Aerial Cinematography Creates New Storytelling Opportunities in Post Production Environment

20 December 2016

Technicolor Re-Teams With Acclaimed Cinematographer Claudio Miranda On Groundbreaking Drone-Based Short Film

Aerial photography has been a key application of today’s miniature multi-rotor drones since they first came on the market. Now the technology has matured to the point where these devices can meet the demanding requirements of professional moviemakers at costs that are within the budgets of indie projects.

Robert Rodriguez, Director of Technical Operations & Editorial Services at Technicolor — and a veteran of the post-production industry – has also had a passion for radio-controlled flying models since his youth, long before the current drone technology emerged.

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Technicolor Re-Teams With Acclaimed Cinematographer Claudio Miranda On Groundbreaking Drone-Based Short Film

Aerial photography has been a key application of today’s miniature multi-rotor drones since they first came on the market. Now the technology has matured to the point where these devices can meet the demanding requirements of professional moviemakers at costs that are within the budgets of indie projects.

Robert Rodriguez, Director of Technical Operations & Editorial Services at Technicolor — and a veteran of the post-production industry – has also had a passion for radio-controlled flying models since his youth, long before the current drone technology emerged.

In 2013 he combined these two passions by forming The Society of Aerial Cinematography (SOAC), a community of aviation, radio control and entertainment industry professionals with a common goal: to support and educate the community about the safe and responsible use of aerial technology in cinematic production.

As president of the society, he helps the production community understand how to safely unlock the cinematographic potential of multirotor technology.

Exploring the Potential of Drones in Storytelling

That potential, says Rodriguez, has just reached new heights with the release by Shenzhen, China-based unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturer DJI’s Inspire 2, the successor to the Inspire 1, one of the first filmmaking drone in the world to integrate an HD video transmission system, a 360° rotating gimbal and a 4K camera.

The Inspire 2 adds to these features with a new image processing system that records at up to 5.2K in CinemaDNG RAW, Apple ProRes and more. It can accelerate from 0 to 50mph (80kph) in four seconds, reach a maximum speed of 67mph (108kph) and has a max descent speed of 9 meters per second.

It can be fitted with the Zenmuse X5R, the world’s first Micro Four Thirds aerial camera capable of recording lossless 4K videos in RAW format. It records at a frame rate of up to 30fps and 1.7Gbps average bitrate (2.4Gbps maximum bitrate) and comes with an integrated 3-axis stabilization gimbal that keeps the camera level.

The ability to shoot footage in RAW format is key to making the Inspire 2 a tool for the professional cinematographer, says Rodriguez. “I have been through the whole era from film to tape to digital.  I have seen everything, but I think the most dominant format we are seeing in broadcast and theatrical is RAW acquisition.”

Academy Award Winning Talent Demonstrate Aerial Cinematography

To demonstrate the power of the Inspire 2 with the X5R camera, DRI has released a short 13-minute feature film, The Circle, made by Academy Award-winning cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, directed by Sheldon Schwartz and shot entirely with an Inspire 2 drone and the X5R camera.

The movie tells the story of an estranged father who reunites with his young son in Depression-era America after the sudden death of the boy’s mother. The two travel from town to town with the father making a meager living by sketching portraits of locals.

Technicolor’s Mike Sowa, who served as digital colorist for the movie and previously collaborated with Miranda on the Tom Cruise film Oblivion, explains the importance of getting the original footage in RAW format.

“Primarily, a colorist’s job is to create a specific look for a movie,” he says. “Cinematographers will shoot RAW images, which means there is no set look built into the image and that gives me all the latitude within the image.

“The inspire 2 footage I received for this film allowed me all the flexibility of the best possible exposure the best possible color balance the things I need to make an image look right.”

Miranda agrees: “What’s fantastic about this drone is that we’re able to shoot in the RAW format,” he says. “It’s nice to have that dynamic range, so I’m able to push shadows up or highlights down and create a mood.”

Drones not just for aerial shots

The Inspire 2 has other features too to make the cinematographer’s job easier. It gives professional cinematographers like Miranda new freedom to move the camera in three dimensions to get the shots they want. It uses stabilized gimbal technology to eliminate any unwanted camera movement and advanced visual tracking algorithms to lock onto a subject during flight. This enables a sole drone operate to take shots that would once have required a dedicated camera operator.

Sowa was suitably impressed with how this feature was used in The Circle. “There are overhead shots you would expect to get only with a drone but there are also walk and talk shots that I would never in a million years have thought possible with a drone. They were too steady, too clean, there was no drift; none of the typical things you get from drone footage.”

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