Cambodia International Film Festival

The Future of Drone Cinematography: Kimlong Meng

Kimlong Meng
Kimlong Meng

Kimlong Meng, a drone master and underwater cameraman, is fast becoming a household name in Cambodia’s film industry. From June 28th to July 3rd, he will have four films screened at the Cambodia International Film Festival.

The short documentary, “Sea Within A Sea” uses underwater cinematography and drones, Kimlong was the director of the drone cinematography for the IMAX film, “Angkor The Lost Empire”, and his team filmed with Oxfam Cambodia for the beautiful footage in “Along The Mekong With Sai”.

The Face of Mekong
The Face of Mekong: Birds at Ramsar site, Stung Treng province

The Cambodian professional photographer and drone cinematographer based in Phnom Penh built his name by investing in expensive equipment that no one expected to be used in Cambodia. Having worked in photography and new media, he looked toward the future of camerawork. 

Drone Cinematography 

In 2014, Kimlong became fascinated with drones and took a big risk by purchasing equipment that wasn’t yet available in Cambodia. “I needed a separate monitor, a separate camera, a GoPro, a separate drone, and a separate monitor. So we need to combine it together to make it work,” Kimlong explained. “ And after that, I start to develop myself. I learned by myself, I practice myself and I also ask some people’s advice about it.”

Not only did he teach himself how to operate drones through Youtube, but he also invested his hard-earned money in a small drone, practicing on his own until he became a smooth operator. in 2015, he embarked on a three-month volunteer journey with the DC camp with special permission to fly drones around the Angkor Wat complex.

One of the most memorable moments is when he captured the temple peaking out from the clouds, Kimlong recalled.

Angkor The Lost Empire of Cambodia By Murray Pope
Angkor The Lost Empire of Cambodia
By Murray Pope

In 2017, Murray Pope contacted Kimlong about the possibility of shooting a major film, but the project would need a bigger camera. “At the time, not many people have that kind of our quality (in drones) because there’s a lot of small drones in the market,” Kimlong explained. “But in the community, there’s no big drones.” 

In 2018, Kimlong then upgraded to a big drone — a DJI Inspire 2. Capable of shooting in RAW, zooming, and capturing more footage, Kimlong put this $17,000 bad boy straight to work and his pricey investment paid off. “What I do, it’s not the market canvas,” Kimlong said. “That means I started first and then I have the market later. So like before I buy, I check with my friend and they said like, it’s a big investment.”

Underwater Footage

Sea Within A Sea
Sea Within A Sea

The 31-year-old invested $8,000 in underwater camera equipment and spent several months learning how to deep-sea dive to learn how to shoot underwater. “I invest a lot of money in scuba diving, scuba diving,” Kimlong smiled. “I dived more than 80 times now.” Underwater filming was much more difficult to learn than droning for Kimlong, Unlike his drones where he could use any free space to fly, he had to look for a pool to practice underwater. Unfortunately, most of the public pools were closed due to the pandemic, so Kimlong travelled to the Koh Sdach often to practice his underwater filming.

Learn More at the Festival

Now he is preparing the next generation of drone cinematographers by offering his knowledge and experience in a talk and discussion event during CIFF. Information like how to work with foreign production and create cinema in the sky through drones. “For example, in IMAX, it’s not just about the story, but also the technical factors. “The screen is three to four times bigger,” Kimlong explained. “So they(the audience) see all the small detail in the film.” The movement of the camera is extremely important, otherwise, the audience can feel sick if the speed of the camera’s movement is not adjusted accordingly.

To discover the basics of drone filmmaking, join Kimlong and the director of Angkor: The Lost Empire of Cambodia, Murray Pope, on June 30th at 12:30 (noon) at the French Institute. 


Written by Sotheavy Nou