can still get a helicopter is gonna cost you a fortune. Yeah, fuel and insurance, the helicopter and the gear going on. And, you know, everything that goes along with landing, it must, yeah, and the clearances, they gotta get right, and you can't even get the shot that you want. So what I discovered with the drone was a you can go from micro to macro. So quickly, to establish a character, not even just establishing environments, right? To establish a city or establish environment, you can establish a character in the environment, with the drone, where a helicopter, you can't come into the street level and then fly out to reveal where that environment is. Sure. So with drone, you could Yeah,

Qasim Virjee 8:25
it's agile, even even compared to like, gybing. In some cases.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 8:29
Yeah. That's the that's the thing is that productions are like getting to the point where they're like, Okay, you know what, we don't have to get the job, or we don't get to, we don't need the Russian arm. We can do it with a drill. Just like

Qasim Virjee 8:41
you can't just break it down, break it out, what is the Russian arm?

Michaelangelo Masangkay 8:45
So it's on basically, it's on a truck, right? And it's swinging. So there's an operate on the back of a truck, and it's an arm that swing across while you're driving. So usually, so there was like one, one film that we're getting, they're asking us to mimic that motion was a fire truck going down the street. And then we would have to go from the front of the truck, and then go to the side of the truck and focus on the the firemen driving the truck. Yeah. And then fall back and then just follow behind the truck. It's a complicated move it is and to do it with a drone is even more complicated because you got to match speeds. You know, you've got to make sure that there's no oncoming traffic, you got to clear off the street. They didn't even clear off the street. So it was like super complicated.

Qasim Virjee 9:32
Can you by the way? Well, I'll let you continue because I have a million questions. Well, the technicality of producing this sort of stuff, check.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 9:39
Yeah, so it's just the a lot of productions are now trying to replace a lot of the, the equipment's that would normally, you know, skyrocket your budget from a production standpoint and replace it with drone. At the same time, a lot of people are there. They're not familiar with how to operate the drone. and how to do it legally, how to do it safely, what's it entails to be able to operate? A business that that deals with just drones and the operation of drones for film? There's a lot of things that go into it. So we found ourselves like, there's the market, because it's accessible to consumers. It's very, there's a lot of competition, right, that there's a lot

Qasim Virjee 10:25
of like two dudes with a drone. Yeah. And they're like, We don't care about the law. We'll do we'll get that Shangyu for 75 bucks. Yeah.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 10:31
And the client, like, the client doesn't want to be sideswiped or blindsided by a lawsuit. You know, it's like that's, that's the last thing that one. If it's a production that doesn't mind that, then that's not necessarily the way that we want

Qasim Virjee 10:43
either. Yeah, like, no one wants to be with Alec Baldwin in a desert.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 10:47
I mean, that. That is, yeah, that's, that's a that's a bad one. I mean, that one was, there's a combination of factors on that one that we can like, go down a rabbit hole on, for sure. But, I mean, even even productions like that, we'd love to be all productions like that. Yeah, no, by no means. Are we saying that that's, that's bad. But yeah, in that case, there were some some things that we're cutting corners, what's missing?

Qasim Virjee 11:14
But yeah, So suffice it to say you saw market opportunity for like a legitimate company, that's a drone operator to be there, but it slicing through the noise was going to be a little difficult to get to the clients to say this,

Michaelangelo Masangkay 11:26
because they were looking to make an exam, because they were putting the right new regulations into place to June 1 2019, they were looking to make examples of people who were, you know, operating illegally. So then they could make them an example and say, Hey, you're gonna get fined this much money. And now it's going to just, you know, kind of quell the masses in terms of flying or operating illegally. So, when the thing though, you know, I've always been more of a marketing guy, you know, I understand, good creative. But I also understand that there has to be a return on investment when it comes to your marketing, right? So. So we were just like, we need something to really catapult us into an area where people are like, okay, these guys are credible, you know, they know how to operate safely. They're credible, and their footage looks great. And our footage, we knew it was going to look great, because of our experience in film and television for quite some time in terms of creating cinematic shots, you know, making sure that there's a narrative and you're able to follow that. And the shot is composed in that manner, right to serve the narrative. So that's our background. So then having given us the tool of drone is just like, Okay, this is amazing. So we knew that there was operators in the industry that had been doing it for like, you know, years, 10 years, 15 years, the Oh, geez of like drone operations, right. But now that the regulations were coming into play, it was like, we're all at zero. We're all going to start from the same level, they have to get the same level of certification licensing that we had to get as brand new operators. Sure. So that gave that gave us an idea, because I was like, You know what, this is an opportunity for us to be able to capture the market share, because we can market better than probably they can, you know, where they're just about the operation. We're, like, worried about the operation, but also the marketing. They're like, technical companies. Yeah, they're more technical companies. So I was thinking from a publicity standpoint, okay. How can we really kind of pull so I mean, the name of the company is top drone,

Qasim Virjee 13:30
like, right, and your logo? Like, it's some crew stuff?

Michaelangelo Masangkay 13:34
Yeah, I know, I'm waiting for the cease and desist, you know, put it on the frame and put it up there, you know, he can buy us no problem sure that that can happen. So it was always about the marketing. So right at the time, the Toronto Raptors won the championship. Right. And the parade was right after the regulations switched over in June 1, it was June 5, or I think fifth or ninth or something like that. So we knew that if we were able to get up into the air, legally, that we can get the greatest shots. Yeah, so that everyone else who wasn't professional, right, because they thought, Oh, I'm going to get this amazing vest, I'm just going to shoot the crowd and the parade and the fireworks and everything like that. But they weren't, they didn't know how to get clearances, or as anyone who had been operating for years was like, I'm not even gonna touch that because I don't know really what the new regulations are about and just getting familiar. So I was like, this is an opportunity for us to just like penetrate through that whole thing because we can distinguish ourselves from those who used to be and those who are trying to be right, and then gain instant credibility. And we were the only legal entity flying so we don't

Qasim Virjee 14:46
Okay, and that just means that your your like footage is safe, right? Yeah. For relicense

Michaelangelo Masangkay 14:51
Well, our footage is safe. Also. Transport Canada was looking for, were they shooting down virtual, they weren't shooting them down but they were looking at their or hunting them down. So people who there was some guy who some fool who who operated from and Sheridan like hotel had, like, you know, I'd let him like fly off their balcony. Okay, and he crashed his drone. Oh, yeah. And we saw a whole bunch of drones flying in and around the area. And it was just like we knew that they weren't ready. Like they didn't understand what was happening because they would fly just for the sake of flying, where we knew the moment was to wait for, you know, the players on the buses to be in the spot. They they need to be shot, so that we knew we can get the best shot. They were just like, whatever the Oh, once the crowd started roaring, they would throw up the drone and like get out there and like start buzzing around and getting shots. It was just like, they're completely like, premature. Yeah. You know, so we're just like sitting back and, and legally operating were clearly marked and everything. And we got the shots. And then after that, you know, toronto, toronto police. Transport Canada, navigation Canada, they all started asking us questions about who else was operating on that day? Oh, because that crash. And there are some other people and they're all you know, filed. And they're looking to find these people and then find them, right, in terms of monetary fines. And we're just like, that's not part of our operation. This is what this is our drone. These are drones. They were registered here. And this is what our flight path was. This was our ceiling that they had specified. We negotiated with them to know what our limitations were because there are helicopters at like 500 feet, you know, we legally can fly 400 feet but because of how Three helicopters that were in the air, we knew that that was happening. So and then the snowbirds were going to be flying over we knew that was happening. So we knew when to be in the air and when not to be in the air and what our ceiling where our operating areas were right. Whereas all these other drones were just flying errantly Yeah, over the place. Yeah. So we told them all that and they were just like, okay, cool. Thank you very much. And we were able to say we're the only legal drone operator that day to capture all that footage. So every time someone would like, chop us down on social media for our footage, it's kind of like, No, this is all legal. Here's our like, here's our clearance, here's our you know, it's very easy. So there's difference in operating drones and flying drones when you know you're cleared, versus you're looking over your shoulder. Well,

Qasim Virjee 17:38
especially when you're thinking about commercial content, because that content just from that single shoot, you know, it's monetizable, for stock, or for relicensing through news, media outlets, and all that stuff. So if that's part of your business, and you're prepared for that, and you've got the clearances, you're ready to go versus now again, in this day and age, there's a lot of like, Crap footage that makes his way onto news reports and so on. And people quote, Twitter for a story. So journalistic integrity is out of the window. Yeah. And people.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 18:11
It's not as lucrative as you'd think it

Qasim Virjee 18:12
would be Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But that's very interesting to take that approach, and then find yourselves as kind of leaders in this commercial space.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 18:23
Yeah. Because at that point, then potential clients are just like, oh, I want to deal with those guys. Right? Because I thought it would be impossible to get that shot. And so what kind of clients? Are we talking about? Are

Qasim Virjee 18:33
we talking about commercial entities, businesses, government,

Michaelangelo Masangkay 18:36
corporate? You know, we could, because we did everything clean? Yeah. You know, government agencies, corporate clients, large corporate clients, or we could walk in there and just say, Hey, this is our proposal. And because we're the only ones that can do it properly, you know, and we're operating downtown Toronto, not a lot of people wanted to operate downtown Toronto, because they're afraid that they'll smack into a building. You know, we're, that's our, that's where we we live and breathe when it comes to drone operations, because you're professional pilots. Exactly that and we understand what the problem is. I mean, we've, we've seen our fair share of Aaron's flights as well. But because we got all our ducks in a row in terms of paperwork and clearances, you know, we're not afraid of that, because it happens. It does happen. Like we're a drone will lose its GPS coordinates, and it will start circling, trying to find those triangulate three points. So they'll start circling like that. So it's once it gets that acquires, that requires that signal, it drifts into that, that direction, an area where you can do whatever you want, it's not going to respond. So there's things things that happen, what we've able to experience to where it's just like okay, we understand what we have to, to put into redundancy says comes in our processes. When it comes to pre flight checklists. And in flight checklists are just once you launch, okay, just make sure you have full control of the drone and everything. So there's all these things that we've put into our workflow that ensures that we can then get the shot. You know, it's all about the preparation before. Right. And then before you actually do the operation, yeah.

Qasim Virjee 20:23
On logistics, and the operational logistics, and then also on the cinematics. Yeah. So you keep saying we who, so who comprises the team, so I

Michaelangelo Masangkay 20:34
have one another partner, Ryan Foxworthy. And then we have a bunch of people who are pilots and operators that we work with, who are just super skilled, and also in the production film and television production realm. Okay. So that, you know, it's, it can't be all done by one person, like your time is your commodity. Oh, for sure. Right. So you have to be able to, if your business is going to be scalable, it's, that's why it was like, okay, the brand speaks. Right? If the brand speaks, then you can scale it. It's not about you. It's not about me as, as Michelangelo, it's about the team and what we can deliver as a team. And you guys are focused on Toronto, or focused everywhere. So we've done so we've collaborated with everyone in North America, into Egypt, we've done we've done projects, you know, everywhere to be able to service our clients. It's just a matter of, that's why we stick so much to the processes in the paperwork. It's like, it's like a freight forwarder or a logistics company. They hire the trucks, and they're the truck drivers and their trucks. Sure. Right. And they deliver the goods, and then you fulfill their contractor. So it's the same idea is just scaling it right. So you can source talent. I can source home as you want to. Yeah, exactly. That's cool. That's exciting. No.

Qasim Virjee 21:55
So now three, four years in. Yeah.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 21:58
So yeah, we're, yeah, there. We've done some really cool jobs up to this point. And before, it was like, the business was like, Okay, let's do everything drill. And there's like anything and everything that drone can do. Let's get into that. And I was just like, oh, man, we're spreading ourselves thin. I'm trying to get leads. Right. Right. And

Qasim Virjee 22:19
because it's so applicable that like, then how do you? Who are you talking to?

Michaelangelo Masangkay 22:24
It could be anyone, it could be everyone. Like, it's like, when the computer was invented? And you had the computers, anything and everything. Anyone needed to help from a computer? Okay, well, that's our business. That's, that's so that's to take on so much, right? So we figured you know what, let's just go back to our background, what we're good at. That's, that's really capturing their narrative, from an aerial standpoint. Because we have the background of being so my my partner, Ryan, he's, he's a camera operator, he's done camera ops, for all of the, you know, HGTV shows, Food Network shows, Netflix shows. So that's his background in terms of production. So he knows what it takes to be on set. You know, I understand what it means to be on set how to bolt on and be sure, you know, there's a tact that that part of like, like the Toronto Film, school side of what I do, is like trying to impart that tact on production. So we have that experience, whereas a lot of operators don't understand that tack. They don't know how to fit in, you know, the production doesn't fit you. You fit into the production.

Qasim Virjee 23:35
Well, yeah. And it's worth it's worth exploring that a little bit just now. The idea. Okay, so firstly, let's just call it out that your position with the Toronto Film School is the head of production or director of production, Director of Production? Yeah. And so your familiarity with how kind of like Commercial Content are not commercial content, but any type of like professional content gets produced film content gets produced is deep. And talking about drones being relatively new technology in terms of people using them to carve out a living, right, it's just the last 5567 years. Not that long? No. Yeah, I mean, probably not. Five years.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 24:17
There's some. I mean, there's, there's some people that we look up to as inspiration who have made a living on this. And just like, Toronto's becoming Canada, Ontario, Toronto, is becoming a hotbed of production, you know, English speaking world. Toronto is the hotbed. It's going to be film production, general film production, content creation, this place to be it's just, there's just too many incentives and soft money and leveraging the, you know, the Dollar Canadian Dollar versus the US dollar. There's just so much skilled labor here. And living standard here in Toronto is conducive to an American city like New York or LA right

Qasim Virjee 25:00
So I don't know, man, we don't have the rats that New York has, you know, we don't have the grit. And we

Michaelangelo Masangkay 25:05
talked about the rats in the industry are the ones on the streets because they can be one of the same. But yeah, I mean it's it's a really interesting time because it's it's it's really becoming a hotbed for production and you're starting to see the studios pop up everywhere. I mean, the start wall here is, is in great location. And it really excited for what's going to be coming through here especially because there's just so much opportunity now. Sure, and foreign productions that are coming to Toronto to Ontario to Canada. Like Vancouver is great. It's awesome there. I love Vancouver, but they're limited by mountains water border. Physically, they can't go out. Yeah. So it's very specific what you want to get there. Oh, for sure. Here. I mean, we're, it's like Montreal, Ottawa, you know, Kay. French's is, is a big thing for for people who are Anglophone to go over there. It's, it's a different experience. So tendency is to come to Toronto.

Qasim Virjee 26:03
No, it's so true. There's so many factors that are going to grow the industry here. I was talking to someone from William White's last week, maybe or the week before. And we were talking about studio and the operations of it, that's a whole nother podcast talking about like the shitty economics on operating a studio chair. I think that will change in the next little while as the industry strengthens and COVID is over. But, but particularly they were telling me about their growth in the last few years and what they're kind of doubling down on. And the whole idea of the built out a backlog, you know, they have a backlog that they built out. Just because they know that there's enough demand for different setups that people have. And they're kind of like, well, we'll build a you don't need to construct that set inside of a warehouse all the time, and incur that cost, it's easier and cheaper and more efficient to have a backlog. So like there's there's infrastructure that's being developed to support this growth across the industry. And it paints a good picture, I guess, is context for understanding how the type of cinematography that you guys do will fit into the demands of commercial productions, all sorts of them. So from your vantage, what do you see, you know, with a few years under your belt now, in this business, what do you see as the kind of demand channels that you're focusing on? As a company satisfying for for this kind of footage? Yeah,

Michaelangelo Masangkay 27:31
I mean, it's, we were very much going after any and all business that we can get. And, you know, I always tried to operate a business where, you know, it's better to collect $1,000 from 10 people. Yeah, than it is to collect $1 from 1000 people.

Qasim Virjee 27:55
Oh, my God. Amen. Amen. Preach on brother.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 27:59
Because they'll say the level of service that's being demanded of you, yeah, is the same. So you, you can quickly spread yourself thin, real quick, on that, on the ladder. So, for us, we started saying, okay, you know, we're no longer going to fight for the bottom. We're going to, we're going to make sure that the clients that we take on are, are reputable, and that speak volumes towards our level of production. So that when we, you know, we partnered up with Canada's Wonderland you know, chasing rollercoasters. We partnered up with hotel X to fly through the hotel.

Qasim Virjee 28:39
I saw some of that footage is pretty cool. Yeah, we cast

Michaelangelo Masangkay 28:43
it everyone. We put everyone in place. The hotel wasn't shut down. It was during the pandemic, but it wasn't shut down. And we still, like operated with I think 35 people to look like 80 people in the space animated. Yeah, right. And that was withdrawn only. Right? We did. We did some stuff with the TV shows. So because of the work that's being done by Ryan and my partner, you know, we can offer Drone Services as well attached to his services, right. So we get in through the door that way too. So we did like blown away. It's not the glassblowing competition show on Netflix. Cool. We do a lot of Mike Holmes homes on home stuff right? His Christmas special Yeah, so there's there's just lots of stuff that we've been firestarters a fire Masters on on Food Network. Okay, Bachelor in Paradise. Did that, man

Qasim Virjee 29:45
I'm not even up to speed on all those crazy shows. Yeah, like find live on television.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 29:50
Well, that's the thing is like content became like, okay, it's all about reality based. Yeah. You know, it's like scripted stuff is tough. Yeah, super tough, too. crack through. And it's reality is like, sports reality, that stuff content wise, is is where it's at. Right?

Qasim Virjee 30:07
Yeah, fast production cycles, lots of content being produced

Michaelangelo Masangkay 30:10
live, if it's can be live. That's like premium. Right, right, like all your Canadian, your, the voice X Factor all those like live to air shows, you know, they do such huge numbers because it's you have to tune in to watch it live, you know?

Qasim Virjee 30:30
Yeah. And that's again, that's this larger discussion of kind of like, you know, on demand or VOD versus television, how there's always a role for television, even if the distribution medium is online. And moving away from cable and terrestrial networks. It's super interesting to say like, broadcast is evolving, you know, and there's even technology like we use technology like, here, I've got the switcher that's like a broadcast box, that we could livestream this conversation. You know, and even impulse, I'm not really going to edit much. I'm just going to switch between cameras.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 31:05
How many people did you? What did you have had to have had? Back in the day? Oh, my God, right? Even

Qasim Virjee 31:09
I'll tell you this. Even when I like this studio was built like four years ago, when we put the building together in 2017. For going on five years. I was using like Tara deck, you know, those Teradek boxes? Yeah, they're still around. Yeah. As this as like my means of non computer based streaming, which is a piece of junk compared to this black magic gear. Yeah. So the evolution in just a few years of broadcast technology that's IP based, like digital broadcast tools for network streaming online. On the internet is just like mind boggling. I remember using that Teradek box that had a little LED screen on it. And you don't know if you're live on Facebook, it says you're live on Facebook. And then it stutters and it doesn't buffer properly, and single camera only and all so many problems. And it's

Michaelangelo Masangkay 32:03
wonderful. It's it's been democratized, right? Like, production of content production of films. TV has been democratized. So but at the same time, that's because there's so much, there's so many mediums in which to be able to consume content now, right, your phone, your tablet, your laptop, your TV, out in the theater, there's many, many ways to consume content. And the appetite has not lessened. In fact, it's, it's accelerated during the years. Oh, yeah. Right. So therefore, there needs to be more content creators to be able to fill this appetite. Now, whether or not the contents great or not, doesn't matter. It's fulfilling this appetite. Right. But your content starting to get better. Yeah, I know. It's like the attention span has gone from, you know, two and a half hours, three hour movies. And I remember when like movies were like three hours, and you get excited about that. You're like, oh, you get so much more. Yeah, exactly. Now, it's I was like, No, I can't stick that through. And I could

Qasim Virjee 33:02
watch three movies in that time. Yeah, I wouldn't say that. I know. Well,

Michaelangelo Masangkay 33:07
I mean, on the business side, it is funny because that's like kind of in Toronto for TIFF. That's why TIFF is so popular because a lot of buyers distributors from all over, they come thrown because they can watch the most movies in one day here, because it's all within like a three block radius. Right. You know, whereas in Cannes, it's like you got to walk everywhere, it's hot. And it's like you're fighting the crowds to get to that screening lineup. Berlin is kind of, they're all kind of spread out. You know, it's, it's not the same. Yeah, Toronto is like, okay, I get to power through all of these screenings in one go and like, make it like a three day trip, three to four day trip, you know, so that's why Toronto so popular from that standpoint,

Qasim Virjee 33:48
from the industry standpoint is a marketplace for film. Yeah, yeah.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 33:53
Because they're, they're programming for you know, 12 to 18 months into the future. So they gotta, they gotta power through. And Susan kind of starts at TIFF, for the most part, like Venice, Tiff. That's when everyone kind of wakes up from their summer slumber, or their vacation, and then they go, okay, you know what, let's start working, go through to tell Ken again, unlike me, you know, so that's like the cycle. But with that, that's why that's why filmmaking has been democratized because there is such a huge appetite for it, that we got to be able to allow for more people to make content, right. So there's an opportunity there for companies like DJI and Blackmagic, you know, to be able to create their prosumer products, to be able to service that need. And now you're starting to see better and better and now it's like narrative is starting to become so important.

Qasim Virjee 34:45
I wanted to ask you about that because there's there's a technological evolution that's happened. That I think captured my imagination, projecting into the future when I was a kid. I knew this was going to come and I thought it was the most talking about kind of like Technology solving people's existential angst, potentially, it was one of the most, I don't know, titillating concepts, and now it's it's here. And that's FPV. The idea, I think, that you can strap on a VR headset and remotely control a drone by flying surely solves one of the Great's, you know, issues in the human dilemma, which is how to elevate one's consciousness beyond the Earth, and this terrestrial problem is solved. I mean, how does it feel to fly a drone? With your I mean, you're using your hands on the remote control, but but with your person?

Michaelangelo Masangkay 35:39
Well, it's fully fully immersive. I mean, you know, when your dreams of flying, like when you're, like having dreams and you're flying through those dreams, right, right. Like that's, that's the feeling. Right? Like, I'm not very good at it. I must say that I have crashed you that times. You know, I'm learning flown in a building and you'd never be Spider Man. Yeah, I, ya know, that just reminds me of that. That meme or that, That? That? That one? Filter, that spider man filter where everyone's getting like, you're the person being carried your Mary Jane being carried by Spider Man through the city? Oh, I've

Qasim Virjee 36:14
never I haven't seen that. I'm old school. Yeah, you gotta like that. Well, I

Michaelangelo Masangkay 36:18
mean, I'm too. But you can't avoid it. Sometimes.

Qasim Virjee 36:21
I don't know how the hell I have created this amazing filter. I don't really kind of like, know what the hell's going on on the internet? Or in the commercial internet? Yeah, it's crazy. I'm on Instagram, but I'm not on Instagram. Yeah. And I just like feel like puking. If I scroll more than five screens at a time these days. So well, that's, I'm like, 42 No, I'm not. I'm 40 Oh, I'm older than you. Wait. 91 years. 4279 c 1979. And I acting like an ad.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 36:51
That's all right. It's all right. It's just, you know, you got to, you know, like music videos back in the day. Were defining the trends. Yeah, you know, they would define the trends for what you'd see later. That's what this is now, it's like Instagram, tick tock. They define trends, right. So you kind of have to keep your I gotta keep my, my, my finger on the pulse for that. Yeah, you know, so it's from a professional standpoint. I I tried to stay attuned to the kids and, you know, not know what's cap and what's not cap. You know, the, you know what that means? No? Bad. You

Qasim Virjee 37:22
got to look that up. Kept. Like, is that the new Gucci? Or is that different?

Michaelangelo Masangkay 37:28
I don't have that one. I don't know. Oh, okay.

Qasim Virjee 37:30
Gucci. I learned that a couple years ago. It's all Gucci, which means like, it's all it's all good. Which is good. But you know, also luxurious and cool. Sure. You know, it's tough to keep up. See, ya know, it

Qasim Virjee 37:43
is a couple things. Yeah, I have like, um, that might be like, new old school. I

Michaelangelo Masangkay 37:47
don't know. Yeah, that's like for me, I'm like, okay, cool. Gucci. Right. I don't have anything Gucci. It's too expensive.

Qasim Virjee 37:55
Exactly. Yeah, literal understanding of the word. Um, okay, but let's talk about this low this FPV thing? And is it a revolution in the? How is it? Is it just an experiential innovation? For filmmakers? Or is it enabling for cinematography as well?

Michaelangelo Masangkay 38:16
I think there's definitely, it's definitely another tool for cinematography. The reason why I say that is, it's like being a bird, right? Literally, you want to capture those, those shots like every animation film, I don't care, you take a look at any animation film out there, like from Pixar, or DreamWorks, or Sony or illumination. Minions in all those, if you look at, watch that movie, there are shots there that are all FPV mimicking, mimicking FPV because it's the easiest way to to establish the the narrative, right, right leaning and you can literally follow a character and tell the story of a character within one shot. Yeah. And FPV allows for that because of the speed in which it operates. Or as you know, traditional drones, they're more establishing the environment. Right? And it can't go that fast. You kind of got a speed ramp from the character to that.

Qasim Virjee 39:20
I think that's environment big boy. It's a big boy. The idea that like FPV naturally is presenting something in a format that is tough to mimic or replicate. Otherwise, and I wonder about this because I've I've got limited experience flying the drone. I literally just bought one. I don't know a month ago to capture a fly through of our studio. Yeah. And a number of wings later.

Qasim Virjee 39:47
My my Mavic air mini two. It's great because it's so tight.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 39:53
Well you got the bumpers on it right?

Qasim Virjee 39:54
No, well I got the bumpers sitting in a box. I haven't even like taking them out of the box and put them on you would save your or props, your propellers instead. I bought a big pack on Amazon with like 100 props. And I was just like, it's okay man, I gotta power through this shoot and I'm just you know, this is logistical laziness. It's like you're doing so much and you've got a vision for something that doing the simplest thing to save yourself trouble. It feels like big mountain. I've got the box. I'm gonna put the props protector on.

Qasim Virjee 40:24
You didn't have to buy those rhinos. So I had the robbers. Yeah.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 40:27
Yeah, it just reminds me like you remember? I don't know if you remember American Gladiator? Yeah. Okay, remember when they used to be in those those spheres? And they would be like brushing them off. Okay, that's what those prompts are like, Oh, totally bumping into everything and just protects everything. Yeah, you're chopping up your curtains, oh, my God. And then the drone itself is falling from 16 feet in the studio on a concrete like,

Qasim Virjee 40:49
it's really banged up. I'm like, It's okay. And, you know, the cameras kind of like, those DJI

Qasim Virjee 40:57
gimbals can break so easily. Yes, they can. I've gone through many pocket cameras, their pocket camera model just anyway, I'll scale it back a bit. Okay. So my experience is limited and stupid with drones. But I noticed this immediately and all the the footage that I shot, and in getting it in the can, was that weird disconnect that you need to get over as a drone pilot from, you know, between the kind of tactile nature of driving this thing. And the fact that you can move it forward and back left or right, up and down. And finding that flow between all those controls that you're getting towards where it's innate, but then also matching in your brain, watching the drone fly to make sure that it's not no, I'm flying inside, right. So it's particularly dangerous, trying to make sure it's not hitting walls and so on. And with air currents coming out of like H vac and open doors or windows and all this stuff. It's really bad people rushing around. Yeah, sure. Comparing that, you know, against what you're also seeing on the camera previewing the footage. Yes. And I think without FPV it's just like, it's so incredibly difficult. Yeah, you know, and it just feels like all like logistics. And you can't, I couldn't quite get the smoothest, longest shots that I wanted. Yeah. But I think with FPV, I'd probably be able

Michaelangelo Masangkay 42:21
to, yeah, FPV is like, it's pretty much like driving a car. Right? When you look at it, it's just so you can't really stop on a dime, you have to, you have to maneuver your way through it because you're continuous in motion. Right? So the thing is being able to maintain the shot and the fluidity, and so you don't lose the attention. Because you know, if you jerk one way, you lose your, your narrative.

Qasim Virjee 42:48
So the headset would control the movement of the drone now, or it's still the joystick, it's still a joystick. So

Michaelangelo Masangkay 42:55
what you're seeing my head yeah, it's not gonna, it's not I mean, there there is like, people are trying to do that. Okay, but I think it doesn't make much sense. Because you're just, you're basically looking at where you're flying, right? So that, you know, you're this big. And if there's this space, you can fit through it. If it's too small, either, you got to know that.

Qasim Virjee 43:17
And it's a thing of like, cinematically, you're doing two things at once, as a camera operator, you are looking through the lens, and then you're looking around, because that idea of kind of, even as a bird, I assume, is a human, you're walking down the street, your brain is registering kind of the narrative of your journey. But you're also doing quick checks to make sure no one's gonna hit you. Or the people behind you aren't too close, or whatever it is, but your brain doesn't factor that into the story of you walking down the street. No,

Michaelangelo Masangkay 43:48
it's that's just like the peripheral. Yeah, right. It's not like the camera goes there, right? And goes there, right? It's just here. And then you're aware that there's something happening on your left and your right. So it's just being aware of that. So that's the that's the beauty of the the traditional drone side. I call it traditional, it's like making old school. But where you have an operator for the drone that positions the drone, in a way for the camera operator to then just control the camera on that drone independently, right? So that you can get the shot that that you need by just getting into position and then you're getting that unique shot, right? So that's, that's where the depends on the need, and depends on the narrative on what you're trying to say cinematically, and most people don't, don't understand that. And it takes years to get that or either have that eye or you don't have that eye or you have to also really like own that. And then then execute it. Right. It's one thing to know how to do that. It's another thing to execute because now you're not controlling it physically. You're controlling it remotely.

Qasim Virjee 44:59
Alright, so How is the next generation? Or speaking like that sounds silly. But how are drone pilots people that are kind of like pursuing career paths in this tooling up their knowledge and getting career expertise right now? Is this something that you guys are looking to kind of like help people with? I know you're also an educator right at the Toronto Film School? Is the school itself doing any of this or

Michaelangelo Masangkay 45:24
No, no, not yet. I've been pushing it. I've been pitching it for a while now, in terms of, you know,

Qasim Virjee 45:30
pretty forward thinking for the indie. Yeah,

Michaelangelo Masangkay 45:32
I mean, I think that you need to start thinking about it. Because I mean, as a camera operator, right, you're you're you're really just thinking creatively or as a DOP, you're thinking as cinematographer, you're thinking creatively. Now, you got to learn about whether navigation, you know, air currents, aerodynamics, it's like ground school, you basically have to take like 50 to 60% of ground school for being a pilot, in order to be able to legally operate a drone. But it's all ground school. So it's all in theory, it's all learned, it's like a dry, like driver's test, right in a written test, then you have to do your flight test, which is basically your pre flight procedures, and then how you operate if you have the wherewithal to operate, and then your post flight procedures. So combining those two mines is sometimes a little far reach. But I think it's crucial for aspiring, do LPS or camera operators to have that in their toolkit as the drone. And that's why I think it's it would be invaluable, just to teach, like the ground school portion of it, or give that as an option to aspiring camera operators or DOP is because then they can think from that standpoint to not just on the ground.

Qasim Virjee 46:58
So how is that the commercial gigs that you guys are doing for television and film? How did those come to be? Is it for the most part, you're pitching the production on that type of footage? Or do they come looking for it?

Michaelangelo Masangkay 47:12
Usually, it's by referral. Okay. So I mean, the industry is pretty, pretty small, not small, but it's pretty, it's big. But it's like everyone knows, everyone knows each other like erupted, I always tell this to my students, your reputation is your equity. Right? You're only defined by the work that you that you can do. And that's it than your your reputation. So your workout speak for itself. And then it's, do people want to work with you? Right? Because it's not about working on one is working on many. Yep. All right. And those, those opportunities don't present themselves unless you have relationships in the industry, to be able to present themselves to you those opportunities, right. So that's why you really have to take a big stock in terms of who you are, what you do, and also who you work with. Like,

Qasim Virjee 48:04
these are, yeah, you're defined by the company you keep. And these are great tips to end on, I think, for this first conversation about drones and kind of like being commercially engaged in being a pilot, and offering, you know, the footage. It's not just about having fun flying your drone. It's about kind of like, can you make a business out of it by creating compelling content that someone can use for something? So top tips are sounds like networking, commercial networking, or professional networking to fit yourself into the film industry or the media industry? Don't rely only on yourself build a team?

Michaelangelo Masangkay 48:44
Yeah. If Yeah, I mean, if you're able to, like that's, I think that's the main thing.

Qasim Virjee 48:49
Yeah. And then what do you would what would you say about any other recommendations for people looking to get into this stuff commercially, career path wise, crafting that career path in, you know, being a drone pilot, any other tips to do with how to look out for new technology or rely on technology that, you know, well, anything to do with that side of

Michaelangelo Masangkay 49:09
things? Yeah, I mean, the drone industry, there's so many opportunities that are going to present start presenting themselves. Right now. It's like visual line of sight, and we call it v loss, right. And that means is that when you're operating a drone, you have to keep it within a visual line of sight, you have to be able to see it with the naked eye, then there's going to be beyond visual line of sight. That's where you start getting packages delivered by Amazon via drone. Right? That is a thing. The data drives the Yeah, it's gonna be how do you help so and that's coming for us to like, that's something that we have to forecast for, and that we have to start planning for too, because now as a drone operator, I don't need to be you don't need me per se, because then it's just about getting the shot. Right. The creative is, is the thing that you can't teach or that can't be replicated by the AI. Right. But you can program it to go from here to there, so that you now you position to get creative. So it goes back to K, focus on the creative, right. That's why so many people are starting going into the creative industries, I feel. So if you're wanting to get into this industry, I would say that you have to creatively problem solve, you have to problem solve, but you have to be able to creatively problem solve in any situation. And if you're gonna get into this business, I think it was anything really, but in this particular for sure, because that it's evolving so quickly. And it doesn't have to be flying, like drones on the ground, like those Boston, Boston dynamic dogs, right? Those Those dogs that dance, right, that's a robot, that's it, that's a thing. That's that's real, that's here, that's that's doing work, taking away jobs, but creating jobs in the water, same thing, right, like remotely piloting, everything is going to be a thing. So it's, there's a lot of opportunity, there's a lot of space for everyone to be in it, and to be able to do it. And that's why we're like, you know, it's better for us to just specialize in what we do best. And that's the cinematic shot, and being able to afford the narrative through drones. And then if anyone needs anything above and beyond that, that we can collaborate or to put them in the right direction with the right people, you know, in the last thing I do want to impart with your lessons, the tips, pro tips. Talent now is dimes dot dime a dozen. Talent is not enough talent and hard work and relationships. That's like that's what's important. Because it's not enough to be talented. Like there's lots of talented people, like you said, Look at tick tock. Millions of talented people, you know, but combination of being able to follow through work hard, and the relationships that you have is what's going to get you success nowadays. Not just not just the talent, and Oh, someone's going to discover me. So right now, it's not like that anymore. Yeah,

Qasim Virjee 52:06
you have to put your talent to work. And you have to make it work time and time again. And you have to build relationships. Yeah. 100%. Yeah. Awesome, man. was a pleasure having you in studio. Yeah, man was awesome to scratch the surface. Some of this stuff. Yeah. And I'm looking forward to actually digging into some of your projects with you to look at all their stuff. Oh,

Michaelangelo Masangkay 52:26
there's some fun stuff there.

Qasim Virjee 52:27
Nice. We'll definitely do some follow up content.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 52:29
I'll leave you a teaser. We got shot. We were shot at by a bow and arrow was someone with a bow and arrow in Toronto.

Qasim Virjee 52:36
What in the city? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 52:38
I'll leave it there.

Qasim Virjee 52:39
Cliff Hanger. Awesome. Well, hopefully for our audience, you'll be able to hear more about that either on this podcast or a new podcast that we're about to launch in video format, only coming up later in the year. With that, thanks for coming in. It was a pleasure to have you man.

Michaelangelo Masangkay 52:55
Thanks for having me. Awesome.

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