We are often asked by our clients for aerial video. And with the latest technologies for drones, this has made aerial photography much more accessible and led to higher production values. But what are the different methods for aerial video?
Helicopters and Airplanes
Today, it’s easy to point at the drone. But an important tool in the aerial arsenal, is the helicopter or fixed wing platform. For many years, this was the only way to get the aerial shot. And when you shoot from a helicopter or airplane, there are several different methods. At the top of the production value is the remote controlled, enclosed gimbal camera. This is inside a housing hanging off the helicopter (or airplane). Some of these camera platforms easily run $200,000 to $400,000. That’s the camera, gimbal and housing– not the helicopter or airplane.
A pilot is needed to fly the helicopter and a camera operate works the camera remotely. This video was done by us with such a setup:
For the budget minded– an operator can shoot out the window with a handheld gimbal system. Or even just hold the camera out the window. In which case, support ties are encouraged. When we shot our feature film “A Promise Kept” (shown in the picture), we shot our final shot this way– holding the 35mm camera out of the helicopter. To combat the shakiness, there are ways to make the video smooth in the editing.
Drones have opened up a new world of aerial photography. The helicopter and airplane was primarily used for higher shots– over 500 feet and more. But with drones, now shots could be made from ten feet up. Or less. And you could fly indoors and get shots only cranes could get before.
At SFilms, we utilize three different drone platforms. On the large side, we use a professional Matrice 100 that can handle bigger payloads and better cameras. We also use the phantom and 3DR Solo products for the medium jobs. And for small, extremely portable jobs, we use the Mavic Pro.
Drones versus Helicopters
So when is it best to use drones versus a helicopter? Drones have some serious limitations. To be legal (unless you get a COA that allows different from the FAA), you need to keep the drone within sight of the pilot in command or spotter. Also, you’re not supposed to fly over 400 feet (500 in some cases). In the above video, our client needed a continuous video of a 12 mile stretch of highway, right next to a major airport. It’s very difficult to get that by drone, but with a helicopter, it’s perfect.
And when you just need that quick shot from 50 feet in the air of the outside of your corporate offices, the drone is the perfect tool, not the helicopter.
Other Considerations for your Corporate Aerial Video
Are the operators licensed properly? Is the helicopter pilot commercially rated? Does the drone operator have a 107 license? In addition to the proper paperwork, are they more than technicians– are they artists? You need both.
What’s critical is that you find a company for your aerial video needs that has all sorts of tools in their toolbox and that they know how to use them.