/News 23.01.20


Aerial cinematography experts XM2 provided their services on the Oscar-nominated Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

XM2 captured many new aerial paintbrushes for the VFX team to achieve this vision, with multiple drone teams operating simultaneously across different units. The comprehensive aerial VFX capture was a collaboration with Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).

To achieve the required effects XM2 designed and manufactured the world’s largest cinematography drone, XM2 Sierra, specifically for this project. Sierra is capable of carrying an Alexa 65, Arri 435 or any of our custom-built multi-camera arrays in order to digitally recreate the worlds of the Star Wars universe.

XM2 Sierra, the world’s largest cinematography drone, was designed and built by XM2 engineers and pilots for The Rise of Skywalker.

They also engineered a new custom gimbal: the XM2 Stingray. It is a bespoke VFX array that was created by their in-house engineers and machinists, in collaboration with the VFX team behind The Rise of Skywalker. This gimbal carries three Alexa Minis with dedicated power and camera synchronisation and has the ability to mount cameras in multiple configurations including cameras toed in or toed out as well as below or above the drone. This platform was used to capture speed racer POVs and pursuits as well as highly detailed shots of the background scenery.

Other drone teams were completing LIDAR and photogrammetry scans in order to quickly and efficiently produce survey-grade 3D models. Aerial LIDAR capture a point cloud while photogrammetry captures images of features from all angles. The combination of these techniques creates a fully colourised and textured 3D model. This data featured heavily in The Rise of Skywalker and will be used in other projects in future.

Operations were carried out in hot, dry and dusty conditions.

The success of this project kickstarted the push to establish an XM2 office in the UK. The office at Pinewood Studios is now equipped with full-time staff and equipment to be deployed across Europe and service numerous projects based in the UK. In 2019, the XM2 teams completed work on the next instalments of the Fast and Furious and James Bond franchises. Both were based out of the UK studios with multiple units shooting around the world. The aerial platforms are now complemented with a number of ground and handheld platforms including Stealth, an electric bike, and Charlie, an all-terrain remote control vehicle.

The XM2 UK office, shown above, is based out of Pinewood Studios in London and serves as a base for European operations. It forms a global network alongside offices in Australia and the US. (Image courtesy of Pinewood Studios © Pinewood Studios Limited).

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