After always saying how much I disliked drones at weddings, I've recently changed my mind. Over the last couple of years there has been a huge step forward in technology which has shaped the way these devices can be used. Until only recently drones have been large, noisy and the often shaky footage was mediocre quality at best. When I looked through wedding videos online using aerial footage it was mostly shoehorned in to add a sprinkling of 'epicness'. You can't help wonder whether guests thought they were under attack eating canapés whilst this machine buzzed loudly above them in the sky.
I've always tried to produce story-led wedding films which give a true and personal account of the day with the couple and their guests at the centre. This is surrounded by establishing outdoor shots of the location and snippets of the venue and decor to add context. When I watched videos featuring aerial shots, the high viewpoint was often ostentatious and powerful - similar to the aerial shots used of London in the BBC 'Apprentice' series. Impressive perhaps, but it was not the look I wanted in my videos.
Nowadays so many TV shows use drone videography that the viewer barely notices. It's no longer a tool to add drama, but a method of creating very smooth subtle movement shots from a viewpoint not possible if you were just holding the camera. With a strong story, I think aerial footage applied correctly will add an extra dimension to an already good production.
Recently I've filmed two weddings where drone pilots took aerial footage throughout the day and both were kind enough to give me their recordings on USB to use in the final wedding video.
At Alpheton Hall Barns in Suffolk, the owner Nick Willcocks flew his DJI Phantom 3 at Renu & Sachin's 2015 wedding reception. From the footage I used clips which I retimed and reframed. (from about 2 mins in)
Jenna and Jack had a team of aerial drone operators at their wedding using the DJI Inspire and DJI Phantom 4. I used the footage as an opening scene showing the Cambridgeshire countryside, a simple rising shot during the group photo and and a quick birds-eye view during the drinks reception.
I really appreciated receiving the aerial footage from these weddings and I'm now planning on filming aerial footage myself, allowing me to achieve a look that blends seamlessly into the style of videos I produce.
Introducing the DJI Mavic Pro
The DJ Mavic Pro is incredibly compact and folds to the size of a water bottle. It's size means it's quieter than previous models and features a 4K camera.
Of course you can't just get a camera like this, send it up into the sky and think it's going to give you amazing shots straight out of the box. Firstly in order to use the drone safely and within the law as a commercial operator, I'll need to accumulate 10 hours of test flying before undertaking a certification course allowing me to apply for a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) from the Civil Aviation Authority. I'll also be practicing using the camera element to achieve different tracking shots and effects - expect to see me in the local park over the coming months.
How might aerial videography be used at my wedding?
It won't be possible to use the drone at every wedding I film. Obtaining aerial footage will mostly be possible at rural 'exclusive use' venues as laws restrict drone use in urban areas near traffic or near people who are not part of the production. The weather conditions and the timings of events throughout the day will also dictate which cameras I use.
Generally I expect to get some nice establishing shots of the venue before guests arrive and again at quieter times during the day if appropriate. If there's something happening with guests outside, the drone could provide an alternate view, but I'd want to keep filming as brief as possible as the propellors make a sound. It goes without saying that no one should be using a drone during an outdoor ceremony or speeches!
I'll be posting updates on the progress of my training over the coming months with the view that I'll start to introduce aerial footage in some of my videos towards the end of the summer.