Transitioning from Helicopter aerial cinematography to Drones

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I am a retired Aerial Cinematographer who worked on Studio and Commercial jobs exclusively for about 30 years.  I also hold a FAA Private Pilot Licence for Helicopters and Fixed Wing, and I'm working on the UAV add-on. I will not be looking for assignments, but will be seeking passive income through supplying a stock footage agency with 4k+ scenic footage. 

My question to  the experienced Drone pilots here, are there any drone controllers that allow two people to operate; one to pilot the aircraft and another to pan, tilt, zoom, focus and apply frame rate  and aperture changes to the camera and lenses?


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Hi Stan,

Welcome to the forum.

Yes.  The flight controllers don't operate the gimbal.  Some DJI flight controllers are integrated with the gimbal controller to help with horizontal drift but the newer gimbal controllers don't require that, newer gimbal controllers and gimbals use multiple IMU's and encoded motors.

Kind of depends on what camera you want to use and whether you want to use the camera and gimbal in other applications other than aerial.  I use the Sony A7RII, and GH4 on the Gremsy H3 with the IntelliG CCU which enables me to control all aspects of the gimbal and camera from a second remote.

You've been doing this long enough to remember the religious debates -- 2K vs 4K, PC vs Mac, etc., now its the DJI vs the world.  Kind of like the early days of NLE's were the developers convinced the uneducated that you could edit a movie in your garage using a blender...

If you want to become an expert at upgrading firmware and always having to dick with settings and become proficient at balancing and tuning gimbals, buy DJI, if you want to use which ever camera "you" want to use on a gimbal that just works and can be used in a wide variety of applications on a jib, handheld, or any drone you chose check out Gremsy. 

The IntelliG will enable you to control exposure, focus [as in get focus but not rack focus] On Sony with a powered lens you can control zoom, start/stop/shoot.  I don't use it but I think you can change frame rate on some camera's.  I use the Connex to stream 1080P to the ground.   

It all depends on how serious you are about the quality of your aerial, a GoPro shoots 4K.  But if your serious about it and you want good utilization of the camera and gimbal with a good lens that costs $5K-$10K then don't put that on a drone with $10 Chinese motors.

Many of the people who hung out a shingle and became aerial "cinematographers" with their shinny new Phantoms think they know a lot about drones but very little about photography and think all pixels are created equal.

Are you already selling stock footage?  If so where?

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Av8Chuck, Thank you for the awesome response... you've given me several tid bits to now research.   During my employment,  shooting commercials, TV shows and Features, I was always a "gun for hire" and in the Studio system we did not own any rights to our footage, yet I'd always get calls from companies asking me if I had any footage. 

Over the years I've assembled quite a lengthy contact list, but let's face it, Getty Images is "First Call"  for high end users who need "The Best of the Best" so I'll test the market there first.  I have other marketing concepts, but I really don't want to share my business plan here. 

I can say that many of the shots I used to do with the Tyler Mounts and Wescam can easily be replicated with drones, so now it seems that there is equipment  out there to meet the challenges by bringing in the same quality footage I built my reputation on, at  a more cost effective price. 

I look forward to keeping in touch with you.


Stan McClain, SOC
(Past President, Retired)


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