Andy Mann’s passion for daredevil climbing and multimedia storytelling is reaching new heights since he began using the Yuneec Typhoon H with Intel RealSense technology, a drone that can see.
Being stuck between a rock and hard place is when Andy Mann is at his best. For kicks, he climbs barehanded, wedging fingers and feet into nooks and crannies to scale some of sheerest cliffs Mother Nature has to offer. There are few things the 36-year-old rock climber, diver and arctic explorer likes more than defying gravity and even death…except capturing and creating visual stories about the thrill of these vertical conquests.
He seeks out remote summits with spectacular views, often only seen from the sky. Mann used to capture images from the ground or while clinging to a rock alongside other climbers, but his creativity was unleashed when he bought his first camera-equipped drone.
“Drones are a game changer for my line of work,” he said.
This summer, Mann agreed to test out Yuneec Typhoon H Pro, which has state-of-the-art Intel RealSense 3D camera technology that allows the drone to see and avoid obstacles.
Drones expand Mann’s poetic range, giving him more evocative elements for telling compelling stories. Known best for establishing shots that start close up on a subject then zoom our wide to a bird’s-eye view, drones allow filmmakers to use steady pans, tracking, pedestal, fly over and reveal shots that different vertical perspectives, bring more visual drama to particular scenes.
“To be able to give that sense of exposure within the mountains is incredible.”
He likes flying his drone just behind, to the side or in front of a subject at eye-level, moving at the same pace as the subject, especially through tight environments. It gives viewers a floating feeling and an authentic, human-eye perspective on the wonders of nature.
“I love the ability to back out from a story with an aerial shot and reveal my character within a larger landscape,” he said.
Mann’s photography has appeared in National Geographic Magazine, NG Adventure, Outside and the New York Times. From his home near Boulder, Colorado, Mann travels the world as executive director at 3 Strings Productions, producing videos and documentaries about human pursuits of extreme outdoor adventures.
His fascination with visual arts started with he was a kid, flipping through photography books in the graphic arts office where his mother worked.
“It wasn’t until age 26 that I hit the road with a camera full time and never looked back.”
Getting his hands on a drone has stretched his imagination for ways to capture stunning perspectives.
“It is super easy to use,” he said of the Typhoon H Pro.
“It only requires the flip of a switch (to activate Intel RealSense vision technology). You see the robot thinking as it scans its environment, and then it figures out the best path around an object.”
He said with Intel RealSense activated, the Typhoon not only reacts but it actually remembers its environment.
“If it avoids an obstacle once, it will remember the location of the obstacle and automatically know to avoid it in the future. It is especially valuable for me, as I often find myself filming in narrow rock canyons.”
Mann requires a reliable drone he can take into the deep backcountry, places like Greenland, Antarctica, Africa and Peru.
“I need something light, reliable, safe and 4K,” he said. “I feel comfortable with the Typhoon.”
“It’s this granite ridge with spires rising 100 feet into the air, overlooking Long’s Peak (14,000) in the background, but you just don’t get a sense of where you are when you’re in the canyons,” he said.
The planning, good weather and excellent execution all lined up to made for a memorable experience.
“Jon was topping out a 5.14 (very difficult rating) climb right as the last kiss of sunlight was hitting the top of the wall.”
Mann said that his good friend, world champion climber Sasha Digiulian, once told him a pizza delivery on top of a mountain would be amazing after a hard day climbing. While he hasn’t yet used a drone for that, Mann regularly uses one to scout new rock climbs and navigate cliffs to find paths of least resistance.
“I do think search and rescue is one of the biggest benefits of drone technology,” he said.
He has advice for any artist who wants to add a drone to their tool kit: Use a model that’s most comfortable in order to focus on executing creative vision rather than fumbling with unfamiliar gear.
“Don’t be afraid to crash,” he advised. “It’s going to happen when you’re a beginner pilot. Luckily, most of the time, all that needs repairing are the blades, then you’re back in the sky within moments.”
Drones have evolved a lot since then Mann starting using one a few years ago.
“Drone technology seems to advance with every generation, and that is certainly true with the addition of RealSense,” he said.
“My dream drone would probably combine the current features of the Typhoon H Pro with a small, proprietary camera that has the dynamic range of a RED camera.”
Editor’s note: Go here to watch “Upward Places,” Andy Mann’s video shot using a Yuneec Typhoon H. Follow his work on Instagram and at his website. Learn more about the Yuneec Typhoon H with Intel RealSense Technology in this video.