Filming With Drones

A Beginners Guide

It’s hard to believe that we live in an age where you can connect a camera to a flying device that will record 4k footage up to a mile away!  That’s quite the upgrade from snapping a picture with a Polaroid camera!  When I bought my drone, I was super worried about its specifications, how far it could fly, price, camera resolution, and so much more.  It was mind boggling learning all of the new terminology that comes with this type of videography/photography.  However, I eventually decided to stick with a Go Pro Karma.  I did this because I already had a Go Pro Hero 6 Black.  I already knew that my Hero 6 Black recorded phenomenal video…why not buy a $599 drone to take that video into the skies?  To keep it short…I’m glad I did.

Why did I do this after reading all of the negative reviews online?  Because reviews are just that…reviews.  And the internet is flooded with self-proclaimed “experts”.  Had I followed the reviews and purchased a DJI Phantom 4, I would have spent twice as much for very little returns in video resolution.  I usually tend to go my own way in life, and I would highly recommend you do the same!  If you are constantly playing “follow the leader” how will you ever learn to find your own path?!  Anyway…I don’t mean to get all philosophical here…but there is a Law of Diminishing Returns that pretty much sums this up.  You don’t need to buy the super fancy stuff because the cheaper alternative, depending on what it is, will give you the same result.  Or at least very close to it.  To the point in which the average untrained person would have no idea the differences even if compared side by side.  Learn more about this here.

But what do I mean by that?  The DJI costs twice as much as the Karma without the camera.  It HAS to be superior!  Well…maybe in certain aspects, but your CREATIVITY as the person filming is where the “superior” footage comes from.  Below is an example of a few shots of my Karma with the Hero 6 Black with no editing.  I always shoot in Linear/24 FPS with my Hero 6 Black unless I’m filming slow motion.  

Shot number one

Shot number two

Shot number three

As you can clearly see…the footage is great.  With a little color correction/other wizardry, it would be phenomenal! 

The point I’m really trying to make here is that you don’t need to buy top of the line equipment.  If you are just starting out, buy equipment that is still reputable, yet cheaper.  Don’t spend a bunch of money paying for a name.  Learn the craft of color grading, adding dramatic music to a scene to make it come to life, get your hands dirty and learn as much as you possibly can with the more practical gear first…then, if necessary, go out and purchase that $3K DJI Inspire Drone with the $2.7K ZENMUSE X7 camera!  Trust me…if you learned how to film great footage with a Karma/Go Pro Hero 4/5/6/7…think about what it will look like on an Inspire.  

The last thing I want to point out about drones is how easy these things are to fly!  I was terrified to fly mine the first time because I just knew it was going to soar off and be lost forever.  Or I was going to lose signal and crash it.  I would really like to put your fears to rest in this article.  After you set up your drone, power it on, and fly it for the first time, you will notice immediately how easy they are to fly.  They link to Satellites via GPS so after you press the take off button…which is one press of a button it will hover in place.  By hover in place, it will literally hover in place!  You can set your controller on the ground…run around your drone while it is hovering, do some jumping jacks, go drink an energy drink, and it will continue to hover in the same spot with very little movement.  Press the up button and it will soar into the sky like a fighter jet conducting a sortie gen.  The footage, as you saw from my Karma is buttery smooth thanks to the gimbals housing!  And last but not least…when your battery starts to die, your controller will tell you.  It’s not just going to fall out of the sky unless you lose communication with it.  However, you should never be flying your drone if it is no longer in your line of sight.  

Things to think about when buying your first drone:

  1. Does it have a gimbal?  If yes, great!Move to step two.
  2. Does it have a good warranty?  If yes, move to step three.
  3. Does it have an external controller with joy sticks?  If yes, move to step four.
  4. Will the internal camera, or attached camera that is connected to the drone record in RAW?  This is not a requirement, but will allow for more control in post.  

If you follow the above four steps you will be just fine.  Yes DJI makes a phenomenal drone, as does Go Pro, Yuneek, Autel, etc… Just don’t spend an arm and a leg on your first one unless you are already a film making pro.

If you are a beginner pilot, know and understand the laws and regulations in your state/country.  A good place to start learning about this is here.

And finally, as with all of my articles, here is a great link to learn everything you need to know…and then some when purchasing your first drone!

Cheers!

Keith Heimericks

Black Hills Audio Video Productions

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