Drones can give a campaign unique video footage to post on a variety of platforms. But for operators who haven’t piloted a quadcopter before, there can be a steep learning curve.
For most drones, the controls can be sensitive and there’s always the possibility it can drop from the sky. To help ensure the safety of your candidate and staff, we sought some tips for uninitiated drone pilots from Mike Bishop, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and editor. Bishop recently began using drones in his video productions.
C&E: Is there a certain distance a drone should be away from the subject while shooting?
Bishop: A lot of space to maneuver the drone is ideal, especially if you’re just starting out. Staying away from large crowds is recommended. But the closer the drone flies to the subject, the more impact it has. I enjoy flying at sunset for the best lighting.
C&E: Is there a way to stream the picture from the action camera to the remote so you know what you're shooting?
Bishop: There is a video downlink system that I use while flying the drone called FPV “first person view.” You’re literally flying the drone through your own eyes. I also like to use a second person as my spotter just to keep an eye on the surroundings when you’re flying in first person.
C&E: How do you aim the camera for the shot you want?
Bishop: The camera and drone control work as one, so you have to think about controlling the drone and framing your shot at the same time — all without crashing. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your shot and forget about surrounding objects. That’s why it’s ideal to fly in wide, open spaces with a spotter. It’s also possible to have a second person to control the camera for even greater control.
C&E: Is there a drone model you recommend for shooting, say, a political rally or campaign speech?
Bishop: I use the DJI Phantom 2, which I recommend as a drone to start shooting with, but I also recently got a micro drone. I use the Blade Nano to practice and got comfortable with it flying around my living room. You can crash that all day long but there’s a lot more at stake when you crash a Phantom.
C&E: What cameras are ideal to attach to a drone?
Bishop: The newest version of the GoPro camera, the Hero 4 Black, is what I recommend.
C&E: What are the risks of shooting with a drone?
Bishop: The risks of shooting with a drone are substantial. They’re difficult to fly without the correct knowledge and practice. Also, dropping out of the sky is a concern. Battery life needs to be monitored at all times. At best, battery life lasts up to 15 minutes, depending on weather conditions. Safety is number one so go learn the craft, and take your time practicing in open spaces before flying anywhere near people or public places.