Benicia can be considered from many angles, and has great views from its hillside homes, but a drone video offers a view some might never have. That view is from overhead, a bird’s eye view, which captures First Street, the State Capitol, kites on the Marina Green, boats in the Carquinez Strait—and a beautiful sunset. All that and more is captured in the city’s tourism drone video called “Benicia, A Great Day by the Bay.” The 2-minute film has garnered nearly 13,000 views on YouTube since it aired in late 2015. Its purpose is to show Benicia from a different angle and to showcase its beauty while still highlighting its friendly nature, said city economic development specialist Teri Davena.
Davena got the idea for the tourism project as she and her husband walked their dog at the Benicia Marina one day last year. She saw a man filming with a drone and thought an overhead view of Benicia’s assets would be a great tourism tool. With an okay from her boss, Davena tracked down the filmmaker, Danny Zapeda of Benicia who works at Valero Refinery as an electrical engineer and does drone photography through his firm, Rotor Optics. Formally known as an “unmanned aerial vehicle,” a drone is a small aircraft that can either be controlled remotely or through computer software. Zapeda also made a drone video of the Benicia Jazz Cup.
As Davena planned the film, she found the project soon infused with Benicia’s strong community spirit as many offered to take part in something to promote the city. “Everybody loves this town and they were so thrilled to help,” she said. Watch the film closely and there’s evidence of that. Benicia Bicycle Club members can be seen pedaling past the Yacht Club. One of those cyclists is Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, Davena said. As the camera pans past waterfront condominiums, Deputy City Clerk Kate Gibbs can be spotted waving from a window. Later, kites from Benicia Kite and Paddle are spotted at the Marina Green. Meanwhile, on First Street, Studio 41 owner Leah Perry Shelhorn can be seen sweeping in front of Studio 41, her art gift shop, before she stops and waves.
The film is meant to track a typical day in Benicia. It starts in the east at sunrise and concludes with a spectacular sunset. No filters were used and none of the shots were altered, Davena said. Filming took place over three days in July 2015. The project cost about $4,000 of general fund money designated for tourism in the city’s economic development budget. It is currently shown on YouTube, and on the city’s tourism website, VisitBenicia.org. It’s also on Facebook and Twitter. Davena said it’s been shared and forwarded many times. The number of YouTube views of the film indicates the number of devices used to watch it, not the actual times it’s been played. This method gives a more accurate count of how many people have actually seen it, Davena said. Overall, she said the film has been well received. “Benicians love their town and they love to share this video,” she said, adding she hopes the footage will help spread the word to others who are looking for a scenic and friendly place to spend the day. To watch the drone video click here.