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Phuket entrepreneur takes to the skies

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket entrepreneur takes to the skies | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Perched on a steep hillside directly beneath the watchful gaze of the Big Buddha rests the compound that houses Helicam.

Owned and operated by British national Phil Clark, the media production company, which specializes in aerial photography and videography, is just about to celebrate a dozen years of operating in Phuket.

The anniversary will be highlighted by the upcoming launch of their new website which will display to the world, and especially potential clients, the extensive library of work they have accumulated over the years.

Coming off of a 10-year stint as an art director at an agency in the UK, Phil began to merge his interest in photography and hobby of remote control helicopters.

After an attempt at finding a foothold for his fledgling business met with resistance in Dubai, Phil’s Phuket-based brother suggested he explore his options on the island.

“I started off doing the job using helicopters to take aerial photographs of pieces of land. At the time, everyone was buying and selling land so it did sort of quickly kick-off,” recalls the energetic father of two.

“And then people were asking, can you also do the shots inside for me, can you do the rooms, can you do a video, so they were asking for more and I thought, ‘well, we are going to have to do more different things’. We diversified, got more equipment, we learned more about photography and became better photographers and videographers and now we’re doing hotel corporate videos for the Accor Group, Pullman, Banyan Tree, Angsana.”

Although it might sound simple – buy a cheap drone online for 30,000 baht and off you go – Phil and his team knew that to stay ahead of the pack, they had to offer services that branded them with a level of distinction.

“If we stuck with just doing the aerial photographs, we wouldn’t be here anymore,” explains Phil.

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What gives Helicam an edge, and what makes them one of the most attractive options in their field, is the fact that they offer the full package – a one-stop shop for visual media.

“These guys can do virtual tours on the ground and these guys can fly helicopters and take shots of villas and there is a good production company that does videos, but I’ve never come across a company which does the whole thing and packages them together as one job [like Helicam does].”

Picture this: A property developer is marketing their new multi-villa project on a hillside overlooking the sea. Naturally, they want to pre-sell as many units as possible before breaking ground on the project. What Helicam can do is take a series of aerial images and process them into a interactive birds-eye view of the surrounding landscape. Next, they create CGI graphics of the new project. When a prospective client clicks on one of the units, a photo pops up which shows the view that they will see from their balcony. From the balcony, they can use the 360-degree virtual tour feature to actually navigate through the villa.

When the villas are complete, Helicam can combine their skyward approach of sweeping fly-throughs of the property with romantic edits of couples enjoying candle lit dinners, kids splashing in the pool and smiling faces of the staff to create a professionally published and visually stimulating package.

Helicam’s success has been a product of a proactive approach to identifying new technology and methodologies, and taking the initiative to develop the skills necessary to employ them and stay ahead of the game.

Although the business has enjoyed 12 years of growing success, it does come with growing pains. “One of the biggest challenges is actually – it’s not doing the work – but being able to be legitimate, having a Thai company operating in Thailand with so many language barriers and paperwork for work permits, business visas… red tape,” reflects Phil.

He explains the exhausting process of trying to keep up with the ever-growing list of requirements needed to operate his business. Even his Thai accountant has recently become very frustrated.

In addition to staying abreast of bureaucratic business requirements, Phil has to keep up with the breakneck pace of the quickly changing tech landscape.

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“The helicopters changed [from petrol] to the electric ones, we got batteries instead of using fuel. And then it changed again and we got autopilots and instruments and they got more autonomous. Then the multi-rotors came out, then the hexicopters, the quadcopters, octocopters and it just keeps on going and changing.”

Phil has also kept on the cutting edge of his field by using the latest photography and videography equipment. He has forged forward from the days of slide film cameras through to the digital age and has even joined the ranks of the latest mirrorless revolution (story here).

Following a dozen years of building a robust reputation among a diverse group of notable clients such as Sansiri, Coca Cola and Proctor and Gamble, the sky’s the limit for this Phuket entrepreneur.

For more information, visit: helicam.asia

— Jeremie Schatz

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO

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We look at the recent changes made by the Australian and Indian governments to except control over the world’s biggest social media platforms. India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social. There is now an open battle between the rise of social media platforms and the governments and ‘old’ media that have been able to maintain a certain level of control over the ‘message’ for the last century. Who will win?

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told. The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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The social media giants in battle with ‘old’ media and world governments | VIDEO

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The social media giants in battle with ‘old’ media and world governments | VIDEO | The Thaiger

“The rules signal greater willingness by countries around the world to rein in big tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter that the governments fear have become too powerful with little accountability.”

India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social.

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The companies are also being made to publish a compliance report each month with details about how many complaints they’ve received and the action they took.

They’ll also be required to remove ‘some’ types of content including “full or partial nudity,” any “sexual act” or “impersonations including morphed images”

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told.

The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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Turbulence ahead for Thailand’s aviation industry | VIDEO

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When the airlines, in particular, were asking the government to put their hands in their pockets for some relief funding in August last year, it was genuinely thought that international tourists would be coming back for the high season in December and January. At the very least local tourists and expats would head back to the skies over the traditional holiday break. And surely the Chinese would be back for Chinese New Year?

As we know now, none of that happened. A resurge in cases started just south of Bangkok on December 20 last year, just before Christmas, kicking off another round of restrictions, pretty much killing off any possibility of a high season ‘bump’ for the tourist industry. Airlines slashed flights from their schedule, and hotels, which had dusted off their reception desks for the surge of tourists, shut their doors again.

Domestically, the hotel business saw 6 million room nights in the government’s latest stimulus campaign fully redeemed. But the air ticket quota of 2 million seats still has over 1.3 million seats unused. Local tourists mostly skipped flights and opted for destinations within driving distance of their homes.

As for international tourism… well that still seems months or years away, even now.

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