When it comes to drones, I’ve been clinically declared an idiot. That’s okay though – because I know someone who is a drone genius. And since I know enough to know that the fastest growing commercial adopter of drone use on the job site is the construction industry, I know that this genius has some useful information for my clients who do construction! So today I’m going to bring the two of you together. His name is Bruce Bishop and he owns a drone photography business. See, I’m not a total idiot. Just a drone idiot… but after today, I won’t be.

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Tips for Drone Footage with Expert Guest Bruce Bishop

When it comes to drones, I’ve been clinically declared an idiot. That’s okay though – because I know someone who is a drone genius. And since I know enough to know that the fastest growing commercial adopter of drone use on the job site is the construction industry, I know that this genius has some useful information for my clients who do construction!  So today I’m going to bring the two of you together. His name is Bruce Bishop and he owns a drone photography business. See, I’m not a total idiot. Just a drone idiot… but after today, I won’t be.

Podcast Summary Notes:

Monica:  Tell us about yourself, Bruce!

Bruce: My name is Bruce bishop. I’m the owner of Big Muddy Motion here in Columbia.

I own a video production studio and do anything from drone footage that we’re talking about today to helping people come up with Amazon and Walmart ads for products that they’re selling, small businesses promotion, that type of stuff.

I’ve pretty well done it all– but I didn’t go to film school.

So I’ve pretty much had to come up through trial by fire and I’ve done everything from weddings to family photoshoots. Now I’ve got my own studio and I’m doing a little more professional stuff. But drone stuff certainly takes up a huge chunk of that and it’s getting more and more popular and more and more in demand. Keeping up with the technology is exciting.

Monica:  Why would people want to have drone footage in their marketing?

Bruce:  I put drone footage in a category with things like slow motion and steady cam footage.

To me, it comes down to how do you stop somebody from scrolling, whether it’s on Facebook, or social media or checking emails. 82% of content, by 2022, will be video content on all internet traffic. And that’s a lot of content to be seen. So it’s about finding something that’s unique, a unique perspective, a unique view that you can provide to get somebody to stop and watch your video or enjoy your video, or even keep watching your video.  

They say most consumers only view like an average of 10 seconds of video and at 60 seconds, they’re pretty much done and moved on. So if you’ve got content that you can use, that gets people to stop and say, “Wow”, or or watch the whole video, I think drones are a great way to get people to do that.

If you go back 10 years, and you wanted to get an aerial shot of your construction site or your business, you had to hire a helicopter and a camera crew or an airplane. Virtually nobody did that unless you were a big, big business. So now what used to cost several $1,000 and took days or weeks of coordinating can be done in 15 minutes with the sub $1,000 helicopter that you can control with your fingers. That’s why drones are so exciting and unique, because you get to provide a different perspective that might hold your audience’s attention. 

In the construction industry, a lot of job sites are enormous but you’re not aware of the scope because you only see it from eye level. If you’re watching a bulldozer from the ground, you just see a tractor pushing a pile of dirt. But if you go up 200 feet and look down, and you see all the fresh dirt from acres and acres that he’s pushed all day, all of a sudden your perspective of how much work has been done and how fast it’s getting done changes astronomically.  I think that’s a big part of why drones and the construction industry go so well together.

Monica:  What are some examples of drone footage placement?

Bruce: Social media, web banners, looping videos for website home pages to give a holistic sense of what they’re all about, to name a few.

A large part of the drone footage I’m doing now is for real estate auctions, putting together two to three minute long videos that show all the different parts of a property and its features. These videos help prospective buyers feel more connected to the property and want to bid on it.

For real estate owners marketing a new apartment complex, drone footage gives a better perspective of where that property is positioned in the city and what’s around it. So a lot of those end up in social media and web pages, landing pages. 

Some of my clients like to provide progress updates to either the customer who’s funding a project or the board members of a project. Engineers can provide more valuable updates to the board with a video or pictures from a drone so the group can see physically what’s being done at the project site without actually having to go there.

You just need to think creatively about what you’re trying to share, and the story that you’re trying to tell. 

If you have a huge team, for example, you could have a drone flying over your team with everybody waving to show the personality of your company. I know that a lot of construction companies are really proud of their equipment and drone footage is a really cool way to show that equipment on a grand scale. 

Monica:  Other than filming from up high, what other ways can you utilize a drone?

Bruce:  In my mind, one of the biggest indicators of a novice drone pilot is that all the footage is taken at the maximum height.

Those aerial shots are certainly neat elements to add to your portfolio or the project. But some of the coolest shots you can get with a drone are at eye level. I mean, if you think about a bulldozer, or crane or some piece of equipment, if you wanted to do a 360 degree view of that of that piece of equipment with a handheld camera, it would take you minutes to walk all the way around it and not to mention you’re going to be walking and bouncing and trying to go through ditches whatever, it’s going to look awful. The technology with these drones now allows you to set a waypoint – it might be the center of that tractor and then back that drone off, say 12 or 15 feet and then have it do its complete circle, always pointing at the center as you get a 360 degree view at eye level of a piece of equipment.  If the tractor is moving, the drone will follow it and maintain its circle around the center point.

So I always challenge people who get new drones or ask me how they can make their drone footage better to not always think that because you have a helicopter you need to get as high in the world as you can. 

Because the coolest shots I see with drones are ones that are flying through rebar, flying through iron, and maybe the tracks of a tractor. Cool perspectives that you would never be able to capture any other way. I think that’s what really sets apart a professional drone pilot and drone footage versus the guy that just popped by best buy this afternoon and grabbed his drone. So don’t always think with the drone, you need to get it up as high and to the top of the job site as you possibly can. 

The newer drones now have the ability to save a waypoint. So you can turn that drone on, tell it to fly to a waypoint and it will save that waypoint for eternity more or less. You can do time lapses with a drone like that. So if you have a construction site being built, you could send that drone up once a week, once a day, once a month and it will fly to that exact same spot and take a picture and you do it again and again. And then at the end of the job site, you can show that daily picture, weekly picture, put it into a sequence of a video and now you’ve got a time lapse from in the air that nobody’s ever seen of your job from start to finish.

Monica:  Can anybody do this type of thing?

Bruce:  Yeah, as far as physically being able to send a drone up, they’re incredibly easy to fly.

And even if you drop the controls, the drone will just freeze in space. It just takes practice as far as getting good, smooth footage. As to who can buy and fly a drone, anybody can go buy a drone, and you can go to Best Buy and or Amazon and have one delivered in two days. 

The question then comes down to what you can use it for legally. And so, as a recreational pilot, if you just wanted to buy a drone and fly it around your house and practice with a helicopter, there is a basic training course that you have to take, it’s called a trust test. It’s not a very long test, which basically just gives you a quick rundown of airspace, how high you can fly the drone, because in all reality, you know, you’re flying an aircraft and you are potentially interacting with other aircraft manned and unmanned. 

I live in the flight line of the medevac chopper between Columbia and Moberly, and they go over my house five or six times a day at a height that I could have my drone if I wasn’t paying attention and cause a serious accident. So most of that training course will just teach you how to interact with other aircraft, how high you can fly, when you can fly (you can’t fly at night), all the rules and regulations around drone footage. There’s no test, you just have to take the course and print the certificate at the end.

Then you have to register your drone. So anybody who has a drone, anything over half a pound is basically what we’re talking about, which is going to capture most drones that we’re dealing with.

You’ve got to register it with the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration. It’s a $5 license plate. They give you a number that you have to either label or write on to your drone in case it were to be involved in an accident or get misplaced or take off and never be seen again so they can identify whose drone it is. 

So that’s what you have to do if you just want to fly for yourself, not for profit, not for any sort of business, but if you just want to practice on your own. Now we get into the next level. If you want to charge somebody or you own a business and you want to go take pictures of your construction site, etcetera, you’ve now moved into the commercial level of drone operation. And that’s where things get a lot more difficult. 

So the FAA put in place what they call part 107. It’s part of the FAA regulations. That requires you to pass a test that will give you a commercial license to be able to use that drone. 

So there’s multiple ways to do that. I was fortunate, I’m actually an airplane pilot. And so if you are a pilot, you can just get a signature and you’re good to go. Because it’s all the same information. If you’re not, then you have to take their test. And there’s different ways to do that.

There are several websites online that will provide a training course. I think it’s about $300. After that you have to go to an FAA facility and take an actual test. I think it’s another $175 to take that test. So cost-wise, you’re probably looking at close to $500 to be able to take that commercial test. Once you have that license, you’re able to charge and fly wherever you want. Now, different cities have different ordinances so there will be limitations–such as proximity to airports, over the top of crowds, and that type of stuff. There’s a lot more rules you have to follow, but anybody can do it. 

Monica:  Any tips for a new pilot on how to avoid crashing the drone?

Bruce:  I don’t think you could find a professional drone pilot who hasn’t crashed.

A couple years ago when we got that big snowstorm, we got so much snow that my satellite dish was covered and my TV reception was awful. I thought I could get handy and fly my drone up onto the roof to get snow off of my satellite dish so we can turn the TV back on. And unfortunately, it didn’t end very well. It’s still alive. Fortunately, there was 18 inches of snow to pad the landing, but the collision was pretty ugly. 

Pretty much everybody is going to crash one at some point. They come with extra propellers for a reason. But the technology has become incredible. I mean, you’ve got to basically tell the drone anymore that you want to crash it if you’re going to crash it. The newest one I’ve got has 360 degree sensors. It will not let you fly it into anything. It stops itself and tries to go over or around. It’s almost physically impossible to crash it.  I can have it half a mile away and then, when I’m done filming, press a button and it comes right back to me and lands itself.  The technology is incredible. It’s pretty amazing what you can do with them.

Monica:  How much does a drone like that cost?

Bruce:  I’m probably at the top end of what you would call a prosumer drone.

They come with their own camera. The next level up from here would be a lot bigger, and you’re going to attach a replaceable lens camera or a video camera that Hollywood shoots videos with. That’s probably a $20,000 range. But at the top end of the prosumer level; self-contained, shows up ready to fly, you’re probably looking at a max of $3,000. That’s with some extra batteries, a good remote, you know, a case to transport it in, some extra blades, maybe some filters for the lens.  DJI is a company I use. I’ve almost always used their drones and they make great products. They’re quick to come out with new stuff. The first place I would tell anybody to go is DJI and their top end drones they came out with last year are in this category at about $2-3,000. 

They’ve got a couple models for even less than that. Between $1,000 and $3000 would catch most of the models. For most people what they’re filming, you don’t need the level that I’ve got, you know, you just need something that can take some pictures and they all take 4k video and that’s good enough.

You know what I tell everybody, whether it’s cameras or drones, if you use it right, you don’t need the best camera, the best drone on the market to get the shots that you want. 

Now, you may be more inconvenienced as to when and how long you can shoot, but you can do it with a low level. I mean, up till last year, I was using a probably a five year old drone. It got me great footage, and it does just as good as my new one. Newer models are a little smaller and battery life’s a little better, but you don’t need the newest, best one.

Monica:  So what are some tips for getting good footage regardless of what you spend on a drone?

Bruce:  The first point I would make is about lighting.

More weight for a drone means less battery life. So they really cut the camera size down as small as possible. So the sensor that collects the light on a drone is pretty small. It still has excellent video quality, but it is greatly affected by what we call dynamic range. So basically a camera says anything below a certain light level is turned black and anything above a certain level is turned white and you’ve lost all detail. So anything in between that range is good video footage, but you don’t have a real wide range of acceptable footage. 

Drones are really bad about not having a wide dynamic range. 

You need to really make sure to be conscious of the amount of light you’re using. Even with the nice drone that I have, in the morning and the last hour or two of daylight in the evening, you get the best footage. The shadows are long, you don’t have this big bright sun that’s just blasting this harsh light onto everything you’re seeing. The worst drone footage you could take would be at noon to one o’clock in the afternoon. It’s just it’s going to look rough, you’re going to have lots of glare off of anything shiny. If you can film during the early part of the morning and late part of the evening, your footage is going to be significantly better. 

The second thing I would say to focus on is how high you fly. 

400 feet is the maximum height you can take a drone without an exception from the FAA–but don’t feel like you need to go to 400 feet and fly to 400 feet the entire time because it’s gonna get boring really fast. Get down in the mix of stuff and get some close shots. 

The third thing I would recommend is to watch your speed.

Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to drone footage. A lot of pilots mash that control stick forward so you start to get chopper blades coming into the footage. It’s just not necessary. Nice slow pans, nice slow movements are a lot more appealing than big jerky ups and downs and that type of stuff. 

So those would be the big three mistakes I see get made the most. It’s how you pick out an amateur versus a professional.

Monica:  Having an eye and a brain for telling a story surely helps!

Bruce:  It comes from experience, obviously, but it also helps to understand what you can do in pre-production vs post-production.

It’s always better to have the best possible stuff before you get started. It’s like when you take that picture on your iPhone and you’re like, “Oh, I can hardly see my face but I can fix that later”. You don’t want to start with the attitude of “I can fix that.”  It’s better to spend the time to get high-quality source footage than it is to spend the time trying to fix footage.

Monica:  How can people contact you for drone footage?

Bruce:  The easiest way is to go to my website bigmuddymotion.com – there are several ways to contact me there.

I’m also on social media–Facebook, Instagram–so you can find me on both of those two platforms and just send me an email or send me a message. I can certainly help you whether you want to work on your own but have questions about rules and regulations or techniques, or whether you want to pass all of the work over to me. I’ve got quite a few real estate clients who bought their own drones, took their own video and then realized they weren’t even half done. There’s still lots of editing, correcting and polishing. They feel like their time is much better spent just selling real estate and letting me go out there and take their video. I can get it done in a much more timely manner for probably less money than they’re going to spend on their own time.

Monica:  Thank you so much for your time today Bruce, I appreciate it!

Bruce:  No problem – thank you for having me on!

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