By site editor Dan Chung:
Recently we have featured several articles by shooters using inexpensive DJI Phantom drones to get previously unattainable shots. But what happens when a major network needs to get shots over the world’s largest soccer academy? How do you ensure safety for children playing football below?
Instead of attempting to do it themselves ITN decided to call in the experts from SCP Aerials in Hong Kong to handle the aerial shooting. SCP fly larger drones capable of carrying cameras like the Canon 5D mkIII and Red Epic.
I asked Richard Kimber of SCP Aerials about the shoot and the challenges of shooting with drones professionally:
“My team at SCP Aerials has had more than its fair share of adventures over the past few years of playing with drones.
We’ve shot ultra-marathons in the vast deserts of Inner Mongolia, luxury properties in the snowy mountains of Japan, yacht races in the middle of giant lakes in China, and car chases on huge green-screen movie sets in Hong Kong. We’ve even shot horse racing and beamed our drone camera’s images straight on to live TV.
But in the midst of the recent World Cup fever we jumped at the chance to head to China and film the world’s largest soccer academy with ITN, one of the most respected news organisations in the world. The documentary was part of the new ‘On Assignment’ series that ITN makes for ITV, the main commercial channel in the UK.
SCP Aerials has been operating for a few years now as a division of the Spontaneous Combustion Productions film company in Hong Kong. We first started flying drone cameras as a means of getting awesome action shots at the many adventure sport events that we cover. From the moment that we first started experimenting with the then untried and untested technology, we knew it was going to be a game-changer. Since then we have grown fast and have become the official production partner of DJI, the world’s biggest manufacturer of drone camera equipment.
The ITN soccer documentary was a perfect fit for us. It was a very newsy subject matter with lots of human interest value, and it was a story that just couldn’t be properly told without some aerial shots to communicate the mammoth scale of the facilities at the academy.
It can be tough working with a news crew as shooting schedules tend to be tight, shots need to be short, sharp and very precise, and the subject matter for filming may not always be pleased to see you! Fortunately the ITN crew had everything organised before we arrived… including the weather, which they somehow managed to manipulate to our advantage despite the dire forecast!
Using the DJI S1000 with the Canon 5D mkIII enabled us to get a rich colour scheme even through the haze, and the rock solid gimbal gave us lots of control to sculpt an eye-catching opening shot that slowly revealed the size of the enormous facilities without giving it all away at the start. With its retractable arms and rotors we were also able to transport the S1000 around easily and set-up it up quickly, allowing us to film in multiple locations during the short time-frame available.
We use a full-HD, zero-latency transmitter and a portable 24 inch HD monitor to help our clients see exactly what the camera is shooting while it is in the air. This helps to make sure that we can get a winning shot with every flight and adjust the framing to exactly suit the client’s needs before starting our pre-planned filming path. For a news crew this is especially important as it ensures they can get what they need and wrap the shoot on time.
The drone camera technology is evolving fast. As DJI Phantoms become cheaper and easier to fly it is now possible for many budding filmmakers to add aerial Go Pro shots to their storyboards. However my feeling is that operating bigger multi-rotor aircraft is still a job for professionals only. Apart from cost considerations, bigger aircraft require a much greater depth of experience to be flown safely, and the maintenance is a lot more complicated. There is a significantly greater risk to be managed as well. Operators should be expected to have comprehensive third party liability insurance, and should be actively engaged with their local government or aviation department to ensure that they are submitting permission applications for their flights. Ideally they should have gone through a certified training programme as well. We sent our newest pilot to the UK to earn his stripes as there is currently no such qualification available in Asia.
The industry will continue to expand and new regulation is inevitable. We are working closely with the Civil Aviation Department in Hong Kong to help build a community of aerial filmmakers in the hope that we can all help one another, rather than aggressively compete. I believe that if we all play by the rules and fly responsibly, we can continue having fun with this fantastic technology for many years to come… or at least until something new and even cooler arrives!”
You can find out more about SCP Aerials and their work at http://www.hotaerials.tv