Today DJI haven’t just kicked it up a notch – they’ve moved into a whole new league. Promo films have been getting increasingly ambitious, so hearing that they’d commissioned top Hollywood DP Claudio Miranda, ASC to highlight the capabilities of their new Inspire 2 drone (and hired actor Ryan Philippe for the project) wasn’t so surprising. But just take a look at what he’s been able to do with it.
The whole of this short film The Circle – directed by DJI’s head of creative Sheldon Schwartz – is shot on the Inspire 2. Check out what they’ve been able to do by using the drone not just for aerials but as a handheld device and even for locked-off shots. Yes, you can do most of this with some combination of existing (and more expensive) tools, but it’s the first time that a drone manufacturer has created a small camera that produces an image cinematic enough to really rival a regular camera, whether in the air or on the ground. We’ve got to the point in technology where you can take an integrated drone camera designed for flying around and re-purpose that kit to get you amazing static shots.
They shot Raw footage making use of DJI’s claimed 12.8 stops of dynamic range. In a separate video, colourists talk about how this allowed them to create the look of the film. The results unquestionably look impressive. Of course, as with any film of this kind, the shots were composed and lit to show the camera to its best advantage, so it’s hard to tell just what its low light and dynamic range capabilities really are. That said, I see no reason why the combination of what must be one of the latest generation Micro Four Thirds sensors and Raw processing shouldn’t yield images better than we’ve come to expect from the likes of the older Panasonic GH4 – itself a very capable tool.
Big productions can already mount proper cameras onto huge drones to achieve some of these shots – such as flying the drone in and then catching it. But this makes it much easier. DJI talk about the removal of barriers to filmmakers and actually that’s true. You can do amazing shots for not too much money and you can cheat and use these things as a replacement for your regular handheld gimbal. I still can’t see major motion pictures or big TV shows being shot this way; they can afford large teams with dedicated Steadicam, gimbal and drone operators. But the potential of an integrated device like this for indie filmmaking, documentary and news is huge. The stabilising technology has got to the point where they can carry this stuff off at a much lower cost than before. That’s not to say it’s cheap, but the price of a camera and drone together is not very different to what you would have paid for the old Panasonic AF100 Micro Four Thirds camera when it came out. Not only does the DJI have a much better image; it flies too. All this in a few short years.