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Old July 10th, 2014, 08:46 AM   #1
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Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

I've been pondering the viability of launching a business (developing it over time, of course) based exclusively on aerial videography. I think there are at least a few people here already doing this? (Or perhaps you know someone who is?)

As I look across the landscape, I see two things happening:

First, everyone and their brother and uncle and cousin are buying low-end quadcopters like the Phantom. Not a week passes when I don't hear about someone buying a Phantom—and not even for serious work, just as an expensive toy. So there's a huge proliferation of these things happening fast.

At the same time, videographers everywhere are rushing out to buy Phantoms as well. Many of us seem to think (perhaps rightly) that we can't stay current and competitive without being able to offer this service to clients. And so far, clients are eating it up. (What client isn't blown away with decent aerial photos of their operations—much less video?)

So what I'm pondering is...will the fact that soon everyone will own inexpensive quadcopters make it much more difficult for serious aerial videographers (with bigger rigs and better cameras)?

Put differently, if all most people want is a nice aerial view of _________, and they can get that through a local wedding videographer who owns a Phantom, is that what the market will bear but no more?

---
I do realize there is a significant quality difference between what you can do with a Phantom...and what you can do with a big octocopter carrying a DSLR (or better camera). I also realize that there is a big difference between actually *flying* a multicopter...and just flying straight up, hovering around a bit, and coming straight down (which let's face it, is what 90% of Phantom owners do).

What I'm thinking can best be summarized in the following (crude) graph...



So the idea is that most clients are blown away by what you can show them with a Phantom; they'll be far less blown away by what you show them from an S1000 and a DSLR (even though we know the actual quality is far superior).

Can an aerial videography business survive in that narrow wedge near the top of the graph? Especially assuming that many clients will already be thrilled by what some random guy (maybe an employee, maybe an employee's brother) shows them he did with his Phantom, "just for fun?"

Scott

EDITED TO ADD: I didn't mention it specifically above, but I *do* realize that learning how to REALLY fly a multicopter takes a ton of practice—likely hundreds of hours or more. But my graph above suggests that the biggest gains can be had by simply flying straight up, shooting a bit while hovering, and flying straight down. I suspect that actually being able to maneuver in 3-dimensional space (and over distance) with authority could potentially blow clients away even more—and this strikes me as being the biggest differentiator a dedicated aerial video pro could offer...IF that pro is willing to put in the hundreds of hours it takes to fly one of these in your sleep without ever crashing. :)
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Old July 10th, 2014, 10:32 AM   #2
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

I personally would not invest in an aerial business right now. Do it after the Federal and local government rules are in place. No sense spending thousands now, only to find later that the rules are too stringent, or that the process of acquiring a commercial license is too cumbersome, expensive, or beyond your flying capabilities. Once the rules are finalized, everything should begin to fall into place.
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Old July 10th, 2014, 10:59 AM   #3
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

in times when Burberry commercials are being shot on iPhone and the next GoPro camera will be shooting 4K video i wouldn't invest any money in the high end aerial photography setup, unless of course you have great relationships with a few producers that into aerial video.
i love my PH2, it's great add-on to the set of tools i already have, but it's just a nice and very cool bonus for my clients, they don't give a damn about Epic on steadicam, but they go nuts when they see that toy flying around them :)
now I'm just patiently wait for 10 bit 422 GoPro version.


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Old July 10th, 2014, 11:24 AM   #4
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

Hey Buba,

Nice video. I don't know if you know this, but flying a drone over people, commercially, in Canada is illegal without the proper Transport Canada permits. You may want to inquire...
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Old July 10th, 2014, 04:37 PM   #5
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

Great video Buba.
You certainly know how to get the best from the Phantom & GoPro. Was it the H3.3D gimbal? What settings did you use on the GoPro to get such great results?

cheers

bill
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Old July 10th, 2014, 04:47 PM   #6
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

I think that once the rules are established for commercial applications you are going to have to prove your knowledge of the airspace rules, aviation weather, flight planning, etc. so your time would be well spent preparing yourself to pass the private pilot written exam - which is about as close as your going to get to whatever test they come up with. Get familiar with Part 91. If I had an R&D budget for the business I might buy a machine and learn to fly it in difficult circumstances. As a commercial operator you might need to produce in adverse weather conditions, for instance being able to track a target accurately while descending in a 10 knot wind (e.g. know what happens to the wind direction as your altitude changes.)

As for the viability of the business, it seems like most successful people in a highly competitive industry are most successful when they corner a specific niche. "Aerial video business" isn't a niche, it's too broad. An example might be something like aerial video tours of large land parcels. If I'm shopping for ranch land in New Mexico I'd love to be able to pull up a video tour of a property. You get the idea.
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Old July 10th, 2014, 09:24 PM   #7
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Gough View Post
Nice video. I don't know if you know this, but flying a drone over people, commercially, in Canada is illegal without the proper Transport Canada permits. You may want to inquire...
Perhaps I am confused with the terms, but what specifically makes this a commercial activity?
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Old July 11th, 2014, 04:05 AM   #8
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

I chickened out
Over two years I'd put together a Phantom with Data Link, fpv, zenmuse and camera specifically to add to the video/photo sales mix but shied away from implementation. Perceived insurance costs and bureaucratic BS combined with a dislike of the footage produced by the only camera a phantom can carry in a gimbal were the reasons for chickening out. It's one of those shooting situations where something will go wrong it's just a matter of when and how bad. Besides I'm an old fart now and the stress of flying the thing was killing me so I sold the kit for half of what I paid. Oddly I miss it now.
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Old July 11th, 2014, 04:25 AM   #9
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

I chickened out
Over two years I'd put together a Phantom with Data Link, fpv, zenmuse and camera specifically to add to the video/photo sales mix but shied away from implementation. Perceived insurance costs and bureaucratic BS combined with a dislike of the footage produced by the only camera a phantom can carry in a gimbal were the reasons for chickening out. It's one of those shooting situations where something will go wrong it's just a matter of when and how bad. Besides I'm an old fart now and the stress of flying the thing was killing me so I sold the kit for half of what I paid. Oddly I miss it now.
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Old July 11th, 2014, 04:34 AM   #10
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince Pachiano View Post
Perhaps I am confused with the terms, but what specifically makes this a commercial activity?
Perhaps the terms "but it's just a nice and very cool bonus for my clients" means it's a commercial activity.

In the UK it's even clearer, commercial or not, as soon as you attach a camera it becomes a surveillance air craft and now it's bound by all the rules and regulations about not flying over property or people you are not in control of (that's a mile high summary - it's a lot more detailed than that).
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Old July 11th, 2014, 08:13 AM   #11
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Sherren View Post
What settings did you use on the GoPro to get such great results?
no, results are very modest, but thank you,
yes zenmuse H33D, 1080 60 medium, but after some tests i am convinced to shoot 2.7k, even if i loose slow mo:)
can't wait for GoPro 4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Gough View Post
Hey Buba,
Nice video. I don't know if you know this, but flying a drone over people, commercially, in Canada is illegal without the proper Transport Canada permits. You may want to inquire...
no, this was just for my archive, i didn't get paid for the aerial footage,
but for the steadicam work only, i was flying during my rest breaks :)
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Old July 11th, 2014, 12:05 PM   #12
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

Scott, I am in the same boat - looking at it as a business. And yes I think there is a business here.

There will always be someone with less experience, but has the equipment and can charge less. In any business you see that. I've been seeing it since I've been in the video/audio business. Most people do not take the time or money to get trained.

I am learning to fly with a little Blake Nano QX BNF. It is fun. And like you and others have said it takes lots of practice.

So for now I am just taking small steps. And seeing it as a business in the future. James
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Old July 13th, 2014, 06:46 PM   #13
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Re: Viability of a strictly aerial video business?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Buba Kastorski View Post
no, results are very modest, but thank you,
yes zenmuse H33D, 1080 60 medium, but after some tests i am convinced to shoot 2.7k, even if i loose slow mo:)
can't wait for GoPro 4

no, this was just for my archive, i didn't get paid for the aerial footage,
but for the steadicam work only, i was flying during my rest breaks :)
Buba,

You are still operating an unmanned vehicle in contravention of the CARS (Canadian Air Regulations).

I am mentioning this to you because you will have NO INSURANCE during your use of the drone in a public environment. Please check:

Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) - Transport Canada

Injure somebody and you will probably looking at charges of some kind. For all drone operators, due diligence is a must for public venues. Sure flying in a designated field with a bunch of RC operators is fine, but go into a public space and the rules change dramatically in Canada. At the minimum you must meet Transport Canada's SFOC requirement, and I can absolutely guarantee you that a 4 engine drone would not be approved for a public venue. Please, for the sake of the industry, do your research...

Andrew
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