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Old May 3rd, 2013, 08:08 AM   #1
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A guide to UAV for professional filming

Like many people here, I got sucked into the potential of UAV's, and wanted one for my productions. I thought that the footage would give my films a bigger feel, and make them more dynamic. I did a lot of research into crafts, learning and making a business out of multi-rotors. My journey has not been smooth as expected,and I want to share some of those experiences here.

What is your needs

I think this the most important thing is you need to evaluate your needs, and be realistic about what you buy. I shoot on Red, and wanted to be able match that in my aerials. To shoot a big camera... or even a modest camera like the 5d, your looking at a big craft, and flying time is limited. I went all out, I bought a Infinite Jib custom version of a Skyjib 8. Give your Camera Wings Infinite Jib uses Droidworx frames, and custom builds them to your need. At $26,000 they are pricy, add a red scarlet or epic, and your flying a lot of money. The craft is great, although I have had an expensive learning curve. 3 crashes, thankfully not with an epic or scarlet on board, and none of them were very costly, but they interrupted a film shoot in Africa which was. The 8 is a lot of machine. You need skill, but you also need time to put into maintenance. My last crash could have been prevented had I open up the craft to look at it. The biggest problem with the 8 is it's size. It's serious work setting it up, moving, and transporting, especially in Africa on very rough roads. Flight times at best are 9 minutes. I wish I had someone warn me ahead of time about how difficult it is to get this thing around and set up. If you plan to be highly mobile, getting the right size of craft is super important. My 8 is too big to take on a plane as checked or even oversized luggage. The box is huge and needs to be shipped. I choose to disassemble it, and rebuild it. I had a custom box built in Africa, but really regretted not having the Box. Call the airline to discuss with ahead of time, there are steps you need to take before showing up to board. To their credit Infinite Jib, really tried to convince me to go with a more entry level craft, but I shunned their advice for ability to shoot 4k. I regret the decision for Africa, but the craft will work nicely now that it's based in Toronto.

For Africa now, I have ordered an eye-droid 4 [url]http://infinitejib.com/product-item/eye-droid-4/[url] The smaller size, case, and longer flight times mean I can use this a lot more. I should be able to take it around the bush with me set up, and get it filming in minutes. The draw back is I'm not shooting 4k now. I plan on getting the BM pocket cam when it come out so I at least have RAW footage. Also the cheaper cost means I'll be less afraid to fly it. 10k fully loaded vs 50k is a big difference when your flying in areas that you can loose a craft.

*Turn Key systems vs building one?

I could have saved a lot of money on building my own, but opted for a prebuilt machine. I'm hand, and can repair my machine, but I'm not an expert! I want to know that my craft is working the best it can be. I know several people who have built their own, and they can get it to work right. I have a shooting budget, so can afford a prebuilt one. The quality of their builds are incredible! I highly recommend them.

*How hard are these to fly?

They are not TOO hard to fly, but to film and get good your going to need a LOT of skill and confidence. This takes time. What you get out of it is related to the time you put into it. Reasonable is 3 months to get ok shots. To get really good, a lot of flying each week and probably 6months to a year. You don;t realize that you need skill to get your self out trouble, and to push the craft to get great shots. Once the craft gets 200 meters away, YOU NEED SKILL to fly it.

Even if you can afford a big one, you really want to practice on something smaller. Infinite Jib set me up with simulation software, and a small Blade Quadrocopter (about $250). Master both of these and your 50% there. The blade is a lot of fun and can help you build your RC hours.

Also another greta option is the DJI kits, one to fly a go pro is about 2k with GPS, and small gimbal.

I'll come back to add more if you have questions.
www.digitalcrossing.ca www.4kafrica.com
documentary filmmaker/screen writer
Michael Dalton is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 18th, 2013, 10:44 AM   #2
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Location: New Delhi, India
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Re: A guide to UAV for professional filming

Looks expensive. I am sure the cost would soon plunge down within a year due to the raft of manufacturers jumping into the fray.

I was reading that one of the version of MoVi is meant for aerial. Is that meant for this airframe? Octocopter?
Wild Tiger Productions
Sabyasachi Patra is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 18th, 2013, 11:26 AM   #3
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Torotnto, Canada
Posts: 139
Re: A guide to UAV for professional filming

I don't think they will come down that much in price, unless someone mass produces them in China. There is a lot of complex stuff that needs to be properly configured to have the craft work well, and to each camera. A craft like mine takes about two week to build and get flying right and if I change camera it needs to be reconfigured.. I'd be surprised if 50% of home built kits fly perfectly.
www.digitalcrossing.ca www.4kafrica.com
documentary filmmaker/screen writer
Michael Dalton is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 20th, 2013, 08:11 PM   #4
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Location: Austin Texas
Posts: 374
Re: A guide to UAV for professional filming

great story.

I think the big issues will always relate to the amount of gear your trying to fly. Epics and top line primes or zooms will always be heavy and will always need very pricey craft to get them in the air. The factor of having Two craft also comes into play. The guys I know that charge several thousand a day for their work show up with a least two if not more of everything they need to insure the production goes on. That is a big investment for something that can still drop out of the sky and have no insurance coverage when it does.

The other part of the story is the learning curve. not just flying around, but also realizing you have to comp the shot over and over until the client likes what your doing.

thanks for sharing your story
Craig Chartier is offline   Reply

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