Are you a production manager? Thinking about using drones for your next production? You may not have worked with them yet in your production career but you will have heard of them, and, no doubt at some point in the future you will be expected to work with one. If you work in media you will already know that drone cameras are the new must-have piece of equipment for any production. Unless you have a serious amount of capital or a wildly liberal budget to invest in a high-quality rig, rig operator and camera then most likely you will be needing to hire drone at some point.
Although drone hire may seem like a simple task there are plenty of pitfalls and hazards, that new-comers to drone hire can encounter. Don’t panic….this blog is going to tell you exactly what questions you should be asking and the things you need to consider before you pick up that phone and commit blindly to a drone hire.
Beware the Drone Hire Cowboys
So you have a company in mind, you’ve even seen their showreel and feel confident this is the drone hire company for you. However, showreels can be misleading as can websites. Their rig looks amazing and the price is unbeatable, perfect right? Wrong! If it looks too good to be true you need to pause and give consideration to the following things. Not all drone operators are the same. Consider the people first and the machine second. You need to really look at the people you are going to hire a drone from, before you look at the actual drone. You need to ask yourself these 7 key questions before you commit to anything.
Look before you Leap 101!
Do they understand your needs from a production point of view? In other words, have they experience the location filming work and will they fit into the millions of other things going on when you are on location. If not, then you may want to reconsider working with them. Time is precious on location and you don’t want to have to hold their hand through the experience. You need a team who can hit the ground running!
Key Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Drone
(1) Do they understand “camera speak” ?
Test to see if they know enough about lenses, bit rates, image quality and exposure settings. You need to know if could they talk with a DOP and a director to ensure the quality you want is delivered. If not, again this could be another hiccup you encounter once you are out on location and delay your whole shoot.
(2) Do they understand your post production workflow and the file types required for that?
You could end up with the wrong file types, which will ultimately extend your post-production and eat into your budget fixing mistakes that could have been avoided.
(3) Do they make you feel at ease about flying the drones, without them sounding complacent?
Drones in the wrong hands can be dangerous! At the commercial level of flying drones can do damage if not handled with the utmost care. If your drone operator takes a devil-may-care attitude you may want to stop and reevaluate your options. Do you want to be liable for their mistakes? Are you willing to gamble your production insurance?
(4) What insurance do the drone hire company operate?
This is probably the most important question, insurance. This becomes more complicated if you have a production hired camera and lens being flown on the drone operators’ rig. You need to discuss and clarify with the drone operator who exactly has the liability for each piece of equipment in the event of any incident occurring. You don’t want to find yourself left footing the bill for a new camera because your drone operator had a fly-away or an accident.
(5) How many men do they use when out on a shoot?
Often you will encounter the low-budget one-man band sorts. Think Dick Van Dkye in Mary Poppins. But you really need to stop and ask yourself “can one man really do it all?”. It’s true many companies, who are trying to come in on or under-budget, will be tempted by the one man drone operation due to its affordability but before you are lured in with a cheap price tag, you need to consider the safety of this kind of practice. Should the operator be incapacitated during a drone flight, for any reason, who then controls the drone to a safe landing? If the drone operators use a two man crew or more, this ensures that at least one of them can take control should it be required and land the drone safely.
(7) Is their reel really real?
Just because they have a licence, a drone and are affordable does not mean they are the best choice for your production. Do not trust a show reel, these are often the product of skilled editing. A pro tip when assessing a show reel is to look for the extended shots. An extended shot is one that runs for about 20s or more. The true level of the pilots’ flying skill will be revealed in these long shots. If they don’t have these types of shots, it’s probably because they don’t have the talent for it. Harsh but true! The proof is in the pudding, pilots who are worth their salt can hold longer moving and tracking shots. They can do it consistently and don’t depend on lady luck, who – let’s face it – can be a fickle tart
We hope now that you will feel more confident the next time you look to hire a drone. Armed with these tips nobody will be pulling the wool over your eyes. If you keep these 7 questions in mind you will be able to figure out if in fact they are right drone hire company for you. After all, once you are out on location there won’t be time for many of the considerations above. You want to find a drone hire company that really understands all your production needs and makes your drone experience an enjoyable instead of a stressful one!
If you think we have missed something important please let us know in the comment section, we hope this helps you in your future drone hire adventures!