Cinematography : Drone Cinematography by Charles G. Masi

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Charles G. Masi

Drone Cinematography

At the end of August 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rolled out 14 CFR Part 107—SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS, which provides a commercial drone pilot's license. That created a whole new job classification -- Drone Cinematographer. This lounge discussion is intended for us folks who combine filmmaking skills with remote-piloting skills to communicate with each other. The types of topics I envision include regulatory issues, flying techniques, cinematography techniques, the best birds (aircraft) to use, and marketing questions. I'll start off with a little about me, and then let everyone else jump in. I'm a private pilot with high-performance, complex, and helicopter experience. I also have experience on both sides of the camera. And, I've got some RC model aircraft time (building and flying) under my belt. Finally, I have a newly minted commercial drone-pilot license. One thing I've found out about drone cinematography is that it requires the ability to fly precisely at low speeds. With that, you can replace a pile of specialized equipment, such as dollies and booms. Imagine a 2K video camera mounted on a 400-foot boom with rock-solid stability that you can position within a foot of where you want it, and point in any direction -- but you don't have to deal with the boom, itself. Your turn. . . .

Debbie Croysdale

This was very interesting, thanks for the share. I suppose now there is a "drivers licence for drones" it could impact on some film insurance policies. Eg Insurers may say the new licence is compulsory if these optical scenes are in films. As for the possibilities forthcoming, of drones replacing standard studio equipment, hope Im around when it happens. For those like me who don't operate filming technology, it would be great to see a day when cumbersome van loads of equipment are no longer needed.

Charles G. Masi

It's better think of it as a COMMERCIAL driver's license for drones. You don't need a license to fly drones for funzies at your local RC model club, but it's illegal to do it for pay. So, if you're going to charge anybody for viewing your film, better have a licensed operator supervising drone shots. By the way, it's always been illegal. The FAA just finalized a legal way to do it. That said, you can have a licensed "pilot in command" (PIC) supervising an unlicensed pilot at the controls. There are restrictions, but it's legal. What the PIC brings to the party, from the producer's point of view, is an understanding of the restrictions and, especially, working within the controlled-airspace system. What most people don't know is that almost all airspace in the U.S. is controlled to some extent. A licensed PIC also makes it possible to get insurance to cover the equipment and liability in case of accidents. Yes, no insurance company would provide insurance for any drone operation not supervised by a licensed remote pilot. In the past, insurance providers specifically refused to cover UAV operations. When I made "Bonnie Pureheart and the Golden Ghost," I had to get liability insurance to shoot on city property. The insurance policy boilerplate specifically disallowed drones. I suspect that even now you'd have to have separate insurance to cover UAV activities. I haven't checked that, yet. Luckily, there are insurers out there now providing both the equipment and liability coverage for drone operations. So, I believe you need a separate policy to cover the UAV in addition to whatever you have to cover the rest of the shoot.

Debbie Croysdale

Thanks for the update, and further concise information.

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