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Is a Drone Chopper Whirling Your Filmic Way?

Hal McClure Posted by Hal McClure in Features October 2nd, 2012

Is a Drone Chopper Whirling Your Filmic Way?

By Hal McClure

You’re shooting a travel-adventure film while boating upriver in Borneo on your way to a former headhunters village. You have only one camera, which is on your boat. But wouldn’t it be great if you had another one catching aerial footage of you and the colorful riverside activity?

Or maybe you’re shooting an old narrow-gauge train as it crawls along a mountainside. Wouldn’t aerial footage of your ancient steamer give an added professional dimension to your travel film?

Ah, if only our budgets could afford the multi-hundreds of dollars for helicopter rental and added camera. Wait a tick?   

What if we could buy one of those small radio-controlled drones for around $300 and up, camera included? It could pay for itself on one job. And you could use it again on other aerials—or even rent it to your drone-deprived fellow filmmakers.

The question: Are these drones any good at that price? Yes, surprisingly so.  

There are several at that price on the market, but the Parrot AR. Drone 2.0 quadricopter caught my attention. It’s a good “entry-level” machine for budget-minded filmmakers in the exciting new drone chopper world. A couple Parrot highlights:

Its on-board camera's wide-angle lens captures stills on HD 720p video. (For higher HD 1028 quality, some shooters have switched to an inexpensive GoPro camera as a replacement. (The Parrots are sold online or through Amazon, Brookstone or others.) You must use your own iPhone, iPad or android to control the drone.

Other drones range from a few hundred to thousands. Click Parrot to see this baby in action.  

To learn more about the booming drone field we went to longtime dronemeister Tony Caldwell. To watch Tony demo his $8,000 German-made drone to filmmaker Joe Micalizzi at a special drone park in Long Beach (CA), click HexaKopter.

 

Before you dash off to join Tony as a drone owner, you should know there is a problem with flying—or not —flying them today.

 The Federal Aviation Agency, concerned with public safety and privacy, keeps an unofficial eye on drone flights while vowing to integrate these unmanned aircraft into U.S. airspace beginning in 2015. Meanwhile, you must be especially careful when you fly your new drone.

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Editor's Note: To view a sample of Tony's German drone stock footage be sure and open the video at the top of this article.

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