Drone Cinematography, and What You Should Know

-Karlee Reynolds, Digital Marketing Strategist

Drone Cinematography has revolutionized the way our production team captures and delivers high quality video and stills. Aerial shots have really taken off in the video business, and as a serious commercial tool for producers, directors and clients seeking to capture more unique perspectives on the world. 

I sat down with Blink’s FAA 107 Certified Drone Pilots, Tim “Ox” Oxenreiter and Mark Fallone to understand the science behind this shooting tactic, what it means for our clients, and how it continues to make a unique impact in our industry. 

Fallone defines drone videography as, “a lot of technology packed into a quad-copter with a high-resolution camera and lens, controlled, most often by an RPIC (Remote Pilot In Command).” 

Why should I hire someone to shoot drone footage? It seems like today they are pretty easy to acquire and use. What is the difference? 

Aside from the actual drone, the FAA looks at this two ways: There are hobbyists, who are not certified and not paid to fly their drones, and commercial/professional drone users, who are certified and paid to fly drones for commercial use. Along with the FAA Part 107 Certification, pilots with such designations have often logged a lot of flight and study time to achieve their certifications. Moreover, “most” certified pilotos are going to work hard to mitigate all flight risks to people and things on the ground. And, they often carry legitimate drone insurance. At Blink, we carry a significant amount of insurance and work hard to follow our custom safety protocols and pre-flight/post-flight safety program.

What does the certification entail? 

After one or two months of studying, the hour-long exam is essentially the ground school element of becoming a general aviation pilot. Fallone describes the exam as, “everything, with the exception of actually going in the air and flying an airplane,” covering safety, accident mitigation, geography, air traffic and tarmac control and sectional chart understandings. It is important to acquire this certification. In the event you have to gather drone footage around an airport, you must request access to fly in the airspace, and the only way to request and gain access is with the FAA 107 Certification. Upon successful completion of the certification, you have to renew it every two years. 

Are there any other specific considerations one should take before becoming a certified drone pilot? 

Insure yourself and your equipment! Our safety and our client’s safety is of utmost importance to us. All of the testing and certification is just as important as insurance. Many pilots are flying without 107 Certifications and drone insurance; albeit, some are great pilots but Fallone suggests, “There is no substitute for a robust safety program combined with safe piloting. A published safety program and following FAA rules can help mitigate the potential for accidents. Putting a drone in the air should be taken very seriously, and professional protocol is the only way to fly.” 

What type of drone homework or pre-work do you need to do ahead of a shoot? 

  1. Check the coordinates of the shooting location to ensure there are no airspace restrictions. 
  2. Make sure your safety protocols and operational compliance management is completed and up to date. 
  3. Review Blink’s “UAV Safety Management System Handbook” to make sure all of the boxes are checked. 
  4. CHARGE YOUR DRONE, and bring extra batteries. The battery life of a drone can last only 25-45 minutes.

 

Shifting to actual shooting, I understand the drone has benefits through the entire scope of the job, not just the shooting. How does the drone help in pre, during and post production? 

  1. Location scouting is a huge plus for pre-production. Ox states, “You can get high in the sky to get a birds-eye vantage point of your shooting location, where it makes sense to store equipment and where the video village can live.”
  2. As far as production goes, the biggest impact is affordability and ease. Before drones, you would need to rent a crane or a helicopter. Now, you have 4K video quality from a tool that fits in your backpack. 
  3. The drone is also just as useful to get low to the ground shots to be more invested in the scenes. It does not need to be used for just a birds-eye view. 

What are a few drone shots a pilot should master? 

  1. “The Crane/Rising Shot,” starting as low as 20 feet, rising up and panning down on the focused subject.
  2. “360 Orbit” around your shot, especially if you are focused on a building. 
  3. “Fly Over,” where you start pretty far back and fly over the scene.   
  4. An “Approach or Pull-Away Wide” shot is always valued. 

What has been your favorite footage to capture with your drone? 

Ox – “I am happy to have the opportunity to work on Happy Valley Agventures. The landscape and scenic views in Centre Country are remarkable. We fly through mountains and corn fields. To be able to capture those elements in multiple seasons and times of the day really is artistic and compelling.” 

FalloneFor me, there was a scenic shoot I did in West Chester, NY. That shoot took me through a number of waterfalls into a white-capped river. To fly up the river and waterfalls was very cool. Scenic shots with a drone establishes a view that we will just never get to experience on the ground.” 

Both Fallone and Ox are passionate about the use, protocol and art of piloting a drone. Ox describes how he loves delivering the “wow” factor to our clients. It elevates the production quality with this vantage point incorporated into their videos. 

Fallone, a self-proclaimed, “conservative pilot,” really enforces the mitigation of problems and accidents, while maintaining your drone and serving legitimate experience. 

If you are a client hiring a video production team to capture aerial imagery, make sure you know the “who, what and how” of your drone pilots. Seek an agency that has certified and insured pilots. It will ensure that you have a production partnership team that puts in the work to deliver you high-quality videos and footage.

Check out our drone footage reel, edited and produced by Ox, here.

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Published: October 6, 2022

Categories: advertising, agency life, Broadcast Production, commercials, Corporate and Web Video, creative, drone, television, video

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