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Meet Sam Chen of Aloha PhotoVideo in Mission Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sam Chen.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I founded Aloha PhotoVideo around 2013 in order to provide world-class photography and videography services to the San Diego luxury home & architecture market.

But to understand how I got here, we’ll have to go back to 1991, when I started my 1st career in high tech, working at a Fortune 500 company in Silicon Valley. We were the company that helped create and pioneer the World Wide Web, and also invented the technology that made digital dinosaurs come alive in the very first Jurassic Park movie, among many other Hollywood blockbusters. After 10 years of life and work in Silicon Valley, I had discovered digital filmmaking and decided to move back to my hometown of San Diego to pursue my childhood dream of creating computer-animated short films. So I set up shop in Mission Beach and dove headfirst into another 10-year journey that resulted in a handful of short films that went on to garner over 90 film festival awards and countless industry opportunities.

Fast forward to 2013, after over 20 years of creating computer animation, I was ready to go back to my first love of photography. Around this time, something revolutionary was happening in the photography industry that would go on to change it forever – and that thing was Unmanned Aircraft Systems, otherwise known as drones. Up till now, I was mostly creating artsy timelapse films around San Diego, but I was constantly frustrated with the lack of access to higher and better vantage points. So when I saw a friend’s surfing video shot entirely with an early version of a consumer drone, I knew that was going to be a powerful photographer’s tool and that I must buy one and master it fast.

So my passion for creating artsy time-lapse films around town quickly turned into a passion for creating artsy aerial films around town and I was having the time of my life. Around this time, a friend who I was filming train for the triathlon happened to also be a real estate agent, and he asked whether I had thought about applying my aerial photo/video skills towards the real estate market. I, of course, did because my father was a real estate broker years ago. How better to showcase luxury dream homes in Rancho Santa Fe for example than to elevate the camera in order to best capture the size and grandeur of these amazing properties. It was a natural progression and a perfect fit. To make a long story short, I shot a coastal home for him in La Jolla and the property was quickly sold (sight unseen) for almost $1.5M to someone overseas who saw the video we created using my drone. At that moment, the proverbial light bulb went off and that’s how Aloha PhotoVideo was born.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Aloha PhotoVideo story. Tell us more about the business.
Since its inception in 2013, Aloha PhotoVideo has become one of San Diego’s premiere services for providing world-class photography and videography to the city’s high-flying luxury home market. We service mostly Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, La Jolla, Encinitas, Point Loma, and the Marina District in Downtown. Our clients include the who’s who of the luxury home industry such as Pacific Sotheby’s, Berkshire Hathaway, Coldwell Banker, Barry Estates, and Harcourts USA among others. Aloha PhotoVideo images constantly grace the covers and the inside pages of Dream Homes and San Diego Premier Properties & Lifestyle Magazines which are the two main monthly periodicals for the luxury real estate market. We are a one-stop shop providing highest-quality photography and videography for luxury home interiors and exteriors, aerial, twilight, and lifestyle. I am the owner, the chief photographer, videographer, and drone pilot.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
With the resurgence of VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality), I can imagine in the near future, a potential homebuyer can shop for homes by donning a pair of VR goggles and walk through any home virtually. In actuality, those technologies and tools are already here today but they are still rather primitive and awkward to use. It’s only natural that all these cutting-edge tools will become smaller, cheaper, faster, and ubiquitous in the years to come.

As for the photographer’s tools, I expect and hope for cameras that can more mimic what the human eye can see – a greater dynamic range, lower sensor noise, expanded color space, and overall image fidelity and accuracy. I’m hopeful because many camera manufacturers, especially Sony, has really come along to not only capture our imagination with their recent technological breakthroughs, but they’ve also captured an ever-growing share of the photo/video camera market from Canon and Nikon.

And as for drones, we can expect future ones to be smarter and more autonomous, most likely taking cues from self-driving cars’ AI technology and leveraging that to better self-navigate as well as avoid collisions in complex environments. Again, a lot of that is already available today in rudimentary forms but we can naturally expect more refinements and enhancements along those lines.

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