Drone Theory – optimising filmmaking

Photo by David Henrichs on Unsplash

Did you know the earliest drones were used in 1849? This was essentially used in the form of balloons attached with explosives by Austrian Soldiers to attack the city of Venice. Essentially, Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have gained prominence in military applications first. US, Israel and China today have now perfected it to deadly effect. Predator drones for example are now used by the US to precision attack and eliminate high value terrorists.

However, drones are now becoming common in civilian lives. They have become so common, they are being used in Weddings, large format events and now by enthusiasts. The application and ease of usage has helped take ‘Cinematic’ footage with some practice. In fact, in my role as a communicator, I generally insist on Drones being used to get great results. As on today, I can say that I have produced close to 10 films which have cinematic footage.

What makes Drones such fanciful devices? Have they essentially started taking shot at the Digital DSLRs and fixed cameras? Perhaps yes. There are distinct advantages as well.

Flexibility : No climbing on trees and being perched on an elevated position precariously with a heavy camera. Clearly, shooting films was always cumbersome and extremely expensive. All this is now out of the way. All you need is a DJI Phantom (primarily used by film crew) and couple of battery back ups.

Picture above is that of synchronised drone entertainment show

Full HD and long-range view: The secret is in the lens and the gimble. Most budget drones have a wide-angle lens which can capture a lot of details for their size. And this can be shot in HD or 4K in addition to taking photographs. And since they are connected to mobile phones, the video output can be seen instantaneously. 

Form factor: Today, there are a lot of drones which are available. And with FAA (Federal Aviation Administration, USA) giving strictures around usage of drones for civilian purposes, there is a restriction around who can fly or who cannot. A drone pilot license is mandatory even in India. But then, DJI (Chinese UAV major & world leader in drone technology) came up with a smart one – they introduced a hobbyist drone weighing 249 grams, making it 1 gram short of the rules anywhere in the world. And most drones fit in the palm of your hand.

As communicators, we must keep ourselves abreast with technology. And visuals and films are powerful mediums. Traditionally, most communications departments would have an SLR or a DSLR. But then, perhaps through this post, I would like to think aloud on whether it is worthwhile to invest in a drone? What do you think?

I would recommend a base model which can do the job mentioned earlier – the DJI Mavic Mini. It costs around Rs.30,000/-. Other brands such as Parrot, Altair too have options, but they are not so prevalent in India.  But then why do you want to shoot using a drone? These can be made essentially for outdoor shoots – such as team offsites, factory set ups, some excellent indoor perspectives and more. The internal stabilisation will ensure you get those great shots and videos. Are you game?

Sanaj Natarajan
Sanaj Natarajan is a Corporate Communications Leader with experience in Capital Goods and Technology industry. In a career spanning over 14 years as a communicator, he has worked on campaigns around External Communications, Investor relations and Greenfield and Brownfield sites.
Sanaj loves to read on current affairs, technology magazines and travel to different places and absorb cultures and relish various cuisines. In his free time, he dabbles in video production, film making and running marathons.

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