Filming with a drone? Here’s 7 things you should know

NOV 15, 2017 

The commercial availability of drones has led to some pretty exciting advancements for video production. Nowadays, the average person can get their eyes in the sky and record 4K-quality footage from jaw-dropping heights. With this in mind, there are a few things that we’d like to share with you about what we’ve learned about flying a drone. Here are seven quick tips for your next drone flying experience!

1. Brush up on your local regulations and laws

Depending on where you are, there are likely to be some kind of government restrictions with the recreational or commercial use of a drone. Here in Canada, we’ve got some pretty important laws and regulations that you should take a look at before you lift off.

Most importantly, to ensure your own safety and the safety of others, be sure to understand where your local aerodromes (airports, heliports, and seaplane bases) are. Canadian drone flyers can conveniently see where flying is and is not permitted with the following interactive map.

2. Mother nature can have more control of your drone than you do

Avoiding bad weather is always important. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you fly; drones don’t work in conditions where there might be precipitation (whether that’s rain or snow). Also, check the wind conditions for the day, as this can heavily impact your flying experience. Keep in mind that your drone probably weighs around 1kg, which is around the same weight as a bottle of pop. However, they can still operate in light wind conditions. Remember that the higher the wind speeds, the lower accuracy you’ll have with your shots, and the higher risk you’re taking with the drone.

Something particularly relevant to us here in Toronto, check the temperature conditions before you fly. Many electronics are prone to literally freezing up once the temperature drops below 0 degrees celsius, with the battery suddenly dying or your controller becoming unresponsive. Check your manufacturer’s operating guide and it will tell you the optimum temperatures for operating a drone.

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The higher you go, the windier it gets.

3. Make a pre-flight checklist

After years in the industry, we’ve learned the hard way to always have a spare SD card on our person, and to bring along extra batteries. Flying a drone is no different. Every shoot and every setting is unique, so be sure to have a checklist with you that includes things like this before you head out the door!

4. When planning your shoots, be cognizant of what’s above.

Most people in this city don’t realize the amount of things that are hanging above them when walking down the street. Tree branches, streetcar wires, hydro towers -- the list is endless. When operating with a drone, plan your shots ahead of time and pay special attention to what’s above and around you; you won’t want to be taking off and landing in an area that has a lot of cables or trees. In case you arrive at the site you’ve scouted and there’s simply too much above and around you, have a “Plan B” for your drone shoot.

5. Slow that drone down

Jerky and wobbly movements don’t look good. You’ll need at least five seconds of no movement, or continuous smooth movement, in order to get usable footage. Once you start adjusting the camera angle, or a wind gust comes in, your footage will look a lot worse loaded up in post-production than you originally thought while you were filming.

6. Low light? Forget about flying.

In addition to it being illegal in Canada, flying a drone in low-light conditions is a bad idea. In our instance, our DJI drone doesn’t exactly shoot very well either in dark or nighttime conditions. Because of the higher ISO, darker shots give us grainier footage that isn’t so spectacular for nighttime shoots. With all this in mind, it’s likely that you won’t be able to get that dark drone shot that you may have been thinking of.

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A great shot we took back during warmer days...

7. Have fun!

You’ve taken the precaution to not fly near an airport or any hazards, you have everything prepped, now it’s ready to enjoy flying! All of these factors shouldn’t deter you from enjoying stunning bird’s-eye-view shots that human beings rarely experience. If you’re thinking of getting your own drone or flying for the first time, don’t be scared! It’s a wonderful experience and modern drones do have their own safety features and mechanisms to a certain degree. So, get out there and get flying!

Check out our last Blog Post, Hip Hop and Music Videos: A Love Story