Radio Controlled Aerial Cinematography

Aerial Cinematography 101?

Its a funny thing. When you tell people “We do aerial cinematography using Radio Controlled Helicopters and Hex Copters” they usually get really excited. When I think back to when we first started working in the film business and then got our first RC Heli Photoship, I WAS SO EXCITED. Most people don’t realize that radio controlled cinematography is just as complicated,if not more complicated than full scale aerials. What makes RC  so much better is the shots we are able to get. We can put cameras in places that real helicopters can’t go and lengths that Jibs wish they could reach. With all of the incredible, small cameras that capture HD cinematic quality video and the ability to attach them to high speed, extremely precise gimbals, there is no shot we can not accomplish. Radio Controlled Cinematography seems to be that missing link between traditional camera work on the ground, to jibs and cranes, to high level aerials from full scale helicopters and airplanes. RC Helicopters, Hex Copters, and Quadcopters get the shots that were never available before.

Before you attempt to get into RC aerial Cinematography
Be prepared to do your research. The skill of actually flying RC Helicopters and other RC cameraships is a skill in itself. This is not just pickup and fly. I have been flying RC for 15 years, and decided to hire a professional pilot due to the fact that it is a HIGHLY developed skill. Flying RC helicopters (especially ones that have the muscle to carry cameras) can be dangerous in the wrong hands. The larger photoships can have a weight that can exceed 15lbs. and can have rotor speeds in excess of 1,900 RPM. This is very dangerous and should not be taken lightly.

RC and Cinematography: The Fusion of 2 unique and very different talents?
Just Because you are a great DP, of Cinematographer or  photographer, does not mean you are going to be good at flying Radio Controlled Photoships. Just Because you are a great RC Pilot, does not mean you should try to go out and sell yourself as a talented cinematographer, aerial specialist, or something that you have just landed in because you wanted to put a GoPro on your RC toy. They are both skills that need to be independently refined. I recommend letting the experts do their job. If you are going to go into business, make sure that you have the right people (experts), doing what they do best. If you are a pilot, find a film guy. If you are a film guy, hire a pilot. Do it any other way and you will spend too much time, and money driving yourself crazy.

Don’t Sell yourself short or undercut others
This is a highly refined skill. Do not go out and charge a 100 bucks to shoot aerials. Aerials are cool. Just because you have an RC toy and a camera to put on it, does not mean you should start telling everyone you know that you are now an aerial cinematographer. If you are a pro, have SAFE gear, the right people, and legitimate rates for your time, and equipment.

Keep flying, and Keep it in the air!

Fly Boys


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