The big story in video production for the past five years has been shooting HD video on DSLR cameras; however, in 2013 there is something even hotter—shooting aerial footage with affordable multi-rotor aircraft. In this post, we take a look at three incredible videos that were shot with drones, and we find out how they were made from the people who created them.
DJI Phantom - Niagara Falls
Here's how Matt Quest made it happen:
- DJI Phantom
- Arris CM2000 v2 brushless gimbal
- Two GoPro HERO 3 cameras (one on Phantom, one on the ground)
- GoPro Tripod Mount
- A standard tripod
- APC Propellers
- Fatshark Predator v2 FPV (first person view) system
- Pelican 1610 Case with Foam
- Four Turnigy 2200mAh batteries
I had been planning the shoot for two months, monitoring the weather all along. The wind and cloud conditions were crucial. The day I picked was the only day that month with zero wind and clear skies. The time of day was really important, too. I knew I wanted to film at "golden hour," just as the sun was setting. I monitored the reported sunset times that week, and made sure I had arrived with plenty of time to set up. I also did extensive testing with the Phantom, testing each component and writing down my findings in a log book. I also did extensive testing with the batteries, making sure I knew exactly how long each of them lasted with all the equipment installed. My fiancé was the spotter—keeping a line of sight on the Phantom, and timing the flights with a stopwatch, letting me know when I had enough battery life left to safely head back over to land.
I used Adobe Premiere to edit the video.
The song is The In-Between by A New Normal. The process of picking a music track for this piece was one of the toughest challenges on this project. Music inspires my editing process, and picking the perfect soundtrack before I started editing was a must. I spent two weeks trying out different tracks before I finally found the song that best fit the piece.
FCTN Product Test 003: DJI Phantom
Here's how Chase Heavener made it happen:
The great thing about the Phantom is that you can pretty much be up and flying in about two or three minutes. Whenever I would see a shot, as long as it wasn't really windy, I would just set up the Phantom, shoot for about eight minutes, pack up, and be out of there. I like it for traveling because it's about as run-and-gun as you can get with a quad-copter.
I did do some stabilizing in post, but not a lot. The gimbal really helps with most of the shaking.
The song is Paracosm by Washed Out. I've done some videos with Washed Out songs before, and I'm just a big fan of his work and thought the song really fit the footage. Usually when I'm editing videos, I have about three different songs I'm working with at the same time, and I will actually edit a few different pieces to see which I like best. I had been messing around on Instagram with some dreamy type music, and this song was really consistent with that. Nice and dreamy, like the footage.
Here's how Mark Qvist made it happen:
- DJI Phantom
- DJI Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal
- FPV video transmitter & FPV video goggles
- Carbon fibre propeller blades for the Phantom
- GoPro HERO 3
- Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks
- Final Cut Pro X
- Car battery and 12 volt inverter
I shot the footage for Seasons End in the Zealand region in Denmark, at the end of the summer. The footage was shot over the course of a few days, and I would get up before sunrise to be able to drive out to the shooting locations and catch the awesome golden morning light. We had some days of amazing morning weather, with clear skies and low-hanging fog, which made for an amazing natural lighting setting. To be able to get many consecutive shots, I would drive around with a 12 volt car battery hooked up to an inverter, and a couple of LiPo battery chargers, so that I could charge the Phantom batteries while driving from one spot to the next.
The balloon shot was especially interesting, and a bit daunting. One morning, before leaving for shooting, I could hear the sound of the balloon's gas burner faintly in the distance, and I hurried inside to prepare the Phantom. When I sat it down and connected the battery, the balloon was literally passing just overhead, only about 40 meters above me. At that moment, the Phantom was acquiring GPS signal, and I was impatiently waiting for it to complete, as the balloon drifted further and further away. (They’re faster than they look!) After a few more seconds of waiting I decided it was now or never, and I flipped off the GPS safety, spun up the motors, and took off, well knowing that if I was going to catch it I would be at the edge of the Phantom's range, without a GPS position stored so that it could return if it lost the signal. I got the shot I wanted just as the controller signal began to drop out, and I had to hold the transmitter exactly so that the RF beam would be pointed at the Phantom in the distance (which was now well out of my line of sight). When I turned around, I couldn’t even make out the take-off point through the FPV goggles. Luckily, I know the terrain in the area quite well, and was able to pilot the phantom back safely, and land it just as the battery depleted. That was an exciting shot!
Post production was carried out in Final Cut Pro X. Footage was already very stabile due to the gimbal, but shooting in 2.7k on the GoPro affords some extra headroom when targeting 1080p, so a little extra stabilization was added to help with the fact that the Zenmuse only stabilizes two axes. Since everything was shot in ProTune, I used Magic Bullet Looks to grade the final shots from the Log color space, to get it as close to the experience as possible.
I chose the piece "Che sabok bood” by Iranian composer Fariborz Lachini. The English title of the piece is “Autumn Lightness.” I think the music by Lachini beautifully expresses many of the emotions associated with the passing of summer and entering into the darker seasons. Here in Denmark, the differences between summer and winter are stark, going from long light evenings where it never really gets dark or cold, to days of almost complete darkness. At summer solstice, the sun will not set until 17.5 hours after it rose, and the horizon will never turn completely dark. At winter solstice we only experience seven hours of day, with the sun barely rising above the horizon before it sets again.
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