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Learn About Cinematography Drones and the Rules that Govern Them

By lunamik / January 19, 2017

The most breathtaking scenes we watch in movies usually involves aerial shots just like the stunning opening sequence from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining in 1980 which was shot using a helicopter from MacGillivray Freeman Films. Nowadays, we do not need a helicopter just to get a footage just like that. Instead, filmmakers can use a drone for aerial clips.

Drones are composed of high-quality digital cameras attached to a “remote helicopter” device. You can control the drone while being able to see the shot you will record. Because of this innovation, the film industry has transformed. Non-studio filmmakers can get shots that used to be unattainable back in the days. More people have access to aerial footages that were only possible back in the day using a helicopter. To successfully obtain one aerial shot, you need a helicopter, bulky HD camera, and professional operators which are very expensive.

In 2013, the Society of Aerial Cinematography was founded by Robert Rodriguez. According to him, the advancements in technology paved the way to more opportunities for people to use drones. As a result, more producers are taking advantage of this technology. Over the years, the impact of drones can be seen. Even wedding videographers have quadcopters for capturing wedding videos. Amateur videographers have drones to capture stunning travel locations.

Professional drones

Professional drones of today have the advantage of utilizing smaller digital cameras. But if you want a highly professional video quality (i.e. for films and movies), you will need a bigger drone with the ability to carry larger cameras for a longer time. Some of the professional cameras that they use for high-quality videos include RED Epic Dragon and ARRI ALEXA Mini. This kind of camera usually weight about five pounds but can capture 6k resolution.

Professional production companies hire professional drone companies to make their work easier and cheaper than actually buying a complete professional drone set. The drone companies have customizable drones with highly skilled pilots that are capable of maneuvering the quadcopter for a complex shot. Unlike the amateur drones, their professional counterpart has a multi-propeller configuration, larger propellers, faster flying, can be controlled even with winds/rain and has a backup motor for an emergency landing. One type of drone called Hexacopter is famous for having six engines and propellers. The most powerful type is the Octocopters with eight engines and can capture the best dynamic aerial footage.

One of the famous professional hexacopter is the Freefly Systems’ Alta drone ($8,495). It is a hexacopter with quick set up instructions of under five minutes. It has a payload of 15 pounds which is more than enough for ARRI, RED and Canon professional cameras. You can also attach a MoVI rig for a smoother movement.

Personal drones

The most common drone for personal use is known as a quadcopter. From the name itself, quadcopters have four propellers. It is least expensive and is offering a decent maneuverability. A basic quadcopter built with a 720p camera costs only $90.

If you want a more competitive quadcopter, you can opt for a Solo drone from 3D Robotics. You can install you GoPro HERO camera. Together, you will have a drone built with integrated Linux computers for control. You can even turn on the wireless streaming from your phone or through the HDMI port of your controller. 3D Robotics made an additional gimbal specifically for GoPro HERO cameras that gives you full control of your camera. The Solo costs $999 while the Solo gimbal costs $399.

Another personal drone released by DJI is the Phantom 3 Standard. It is a drone that is marketed for beginners because of the easy access and controls for first-time pilots. It already has an integrated camera that can record up to 2.7K video at 20fps. It has a 3-axis gimbal to keep your footages smooth and level. It has interchangeable Intelligent Flight Batteries that can fly up to 25 minutes. It also has a GPS memory that has the capability of returning to its original point once you lost the signal. You can also have access to its live HD from your mobile device.

Drone Rules

There is news that some drones can disrupt air traffic. Before flying your first drone, you should be familiar with the rules governing drones.

It is important to know that flying a drone is not automatic. The flight of the drone depends on the skills of the pilot. It is important that you have proper training before flying your drone. As much as possible, you should learn how to fly the drone without the use of GPS. A skilled operator is needed especially if you are shooting in an area where there are people that can be involved in an accident.

Before flying your drone, you should also be aware of the guidelines of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) when flying Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) especially for business or commercial purposes. A certification is required from FAA to use your drone commercially.

For more updates on filming regulations and industry law, check out Lunamik’s Video News Page!

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