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The DigiNovations' Drone Cheat Sheet: Dos and Don'ts

Posted by James Donald

 

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Hello DigiNation! We're kicking off our blog again with a quick primer on drones. 

Drones are a hot item in video production. Drones provide a cost-effective, efficient way to get aerial shots while on the go. They are portable, powerful, and, most importantly, priced so that anyone can get their hands on one. 

Drones are piloted using a smartphone, tablet, or an RC transmitter.Drone cameras have a large range of resolution, spanning from <480P to 4K. Recordings are done both locally (on drone-mounted MicroSD cards) and via transmission (to your phone or tablet). 

When deciding to "drone" or "not to drone," it's important to understand the potential pitfalls of drones and how to avoid them:

  • Drones are not easy to pilot. It's best to hire a company with certified drone pilots to get your shots. (DigiNovations has two certified pilots on staff.)
  • If you choose to be the pilot, you should practice a lot with smaller, cheaper drones before working with an expensive, camera-mounted drone. You will crash a lot.
  • In 2016, the FAA established regulations regarding drone usage. For instance, drones cannot be flown within 5 miles (as the crow flies) of any airport. To get FAA consent for piloting drones, you need to earn a Remote Pilot Certificate. The certificate needs to be renewed every two years. (We have two certified pilots here at DigiNovations.)
  • Drones have limits as to how far they can travel away from you. If they get out of your piloting line of sight, you will be in trouble if the drone loses communication with your smartphone or tablet and drops from the sky.
  • Drones can only be airborne for 10-20 minutes at a time. You need to make sure that your drone doesn't run out of power before it gets back to your base of operations.
  • When drones crash, they crash spectacularly. You can lose your entire drone investment with one bad crash. You can also hurt people with the propellers, so make sure to not fly near anyone.
  • Most drone cameras have sub-standard lenses. They usually get ultra wide shots and not much else. Make sure to know the filming limitations of your drone before you shoot with it.

Here are some best practices to follow when using drones for aerial shots:

  • If you absolutely need to get a drone shot, it's handy to have a backup drone just in case something goes wrong with the first drone.
  • Drones are not just great for getting high aerial shots. They can get low aerial tracking shots too.
  • You can set drones to track objects or people. We here at DigiNovations have experimented with aerial timelapse cinematography using drones. It looks great!
  • When filming with a drone, make sure the drone's camera records in 4K. 4K is approximately 4 times the resolution of standard HD (1080p). 4K gives you plenty of latitude for shot stabilization and digital zoom-ins when you bring your footage into post-production.
  • Plan your drone shoots around days with good weather. Wind and rain do bad things to drones.
  • Make sure to have a certified drone pilot operating your drone (like we do!).

So, drones are an excellent option if:

  • You need a quick and cheap aerial recording solution,
  • If you have a limited number of aerial shots to get,
  • If you are in need of close up shots showcasing inanimate objects that are positioned up high (such as church spires).
If you follow our best practices, then drone cinematography is within your grasp. Good luck!

Topics: Photography, Video Production, Drone Video, Event Video