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Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...

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Old January 26th, 2015, 11:52 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Charlottesville Virginia
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First of all, I'm new to this forum, so I'll introduce myself.
I have been filming weddings in Virginia for nearly 15 years. I shoot on GH3s and an EM-1 and love it.
You are welcome to view samples of my work here:

Now, onto the topic at hand:

Is anyone "brave" enough to use a drone for wedding videography?
I recently lost a bid to a client to a wedding videographer who offered to use his drone for the same price that I was offering. I know there are a lot of people out there using drones commercially and getting away with it.

I have a drone, but have not offered this service since it is currently banned by the FAA. I don't want to put myself or my clients at risk for any legal ramifications for using my drone illegally. I currently use it for hobby/personal work and have also sent in waivers for a few commercial products I am working on.
Has anyone ventured into this area?
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Old January 26th, 2015, 12:30 PM   #2
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Re: Drones

Drone usage regulations are very strict in my country and I"m sure that the few I know of that are using it for weddings are flying illegally. I honestly can't imagine that a weddingbride would not choose me just because a competitor has a drone to make one shot flying over the venue. If that would be their reason to choose a videographer I would be happy to refer them to the guy with the flyingmachine. Otherwise I would not have a problem of getting a quote from a official company that flies drones and has all the necessary permits and then just tell the client how much extra it will be.
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Old January 26th, 2015, 01:57 PM   #3
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Re: Drones

Ian, be sure to browse through our dedicated drone forum for more info:

Flying Cameras Forum at DV Info Net

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Old January 26th, 2015, 04:28 PM   #4
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Re: Drones

The most effective use I've seen so far is establishing shots.

Here is Joe Simon in Boston - relevant to know the bride is a Red Sox owner's daughter or some such.

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Old January 26th, 2015, 05:08 PM   #5
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Re: Drones

Our local news has said that security staff have found a quadracopter in the White House grounds. Stunts like that will start making drone laws even tougher and tougher. I had one and sold it in the end. You certainly cannot shoot a wedding with two cameras and still control your drone so you would need a pilot if you do it on the day.

It's quite amazing what you can do with a swimming pool scoop net pole with a GoPro stuck on the end and it's not illegal either.
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Old January 26th, 2015, 06:22 PM   #6
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Re: Drones

I bought a drone at the end of last year so I'm in the process of learning how to use one, but I don't have any intention of using it during a ceremony. I don't want to distract the guest with a drone overhead. It would be more used for establishing shots.
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Old January 26th, 2015, 07:02 PM   #7
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Re: Drones

I agree. Even at 400 feet (max allowed altitude in North America), the noise would interrupt the ceremony.
Great establishing footage and some fun cocktail hour/reception footage potential.

What I love is that it is so easy to imitate jib, crane, tracking, and other movement shots without bringing loads of extra equipment.
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Old January 26th, 2015, 07:33 PM   #8
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Re: Drones

There is a quad copter due out on September that has shot selection built in to their app, so you tap 'dolly out' and it does.

We were going to wait, but saw a sale yesterday for 3DRobotics' newer Iris+ for $650 and jumped on it. Manual control, auto follow (either my phone or a $100 Pepple smartwatch) like AirDog would, or programmable flight path. Very excited. 2D Gimble rig and extra battery was $225 more. GoPro Hero4 Black is on the way, too.

Along with establishing, I *may* use the follow function during staged shots, like B&G walking hand in hand outside. Not much, but, just like a slider, might make a nice tool for transitions from space to space.

DJI phamtom's demo video had a cool shot, outside the church, looking in, when suddenly it lifts away for the high and wide scenic shot. That would be a hell of a B&G church exit shot (and, no, I won't be trying it).
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Old January 27th, 2015, 03:15 PM   #9
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Re: Drones

Interesting question and discussion. I think you are right to be cautious Ian.

If you don't have permission from the FAA and you fly at a wedding (or any other commercial activity) and something happens to cause damage or injury to a wedding guest, venue employee, other vendor (e.g. photographer) etc, then not only was it illegal (forget all the argument on the forums about yes or no at this point) but just as importantly, does your insurance stand up? My guess is not.

A friend (who has passed ground school and knows how to fly) had his Phantom 2 randomly crash on him twice over the weekend. Nothing out of the ordinary happening, flying as normal, then it heads out of control and flips to the ground.

Fortunately he was in the middle of a large field, but if that had been at a wedding venue it could easily have gone in to the wedding party. Propellers chew through thin bridesmaid dresses and skin pretty easily and I've seen photos of people cut to the bone (literally).

Injuring someone is unlikely to make you the most favourite person at the wedding, but the lawyers will love you as they each bill the relevant parties :)

Before I go on it's probably worth mentioning that I spent last year patiently studying and learning to fly properly. I took ground school and passed the theory exam followed by the two flight tests, one for each of my aircraft (initially the Phantom 2 then the S900 + GH4). I now have permission for aerial work from the (UK) CAA as well as full commercial insurance in place. I have turned away many jobs because they could not be done within the rules, regardless of whether I think it's safe or not, if you don't follow the rules then the insurance company don't want to know.

Throwing a Phantom up and grabbing some awesome aerial footage for the B+G sounds very tempting but would be very hard to do legally at the vast majority of churches and many wedding venues around the country given all the requirements for controlled airspace as well as having full control of all the ground space, persons, vehicles etc under the aircraft, reaching quite some distance in all directions at all times.

That means everyone needs to be paying attention and totally under your control. No one leaving the building without your say so, not one arriving or leaving by car in the car park (parking lot) etc etc. And that assumes you've completed your pre-site survey, on-site survey, weather checks, NOTAMS, full risk assessment and where appropriate coordinated with air traffic control (yes, really, you may well need to do this). Do you really have time for this on the day?

You also need a spotter to be with you at all times in order to flip the emergency go-home switch in case you have a medical problem. You also need a spotter to be aware of everything around you while you're filming the B+G, because sure as hell you won't be able to while you're concentrating on not hitting the B+G!

There are so many hurdles to jump through to do this right that you need to think about it really carefully. I'm not saying it's not doable, but it's not as simple as buying a Phantom and getting awesome footage.

Of course, doing it illegally is much easier, until something goes wrong.

BTW - don't even think of posting your footage on the web because the CAA and FAA are starting to get tough. And don't think no one is watching you, there are probably 100 mobile phones at a wedding, all with a camera or video function, so if anything goes wrong I guarantee it will be filmed and become public, very public, very quickly.

With all this said, do I think it's an opportunity to wow the viewer? Absolutely, but you need to think it through very carefully and figure out (where it's legal) if it isn't better getting someone in to do this part for you, someone who knows the rules, is qualified, insured and knows what they are doing, and only needs to do this one thing, not be jack of all trades.

If you're on a cheap package then it's probably not worth it, but larger packages may be. It may also be something you could share the cost of with the photographer as the drone can get both aerial footage for you but also great aerial photos for them too. A good machine has dual controllers, so the pilot flies and you can control the camera getting exactly the shot you want.

BTW - 2D gimbals are not so good, you really need a 3D gimbal for smoother footage.

[Edit] also realise that half the guys at the wedding will be super interested in the drone as a toy and will surround you so much you won't be able to fly, not to mention wanting to 'have a go' with it ;)
Qualified UAV Pilot with CAA PFAW
Aerial Photo / Aerial Video | Corporate Video Production
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Old January 27th, 2015, 04:49 PM   #10
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Re: Drones

+1 great post David. I also have a phantom, gimbal and GoPro, but have decided that weddings are just not worth the hassle for a couple of minutes of novelty footage.

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Old January 27th, 2015, 04:56 PM   #11
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Re: Drones

We got ourselves one but use it strictly for establishing shots and only for certain locations.

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Old January 28th, 2015, 12:36 AM   #12
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Location: Sydney, Australia
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Re: Drones

Someone forwarded me this article today:

Drone rule breaker fined $850 | Flight Safety Australia

Another recreational drone user has been issued with an $850 fine after flying the aircraft over populated areas in Townsville last year.

In a short statement released by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the regulator said it had ‘received reports of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying in the proximity of Townsville aerodrome and investigated the matter… (and) identified a private operator who had breached several safety regulations.’

CASA said that the matter was in line with their enforcement practices and that the individual was ‘issued an infringement notice ($850) for operating over a populous area and has been counselled by CASA inspectors to ensure safe operations of future flights.’

The news comes just weeks after CASA fined a separate recreational operator in December for crashing just metres away from a Victorian police operation. A year earlier, in late 2013, a Sydney operator was also issued with an aviation infringement notice after he lost control of his drone, crashing it into Sydney Harbour Bridge.

CASA reminds everyone wanting to fly UAVs to abide by the basic safety principles, which include:

You must only operate the aircraft in your line-of-sight in daylight. Don’t let it get too far away from you.

You must not fly closer than 30 metres to vehicles, boats, buildings or people.

You must not fly over any populous area, such as beaches, other people’s backyards, heavily populated parks, or sports ovals where there is a game in progress.

If you are in controlled airspace—which covers most Australian cities—you must not fly higher than 400 feet (120 metres).

You should not fly within 5.5 km of an airfield.

Respect personal privacy. Don’t record or photograph people without their consent—this may breach state laws. For more information about privacy, go to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
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Old January 28th, 2015, 01:33 PM   #13
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Re: Drones

i've used mine, a Phantom Vision+ in the past just for venue establishing shots, done on a different day to the event and with permission of the venue, it makes a great 3/4 second clip but i couldn't see it being much more than that. The only other thing that it might be good for is be where the B&G want an engagement shoot typ of thing, where you can have a good deal of control.
Wouldn't dream of trying to do it during a wedding tho!
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Old January 29th, 2015, 06:07 AM   #14
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Re: Drones

We've got one but I dont even fly for fun anymore. Lost it once in someones back garden after its GPS went squiffy. The fear of what 'could' happen was immense. I was half a mile from the Motorway/Freeway and it went on its own little mission and flew 2 miles away. Looking at the footage it went over the motorway, down, up then away. What if it had crashed itself and caused an accident. As Dave says, even a qualified pilot cant do anything about the technology having its funny 5 minutes.

Its just not worth the risk in my opinion. I see people flying it over couples heads but what if your flying blender comes down and does injury? Here in the UK you can only get public liability insurance if you have passed your ground school and other bits like Dave has. In the US I doubt there is even any available as your not supposed to fly drones at all.

If I want drone footage I wil hire a pro now. that way all the risk is on them :) What are your rates Dave ;)

Also, the moment I posted on Instagram that I had a new toy (for personal use) I got all sorts of commercial companies emailing me to say that I cant do this and I cant do that. I had letters from some group setup by all these guys whos sole purpose is to shut down people flying without licence. FFS people, I fly for pleasure in a park which is perfectly legal if I follow the rules.
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Old January 29th, 2015, 06:26 AM   #15
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Re: Drones

I think it's not worth the risk, I also would hire someone but I"m sure no-one will ever pay extra for a venue fly-over. I have started doing some company videos and there I might see a use for it but again only when hiring a experienced operator who has the necessary permits, a company would be more willing to pay for this to get some areal view.

As I see it this will mostly be used for very high end weddings and I see that the known ones like Joe Simon, Ray Roman etc have one in use but it you are working for clients that can hire circue du soleil for their personal entertainment in the venue they probably would be insulted if you are not able to include a drone.

I remember a time when I was in awe of still-motions steadicam work while now it's like as basic as using a tripod, in a few years time we probably need a full cameracrew, a truck with all our gear and a film director who can shout "cut!" to impress our clients...
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