March 11, 2013
Startup Spotlight

Vidifly taking aerial video to whole new level

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo
A Vidifly drone’s aerial shot of the starting line at the Pequot Road Runners annual Thanksgiving Day Race in Fairfield.

Adam Pemberton and Scott Benton like to play with remote control helicopters.

But, don't be fooled. The helicopters this duo uses are a far cry from the ones you find in the window display at your local Brookstone store.

Pemberton is managing partner and Benton is partner and creative director of Vidifly (www.vidifly.com), a Wilton aerial video production company the two started back in 2010 that flies remote controlled multi-rotor helicopters with high definition cameras.

Vidifly takes the cutting-edge technology available in the remote control industry and uses it in the commercial market by creating marketing and promotional videos for real estate, golf, resorts, corporate campus and university/private schools.

Pemberton thinks the videos will differentiate any client that has a property or physical space that an aerial perspective can highlight.

"What differentiates Vidifly from renting a real helicopter,'' he said, "is how close we can fly and the wide angle lenses that we can use — creating a much more intimate and dramatic perspective than a 'satellite' style long shot from 500 feet in the air."

Clients — CT Challenge, Sherpa Fitness, Boston University and Crane among some past ones — hire Vidifly by the half day, full day, or any combination of shooting days. The company consults with its clients on the marketing and promotional requirements to understand how a video will be viewed and what the goals are.

"Some projects are longer form and aerial is only part of a mix of ground-based video and still images," Pemberton said. "Other projects are short form, music videos, with or without voiceover."

Once shooting is scheduled, the Vidifly team arrives with an extensive amount of gear. After a suitable landing pad is determined, and the helicopters are run through a pre-flight checklist, flight controllers are powered, transmitters and motors tested, and the camera payload attached and tested for wireless video communication.

The shot list is executed in a series of 10-minute or shorter flights, each leg with a specific plan. Following a successful capture of aerial shots, any necessary ground-based video is logged, including exteriors and interior footage.

The video files then undergo post-production and transcoded into uncompressed digital video for editing. Video effects and audio are then added or edited before a near final edit is reviewed with the client. Any remaining revisions are made and final files are delivered.

"We charge a rate for half day or full day of on location aerial capture, and then charge additional for post production editing, or additional ground video capture," Pemberton said. "We allocate the cost of our service to insurance, equipment depreciation and cost and time for the staff on site and in the studio doing post production. Our project fees typically range from $1,500 and go up depending on the complexity of the assignment."

Vidifly has generated about $400,000 in revenue so far from 10 clients, half of which are from Connecticut. A portion of those earnings has come from Imagemark, a creative and technical project studio in Wilton with whom Pemberton and Benton are associated.

Pemberton says the technology and learning curve on the equipment takes time.

"We know video and marketing, but the equipment was new to us last year," he said. "It was expected, but we've spent many hours in flight simulators and flying indoors and outside using the equipment, testing settings, adjusting the payload."

"The tech is moving quickly; it is driven by software engineers who are continually adding new features to the flight control systems. That software is deployed as firmware updates so we can take advantage of the new capabilities."

Pemberton says the response to Vidifly has been very positive and a pipeline of projects slated for the spring and summer validates the concept and investment in his mind.

"We think the biggest winners are businesses or people who have something that can be seen better — and promoted better — from the sky," Pemberton said. That could be a beautiful corporate campus, a resort property, a new residential community, a downtown district, a large sporting event, or a house for sale with beautiful grounds.

• • •

HandySpeech

Often overused and over-dramatized, the phrase "labor of love" is a perfect fit when talking about 12-year-old software developer and wunderkind Eric Zeiberg from West Hartford.

Inspired by his sister Julie who is autistic and a neighbor who suffers from muscular dystrophy, Zeiberg created HandySpeech last year, an assistive speech technology application for Ipad that supplements or replaces speech. The app is available through the Apple store for $29.99.

Using a finger or a stylus, a HandySpeech user writes on the yellow "notepad" area on the bottom of an iPad screen then hits the "speak" button. The handwriting is instantly converted into voice. English is included with the app and eleven additional languages are available via in-app purchase at $2.99 each. HandySpeech, already with upward of 100 users since it was launched in December, is also available for the iPad mini, and will soon be coming to iPhone and iPod touch.

"Eric is very proficient in computers and got excited with the idea," says Eric's dad Boris Zeiberg, a software engineer at Adnet Technologies in Farmington.

Boris, a Microsoft professional developer, but not very experienced in Apple development says he and his son learned together with Eric reading online tutorials, looking at the sample code, and learning Apple development and upload process. The duo has signed up for the Apple developer license. Boris has renamed a software company he started in 2003 to iSpeak4U LLC to make development official.

Eric's beta application, TalkingCal, was built and uploaded to the Apple store in spring 2012 and served as a test bed to learn programming and upload process. That free app was downloaded more than 2,500 times in the first several months.

Boris said he and Eric plan to add functionality to HandySpeech. New features will include support for voice speed control, as well as the ability to enable users to select a phrase from user-recorded list, with a voice saying ithe phrase.

"We are looking to find new ways of reaching customers who could benefit from HandySpeech," Boris said. "Many people with speech disabilities do not have access to the traditional channels we use for marketing, so we are looking into partnerships with advocacy groups and nonprofits to spread the word."

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