Interview with Yvon Labarthe: Drones, Cameras & Project Moonlight

Yvon Labarthe has been making videos for quite some time and has released some of the most notable downhill films of all time.  In recent years his editing and cinematography has really taken off and Yvon has played with lots of technique, improving his skill with every new project.  Several months back I worked with and Aerial Photography company in Tokyo to produced Freestyle, Dancing and Drones. Since then I’ve been really interested in Drones.  When Labarthe told us he was releasing something special, I had to know more about him, his drones, the camera gear (I’m a gear head) his newest creation “Moonlight Skateboarding” and what’s next for the skater/filmmaker. Here’s what he had to say:

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Flying Foucs Crew Moonlight Skateboarding

Yvon wife Ana get the ultimate drone shot

Hi Yvon, I’m excited to watch the rest of the video your releasing soon. Thanks for sharing the teaser. I get stoked to watch it with everyone else on the official release date.  Tell us a little about Flying Focus. Who’s on the crew?

The crew is me and my partner, Ana Lowry. Usually she operates the camera when I pilot the drone. Or, in different projects that doesn’t require aerial shots, we are two “regular” camera operators.

That’s neat that you can work with your wife.  I’m curious who’s the boss.  Care to dive into gear for us?

Now I actually ride on a Fibretec board. I use Ronin trucks to go fast and the Aera K4 for slide sessions. DTC wheels are the wheels I like the most for my style of ride.

Actually I meant camera gear, ha ha,  I like skate gear too. Since we’re on that topic, I’d like to know about your racing?  You’re not just a filmmaker  you’re a talented skater. What kind of riding do you like best?

I always like to ride fast (even if I’m not that fast anymore with my special tuck) with friends who I know how they ride. Now I also like stand up slides too, but I’m definitely not a freestyle guy, I think.

I appreciate that, for sure. Your background is luge follow cam?

Actually, I started filming because I started longboarding and wanted to show my friends how cool it is to ride a longboard. And 5 years later, I started streetluging because I was bored of freeriding (Chamrousse in 2004). I realized, it was super easy to follow skateboarders, and since these moments, I’ve always wanted to make shots like nobody else could.

What’s your thoughts on follow car cam vs motorcyle cam?

It’s easier to put a cam on a car, but if somebody found a way to put a good camera handle on a motorbike, it would be safer for everybody I think. You can probably go closer to the rider with a motorbike than a car…

Jimmy Flindt (look it up if you don’t know who that is) once told me that we’d better not get started with cars, but now it seems everyone is using them. Prior to using modern DSLR technology, we were all about the pipe cam.  Hopefully less expensive technology and new drones hitting the market will help further close the gap between size and quality. But I guess if you want to film top skaters without a car, you’d better have some skills yourself too. Anyone can drive a car. How do you like using Drones? What can you tell us about the Drone industry?

The drone industry is leaded by DJI in my opinion and they’re easy to fly drones. So now, almost anybody can make good footage if they train enough and hopefully reduce the use of and risks of using cars. What makes the difference is the pilot and the camera operator for good creativity. The auto-pilot or “follow- drones” are not really yet ready yet, but they could be a good tool for downhillers if they’re alone to film themselves or don’t have a good pilot. I’m excited to see what is coming out of this technology when it’s ready.

Do you have interest in Drone racing?

Drone racing looks super fun, but unfortunately, I don’t have time and money to dive fully into it.

Sounds like me too. I’m stoked, but it’s more expensive than skateboards and that can add up already.Let’s talk about ground cameras and other gear for a quick minute.

My best camera right now is the Sony FS700, but I would like to upgrade to the Sony FS7 soon. I use also the Panasonic GH4 because it’s light and you can record in 4K, super useful to crop a little bit when I follow somebody and I’m too far, or to remove my feet if they’re in the shot. I use my Canon 5D mark III to do the timelapses usually, but sometimes I use it to shoot RAW video to have a super dynamic range.

Yvon Labarthe and his Drones4

Camera check 1, 2, 1, 2, Tarot 18, Check

I can put all these cameras on my big drone which is a Tarot 18. The Mövi M10 (electronic stabilizer) is a super good tool to be creative in a lot of ways. You can handle it, put it on a car, put it on the drone or use it in a helicopter, it’s the perfect tool for everything almost.

Is that it?

My latest gear is a small DJI Inspire 1 drone. I’ve used it all summer, for Verdicchio and Bomb Hard Freeride. I can say it’s the best drone to film downhill. It’s a super fast drone, trustable and easy to flight with.

Noted! I’ll have to check it out. Time to save up! Where do you live ?

I live in Geneva, Switzerland. Here’s a little video if you don’t know what it looks like

Where do you want to shoot next?

It would be super nice to film something in Japan, because I’ve never been there before.

Well, we’ll have to finish this conversation in Japan then! Let’s pick it over ramen and pints of beer.

Can you name 5 filmers in the past 5 years that have caught your attention?

I watched these youtube channels. I learn a lot from enjoying other people’s videos:

  • Philipp Bloom is a good filmmaker and has a youtube channel about camera gear.
  • RougeVertBleu is an amazing guy for storytelling and he explain things in french but there is English Subtile versions as well
  • DevinSuperTramp was a good inspiration too, but now his work is not interesting anymore for me.

I’ll check them all out.  Hey Yvon, thanks tons for making time for us. I can’t wait to watch more of the video. Want to tell us a bit more?

Thank you, Dan. It has been my pleasure to have this talk with you, and to present you this video. What I can say about it is that riding in the Moonlight – whether on a skateboard, or snowboard – has been one of the best experiences of my life. To go down a hill on a road lit up by the moon makes me feel in another world almost, the blue tones create like a mystical environment.

“Whether on a skateboard, or snowboard – has been one of the best experiences of my life. To go down a hill on a road lit up by the moon makes me feel in another world almost, the blue tones create like a mystical environment.” – Yvon

Unfortunately, it was not possible to translate that to my videos, which frustrated me, because the reason why I started videomaking was to convey my feelings and experiences through my lens. However, thanks to a new camera which is very sensitive to light, this was now possible. This camera can “see” two or three times better than our eyes maintaining a good image quality, without all the noise normal cameras have.

It was challenging to film this video because it can only be filmed during the full moon. If little less than full, there is not enough light. Also, there has to be a clear sky, if there are clouds, you’re done. Another issue is that the lens’ aperture had to be in 1.4, which made it very hard to focus.

The video is out now, so please enjoy. I want to thank all the riders who were motivated and gave it all for this project. They come from France and Switzerland: Mathieu Zeder, Johanne Grandjean, Pierre Hardillier, Greg Péré, Keven Le Ber, Jules Hornung and Maxime Sorek. I also want to thank Artiom Missiri and my wife Ana Lowry who have helped me film this video, and the photographers Alban Pernet and Rémi Nguyen Cao.

Moonlight skateboarding from Yvon Labarthe on Vimeo.

Thanks again Yvon!

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