Amazon plans to use them for rapid deliveries, Disney is reportedly using them to protect the next Star Wars shoot from prying eyes, and a 15-year-old Brit just scooped a $250,000 prize for racing them. Yes, that’s right – it’s time to talk about drones.
Put simply, drones are unmanned aircraft that can be flown remotely. With recent leaps made forward in their technological ability and design, and a huge surge in popularity, drones have opened up a whole new world of creative possibilities, allowing film-makers to capture breath-taking shots that may have previously been impossible.
To help you draw up the killer storyboard you’ve always dreamed of, here are the five most important things you need to know about shooting with drones...
1. Understand the Benefits
Drones are nimble, agile and compact; their size and speed allowing you to document locations from angles never before reached. Once you’re trained in piloting them, drones are easy to use and quick to set up. They’re also considerably cheaper than the alternative; a whole day with a drone costs roughly the same as an hour with a helicopter – so way more bang for your buck.
Thirdly, they’re kinder to the environment; drones emit zero carbon emissions, making them perfect for any eco-conscious, green-fingered production company or independent filmmaker. As we’re part of AdGreen, which is committed to making advertising greener, we try and use drones wherever possible. They don’t always suit the brief – helicopters can fly for further distances and, of course, fly higher – but, ultimately, it comes down to what you want for your finished product. The two have different capabilities and, in turn, produce different results.
What we do say is that with the ability to create more innovative and inventive shots, drones increase the scope that can be achieved in a cost effective way.
2. Know the Law
Whether you’re relatively new to drone filming, or a self-professed drone aficionado, it’s important to know the fun ins and outs and legalities of drone filming.
A few things to bear in mind: a drone must always be within sight of its pilot, it should not exceed a height of 400ft, be within 50ft of people that you have no control over (Jedi mind trick-style), or be flown over buildings or live roads. Don’t be scared or put off by these legalities, but do keep an eye on them for both the safety of others and the ease of your shoot.
Drone laws in the UK are not as tight as in other countries (such as the USA or South Africa), but it’ll help make your shoot (and life) easier if you pay attention. This is why we and our clients love using drones in Scotland – the sheer amount of free space makes it a drone-paradise.
3. Stay Ahead of the Tech and Find that Perfect Partner
As anyone living in the present day knows, technology is constantly evolving. There’s a new iPhone every two weeks and software updates needed each and every day. Okay – I might be exaggerating (slightly), but when it comes to developments in drone technology it really does help to have the right partners so as to keep you ahead of the curve.
Happily, we’ve developed a long-standing partnership with aerial photography experts LA Media, who do just that. With two decades of experience and a fantastic CAA qualified pilot – not to mention constant investment in new technology – we now have unfettered access to the latest top-quality kit, with some of the best minds in the business to work with.
So what’s next for drones? There are exciting developments in Geo-Mapping (the ability to automate a drone’s flight path; drones will be programmed to understand their surroundings and what they’re flying over) and new drone models. We’ve just tested a new drone, the Tornado, with LA Media at our fantastic location Glen House.
The key – keep an eye on new trends so as to maximise your own skill set.
4. Build Local Relationships
To shoot successfully, you need good local relationships. Kit suppliers, location scouts, roads departments, councils, film offices, landowners, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – these are all people that you should work at making your best friends (or BFFs, if you will).
Our locations department has worked tirelessly to build strong relationships with the relevant authorities – whether you’re using drones, helicopters or a Russian Arm. Being in such close and frequent contact with our locations allows us to be aware of any changes in drone filming policy and prepared to provide spontaneous creative solutions.
Collaboration may be a buzzword, but here it really is key.
5. Know Your Locations
I may have already mentioned this, but Scotland is a dream for drone shoots. Whether it’s epic driving roads, dramatic mountain ranges or the skyline of Edinburgh or Glasgow, you’ll find a whole world of breath-taking, wild, and beautiful locations north of the border. In combining Scotland’s offering with the versatility of a drone, you gain the ability to capture incredible locations from new perspectives – think dramatic sea stacks and cliffs that would previously be unfeasible, logistical or costly nightmares.
Drone footage can also offer a more interactive way of communicating a location’s appeal. Take, for example, a car commercial: showing the client a database of roads filmed by drone, demonstrating how they bend and weave through the landscape, has its advantages over still photos in being able to convey the spirit of each location.
The key, wherever you’re shooting, is to choose a location that fully takes advantage of your kit, and to have a relationship with the landowners. This is something that we have learned along the way – to help our shoots we now have relationships with the majority of estate and landowners throughout Scotland.
Whether it’s navigating the land or the law, there’s much more to a drone shoot than meets the eye. Forging the perfect partnerships will make your life easier, allowing you to make the most of the kit’s capabilities and take your creativity to new heights. The sky’s the limit, for now!
Extras // See below two videos: one aerial showreel from LA Media, and a commercial of ours from last year featuring some lovely drone work.
Also, make sure to check out LA Media's website and offering here.