Learning to fly, too

myP3

A new toy? Nope, expanding my potential!

The short film project I’ve been shooting & working on for the past month or so has involved working with a drone pilot/aerial videographer on four seperate shoots – my initial motive was as an affordable alternative to using a helicopter for filming aerial shots, but after the first few shoots I started to appreciate what is possible with these incredible devices and those instincts developed to commission two further shoots which captured truly incredible footage! After a bit of research I discovered DJI were just about to release their latest iteration of the drone, the Phantom 3, which is relatively affordable, can shoot 4k video and 12 megapixel stills & includes the crucial downlink/video feed… Order placed, waiting, waiting…

So I posted this photo on FB a few days ago when it arrived… And made a comment about also being interested in using the drone to record sound. A few people instantly commented: “you can’t record sound with those, the props make too much noise” but they were just stating the obvious – if you’ve seen a drone fly then you’ve also heard its props & of course no one is going to record sound while its flying but that just shows a lack of imagination…. Lets take a really basic example: say you want to record some lake ambiences & the lake has a little island – the perspective from the island would be quite different from the shore, but recording on that island requires either a boat, or… a way to get your recorder & mics out to the island. Get it now?

One of the things that blew me away about our drone filming was the range. While the footage is amazing (we flew the drone to some places that no human could safely go even in a helicopter) the DJI drone the pilot was using also had a range of up to 2km. Two kilometres!! So that example of the little island in the lake doesn’t have to be close – we shot some material where I couldn’t even see the drone any more, it was that far away! But hit the ‘fly home’ button and via GPS the drone makes its way back…

What sort of payload could a drone such as this carry? Thats something I will start to experiment with, once I have some skills at actually flying it. While it may not be able to carry a pair of MKH8040s and a Sound Devices recorder, a pair of DPA4060 mics weight practically nothing & paired with a small recorder that 2km trip might just deliver some unique sounds! And just imagine where you could fly it!!

At first I thought removing the camera might be a way to increase the possible weight of mics & recorder, but then realised the camera & video feed would be essential for identifying a safe landing location. I can imagine the anguished shout, as the drone lands at some totally inaccessible location and topples over, unable to take off… “Nooooooooooooooooooooooo……….”

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