Hold onto your hats and get set for the thrills of some new fast and agile flying. Tom Wadsworth, from Cornwall-based Bad Wolf Horizon, beamed into D&CFilm to explain the technicals behind this evolution in drone filming.
Fast and dynamic
FPV (first-person view) drones are totally different from traditional aerial cinematography. They are fast, dynamic and can really be “in the action”, as opposed to looking down on it.
They are becoming more mainstream, says Tom as he shows us the lightweight drones that are designed for speed and agility. They are piloted through goggles and a low-latency front camera, so while flying, Tom also gets an idea of what’s being filmed, as the high-quality film is being recorded on a mounted camera.
Right in the action
“With traditional drones generally, you’re looking down. These are very lightweight and fast. And, because you have that feeling of sitting on the drone, you are right in the action.
“You can literally fall out the sky and dive down cliff faces,” says Tom. And yes, he does mean literally.
“You have to rewire your brain to learn how to fly these,” he says. “But the payoff is unlimited freedom of movement.”
On the Bad Wolf Horizon roster is a five incher (named after the size of the propellors), it is is light and ideal for acrobatic manoeuvres. And a three incher, which can be flown indoors. Bad Wolf have used this smaller type for virtual tours, including at the Maritime Museum in Falmouth, for stately homes, staycation property tours, and a couple of science parks near Bristol.
“It’s an engaging way to show a space. We create a one-shot video gliding and floating around the space and fitting through tiny gaps, so you’re immersed in the action,” says Tom.
The ‘Cinewhoops’ can fly both outdoors and indoors so so they can start outside, nice and high looking at the scenery, fly down, go through an open window and carry on flying around indoors in one continuous shot.
Bad Wolf also have a third FPV flying drone (the only one in the South West,, when we were chatting). It’s an Octo-copter (that’s eight blades – four on the top four on the bottom). It’s big enough to carry a Black Magic Pocket 4k 4k Cinema Camera. It has all the flight characteristics of the little ones, but is a little bit scarier to pilot, admits Tom, because it’s a ‘bit’ more expensive.
To get a flavour of what these new, agile filming drones can do, take a look at the ad they created for NatWest and ITV.
“I think this was probably one of the first TV ads featured this type of technology in the UK,” says Tom. It took three days of filming from sunrise to sunset, going at loads of different locations around Cornwall.
“The idea was to get as close as possible to the cliff faces,” says Tom. “Because the drones are so manoeuvrable, it means that you can put them in crazy situations that cameras aren’t normally in.” Yes, you do get close to the cliff face and yes, it does feel hairy.
And in the showreel, there are even some nifty tricks – – like flying under a moving Range Rover.
The drones are all manufactured by Tom. After all that fiddly soldering and whatnot, then there’s the software to upload and teaching the drone how to fly. Sounds like you’d need one of these drones just to traverse your own learning curve in getting one off the ground.
After that, there’s learning how to fly them – hours on a simulator, plenty of crashes then putting them all back again. (This is where manufacturing them yourself can come in handy.)
There are a host of legal requirements for flying drones. As these are flown through goggles, outdoors they need a two-person crew – a competent observer plus the pilot – to make sure there are eyes on the drone at all times. Flying indoors is less stringent, but still, you don’t want people idly chatting to a pilot who’s flying a drone around in the next room.
Bad Wolf Horizon is a creative drone film company, which took off (geddit) from Tom’s more terrestrial filming.
Of course, a creative, exciting filmmaking company based in Cornwall is music to our ears. But what’s Cornwall like for day-to-day drone filming business activities?
Feeling of flying
“I thought it would be a great place to start a drone business – there’s beautiful scenery with the access to that on our doorstep,” says Tom. “Those were the fundamentals the business is built on – using the nature around us to create beautiful images. That’s definitely a positive. But it has its challenges. We have a lot of bad weather down here. About half the time they can’t go out because of the weather.”
Tom pauses and says: “It’s very much about that creative freedom – that feeling of flying… and you get that.”
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