Another spin on an 'office space' video
Showcasing an interior space such as an office or commercial unit can be approached in a number of ways from traditional photo montage with some lengthy text (*yawn*), to a modern highly produced affair with shots that wouldn't look out of place in a Hollywood masterpiece.
When tasked with creating a short marketing piece for a hot-desk/office establishment, we knew straight away that our custom made FPV aircraft was the tool to use. The goal was to produce a short, single-take video that showcased the facilities and space on offer in a visually appealing way and was a bit different to a lot of other videos for similar spaces.
Here's what we came up with.
I'll outline the steps we took to plan and shoot this, though it's worth noting that whilst we have a standard procedure with the use of these drones, each site and project presents unique challenges that we have to address to make filming safe and deliver what the client wants.
This started with a visit to the site to review the space, understand what features need to be shown and determine what would be feasible in terms of safety and creatively.
During this visit we also start to plan out a route of the aircraft, starting with some ideas about the intended beginning and end of the shot, i.e. what scene shall we start on and where should it end? This is also the case if the intention is to reverse the shot in post.
Once an initial route is established, the position of the Remote Pilot needs to be considered. Where can they be positioned to control the aircraft whilst at the same time be out of shot throughout and have sufficient video and control frequency signal strength to pilot it safely? We have a way of testing this in advance and also a selection of antennas and receivers suited for certain scenarios.
On this occasion, I was sat in the stairs behind the door shown at the start of the video. This also allowed me to cue in the start of the scene as the actor exiting the door was right next to me. The rest of the 'actor' cues would be given by the observer who was monitoring the drone at all times
After the route is agreed, we left site with our notes and photographs to plan the route more thoroughly. This included the number of people we could realistically get for the filming, the start and reset positions, their movements and cues.
With most filming tasks, time is short, so we had to have as much sorted prior to the shoot as possible. This was no exception as we had one hour to set up, brief, fly and pack down.
When we arrived we had our route sorted, kit was prepared and ready and our briefing to the actors refined and as clear as we could get it. We briefed people to our standard briefing plus walked them through the route and at the same time allocating their start and reset positions. To put people at ease we introduced them to the drone, what it would be doing and gave a quick demo so they could see and hear it fly. The second point is important as whilst in flight it is quite slow, it does make a lot of noise and that can concern some people.
Once ready, brief and people set to starting positions, we went for a take. Three takes were required to get the final scene with the third and final shot being the one that was used. We were fortunate that we managed to get a couple of test flights in when nobody was around, so we were at least familiar with the route and potentially risky sections
For me as Remote Pilot, there were a couple of tricky sections of the shot. The under arm part and the partial orbit around the seated person. These required more concentration as the ground effect and flight characteristics of a ducted multi-rotor meant that the aircraft was often wanting to be dragged into the wall if it got close to a surface. certainly not insurmountable with practice and familiarity with how it flies.
Paul was acting as observer and cue caller that day. He would shout out the cues to the actors as well as ensuring the safety of the flight and controlling the area. We have a procedure for arming and making safe and Paul could communicate with me at all times. To assist with cues and timing, Paul also had a five inch monitor displaying my FPV feed so cues could be called out more accurately.
It went fairly smoothly requiring only one change to original plan to accommodate a change in one of the person cues. No crashes and no contact with the actors so everybody left happy.
A single take video shouldn't require any cuts in the editing stage, though we did stabilise the shot with software and tweak the colour, levels and curves of the footage as well as add some animated titles and logos. The other takes we didn't use were ok and one was in fact absolutely usable, though with both of them there were elements of the shot which could have been improved. Usually I allow for five to six takes with shots like this, though am pleased we got it in three.
This was a fun project to work on that required significantly more time in the planning stages than was actually spent filming. This was known from the beginning as we're firm believers in the better the preparation the smoother the filming will go, especially with people involved in the shot.
With so many elements of the shot to consider, it was vital to stick to a plan as much as possible and not be tempted to deviate too much. Keeping it reasonably simple ensures the flights are safe and I can pilot the drone within the boundaries of my ability. There were shots that I'd like to have incorporated, though without being sure I could pull them off consistently, it's best to know the limits of you, your aircraft and all the time considering the safety of the person present.
We learnt a lot from this shoot and have already added some learning points to our FPV operating procedures which were signed off (mainly for outdoor flights) by the CAA in June 2019. We're excited to put these into practice for our next project which will be even more refined thanks to these kinds of opportunities.
If you'd like to know more about the aircraft we used, you can read about it here.
If you'd like to see some of our other FPV work, you can check these out here or on our Vimeo page.
Thanks for reading and please get in touch if you think you have a location that would benefit from some FPV!