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Taking Off With Ka-Boom

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Capturing aerial footage is simple. This is true, for the most part, due to readily available off the shelf drones (or UAVs as they are sometimes referred). By Leonie May, Marketing, RUSTA.

Capturing footage that is legal, useable and tells a story, however, adds a little more complexity to the equation.

In recent times we have seen many media production companies add aerial filming to their list of unique selling points. Although, as many have found, to capture a moment from the air involves a lot more than simply owning the right aerial equipment.

"There are many different elements to consider when it comes to professional aerial cinematography," advises Zach Willis, Aerial Videographer from the highly successful Ka-Boom Media Productions. "An understanding of your equipment, the airspace rules and regulations, the story behind the scene, together with solid piloting skills is mandatory to capture that special moment."

Working on recent projects such as ITV's three-part drama 'The Secret' with Jimmy Nesbitt and Hat Trick Productions, Zach all too well understands the main factors to consider prior to carrying out aerial work.

Become a qualified drone pilot
As any professional drone pilot knows, before even accepting a job, the number one priority is to gain a CAA approved qualification and a Permission for Aerial Work (PFAW) from the CAA. Without achieving this, aerial work for commercial gain cannot be carried out legally in the UK. Zach and Phil Crothers, also a Videographer at Ka-Boom, both completed their training with RUSTA. RUSTA, a leading CAA approved training academy, allows operators to achieve a Remote Pilot Certificate SUAS (RPCS) qualification and ultimately gain their PFAW.

"Becoming qualified does not simply provide a remote pilot with a piece of paper," clarifies Sion Roberts, Head of Academy at RUSTA. "A good training provider will give operators the tools and confidence to plan appropriately and initially assess if a job can be carried out."

Phil explains: "Recently we carried out aerial work filming Scotland's Forth Road Bridge. To maintain within the regulations, prior to filming we received approval through the relevant Film Boards, Air Traffic Control, Police Department, MOD, Port Authority and Roads Department. After completing our training, we understand the importance of gaining the relevant approvals prior to accepting any job."

Develop your piloting skills and work as a team
Piloting is a complex skill and 100% focus is required when operating a remote vehicle. While shooting aerial scenes for the feature film 'The Journey' starring Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney and Freddie Highmore, Ka-Boom also received the task of emulating a security helicopter which was later used to dictate the helicopter’s movements. "As every scene has its own challenges, we always work as a team of at least three," says Zach. "Due to the complexity of piloting an unmanned aircraft, we always have one team member focussing solely on flying the aircraft, one on filming and the cinematic properties, and another purely as a spotter to advise on any potential risks and obstructions to filming or the aerial vehicle."

Understand the language of cinematography
Capturing a moment on aerial film is much easier if you have a good understanding of cinematography. This is not just about the angle and composition of the footage but having a clear understanding of storytelling and what is involved in the scene before taking to the sky. "We used the aerial vehicle to create elevated, god-like views of the character (when filming The Secret), where the scene gave the impression that the character was being watched over," recounts Phil. "Before beginning filming we had to understand the character, what the scene involved and what story was being told so we could prepare accordingly and adjust our plans to suit."

Have the right tools to do the job
Thanks to some rapid developments from DJI, access to small, lightweight drones with 4K filming capabilities has never been easier. When shooting those all important scenes, Ka-Boom chose to use the DJI Inspire 1 with a remote focus system and a 3-axis gimbal. Zach explains: "We have developed a good relationship with DJI, and they have loaned us three pre-release X5R's for trial. This is a very exciting development as footage can now be captured in 4K RAW. The gimbal system is amazing in what it delivers in terms of stability and the constant updates to software continuously blow our minds. Without having this equipment available we would not be able to meet our customer's demands."

To put it modestly, Ka-Boom has gone from strength to strength since completing their PFAW training with RUSTA in July. With upcoming work in place for Channel 4, and completion of the Northern Ireland Road Safety commercial and Armoy Road Race, they understand better than anyone the main factors to consider to maintain a smooth shoot and capture exceptional footage. Their final advice, "Plan, prepare and always give your 100%."

For production companies and media specialists that wish to delve into the world of UAVs, please contact RUSTA for further information. Call +44 (0)1454 643 100 or email
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