Whether capturing the moment from the ground or the sky, you have to first understand the moment. Filming has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I've always enjoyed capturing memories and moments on film.
When the flying camera was introduced, I immediately wanted to venture into this new realm of filming technique. Flying the camera around provided me with a completely new perspective, options and new ways to view things that previously I couldn't accomplish. Whether it's hanging off an ocean cliff or scaling the highest peaks or just leveraging the technology as a boom & dolly, the introduction of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), opened up new doors of opportunity for me.
What is needed to capture the moment?
First and most important is the subject or story. You can have all the best equipment in the world but if you don't have something to capture, it means nothing. You might as well have a rock in your hand versus a $10,000 camera. Deciding on the story and subject is personal. You have to believe in what you want to tell and how you want to tell it. I find that when I'm on a job that excites me, I'm more engaged and more creative.
What do you do to capture this excitement?
I look at each job differently and I try to find the connection to my excitement. I want to feel the moment, the story and then I can figure out how to capture the moments in order to tell the story. This starts well before I even step foot on set. I do my research first. Technology has really helped tremendously in this aspect. I can know leverage Google Earth to look in 3D the location before I ever step foot there. This helps me capture the essence of the location, identify the different angles and helps me build my shot list. Most importantly, it helps me identify hazards and obstacles to be aware of when flying.
I will also leverage technology like the Internet to gather some back story of the area. This helps me understand key points that I can focus on during the shoot. An example would be if you are doing a shoot of a vineyard that has a name of a local landmark, you want to make sure that you capture that local landmark in the story and shot list. Otherwise you miss an important part of the story. It would be like going on a vacation to Paris and never going to the Eiffel Tower.
Once I'm on location you can start to get the feel for the different things you've worked on and you can double check the shots, hazards and identify any new ones that may exist along with any new things you'd want to include that weren't identified during research. This also provides the opportunity to meet the people who live there and to get their story.
What's different about leveraging aerial cameras versus shooting from the ground?
Aside from the obvious of shooting in the air, you have to consider the safety of the shoot and the safety of crew and talent. Leveraging UAV's to capture the moment has it's advantages but it comes with more responsibility too.
I find that getting the shot from the air is sometimes both more difficult while being more flexible. I can get the angle that I couldn't from the ground or even using a boom. However, at the same time, it may mean I have to maneuver through tight spaces or difficult lighting conditions. Lighting can be one of the toughest challenges when shooting from the air. When shooting from the ground I can control a lot of the lighting challenges. However when flying in the air, I don't have that same level of control. As an example you are moving from a sunny area to a shaded area. You need to capture the scene in both areas with proper exposure. That can be very difficult to pull off sometimes. Again this is where technology has advanced. Sensors that can automatically adjust to the different environments but also being able to map out a route and flight path ahead of time and allowing the camera to shoot with different settings along that flight path has made the impossible possible.
Another tip I would share is to shoot 5-10 seconds longer than you felt. I have found on countless occasions that during the actual shoot I thought the scene was good and would stop the recording of that run and then later in post production I wished that I would have had just a few more seconds of recording. Maybe it was a car entering the scene, a bird flying, person walking, etc... that I missed. So I've learned to keep recording past my predetermined stop point to allow for this.
Fly through the stop. What I mean is that you will have your stop point set for the recording. Not only should you keep recording past the end point, but keep flying so that you maintain a smooth shot. If you have a point that you want end at and you make a hard stop at that end, it will show in the film you capture. So as long as it's safe to continue past the end, do so for those 5-10 seconds.
1. Make sure to understand the risks and rewards of a shoot
2. Complete the safety pre-flight checks and location checks prior to flight
3. Leverage local knowledge of key locations to shoot and background info for the story
4. Double check the camera settings and make sure you have your card in the camera
5. Know the story you want to tell before you fly.
6. Know what you want to capture.
7. When you think you have enough time in the can, shoot some more just in case.
8. When you are filming a scene, keep recording 5-10 secs more.
9. Keep flying past your end point to maintain smooth film footage.