Movie makers tap drone enthusiast's skills

When remote control enthusiast Kenny Chua made a video on Kranji War Memorial with a home-made drone four years ago, little did he realise it would launch him into the film industry.

The 41-year-old has now produced aerial shots for local flicks including this year's The Lion Men, and recent Hong Kong production The White Storm. His drone work in Ah Boys To Men also won praise from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his 2012 National Day Rally.

"I'm lucky to catch the drone trend," Mr Chua told The Straits Times in an interview at his Chiku Road office last week.

His four-year-old company has even been engaged to do aerial photography and filming by public organisations, including the Housing Board, which awarded his firm a three-year contract to film the development of Punggol.

K.Kopter, currently a three-man team, has also been hired by private companies in the marine, oil and gas, and construction industries, such as Keppel Shipyard and TPS Construction.

Mr Chua got into remote- controlled cars, planes and even helicopters as a hobby in primary school. In 2000, he began a car-racing workshop business here and in Malaysia. He was also a race car coach.

But Mr Chua started to move away from the racing business four years ago after he filmed Kranji War Memorial with a small camera on a drone he made using a wooden frame.

That shoot began as a personal project to explore filming on a flying machine. And after he played back what he recorded, he was wowed by the results. A 1.5 minute cut was uploaded to YouTube and it got the attention of local director Jack Neo.

"Jack called me up one day, said what I did was quite nice and asked, 'Why don't you help me to shoot something?'" said Mr Chua. That turned out to be the opening sequence in 2012's We Not Naughty, which involved the camera flying above Orchard Road Christmas decorations.

"When I saw the (footage) on the big screen, I told myself, I am going all out to do this," he said.

Mr Chua later helped to film aerial shots for 2012's Ah Boys To Men and its 2013 sequel.

Neo also introduced him to Hong Kong director Benny Chan, who was impressed with his Ah Boys work and hired him to help with shots in Thailand for The

White Storm starring Sean Lau, Louis Koo and Nick Cheung.

One difficult shot was using the drone to film a helicopter flying below it. Despite the turbulence created by the chopper, the footage captured was very stable.

This was due in part to the multiple stabilisation mechanisms Mr Chua built into the drone. Many of his drones - he has more than 10 now - are custom-made, and range between $3,000 and $20,000.

"So far, from working with him, I think he is one of the best (in the field)," said Neo, of Mr Chua's work. "Some Hong Kong film makers and people in the industry also said he is one of the best."

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