Drone shows have become popular entertainment in recent years, captivating audiences with their stunning visual displays. But have you ever wondered about the artistry and creativity that goes into these shows?
Meet Alexandra Lappa, an Animator extraordinaire who brings her passion for animation and illustration to the world of Celestial drone shows. With a talent for bringing her creative ideas to life, Alexandra has been recognised for her personal projects at several international film festivals.
Since joining the team in late 2021, she has continued bringing her unique perspective and artistic flair to the studio daily.
In this interview, we’ll explore the artistry and technical skill involved in creating these breathtaking displays and hear from Alexandra about her experience working in this exciting field.
What inspired you to pursue a career in animation, and how did you get into drone show animation specifically?
Alexandra: Animation, filmmaking and art have been massive parts of my life. I am so grateful I am able to pursue these passions and grow my knowledge, work alongside extremely talented people, and along the way, make really cool one-of-a-kind shows for people to enjoy! It’s a dream come true.
Can you describe the process of creating a drone show animation from start to finish?
Alexandra: We have a pipeline that has a few important stages. The client will develop their ideas for their dream drone show, and we will distil them into a written script.
As our in-house illustrator, I am responsible for creating the storyboard and concept art for the show. First, these images will be approved, and then we can start the exciting process of animating.
Once the animation is complete, we will export all the navigational paths from our software. First, we make sure to check the animations are safe to fly in our designated airspace for the show. Then we pass everything along to our pilots, who fly all the drones in the sky.
What are some of the technical challenges involved in creating animations for drone shows, and how do you overcome them?
Alexandra: Timing is our number one challenge, as we have to fit a lot of drone imagery into a short amount of time! We have tools to overcome this, but at the end of the day (almost), anything is possible.
How do you work with other team members, such as drone pilots and music composers, to create a mesmerising drone show?
Alexandra: Everyone involved in a project is extremely important. Each talented and hard-working person’s work and efforts bring the show to life and make the magic happen!
The shows wouldn’t work without the help from each other. The wider team is so important, from sales to directors, production to animation, to the pilots and ops. But talented musicians and sound designers are also a huge part of the final output.
Having a client with a real passion for the project helps inspire everyone involved. All the strings tie up at the end to create a beautiful outcome. It’s a rollercoaster, but it’s worth every moment.
How do you set Celestial apart from other drone show companies?
Alexandra: We pride ourselves on our hand-made organic drone shows. Our animation techniques are unique and provide a particular set of tools to bring our client’s ideas into reality.
It’s such a special process going from ideation into the live event, and as an animator, it’s really exciting to be part of the process.
How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in the field of drone show animation?
Alexandra: I LOVE to scavenge the internet for drone shows on the daily! Instagram, Linkedin, YouTube, everywhere! I feel as though I have discovered every single possible drone company on the planet and followed all of their work.
It excites me to be part of this community and see equally as passionate people creating magical performances in the sky for people to enjoy. Every company and show flown brings so much personality to the field, and it’s so inspirational to see.
What are some of the key considerations you need to keep in mind when designing animations for drone shows?
Alexandra: The main thing we keep in mind is the clarity of the elements we make for the shows. For example, if the wording is legible, or if an animal we make looks and moves as close to the real thing as possible.
Our work tells the story our client wants, intending to reach and dazzle their audience.
We always make sure that we have ticked all the boxes and more on the client’s list of hopes for the show.
Our shows are a special moment for everyone therefore, we want to inspire every person who watches them.
Our shows are collaborative and an art piece.
As well as our client being happy, we want to be happy with what we have delivered. So it is an extraordinary and surreal moment for us every time we see our drones lift off.
How do you decide on the colours, shapes, and movements of the drones in your animations?
Alexandra: This can vary a lot as we love listening to our clients’ ideas and trying to implement them into the shows. The show’s theme plays a large role as we work on a pre-approved script.
For example, if it was a Christmas-themed drone show, this would influence every aspect of the design process, from the colours of our drone lights to the pacing of the show itself! Our joint animation team’s dream is to one day put a massive Mario Kart rainbow road in the sky, bringing that whole racecourse into real life.
Can you walk me through a specific project you worked on recently and the challenges you faced during its creation?
Alexandra: London New Year’s Eve was a recent show that I had the chance to work on. Our timeframe for creating this project was quite tight, and there was a lot to do on our side being such a high-profile opportunity, we did not want to disappoint.
Everyone involved in the celebratory events for the mayor’s NYE was a pleasure to work with, and the combined outcome was incredible! The response from viewers and audiences was overwhelmingly positive and fulfilling. It was bigger and better than any of us could have ever imagined.
What kind of feedback do you receive from audiences and clients, and how do you use that feedback to improve your animations?
Alexandra: Obviously, the entirety of the drone show-making process is fun, from the ideation of a concept to the final touches in our animation software before it is sent off to our pilots and ops team.
But, being immersed in the crowd on the show day, surrounded by the audience, young and old, our team and the clients who are equally as nervous as myself to see the show unravel, is so exhilarating! No matter how many shows I have seen and worked on, the excitement I get each time is unmatched.
After having worked on something for a very long time on a small screen in the office, seeing it fly above the crowd in the sky and multiply in size, surrounded by the people we made it for, is incredible! The audience’s emotions inspire each show. Their support, reactions and emotions during showtime fuel my creativity (and everyone on our team) for our next show.
That feeling will never get old.
What are some of the most impressive drone shows you’ve been a part of, and what made them stand out to you?
Alexandra: London New Year Eve Drone Show (January 2023): The size of the audience it reached, its impact, and the extremely positive response from viewers. Such a surreal experience. I was back at home in Greece for New Year, and the Greek media’s incredibly touching response to our show was so surreal to see in my home country, haha!
Adelaide Fringe (March 2022): The stories told were so inspirational to me, so impactful and
important for the world to hear. The fact we had the opportunity to work side by side with
incredibly talented First Nations People and inspirational artists will forever be so important.
It was also my first ever job, so it will remain an unforgettable moment.
Coventry City of Culture (April 2022): being able to see it in person, and being involved from beginning to a full end, placing the drones out, seeing 27,000 people packed into a park in Coventry blew my mind as a first-time drone animator. Even in the pouring rain and dreary weather, their support was so touching and being able to experience that crazy moment with our whole team was a special memory.
How do you balance artistic creativity with the technical restrictions of drone show animation?
Alexandra: Anything is possible as long as it obeys the limitations of drone technology. We have certain rules we need to follow to fly safely here in the UK and abroad. After considering that guidance, we can apply our creativity within the bounds of possibility.
What do you think are the key advantages of using drones for entertainment purposes, as opposed to more traditional methods?
Alexandra: The scale! Seeing drone shows on a portable device or a tv screen will unfortunately never match up to seeing them in real life. I hope that anyone and everyone who has the chance to actually see a drone show in real life gets to.
The sheer scale of them, the atmosphere and immersion, and the surrounding crowd experiencing the same rare moment for a brief amount of time is a very special experience. Every drone show is a surprise, and nothing matches their energy and the feeling they evoke.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the field of drone shows animation?
Alexandra: I would say; passion, bold ideas. No idea is a silly idea. Willing to work with people who are equally as crazy. Dream big! Big in scale and in impact, passion and excitement for the element are unmatched. It’s a growing industry that’s open to great ideas, and finally, contact your local drone show company.
As we end our interview with Alexandra Lappa, it’s clear that the artistry and creativity behind Celestial drone shows are indeed something to behold. With her incredible talent for animation and illustration, Alexandra has brought a fresh perspective to this exciting field, infusing it with her own personal style and passion for creativity.
From the technical skill required to program the drones to the artistic vision necessary to bring these displays to life, it’s clear that creating a Celestial drone show is a true labour of love.
We hope this interview has given you a glimpse into the fascinating world of Celestial drone shows and inspired you to appreciate the artistry and creativity behind these breathtaking displays.