Upgrading Drone Payload for Production

Upgrading Drone Payload for Production

With so many people getting into drones, the competition is already starting to heat up for space in the industry as a business professional and we haven’t even gotten a reasonable set of guiding laws yet!

So why all the rage over drones? Whatever your theory, the bottom line is they are just downright cool and deliver us a much needed sensation of flying, even if it is through an FPV system like Fatshark goggles or a Black Pearl monitor.

But in reality, this all began with the digital camera. The DSLR, or digital single lens reflex camera, made it possible for anyone to become a “production company.” And so, the power of digital cameras for video has continued to develop, recently hitting a new plateau with the GoPro camera.

GoPro’s whole marketing campaign – the “you can take a camera, stick it anywhere, and record unreal video” – indirectly set off the drone craze, even though drones with cameras on them have been commonplace on Hollywood sets and in hobbyist airspace for decades.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pat yourself on the back for buying and learning how to properly fly that DJI Phantom 2. But what are you going to do now?

DJI Phantom: ~ $1,000

The DJI Phantom allows you to do some pretty cool things, even professional work. The GoPro Hero 4 or the new Vision both offer great image quality and can achieve high frame rates so you can slow that footage down, even shooting clips in 4K, or set in protune so you can color grade in post.

But there’s a problem. There’s always going to be a problem. You aren’t flying any glass, which means you are severly limited with these platforms. Lenses are everything, and with the rapid development of the GoPro, they are THE only hurdle to shooting the best video quality out there.

No matter how hard you try, true industry professionals and production companies will always be able to spot a GoPro from a mile away and thus you’ll always fall short of advancing your business into a real reputable realm of production.

(all prices are rough estimates)

DJI Inspire 1: ~ $2,800

The step up, and big time, is the Inspire 1. The camera, developed by Sony, allows you to do some lens controls, and the 4K video can also be graded and corrected to achieve many different looks for corporate or film mediums.

That, and the airframe is unbelievable. The Ipad UI makes flying the Inspire feel like a large leap in technology from the DJI Phantom. The retractable landing gear and amazing control make this a realistic option for doing professional work for your business.

But again, you are still limited by the size of the camera, the color depth, and the lens options.

DJI S900: ~ $7,000 w/ camera

The DJI S900 with a gimbal that can fly the Panasonic Lumix GH4 is truly a professional platform. The GH4’s mirrorless technology, touchscreen, and easy plug in with the gimbal give you a true DSLR camera with high frame rates and lens options while still keeping the payload relatively low.

The airframe has a retractable landing gear, allowing the gimbal and camera to pan 360 degrees (so does the Inspire 1). Setting up the system as a dual operator system gives you a platform that can perform some real on set work.

Cinestar Heavylift ~ $50,000 w/ camera

The heavylift is a popular option for achieving the ultimate – getting the Red Epic in the air. The heavylift takes a gimbal such as the Movi M10 and allows you to connect it to the airframe as well as remove it and use it separately. the Movi M10 and Red Epic combo are a dream, which is why so many movies and TV shows use some combination of both.

The Movi M10 can be used in “majestic mode” so any sudden jerks or a pilot and camera operator fighting each other in air is totally smoothed out to look like a gradual pan.

The Red Epic is a standard in tv and film, trailing only the Arri in capabilities. 6K with high frame rates, color depth that doesn’t end, and a great software package for grading make it pop. But, the proprietary Red make everything super pricey, so you’re going to be spending perhaps double the price of the body before you’re actually shooting on it.