One of the challenges of providing lower cost aerial video is to find a supplier of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that has a range of technical and flying skills to complement our video production development experience. Helicopters provide unrivalled aerial platforms in terms of the size and weight of camera equipment that can be carried and duration of flight but at a cost. The latest generation of High Definition cameras such as the Black Magic, when combined with an octocopter and suitable lenses can produce stunning images rivaling those generated from a helicopter based camera platform.
We chose Cambridge UAV (CUAV) as our technical partner because they have the experience of designing and developing their own UAV platforms, camera gimbols and software control systems for optimum flight and camera operation. More importantly they have full Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval and certification to fly UAVs commercially and have a fleet to suit different operational needs. They also have the regular flying experience because their parent company (Cambridge Maintenance Services) use UAVs as part of their building and aerial survey work for clients. This has the added advantage that they have exceptional well developed flying skills necessary in close building work.
Shot of UAV in action at St Andrew’s Church, Meonstoke (additional photos from the survey day can be found here)
In discussing the brief with the client – the Saxons in the Meon Valley and Friends of Corhampton Saxon Church – we realised this project involved many location shoots along the Meon River and Meon Valley. Many would be in close proximity to people and places so safety of the public and property was paramount. Every flight also has to carefully planned to take account of other users of airspace – military, commercial, private, recreational (gliders and hang gliders) and remote control model aircraft. CUAV are used to this and took all the necessary steps to ensure that this side of the project was managed.
After a location survey and planning day in the Meon Valley we had discussed the flights needed at each location to capture specific shots. This is important as due to the camera payload each flight would last 10 minutes on a single set of batteries. CUAV carries a large stock and they can also recharge them on location (as well as overnight) but we have no time to waste hunting for a shot when airborne. During the survey we have to also note and take into account local buildings, trees and other obstacles both from the pilots perspective to avoid (and be aware of due to wind conditions) and for us to use creatively as part of the production such as a rising reveal from behind them. The location visits also clarify what permissions and approvals have to be obtained from local property owners, councils and authorities. In this project our client managed this for us.
On the day of filming a mixture of CUAV, client and our own people were deployed to further ensure public safety by erecting barriers and warning tape and staffing them to advise the public on what was happening and be kept at a safe distance during the filming. This was especially important in public access spaces such as Butser and Old Winchester Hill as well as the Meon Valley Trail. At these locations the South Downs National Park, Natural England, English Heritage and Hampshire Country Council provided help to maintain the balance between maintaining public safety and accessibility.
Before starting the filming we had created a draft script and also a shot list for the aerial sequences. We had also created a shot list for the ground based shots of the River Meon and at each of the locations that would feature in the video. As part of that process and in discussion with the client we identified other visual and audio resources the production would require and started the process of identifying the royalty pre-paid music that would be needed. For any 3rd party images we chose to use we needed to ensure all copyright permissions were obtained or acknowledged.
The aerial filming took place over three days in early July 2014. The weather was kind. The week before it had been strong winds and rain which would have given us a double problem. During the week we filmed the winds reduced (but still gave us some issues at times) and the rain stayed away so we did not need to use our back-up shoot days.
We shot video at the following places:
That was a total of 18 locations in 3 days. We were filming from 8.30am until 6pm most days! It total we covered over 230 miles in 3 days. At each location we did 2 or 3 flights and so captured over 50 separate items of footage. Over the following few weeks these will be edited, colour corrected (from Black Magic raw footage) and then post-produced. The day shoots being done later in July will then be added to the aerial footage so they can be included as part of the story.
Above is a sample of the aerial video we shot to give everyone some idea of what will be in the final production.