Sky’s The Limit

Buckle in and get ready to experience a new version of reality, for a new era in drone technology has arrived by Drew Wheeler

Dale Henderson from Fluid Motion – PHOTO Supplied

While experiencing the edge of space is now a reality for billionaires, the new style of first person view (FPV) drones have joined the Fluid Motion fleet, making it possible for everyday people to experience a new realm of cinematic reality from the comfort of their lounge chairs on Earth.

Fluid Motion’s Dale Henderson, the first in Australia to own and pilot this new 35mm aerial technology, says that it will redefine what’s possible for the audience’s experience and open a whole new world of opportunities for cinematographers alike.

This new style of drone flying takes away a lot of the state of the art technology that is integrated within the conventional GPS fixed drones, enabling the pilot who is flying the machine to fully unhinge into manual or ‘fighter pilot’ mode. As a FPV pilot, Henderson says it all starts from deep within the soul, from way back within your eye sockets, all the way down through to your fingertips with precise accuracy on the control sticks, and all of this done with a set of goggles strapped to your face. Think of it as manipulating a real F16 fighter jet in a virtual reality setup, but it’s not a game, if the pilot crashes it’s for real. 

Dale Henderson from Fluid Motion – PHOTO Supplied

Once the machine is airborne the FPV pilot can perform exceptional manoeuvres that just aren’t possible with today’s conventional setups. Free-falling down cliffs, waterfalls, dive bombing buildings, car chases at high speeds, for example.  While this drone may be way too much to handle for a seasoned GPS pilot with no FPV experience, the benefits with a fully trained and seasoned FPV pilot means the creativity brief from a director and cinematographer can create shots unlike anything seen before – and the recorded shot – well let’s just say it definitely outweighs the obstacles involved to create that sense of flying. It’s really just like you’re in the cockpit. It, without a doubt, defies gravity to the nth degree and definitely adds another hyper dimension to the film critic. It also pays to have the right skilled pilot on board this machine to capture the imagery on set. 

Before drones, directors and cinematographers’ aerial footage was for a long time restricted to the use of helicopters or cranes up until early 2011. Henderson says, having the remote-piloted technology develop over the last ten years has enabled incredible shots to be created, and audiences today have come to expect to be dazzled by aerial footage, from big screen block busters, all the way through to low-budget corporates and documentaries.

Advancements in drone technology and camera capabilities have enabled the quality to continually improve and become more budget friendly for the finance restricted productions. Even the most budget conscious cinematographer can now try to include that spectacular opening aerial shot and create the high-quality footage to compliment a critical scene.

One of Fluid Motion’s drones – PHOTO Supplied

It’s a whole new look and one that hasn’t been achieved with jets or helicopters or conventional drones. Being able to fly around objects at high speeds and within arm’s length dynamically, creates the off-axis horizon which definitely brings spectators into the mix. Viewers can now tell if a shot has been created with computer-generated imagery. Having a full frame 35mm camera pull incredible moves on set gives them a sense of reality, most importantly because it’s real and hasn’t been fabricated by computers. 

Accomplishing shots in never before possible scenes like the one-and-a-half-minute-long drone shot filmed at a Minnesota bowling alley that recently went viral. This type of shot can’t be achieved with conventional drones, as they are controlled by latitude and longitude GPS banding that affects the motion from moving from outside to inside with a jolt gliding effect, therefore affecting the shot. Pre-orchestrated shots like these take a lot of organising within the crew from brainstorming an idea to bringing it into a real-life reality shot. Basically, with the right creative minds behind an idea anything is possible.

The sky is no longer the limit for directors and cinematographers with this new dimension of flying FPV, the drone creative ideas can now become a reality.

Dale Henderson of Fluid Motion is an innovator and early adopter of aerial cinematography and is always on the lookout for the latest aerial cinematography devices.

Drew Wheeler is a writer for Australian Cinematographer Magazine.

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