The Phantom Quadcopter Was Hiding a Passion
One of Max Romey's shots using the Phantom
One of Max Romey's shots using the Phantom

Thursday, November 21, 2013

By Kameron Payne
WWU Sports Information Office

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a Quadcopter?

A Phantom to be exact, the newest technological advancement to hit the market for photographers and videographers.

DJI Innovations, the manufacturer of the Phantom, leads the world in developing high performance, easy to use unmanned aerial systems. DJI combines the use of professional quality video with a hobby helicopter concept.

"It's a toy, let's be honest," said Max Romey, a sophomore cross country runner at Western Washington University, who has been working with the Phantom for about six months. "It's a four-rotter remote control helicopter with a GoPro video camera mounted on the bottom."

Romey, a sophomore from Anchorage, Alaska, has been running cross-country for six years. It began as a way to hang out with friends at Robert Service High School while getting credit, but now it has become a lifestyle.

At the beginning of last summer, Romey sustained a knee injury. It got progressively worse and kept him from competing this season.

Though unable to contribute as a runner for the Vikings, it has not stopped Romey from being a part of the team or made his passion for the sport fade.

He recently put together a video, "The Pursuit," promoting the men's and women's teams run to the NCAA Division II National Championships on Nov. 23 at Spokane.

In doing that, Romey used the Phantom to shoot footage of the team with angles and perspectives never seen before. He shot video of every race WWU has competed in this season, as well as of the runners training.

Cross country training is just about everything but graceful and majestic explained Romey with an ear-to-ear smirk. These runners put in 100 percent of their dedication during the months prior to the season, some of them running up to 100 miles a week.

"They put their lives into this and I hope that I have caught glimpses of that in the footage," Romey said. "Having that on video will hopefully get other people pumped and passionate about it as well."

That is one of Romey's main goals in producing the video, getting others passionate about the sport of running, and encouraging friends and family members of these runners to get out and cheer.

"I'm hoping this video gets support for these runners," Romey said. "So parents might see this, friends might see this, and want to head to Spokane and cheer the runners on."

Romey knows all about how these athletes are impacted by even the smallest form of support they receive.

"Nothing quite helps like cheering," Romey said, "whether or not it's on the side of a race course, or even a Facebook post or video."

Aside from getting support for his teammates, Romey has another reason for using the Phantom and making videos. It is a way to cope with his injury. Since being told this summer that he couldn't run, it has driven home how important the sport is to him.

"Having this break from running has shown me just how important it is in my life," Romey said. "It's not just running, it's the team aspect that matters so much. I'm really fortunate to be able to stay with it."

A few months ago, an opportunity came for Romey that was a dream come true. Chronotrack, a race timing technology organization, offered him a job working with the Phantom to get aerial footage for them.

"I had worked on several non-aerial videos with them before they brought up the idea of the Quadcopter," Romey said. "They asked if I knew how to use it and I said, 'yeah'. Then they just sent one to my house."

According to the Chronotrack website, they are responsible for timing 25 of the 30 largest races in the United States. It was an opportunity Romey couldn't say no to.

Romey, who made his first film just two years ago, originally started out producing photography. With a passionate voice, he explained that pictures and videos have always been a major part of his life.

"It seems like I have had a camera in my hand forever," Romey said. "Whether it's a disposable camera, DSLR or GoPro.

Since his first video, Romey has taken on filmmaking with the mentality of it being like a sport. In order to get better and learn new things, he believes practice is the key.

"To be good at it, you need a small amount of skill and a huge amount of practice," said Romey. "I learn something new with every project. A new transition, work flow or just how to be more efficient."

People have loved the work Romey has done with the Phantom. One of his videos has received over 17,000 views on YouTube since he published it on Sept. 1.

The DJI products are something Romey has been grateful to work with. They have offered him so many more opportunities than what he had before.

"To get a shot of somebody running is one thing," Romey said. "With this, you can actually put viewers in the mindset of the runner and in the race itself."

Filmmaking, especially inspirational sports films, is something Romey would love to do as a profession. He is combining his two biggest passions, filmmaking and running, and making a life-long career out of it.

"What I'm trying to do is work with some of this crazy new technology to show how intense and rewarding this sport can be," Romey said. "This is something that I love to do and I believe it is really going to help out the sport."