A Portsmouth Restaurant experience unlike any other!

The Grand Bellevue Rail Dining Experience combines sheer culinary delight with spectacular views of Narragansett Bay that are rarely seen by those without waterfront property. We were tasked with creating a new promo video for the dinner train and to capture footage for their social media/website/miscellaneous marketing.

Check out the Grand Bellevue’s website here.

The First Challenge

The first hurdle we ran into was the weather. In the springtime the Grand Bellevue was only running on Fridays and Saturdays and southern New England was reliably getting hit with rainstorms every weekend. That kind of weather in the shoulder season is tough on hospitality businesses…but it makes photography and videography for marketing purposes nearly impossible, as very few businesses consider rainstorms to be their “best light”. Also, flying drones in such weather is generally frowned upon by the FAA and the drones themselves.

This put efforts on hold for a bit, but one Friday, it turned out that the weather-guessers were a tad pessimistic with their earlier forecast and there was going to be a break in the clouds that evening. We summoned some carpe diem and headed down to Portsmouth Junction to see if we could shoot some trains.

We got to spend a couple hours in and around the Grand Bellevue train cars, getting photos and video with our mirrorless camera and a bit with our drone. Then the train departed the station and we did a mad dash through Portsmouth to catch the train from some more picturesque vantage points.

We did everything wrong

We were told to go the the landing by the Mount Hope Bridge. However, despite years working and living on Aquidneck Island, most of our time was focused in Newport and Middletown, so we’d never actually stopped by Bristol Ferry Town Common. Instead we found ourselves on Mussel Bed Shoal Road, which is directly underneath the landing of the Mt. Hope Bridge. It’s a rather wooded area, which isn’t optimal for the drone, which likes to have LOS to the controller.

Unfortunately, we heard a train horn in the distance, alerting us to the fact that we didn’t have time to reconnoiter the area…or so we thought. We launched our DJI Mini 3 Pro and started flying down the tracks, looking for the dinner train, which is a fairly large object to see.

Grand Bellevue Dinner Train Portsmouth RI

This was when we learned that a train horn is loud enough to be heard from a couple miles away. Anyone with familiarity with trains, even if just in movies and TV, knows this. The problem is that when you hear a train horn approaching, you know for sure that it’s a train…but you’ve got no idea what the distance is.

So there we were, having taken off from the wrong spot…prematurely. Such is the nature of carpe diem-ing one’s way through a video shoot.

Suddenly things come together

Grand Bellevue Mt Hope Bridge

There is a situation that is quite unique to drone operators where you see a spectacular shot unfolding in front of the drone’s camera and you just lock your thumbs in the position that they’re in so the aircraft keeps doing exactly what it was doing. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to react. The drone is just moving at a steady pace through the vertical and horizontal planes and your job is to let it keep doing that until the composition of the shot requires some fine tuning.

Now, if you think about it, people have been shooting photographs from the air for well over a century. They’ve been operating video cameras from airplanes for at least a century. But for the most part, this has been done as a team, with one person piloting the plane, helicopter or other form of aircraft…and a dedicated cameraman getting the shot. It’s only recently that one person finds themselves responsible for both.

Needless to say, in the moments when it occurs, it’s quite a rush. We were about the experience that rush.

The Grand Bellevue dinner train was finally in sight, lumbering down the rails toward us. We were able to position the drone behind the train and getting a beautiful shot of the train approaching the Mount Hope Bridge. This was it. This was the raison d’etre for everything we had been working towards for years. All the gear, experience and practice had been working to that moment.

And then it got even better

As spectacular as the shots approaching the bridge were, it was just past the landing that we really caught lightning in a bottle. If you haven’t already watched the video, you can see that moment here.

Grand Bellevue Rail Dining Experience

We entered this orbital shot with the simple goal of not doing anything to screw it up and for the most part, I think we succeeded.

Of course, we didn’t have time to pat ourselves on the back, as we had to jump in the car and scoot on over to the landing of the Sakonnet River Bridge.

We found ourselves in the opposite situation that we did at the Mt. Hope Bridge, where we got the drone airborne and discovered that the train was almost upon us.

A Grand Bellevue Sunset

Grand Bellevue Sunset

Capturing the Grand Bellevue Rail Dining Experience was a truly exciting experience. Whittling down the footage while editing the video was a bit of a challenge but I think we reached a happy medium.

Many thanks to Kristen Haley for the referral.

If you’re interested in what New Media Newport can do for your company, reach out!

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