Drone video helps MSHS and Illini Marching Band reach for perfection

Photo and Article by Fred Kroner: Mark Herman in his home office surrounded by some
of his drones and awards he won in June.

Mark Herman has had a life with film.

The Mahomet resident has impressive credits.

Among them are Michael Stevens and Barry Houser.

Herman’s film roles have been behind-the-scenes or — more specifically the past three years — at the controls of a drone.

He and his wife, Julie, have filmed and videotaped events from high school graduations to Marching Band practices or performances to farmers working in their fields.

The vantage point for work done by Flushing Pheasant Video Productions is often above the action.

In the case of Mahomet-Seymour Marching Band practices, the view is from about 200 feet in the air.

What Herman provides, M-S Marching Band director Stevens said, is “a fabulous teaching tool. We can see things to help with rehearsals, problem areas with drills.”

It’s a perspective that Stevens was unaccustomed to seeing.

He’s usually at ground level or on a teaching tower, which is three stories tall.

For his students, Herman’s images provide first-hand proof of areas to refine.

“The kids are like, ‘We really did that?’ “ Stevens related. “The kids see it first-hand and recognize things that did not work.

“It helps us to get better faster and to clean things up. What he does is wonderful. We’re blessed to have him in the community.”


Houser, who also lives locally, applauds Herman’s efforts.

“It has been fantastic in terms of helping us,” Houser said. “It’s similar to a football team reviewing plays.

“It allows us to review performances and see what things look like from the visual perspective.”

When Houser and Herman originally talked about the possibilities, the veteran UI band director acknowledged, “you get so wrapped up in the daily tasks, these things that Mark provides were not on a list of things to consider.”

He gave Herman the green light to move forward and is elated with the results.

“When you see the footage, it makes a world of difference how we plan for the future,” Houser said. “Usually on Thursdays (at rehearsals), I am up in the press box, but some of the things Mark sent were items I couldn’t see,”

The aerial vantage point helps reinforce the director’s words.

“It’s a greater teaching tool than me talking about it,” Houser said. “It shows them, and you can’t argue with a picture from the top or the visual footage. They are able to learn from their mistakes.

“We appreciate all the work Mark has done and his ability to grow as technology advances.”


Herman’s story, however, starts long before drones.

A 1981 Mahomet-Seymour graduate, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and spent the 1990s working full-time in athletics at the University of Illinois.

Herman was hired by John Mackovic as the football video coordinator, but quickly gained fans.

“Lou Henson and others (coaches) wanted work in video,” Herman said. “I helped in the beginning with the expansion, before there was a video board.

“It was a great single-man’s job, getting to work with Division 1 college athletes and coaches. But, once I had kids, the long hours and time away from home got me to try to find something with more normal hours.”

He then spent about eight years doing video productions for Human Kinetics, but all the time had a side business of his own.

In 1999, Herman and his wife incorporated, and Flushing Pheasant Video Productions was officially born.

“I was a pheasant hunter at one time,” Mark Herman explained, “but have gotten away from pheasant hunting.”

With the advent and introduction of drones, the business name is perhaps even more appropriate.

“Our motto on the web site is ‘Seeing your video visions take flight,’ “

Herman said. “That falls into line with a drone taking flight.”

After leaving the Human Kinetics video department in 2010, Herman has been working full time for himself at Flushing Pheasant Video Productions.


There are regular customers that Herman works with, such as the 200-plus member M-S Marching Band, Houser’s 300-plus member UI Marching Band, GROWMARK Incorporated and the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS).

Plus, there are any number of other jobs that arise.

“Someone called from Hawaii,” Herman said, “and wanted some aerial views of a family farm near Arthur.

“I shot some high angles of the farm and corn being combined.”

Except for his wife, there’s not a staff of workers for him to send out on assignments, except when the occasional need arises for him to hire a freelancer.

“The thing that makes me unique is I work on a personal level with clients,” Herman said. “I juggle my schedule to be the person who shoots the video and edits the video.”

Though the fall band season is an especially busy time, Herman added, “if someone has a need, I’ll try to fit them into the schedule.

“I’m looking for new challenges, new customers, new clients.”

On many of the Marching Band jobs, Julie Herman gets audio on her recordings, thus covering an aspect which can not be accomplished with a drone.

“She will shoot closeups and gather audio and I will do an inter-cut (cutting between drone high and wide shots vs. closeups) when I edit,” Mark Herman said. “She provides a second camera in a lot of situations.”


This is the third year that Herman’s work has included shots or video from drones, which he purchased for about $1,500 apiece.

“No doubt, being able to add that extra layer really does add to the production,” said Herman, who won three national awards in June for his work.

It does not, however, add to the cost for his clients.

“We don’t charge more for that. If you ask me to make a video, we’ll incorporate that,” Herman said.

Though Herman is not a commercial pilot, he had to garner knowledge on the subject before he could operate drones.

“I learned all of the ins and outs of becoming a pilot,” Herman said. “You have to be able to judge weather and know how wind speed affects propellers.”

In his years of using drones, Herman has not encountered any difficulties.

“I’m conservative by nature, but being level-headed serves you well when operating a drone,” said Herman, who finds it vital to have an assistant nearby while he is operating the drones, which weigh approximately 3 pounds.

“You need an observer to say, ‘You’re getting close to that tree.’ “

The technology on drones has improved, and auto pilot is an option, but Herman said there can still be challenges.

“There are multiple joy sticks to use at once,” he said. “You might need to go upwards and backwards at the same time while you’re watching it and you need to have a smooth image.

“There are a lot of nuances. It takes time to get the sharp movements down.”

The rewards for Herman go beyond the financial.

“It’s the overall satisfaction of knowing you’re making people happy,” Herman said, “knowing you’re capturing something they can look back on and have that moment as a lifetime keepsake.”

For more information about Herman’s company, contact or
google Flushing Pheasant Video.

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