Edmonton

New X-Men movie features drone footage from St. Albert start-up

Breathtaking drone footage of snow-capped mountains is getting an Edmonton company blockbuster exposure alongside some powerful mutants in X-Men Apocalypse.

'It was absolutely spectacular to see my footage on the big screen,' says chief pilot with Smart Drones

Eric Wilson and the Smart Drones crew spent a month in the B.C. rockies capturing the perfect sequence for the X-Men film (Supplied by Smart Drones )

Breathtaking drone footage of snow-capped mountains is getting an Edmonton-area company blockbuster exposure alongside some powerful mutants in X-Men Apocalypse.

Footage created by Smart Drones is featured in the ninth installment in the Marvel Comics X-Men film series, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender.

"In the movie, there is scene where there is a helicopter going to a secret facility, flying into a dam, and we're the ones who actually shot all the aerial footage for that," said Eric Wilson, chief pilot with Smart Drones of St. Albert.

"They were trying to capture a remote, winter, desolate climate and the Canadian landscape happened to work perfect for that."

Wilson said it all started with a promotional video they shot on a whim last year.

"It was really unexpected consequences," Wilson said during Tuesday morning interview on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"It was just me and some friends going out there filming some footage to show my friends and family the quality of the footage we could get with the drone."  

But the footage captured that day in Mount Robson Provincial Park went viral worldwide, and one of the millions of people to catch a glimpse of the stunning sequence was none other than Academy Award winning visual effects director John Dykstra

And Dykstra liked what he saw.

"It was about a week after it went viral around the world, that we got a call from Hollywood, and we didn't even think it was a real call at first," Wilson said. "It was something else."

It was a dream for Wilson, a self-professed Star Wars devotee, who has been watching Dykstra's work for years.

"It was really cool to go that deep into the construction of a scene … and really getting to fine-tune my piloting to reach that Hollywood standard."

But getting that perfect shot required some super-human endurance for the crew. 

After a scouting mission that took them across the Rockies, Wilson and his crew headed to Kinney Lake in B.C, where they spent the entire month of November on location.

The temperatures were freezing and there were few creature comforts on set.

"We had to go in there, hiking in, doing about 112 kilometres on foot."

"We actually had to hike in, and me and a team of four of my friends had to load up about 300 pounds of gear, and put it on ropes, and pull it up Mount Robson Trail, like we we're a human dogsled."

"And we had to do this all in winter conditions." 

After three months of planning, and month in the bone-chilling wilds, the footage ended up being about being featured in only 30 seconds of the final cut.

Despite frostbitten fingers, and long hours of gruelling work, Wilson said when he sat down to watch his handiwork in theatres this week, it was all worth it.

"It was absolutely spectacular to see my footage on the big screen," said Wilson. "It was the perfect finish to the whole adventure."

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