Being able to get the perfect shot for your project takes confidence in your abilities and a certain amount of chutzpah.


Randy Slavin said at this year’s New York City Drone Film Festival that the most amazing thing about drones in filmmaking is that we can now put a stabilized camera just about anywhere.  But to do that in a manner that is professional and safe take a lot of practice and confidence.

I was thinking about that this weekend as I flew my Mavic Air around in a local cemetery.  Flying that close to headstones is something I would never have had the confidence to do a couple of years ago.  In fact, even just flying that low to the ground would have had me sweating.

But there are a number of factors that have made getting “the shot” something that I’m much more comfortable with today.

Experience:  After hundreds of hours behind the sticks, I’m now much more confident that I will automatically do the right thing in the event of a problem.  Until you learn that, the quick solution is to remember that altitude is your friend!

Pre-programming:  The ability to pre-program shots that will reliably execute the same way each time is a major component.  The ability to try something out at a slow speed and then ramp up cannot be overstated.

I also teach a more advanced class in the Phantom Filmschool called the Rail Cam, which is a technique to place the drone in a fixed path in the sky.  This allows you to concentrate on getting the shot with total confidence that the drone will safely stay on a set path that you can move backward and forward along.

Collision Avoidance:  The latest drones like the DJI Phantom 4 and the Mavic Pro have collision avoidance that will help you avoid running headlong into things.  And that has taken a major step forward with the introduction of the Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems (APAS) on the Mavic Air.  APAS allows you to fly toward something and the drone will not just stop, but will actively plot a path around the object, providing smooth footage while giving the impression that you are an amazing pilot.

Insurance:  At the end of the day mistakes can and do happen.  Should misfortune strike, knowing that you are going to be able to replace the drone with the minimum of financial inconvenience is a huge help.  I’m not generally one that takes insurance on anything that I can afford to replace.  But in this case, the confidence that insurance gives allows me to go for shots I might otherwise have shied away from.  Flying close to objects, under bridges, etc.  No problem – let’s go for it!

Drones in filmmaking are no longer getting about an unusual angle.  Aerial views are just too common now.  But the ability to place a camera anywhere along a moving path is truly revolutionary…as long as you have the confidence and skill to pull it off!




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