With control in hand, drone in air, Bradley French brings breathtaking views, videos

Tue. July 10, 2018 2:47 PM by Ross Forman

bradley french

photo credit // bradley french
Bradley French has gone airborne to bring a new, modern look – he produces brilliant drone videos.

"Someone at work was talking about (drone videos) and I just got online and bought a DJI Spark (drone)," said French, admittedly an impulsive buyer. "The Spark had just come out and I wanted to fly one and see what people were talking about. Soon after I started flying it I realized the ability to take amazing videos and pictures of architecture that you can't see from just walking around and taking pictures."

A couple of months later, the Mavic Air drone came out and he bought that – and the Mavic Air does 4K video and delivers even better pictures.

"I've been flying for 7 months now and taking a lot of pictures and videos," French said. "I've also got into urban exploration, realizing that I can see a lot more with the drone, (thus) I could take my pictures and videos to the next level by going into places that are abandoned and are beautiful, (such as) Damen Silos, St. Stephen's Church, and Edgewater Medical Center.

"The concept of creative drone videos came about after I watched some professionals and realized that not only can you take videos and pictures, I can compile these together and make a story."

French, 38, is a designer for Wright Heerema Architects. He is an Ohio native who has lived in Chicago since late-2004 and now calls East Lakeview home. He has a master's in architecture from the University of Cincinnati.

Drone videos are his creative outlet, a hobby for others to enjoy and him to create memories of things that will no longer be around. Edgewater Medical Center, for instance, is being torn down, with a beautiful pool on the eighth floor, he said. And St. Stephen's Church is amazing inside, but nobody will get to see this, without such videos, he said.

"When I first got it, I just did test flights by the lake. It takes a while to get used to flying with the remote," he said. "The software still has a lot of bugs and the drone often disconnects and loses the image. It still sometimes goes wildly out of control, as it did at Edgewater Medical Center.

"I'd like to (eventually) make videos for real estate companies, resorts and such. I have an architecture background, so I can do 3D renderings/animations/floor plans also."

And his videos shine with cool production, editing aspects – thanks to YouTube, his main drone educator.

"There is a big learning curve and the more you make the better you get, the more you learn," he said.

French has made 200-plus individual video clips and about 20 videos with music and strong editing, etc. "They take a while and I have tons of footage from a lot of parts of the city that I haven't posted," he said. "In the summer and fall I want to get as much footage as possible and then in the winter I can really go through and edit and make videos. Once I make these (videos) I can sell the individual clips on iStock and then post my production videos for people to see as examples of my work."

French and his drone were working throughout Lakeview on Pride Sunday in late-June.

"The Pride video, I was excited to make because I have seen the parade from a rooftop and the street. The rooftop is great, but with a drone I can see the whole parade and also cruise along the street and see it in action. It allows a lot of people to watch it and see themselves on floats and being fabulous," French said.

So where is French controlling the drone?

Everywhere, he said.

"I'll take the drone off in fast mode and fly away from where I'm shooting. I'll then move around to a couple different spots," he said. "Cops don't like drones, (though) my drone is registered and I have City of Chicago laws. But cops don't like to go through those. Art is art – no risk, no reward."

The Mavic Air drone shoots in 4K, and shoots 60 frames per second. It costs $800, and then needs additional batteries, filters, propellers, etc. "I've spent about $1,700 on the drone and accessories," he said.

One of French's best videos showcases the Edgewater Medical Center, located between Hollywood and Edgewater on Ashland – closed since 2001, though noted as the birthplace of Hillary Clinton and John Wayne Gacy.

"I saw this online at an urban exploration site," French said. "My first time I was alone and went into the part they were tearing down. I was fascinated; it's a photographer's dream. I didn't even care if I got caught. These old places are great to shoot at sunrise and sunset. The colors of the deterioration are beautiful. There is so much life to each picture and video. I don't have to do much color correction on these."

French didn't hesitate to film at Edgewater Medical Center, though it has been rumored to be haunted.

In fact, he said it was "a lot of fun."

"I honestly didn't get creeped out too much until I heard the growling noise (56 seconds into the video) when I was putting the files together," French said. "I (filmed) Damen Silos after that and St. Stephen's Church. I would say St. Stephen's was the creepiest and felt strange."

Yep, French brought his drone to the fabled Damen Silos, an abandoned grain silo just southwest of the city."

French also has made a drone video in Puerto Vallarta, which is his favorite.

More About Bradley French's Drone Videos:

Drone battery life is a challenge – the drone gets about 20 minutes of flying time.

He uses eight batteries.

The drones regularly have issues acquiring GPS signal, losing signal, disconnecting from remote, and not always finding your home point.

Upcoming drone videos: Damen Silos, Edgewater Medical Center, St. Stephen's Church, the University of Chicago, downtown buildings, Baha'i Temple, beach videos, and more.

Speaking, Socially:

Website: www.BradFrenchStudios.com

YouTube | SmugMug | Instagram | Airvuz

French's aerial footage of the 2018 Chicago Pride Festival shows thousands partying in Boystown.
And French's drone flyover gives a unique perspective of the 2018 Chicago Pride Parade.