Mike Jensen from Sacramento Drone has been in business for almost 30 years doing wedding and event videos and corporate videography.
Mike always offered unique services to clients, such as 8mm film, 360 VR panoramas and aerial shots of wedding venues. In the mid-90s, he did his first aerial by renting an airplane and continued to get aerial footage by renting helicopters. At $400/hr, it was very expensive, but he gathered a reusable library of about 30 to 40 of the most popular wedding venues in town and says, “Before the drone revolution, my competitors weren’t offering that.” In 2006, I created and produced the world record wedding video event in Sacramento, setting a new world record of 100 cameras to professionally film a wedding.
David: “So when did you get into flying a traditional kind of quad copter setup?
When drones started to become reliable in the early 2000s, Mike didn’t feel comfortable flying them himself, so he found a drone pilot online that was flying a lot over water. Finally in 2014, Mike got his license and purchased his first drone—a DJI Phantom 2. I started flying it for events and later upgraded it to the Autel X-star then to the Mavic Pro. Today although he flies an Autel EVO, his favorite drone to fly is the Mavic 2 Pro Zoom.
David: “Do you use drones right now mostly as a supplement to your film business or have you gotten into any drone services?”
Mike had an advantage of having a videography company first. At some point, his videography clients also need drone services, which made it an easy sell. One of Mike’s biggest clients is a local major construction company. They’ve hired him to go out every week and do visual updates–flying for 1-2 hrs, shooting 3-4 one-minute videos, 20-40 stills and a top down shot. Mike stitches all those together in Photoshop and delivers a megapixel image of the entire property from 400 feet looking down. He saves them a lot of money by providing that documentation, their project manager meets with corporate every week and needs to show them progress.
David: “For a construction job where you’ll shoot once a week and these projects take months, what do you typically charge for a job like that?”
Mike is hired to fly once a week for 30 weeks and charges them $300 a flight. That includes 1-1 1/2 hrs of flying, culling images, making sure his videos look good, uploading and then sending them the link. This is an ongoing client, often bringing him onto another project as they’re finishing one up.
David: “Were you actively reaching out to those types of clients or did they find you? How did that work come about?”
I shot for many years for a large West Coast healthcare provider. They were building a medical office building where Mike lives in Sacramento and the construction company brought him on for their own projects. One job led to another. Most of my business at this point in my career is word of mouth.
David: “Looking back to when you were first starting, can you think of tactics that might work in today’s environment? For example, if you were starting in the drone business, didn’t have history with Jensen Films, and wanted a drone only business, what do you think you would do first to get it going?”
Mike says he’s expanded his video company and doing a lot of different things—drones are just one of them. For example, when he started doing photo booths, he got on Facebook and let everybody know by creating and posting short videos. Similarly, for 360VR work, they just started shooting some footage unpaid, posted it and let his friends know. A photographer friend knew about a huge condo project that was going up and needed 360 video.
“What really helped me was letting the world know what I was doing and doing it well. I needed to WOW the first client I got and then over-deliver on the promises I’d made. It’s also important to continue to up my game. I’m always looking for ways to increase my skills. If you start standing still, that’s a prescription to fail.”
David: “So tell me a little bit about the VR stuff. When did you guys start doing that…what’s that like?”
One night when he was editing late, Mike stumbled on the website of a 360 videographer who’d created gorgeous 360 images of the Royal Danish wedding. Mike realized he needed to do that with his brides, so he bought the equipment and started marketing it. Since then, he’s made custom rigs for his drones and included Live 360 and Ground 360 in virtual wedding movies for his brides. Clients can link to it on Vimeo or Facebook from their desktop, laptop or phones, or use goggles.
David: “How much do you charge for VR video?”
Mike began charging $750 for VR wedding video, but with every new VR video, he’s raised the price to $1,000, $1,250 or $1500. It’s an add-on to a basic package for the day. An exciting thing he’s been using is the new Insta 360-1R, which is two cameras that mount on the top and bottom of the Mavic 2Pro and can shoot stills or video without that dead spot on top (see link at bottom for website for Insta 360-1R)
David: “In the last five years or so, as drones have become much more affordable and the technology has gotten a lot better, how has that impacted your business, if at all?”
Mike says he’s always been an early adopter because it’s given him the advantage of being able to market something that no one else has. With the wedding 360s, there may be only five other people in the country that offer that for wedding packages. He tells his brides, “it’s the only shot of your wedding day where you’ll be able to see everyone in your wedding in one shot.” Mike says,
“I’m never satisfied with where my business is. I’m always looking for different ways to help my clients put the dream and the goal of what they need and want into images.”
David: “So you have corporate and weddings, you’re doing construction stuff, some VR stuff and the photo booth stuff. Is there anything else that you have going on that you’re excited about?”
Jensen Films is contracted with a real estate company that brings in actors to stand-in inside luxury homes while Mike films them. It’s a type of lifestyle video that’s simple to do. Mike brings in the actors and, now that he’s been licensed for a number of years, he flies the drone himself. It’s also in the contract that when the house sells, they’ll pay him an extra $750 to $1,000. He also helps them by posting to his social media and giving them a little bit of advertising from his end.
David: “If you had some advice to give somebody who’s just starting a drone business—whether it’s video, documenting construction sites, or mapping—what direction would you provide to get started?
1-Always deliver more than you promise. Clients have come back to him again and again because he always delivers more.
2-Don’t get into this industry unless you have a passion, not only for the drone work, but for the business end as well. The drone is the backend of the business.
3-Continue to improve on not only your technical flight skills, but on your creative photo and video skills, composition, movement, lighting. Whenever Mike flies for a client, he’s looking for that epic shot that will wow his clients.
Connect with Mike:
- Website: www.SacramentoDrone.com
- Some samples of Mike’s 360VR wedding work:
- Insta360 One R: https://www.insta360.com/product/insta360-oner_twin-edition
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