Nothing worse than the subject screaming your way from a distance as you round to your one at full speed for the perfect shot just to be greeted by your low battery warning and return to home notification. Breakout my favorite and most underrated word of them all Pre-Production.
While sometimes there certainly isn’t time to think about the moment and you just have to fly, other times a 5 minute chat with your hands from a good vantage point can go a long way. We like to discuss what kind of foreground elements would be nice for the shots that we could reveal from safely and such. We have an idea of the shots we would like to get along our flight path out. Plan for a standard orbit of sorts while we are out, and some nice angles on our quick scoot back to home base for a battery swap.
If it is a more planned out event such as a racing circuit it is really nice to visit some satellite images online beforehand and pick your best vantage points for certain lines so you can always fly safely. It is far better to relocate multiple times to get those grandioso subject reveals from tricky flight paths then to fly from one easy spot and be forced to go high and wide for line of sight and safety reasons. We also find this is extremely helpful in saving precious drone batteries since it is generally closer for us to bring back and set down if there is an unexpected crash and the race is halted.
Occasionally there is just no time to talk about it and you are jumping out of the vehicles and powering things up simultaneously. These times are when the headsets are absolutely essential. It allows the pilot to find his best vantage point on the fly while the cam op hangs near client and gets settings straight. The whole time we can be talking about potential subjects or shots while capturing the basic crane up take off shot of subject. We talk about any move either of us is doing, and the camera operator is mostly just trying to follow the pilots moves and make suggestions as seen. As the camera operator I often find myself saying over the coms how awesome the shot is looking just to reassure the pilot. Always caught up in line of sight with the occasional POV view for safety reasons, the pilot needs a little excitement too about the reel worthy shots we are capturing to make the tension worth it.
The true true is that no matter how much you intend to plan there is going to be times where you are flying by the seat of your pants. Tension is sure to be thick when you miss the subject because you missed the timing, flight path, setting, camera errors, blah blah etc..However, rest assured your improvised skills and team workflow will become increasingly efficient the more sticky situations you are put in and prevail from. And occasionally just take a nice test flight and capture things you all want. It is nice to determine on your own what subject matter is important rather than having someone else always tell you. Reason being, sometimes other people’s drone shot ideas are not that intricate since they don’t have the experience pushing flight paths to the limit.