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Information and communications technology stories

Global ride for drone start-up

Edition 187 Ignite Digi Chris Fox Tom Waugh

A small Tasmanian company, Ignite Digi, is using drone technology, cutting-edge accessories for digital movie cameras and high-end personal skills to carve a niche in the global film industry.

Hollywood studios have enlisted their services and they have contributed to the creation of such notable local productions as The Kettering Incident and Death or Liberty.

The two-man team operates at present from a tiny flat in a suburban house, but Brand Tasmania’s Executive Director, Robert Heazlewood, is confident that is going to change.

Ignite Digi has recently been invited to join the famed German Arri Camera stand at the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam.

Mr Heazlewood, an experienced cinematographer who has interviewed company founders Chris Fox and Tom Waugh, said: “IBC is the biggest broadcasting, entertainment and technology expo in the world.

“The only comparable annual event is in Las Vegas.

“This is a huge opportunity for Chris and Tom.

“I used Arriflex film cameras at the ABC 40 years ago and now the company makes the best high-end digital cameras in the world.

“They are really computers with a very good lens and lens system.

“The product manager from Arri wants to display a full set of Ignite Digi accessories as demonstration parts at all future expos.”

Ignite Digi was formed four years ago when the partners decided to create a business based on their shared interest in aerial cinematography.

Mr Fox said: “We went out and bought the best drones we could.

“We found that the available technology just wasn’t good enough for the quality of cinematography we wanted to produce.

“So we decided to develop our own drones and aerial systems.”

Mr Waugh said he had been lucky enough to work on a number of big sets and he was always conscious after those experiences that time was money in the film industry.

“The more efficient we could be the more we were appreciated, so we naturally looked to continue to customise our operation to eliminate risk and increase efficiency,” he said.

Ignite Digi was soon turning out clever light-weight accessories that add value to the finest cameras.

Their flexibility and efficiency enhance camera capability when they are mounted on drones or gimbals.

Film makers from Tasmania to Hollywood were soon signing on.

Mr Fox is Ignite Digi’s chief pilot, designer and engineer, contributing his engineering skills and a flair for technical innovation to the business.

He said: “With Ignite Digi accessories, a film crew can get an Arri Alexa camera rigged on a drone or gimbal more quickly. Weight balancing is simplified.”

Mr Fox said the Ignite Digi parts were attractive.

“The design and finish immediately strikes you as high-end and although they are not cheap, they look as though they deserve to be relatively expensive.”

Accessory parts are milled from solid blocks of aircraft-grade aluminium billet in Bellerive and sent to Melbourne for a high-quality anodised finish.

Mr Fox’s skills in programming an impressive CNC router and CNC mill machine complement Mr Waugh’s creative film shooting capability.

“This adds up to a unique blend of talents that are solving problems that cinematographers have had to work around for years as they adapted to, and tried to get the best out of, the new drone and gimbal technology,” Mr Heazlewood said.

“This is a collaboration where the sum of two parts, equals much more than two.”

It is also a shining example of Tasmanian innovation.

Image courtesy of Robert Heazlewood

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10 September 2017, Edition 187

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