Five Tips for Using Drones on Your Production

When CNN commissions a study on using drones to capture news footage you know unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have hit the mainstream. Today, more and more cameras are taking to the sky for sports coverage, reality TV and even real estate listings.  

It used to be that stunning panoramic shots were limited by the length of a crane or the locations a helicopter could safely fly. Not anymore. Now a filmmaker can put a GoPro on a drone and get shots that only existed in their imagined storyboards.

As you venture out into the wild blue yonder, here's a few tips to make the best of the experience.

  1. Get The Entry Level Model. It's easy to get ahead of yourself and get the elephant gun when all you really needed was the water pistol. The DJI Phantom is an ideal entry level purchase. It won't get your camera in the air but at $399 it's a great way to get comfortable before you take the big leap and put all your precious equipment in the sky. Think of it as a training course that gets you valued flying experience.
  2. Watch Before You Fly. Read the manual thoroughly, then search the web for instructional videos. You'll find everything from how to charge your batteries to how to install prop guards. DSLRPros has some great videos on how to get up and flying but there are many other people out there who have taken the time to create tutorials.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice. Once you've read up on everything, get get out and fly as much as you can. It can take anywhere from 10-20 hours to get comfortable so don't get discouraged. And don't worry about the video you're getting. Work on getting the drone in the air. Practice hovering. Practice landing. Once you get comfortable, then you can start pushing the envelope.
  4. Use Prop Guards. Face it, you're going to crash. Everyone does. You’re landings will not be gentle. You'll run into things. It will tip over while the props are active. Save yourself the money and the headaches and install your prop guards. Sometimes they get in the way of your shot, but it’s better to use them and risk ruining a few shots then to damage the drone.
  5. Use Common Sense. Take it slow and be safe. These things can get out of control very easily and should be kept away from people. And because of their ability to fly hundreds of feet in the air, be aware of other aircraft in the area. It's a serious problem if you come too close to manned aircraft. You can visit the Academy of Model Aeronautics for more information. They have valuable resources about government regulations. 

Follow these tips and get that camera up in the air. You'll be amazed by the beautiful footage you'll capture.