These BTS videos show that drones can be used for much more than aerial establishing shots.
When most of us think of drone shots, we envision high-altitude, moving establishing shots. But the DJI Inspire 2 can creatively disguise itself as several other tools you’re probably already familiar with to create unique shots and looks.
Last week, we showcased The Circle, the first ever short film shot entirely with the Inspire 2. DJI has since released a couple BTS videos that really show off the versatility of the unit. As you can see below, the Inspire 2 performed many functions on the shoot, being used not just for aerial work, but also stabilizing the camera for car work, and even working functionally as a hand-held stabilizer, taking advantage of the light weight of its new magnesium-aluminum alloy body. In this article, we’ll take a look at 5 surprising ways to use the Inspire 2 on set, from the DJI videos and beyond.
While the DJI Inspire 2 is purpose-built for flying, it can quite seamlessly bridge the divide between air and land–sometimes even within the same shot, as you see in the BTS video. This not only allows the drone to perform the jobs of several different tools (crane, dolly, handheld stabilizer) but allows it to integrate the motions and functions of those three tools in unique ways that haven't been seen before.
For one particularly difficult shot, the crew 3D printed handles to enable a smooth transition between the camera's in-flight and ground-use modes, which enables some pretty amazing shots, though it's unlikely to see that accessory for sale anytime soon. As the video demonstrates, it required an operator wearing a helmet to ensure safety when grabbing an active quadcopter with spinning props.
Another great handheld application is to use the drone the way you might have two people operating a handheld gimbal like the Ronin. One person walks or runs the drone while another operates the camera and gimbal from a second remote. Again, this lets the DJI Inspire 2 function as other high end production tools. While being able to buy/rent less kit has obvious cost-saving advantages, it can also alleviate headaches and save time in post-production since you can shoot a variety of different shots with the same kit.
By selecting a subject on your screen, you can tell the drone to train the camera on that subject, freeing the pilot to focus on flying.
2. Dynamic vehicle shots
The Circle BTS video also shows vehicle scenes where the drone follows along and keeps the vehicles properly framed. The Active Track feature of the DJI Inspire 2 simplifies complex flights that involve following people and vehicles over longer distances by automating framing, piloting, or both.
Active Track has several different modes that allow the drone to position itself relative to your selected subject in a variety of different ways and maintain that relationship throughout the shot, allowing you to focus on being creative. One potential use would be creating complex dolly moves (like a curved dolly shot, or orbiting around the subject while the vehicle is in motion) shots like this would be very expensive and labor intensive to achieve using a traditional dolly system and the Inspire 2 can create these shots with ease.
By selecting a subject on your screen, you can tell the drone to train the camera on that subject, freeing the pilot to focus on flying. You can also select one of the purpose-built Active Track modes to allow the drone to fly in front of, behind, above, or alongside a vehicle autonomously while keeping the subject framed. At any time during the flight, the drone operator can change altitude or offset allowing them to fine-tune the autonomous flight–this feature is a huge value-add.
Alternatively, the drone operator can maintain full creative control of the flight path while automating subject framing using the new Spotlight Pro feature which keeps the camera trained on the subject while the drone flies freely–adding a very dynamic look and feel to your shots.
Best of all, the DJI Inspire 2 has a separate obstacle avoidance camera built into it that will allow operation in some very tight and complex spaces while minimizing the risk of a crash.
3. Indoor crane & dolly in one
In the video, we see some interesting setups with the DJI Inspire 2 being manipulated by pulleys. But thanks to greatly improved upward, downward, and front facing obstacle avoidance sensors, the DJI Inspire 2 is even better designed for indoor flying than its predecessor.
The drone allows you safely and easily go from a crane shot, into a dolly shot and then have an operator hand-hold the drone for smooth glide-cam style shots through doorways and down stair cases. Never before have these kinds of shots been so safe and easy to create indoors. The best part? It’s all done with one piece of kit.
4. Fluid head in the sky
Motion is great, but what if you could have a fluid head tripod high up above your scene and then program just the camera to follow your subject? This is another great way to take advantage of Spotlight Pro mode on DJI Inspire 2 which can automatically manipulate the gimbal to track a subject while the drone remains still—like a fluid head tripod in the sky. Also much like a fluid head, the gimbal responsiveness and dead pan can be custom configured so that you can achieve exactly the kind of motion you need to get the perfect shot.
All in all, the DJI Inspire 2 is an amazing production tool that took the visual quality and independent gimbal control of its predecessor and added the advanced autonomous flight functionality of the Phantom 4 and Mavic to create a high-end, cost effective production tool that will continue to revolutionize film production.