Now of course drone-use is nothing new but as the option becomes more and more accessible naturally we’re seeing more and more drone shots in music video. From insane shots we could only expect from hip hop videos in the 90s to more subtle uses drones add another dimension, everyone knows this, now, everyone is doing this. A positive step for music video now to see who can do the craziest drone based video. Your move directors!!
Don’t trust us, understandable, so we asked Director – Calum Macdiarmid, DOP – Ben Fordesman, Producer – Harvey Ascott and Founder + MD of BeyondHD – Keith Harding based at Pinewood Studios. FYI Keith has 25 years experience as a cameraman, jib and remote camera operator for film and TV and founder of BeyondHD, a company specialising in “cameras in motion” technologies including tracking vehicles, drones, manned aerial filming, remote tracking vehicles, SteadiSeg, Motion Control and high end film and tv camera stabilisation systems and gimbals.
Director – Calum Macdiarmid:
Drones are here to stay and increase in use. The main reason being that the cost of a radio controlled device is so much cheaper than a helicopter, pilot, petrol not to mention helipad access etc. Its a no brainer for producers and any director who wants to use their money wisely.
On top of this drones can go places other people and machines can’t. I recently did a shoot in the snake and alligator infested swamps of the Mississippi delta. The drone we used was able to fly under the canopy of the trees, just above the surface of the water, gliding with the precision a boat could never achieve.
The next step for drones is to start using better camera bodies and lenses. Whilst some of them shoot 4K this doesn’t mean much when the compression quality is bad or the lens isn’t up to much. However with lighter bodies like the carbon bodied Alexa Mini coming out its only a matter of time before we see high quality drone shots appearing.
If this wasn’t argument enough, don’t forget the majority of the industry is made up of 30 year old going on 13 year old man children who love playing with toys.
(WIC: drones are being used on a daily these days)
Producer – Harvey Ascott:
Having personally worked with drones before, in your opinion are they just a passing fad or do you expect their use to continue to increase and why?”
The use of Drones is definitely on the rise and it has been for the last 3/4 years.
Directors (and clients) love to use them because it increases production values massively, it makes videos look expensive and epic.
I remember a few years ago having to pay £2k an hour for a full blown helicopter and now we can buy a drone with a 4k camera on for under £1k.
Now cameras are getting smaller and better and so are the drones that carry them… This will mean more accessibility for the lower budgets.
I have used drones all over the world, from having one fly at the top of the cairngorm mountains in scotland (in the snow) to flying over the deserts of Tenerife, to drones flying 50mph chasing cars, down closed off roads.
Obviously there are down sides to drones…. Sometimes weather can be a huge issue, they don’t really like rain or high levels of wind, the other issue can be trees getting in the way. I recently had a drone propeller hit a tree branch at over 70ft and spiral down to the ground missing the ground crew by a mere few feet (a producers worst nightmare), but luckily everyone was safe and well – but the drone and the camera were not.
I think all in all drones will continue to be used and piloting them will get better and easier, especially with GPS tracking. The technology is moving so fast and I think it’s very exciting.
Drones have undeniably made a huge difference to not only small budget projects but also big budget such as Wolf of Wall Street when the use of full sized Helicopters were prohibited, for fair reasons drones are also prohibited in many public areas and even entire cities. (I Imagine they can cause some serious damage when in the wrong hands) I was shooting a commercial in Cape Town where it is illegal to use drones and we had to achieve an ariel shot over a public park which was meant to rise up into the clouds. A drone would have been perfect, instead we attached a go pro 4 to 20 or more helium balloons.. Seriously. Extreme sports videos have been revolutionised by drones, look at how surfing and climbing videos are now all shot in ways that were either far to expensive (heli’s) or just impossible otherwise.
Ariel shots have always been and always will remain to be ‘cinematic’ yes we will notice a few more Ariel epic top shots in Music Videos, they add grandeur and are fairly new, to the scene so sure why not, but once all that dies down drones will find their place professionally for all the right reasons like how full on helicopter/CineFlex setups have and will still continue to be used. Drones are just smaller, hate wind and can’t carry passengers.. Unfortunately.
(WIC: I mean come on…)
Drone Expert – Keith Harding:
As Operators of one of the worlds most sophisticated… and expensive… drones, The Aerigon by Intuitive Aerial, we have seen a rapid growth, but equally rapid change with the use of drones. Two years ago, you could get credits on a TV program or even a feature film, when two months earlier you were a builder or insurance salesman who purchased a hobby built drone and a consumer or small prosumer camera. With a greater number of operators coming alone, with some like us coming into it from a background of 20 years and more of filming for tv and film, quickly gave producers and DoP’s the option to work with experienced camera operators, equipment and camera/lens packages. Before the Aerigon (Black Armored Drone) came on the market 3 years ago, pretty much all drones were hobby built (and even today, that accounts for 90% of the drones flying commercially) and the camera was something that was put on as an afterthought, rather than with Intuitive Aerial (now a publicly listed company) designed an aerial camera platform, around the requirements of film and tv quality camera/lens and accessories and then built the aircraft to go take that into the air. Consequently Aerigon has flown with cameras such as Red, Arri Alexa, Arri Mini, GVG LDX, and recently even the Phantom Flex 4K and all with high end cine lenses and HD transmission and live transmission.
Given this level of camera support and experienced film and tv operators, the market and productions will get more mature and whilst the number of operators will likely reduce (or at least stop growing) as productions realise that the obtaining of permissions and rights to fly drones over populated areas and certainly anywhere near London becomes increasingly restrictive to all but a few operators and aircraft which will meet new standards that will have to be implemented and agreed by not only the CAA, but councils and other authorities. We would certainly welcome this, as currently it takes very little experience or funds to get an aircraft and DSLR into the air… that doesn’t mean that they will offer a sustainable or good value services. Most producers would not consider giving a steadicam job to someone who has just purchased a low cost steadicam and dslr, but they will rely on someone with a drone and a camera to start working on TV with absolutely no background or filming experience.
Drones are an amazing device for providing high quality visuals and giving amazing alternatives to using traditional large jibs/cranes and tracking vehicles, track and dollies etc., Good directors and experienced operators will start to realise that high quality drones with cine and broadcast cameras and lenses can provide great production values for simple shots, not just the how high, how fast type shots that now grace the screens of every documentary and tv show…. They will probably go the same way as all overused fads have come and gone in the past, however the technology in the hands of good operators and visionary directors and savvy producers will be part of the film crew for many years to come.