It sometimes seems like the film industry is moving much faster than we’re able to keep up with, as many pieces of new and innovative technology find their way into the hands of filmmakers on a monthly basis. Perhaps the most interesting piece of technology this year has been the drone.
Once seen as a niche product with a very particular purpose has quickly become one the hottest toys of the year. You read that right – a toy, which is somewhat surprising considering their value add to the film industry. Many average Joe’s have begun to purchase drones simply because of the stunning visuals they create – something that has never been possible before with this piece of camera gear.
The eye in the sky
No, drones aren’t brand new this year, but the development of technology has allowed them to become more and more relevant as time progresses. Recently, DJI released their new drone, the Inspire 2, which is capable of recording up to 5.2K footage in RAW – an amazing mark for such a small device which has the power to change the filmmaking industry for the better.
In most practices, aerial shots and other airborne movement shots have been captured using a suspended cable system known to filmmakers as the Skycam or Spidercam. These are the same type of cameras you’ve seen while watching a sporting event as they’re suspended from the ceiling and can be moved around on a controlled line at higher speeds.
The main difference between a device like a Skycam and a drone, is the size of the camera being used. Ultimately, drones haven’t replaced Skycam’s, but they have become more efficient, as you don’t have to rig up a cable system to get a smooth aerial shot like you used to. The difference being, older drones weren’t capable of recording at such a high resolution, making the Skycam the only option for feature films and commercials – a belief which has now changed thanks to the Inspire 2.
Who do drones benefit most?
It wouldn’t be wrong to argue that drones benefit all filmmakers, regardless of what area of the industry they work in, but perhaps the genre that sees the most benefit is the indie filmmaker.
Indie filmmakers are extremely budget conscious. But hey – isn’t everyone? Yes, but indie filmmakers are even more budget conscious than the rest of us. They typically run on borrowed or rented gear and sometimes have little or even no production budget whatsoever, further limiting their ability to capture more impressive cinematic shots.
Drone’s create new challenges and opportunities that never existed before.
If a filmmaker 5 years ago said they wanted to make an entire short film using only a drone, they would’ve been laughed out of the bar. It just wasn’t possible at that time with the current technology. And outside of sporting events, shooting an entire production with a device like a Skycam is almost equally as laughable, just because of the limitations it sets on the production. You might ask, what kind of lunatic would want to make a short film using only a Skycam? If you have to ask, congratulations, you’ve just met your very first indie filmmaker.
These people are driven by challenges and live for executing their creative visions that most of us wouldn’t even dream of because we aren’t capable of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. While it’s not necessarily wrong to think this way, it’s ignorant to think something like this couldn’t ever be possible, especially with the Inspire 2.
Enter DJI – the manufacturer of the DJI who has released several quality production items with an emphasis on stability and next generation resolution. DJI executed on this challenge before most of us even thought it was possible, and while it might not be the first of its kind, there’s argument that it certainly could be the best.