Getting started in aerial photography and drone video production.

Drone Video Equipment

Drone video can spice up websites and give an edge to your B-roll

If you have a web design or internet marketing company you might offer local drone video and editing services to your clientsGetting involved in creating videos is not only a great way to get more business, but it also gives your agency the opportunity to get up close and personal with it’s clientsMy first major in college was digital video production, so it came naturally for me when I started picking up a few side projects. At first I was thinking what the hell, it gets me out of the design lab for a while and maybe I can have a little fun in the process. 
 
When we started offering on-location drone and video services to our our clients it was sketchy. I am surprised we made in though the first couple of shoots alive with workable footage. In the beginning we had hired a drone pilot and videographer but he had to cancel last minute. I did not want to miss the opportunity so I drove out to Fry’s Electronics and spent $3000 dollars equipment. I purchased a DJI Mavic drone and cheap DSLR with a lighting setup.
 
For the next 3 days up until the scheduled shoot I spent the majority of my time learning how to pilot the drone. Brushed up on my amateur video editing skills and got the hang of it again. 2 years and quite a few video jobs later, we decided to start a department out of it. 
 
Adding a small drone fleet to our video production arsenal has more than paid for itself many times over. Drones prove to be great tools for getting those really smooth transition and B-roll shots that help your projects stand outDrone footage can also be introduced tastefully in website backgrounds, social media posts and company location pages
 
When you get the hang of piloting a drone there are so many fun and exciting ways to experiment with getting unique angles and shotsWe have used our drone to showcase warehouses, large construction equipment, roofing installations and many company locations all over Atlanta.

Finding the right drone for you

There are a handful of drone manufacturers out there like Intel and Yuneec but DJI appear to dominate the market and for good reason. They have their SPARK series that offers a smaller more compact drone solution. The Mavic PRO has been their flagship product for quite some time and now most recent Mavic PRO2 offering improved obstacle detection and enhanced video features. DJI have great product support with quite a user community to back it up. If you purchase a DJI drone I would recommend getting their DJI Care refresh insurance. Trust me I don’t care how careful you are with your new drone at some point you are going to wreck it. It cost about $99 and must get purchased when you register your drone. Yes it is another $99.00 but well worth it. You will use it at some point believe me. Having it also makes flying a little less stressful.

Important Points to Consider

I thought it would be a good idea to put this article together for new aspiring drone pilots or anyone out there looking for a few pointers on this subject. A quick heads up. You will need to get FAA certified by taking the Part 107 test in order to fly a drone for paid services commerciallyWe got away with it for a few jobs, however you can get into some pretty deep trouble if you get caught flying commercially without a certification. Sometimes the client will request it before hiring you as well. It is a bit of a study but there are quite a few programs and study guides available on the internet that will guide you through it.
  • Make sure you are in focus
  • When shooting  it is better to be under exposed than over exposed
  • Use ND filters
  • Go slow – You can always speed up video later in post
  • Get long clean consistent shots try to avoid steering your drone all over the place
  • Avoid distractions – Take it slow –
  • Learn how to launch your drone with your our arm extended from the palm of your hand
  • Learn how to land your drone on your hand

Drone Shoot Preparation and Planning

Check the weather in advance and if possible schedule to shoot just after dust or just before dawn to get the best sunlight for your shots. If you are shooting indoors you should check to make sure there are not any large metal structures or electronics. They can throw off electromagnetic interference that can make you loose control of your drone. I almost lost a few of our drones shooting indoors so test it out first. 
 
When you land your first drone shoot/ client – hands down… preparation will be the difference between getting some great footage and totally screwing up! First things first get some idea from the client on what shots they want and what the location or locations are like. Sometimes the locations they want will be located in  no-fly zones. You might have to ask permission to fly in some cases, in others it can be illegal all together. Download the Drone Buddy app and put in the address it will give you details on no-fly zones, weather and local airport information. Schedule it letting the client know when you will be there so employees or other personnel wont get confused when you show up flying a drone over their heads. 

Getting your drone and video equipment ready

I always get everything all packed up the day before. Charge your batteries and remote and make sure all your SIM storage cards work. Double check that they are not full of footage files from an old project. Fire up the drone one last time and make sure the firmware is updated and check to make sure the gimbal is functioning properly. I will go ahead and set the standard video settings to D-LOG this way your footage will have more information to color-correct in post.
 
Almost 100% of the time you will be either speeding up your footage or slowing it down. You can always edit the speed to fit the tempo of your B-Roll. I shoot at 60 frames per second to leave a little wiggle room for smoothing out footage I want to slow down later. Get a cloth and some lens cleaner and clean the camera lens. Trust me you will loose your mind if you get back to your editing setup and find out there was a small smudge that was overlooked.

On Location

Once on location before unpacking I would touch base with the client and as I said earlier conduct a full re-con of the area. Try to find a good place with shade for you to pilot the drone from. If the sun is out and coming down hard you will really need to find a place that will let you clearly see your remote monitor and offer you a good line of site position to keep track of your drones location.

Think your shots through, think about what angles would look best. After launching your drone make sure you have a strong GPS signal and double check to make sure the home position has been recorded. 

Drone Video Flying Advice

Fly smoothly and slowly, the best shots are always smooth clean simple shots. Every time you correct your flight path abruptly you pretty much lost the lengthy shot. Just relax take some deep breaths and fly as smooth as you can. Generally if you can make sure your focus, subject speed and angle are on point you will get some great footage to work with.
 
On a side note it really does help a great deal to have a spotter or partner with you to watch the drone while you spend more time flying and framing the shot. Bleed your batteries dry, even if you think you have what you need fly though a few more times if you have the battery to spare. In post it blows my mind how often I end up using the extra footage. 
 
Drone on and enjoy.. 
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