During the pandemic, one Western graduate leveraged his talents and turned them into a full-time job after he gained attention online for his drone footage.
2015 graduate Vito Pulverenti was hired by Warner Bros. Pictures to make a promo video using a drone for the NCAA Tournament. The video pans the massive bracket that was put up on the downtown Marriott using a racing drone called an FPV, or first-person view drone. Pulverenti had been flying drones for around five years, and the long shutdown gave him a reason to learn a new type of drone.
“Right before quarantine started, I saw a YouTube video on this FPV drone, and it’s basically a racing drone with a GoPro strapped to it. You can get some really insane shots,” he said. “I started practicing almost every single day, and I started posting these videos on Instagram and YouTube.”
His videos gained momentum during the pandemic. It wasn’t long before real estate companies and other businesses, like Warner Bros. Pictures, reached out to him inquiring about doing their videos.
Fast forward to 2021, and it’s pretty much become his fulltime job, he said. A little more than a month ago, he said he checked his email and saw a message from Warner Bros. Pictures.
“They were like, ‘Hey, we saw one of your videos in Indianapolis on YouTube, and we want you to do the FPV drone promos for the NCAA Tournament.’ I was like, ‘That’s crazy,’” he said. “They actually want to do some future stuff as well. I don’t know if that includes movies or just like more promos or whatever, but yeah it’s really exciting stuff.”
To get his biggest gig essentially in his own backyard was surreal, he said, and he struck gold when he realized the expansive bracket was going up on the Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.
Pulverenti said he never cared much for photography in high school. When he was in college, he started his own company making wooden rings. He then made commercials for his company and realized how much he enjoyed videography and the process behind creating visual projects.
Shortly after, he dropped out of college, bought a drone, and the rest was history. For four years he honed in on his drone skills before purchasing the newer FPV drones. He explained the sophistication of the racing drones versus normal drone piloting.
“The controls are incredibly difficult to learn, especially just starting out because they’re not like a normal drone. The controls are completely different,” he said. “When I first got it, I had to use a simulator for like two days straight. I stayed up for two days straight just learning how to fly the thing before I could even take it out to fly it. What’s crazy is how you fly these drones is because you have VR goggles on. So you’re not looking at a screen on your phone holding it. It’s like you are the drone.”
It’s a recent development for Pulverenti to see his hobbies turning into a feasible career path. He said it’s been a snowball effect since the pandemic began. It didn’t take much self-promotion other than posting his videos, and now he has countless brands reaching out to him for work.
In addition to creating videos for real estate companies and Warner Bros. Pictures, Pulverenti has done a shoot for Corona beer, as well as some work for the Pacers, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Hyatt hotels.
“I was actually the first drone pilot to fly inside [Bankers Life Fieldhouse], so it’s pretty exciting stuff. It’s all been word of mouth, which is kind of crazy. I haven’t done any like advertising or promotion other than putting my videos out there on Instagram and YouTube,” he said.
Countless drones have hit the graveyard in the process, he said. It’s an expensive hobby but has paid off for Pulverenti so far.
Normal drones come back to the user if they lose signal, he said, but the racing FPV drones were different. If he flies too far behind a building or out of range, there’s no GPS, and the drone will drop out of the air.
“It definitely gets people’s attention because it sounds like a jet. It doesn’t sound like a normal drone. It’s like super loud and quick, and it’s obnoxious sometimes. But it’s pretty fun,” Pulverenti said.
While he hasn’t used the racing drones for actual racing, the technology can be used for many different avenues. He has some projects he said he can’t talk about that are in the works, and he’s likely moving to Los Angeles soon to commit fulltime to his craft.
If the pandemic brought any positives, it was lighting a spark to innovative minds like Pulverenti’s.
He said he was thrilled and grateful to have found a job in something he’s grown to love, and he said droning is taking the world by storm.