Growing up, making videos was always the hobby I was most passionate about. I always sought out new methods of production to get more advanced, aesthetically pleasing shots.
I saw how big-budget films in the movie industry used helicopters and small planes to achieve spectacular aerial cinematography. I wanted to incorporate that type of shot into my films too, but until recently, they were inaccessible to homegrown, low-budget videographers like me.
The game changed when the small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), commonly known as drones, that the movie industry used on a large scale were compacted into much smaller bodies and released to the general public.
At first, the quadcopter drone just had a GoPro or another action sports camera attached to the bottom of it. More recent advances in technology have produced consumer drones with built-in 4K cameras that can produce incredible results. I decided that was an investment worth making, since the price is about the same as a high-end DSLR camera, and I knew it would make a huge difference in my videos.
In the past year and a half, I have used my sUAS to take my cinematography and filmmaking to the next level. My drone has allowed to me to charge more per shoot and has brought a sense of professionalism to my work that I wasn’t able to achieve in the past.
Earning my FAA Part 107 certification has helped me solidify these perks. The Part 107 is an exam that tests your knowledge on drone regulations, laws and airspaces. Passing this exam proves a sUAS pilot is ready to fly a drone safely and within the state and federal limitations. This is what allows me to fly commercially.
I cannot stress enough how important the certification process is to adding legitimacy to drone cinematography. Drones aren’t secret spy cameras that homeowners and businesses should fear. They are tools for filmmakers to increase the production value of their videos and a great hobby for people to invest in.
My sUAS has taken me to places I would have never ventured to before. It has allowed me to get aerial footage of miles of dense forest in Northern California and the most majestic waterfalls in Oregon. It also contributed to the video I made with other students for the 2017 SOJC Commencement.
I have also found a sense of community in the drone world, where friends come together and collaborate on projects. It’s never as much fun to go on adventures alone, so tagging along with friends is a big positive for me.
Whether I’m flying over the coast to capture a sunset or tracking behind an early-morning mountain biker, someone is always willing to fly alongside me or help guide my shot.
I am serious when I say that every cinematographer needs to either purchase or rent an sUAS, because it can easily become the most powerful tool in your possession.
Sean Haney is an advertising major. He worked as an SOJC Communications Office intern in spring, summer and fall 2017.