Aerial filming and photography with a drone is a combination of technical and artistic skills. Using a drone means that you need to consider aspects of flight safety, including battery life and weather conditions. At the same time, you need to think about lighting, composition and camera angles. If you pay too much attention to getting great shots, you risk making a mistake and crashing your UAV.
The following tips will help you to produce cinematic drone footage without compromising safety.
1) Plan and prepare for the shoot
You need to think as both a drone pilot and photographer when preparing for an aerial photography shoot. If you aren’t familiar with the area you’ll be flying in, do some research using Google Earth. Check for possible obstructions such as tall buildings and trees, and consider whether there are likely to be people around. Carrying out the flight early in the morning or later in the day may be necessary to avoid crowds.
Ensure that the drone’s batteries are fully charged, and check that the aircraft is safe to fly. It’s always a good idea to pack spare memory cards, as you don’t want to have to delete footage when you’re on location. Flying drones in high winds, rain or fog isn’t safe, so check weather conditions before you set off.
2) Take your time
There can be time pressure when aerial filming with a drone, but rushing can result in poor footage and increase the risk of an accident. Battery life and changing weather must be taken into account, but don’t be distracted by these or other factors. Once you’ve established that it’s safe to launch your drone, carry out a quick flight survey before you think about shooting any video. Consider the best directions and angles to film from. The wind speed is usually lower at ground level than in the air, so it’s good to get an idea of how the aircraft may be affected in flight.
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3) Safety first
Never take risks when using a drone for aerial filming. Consider the safety of your drone, people who may be in the area and any surrounding property. Keep a safe distance from potential hazards at all times. The majority of accidents involving drones are the result of human error. If you know your aircraft, plan and prepare for a flight and fly within the limits of your experience and ability there’s very little risk of an accident. Never take chances just to get some great footage.
4) Think about the edit
Always consider the end result when shooting video with a drone. If you need thirty seconds of edited footage you should shoot around five minutes of raw video. Think about how shots from different angles will transition to each other in the final cut. If you’re shooting a specific subject, such as a building, fly over it several times from different directions. Slow, controlled flight is the secret to cinematic drone filming. Fast jerking movements and sudden changes of direction look very amateur.
5) Learn your craft
Practice your flying and filming techniques as much as possible. Over time you can develop a repertoire of shots, such as a slow reveal with the drone pulling away from the subject. Watch tutorials on YouTube, join forums where you can ask questions and look at the way aerial filming is used in television shows and movies.
A drone’s camera gives a unique perspective and allows you to see the world in new ways. Once you’re confident flying your aircraft, you can focus on improving your filming skills and begin producing cinematic footage.