AERIAL FILMMAKER DRONES &TIME-LAPSE
“After shooting time-lapse for some time and winning the video category of Travel Photographer of the Year, DJI got in touch to ask if I could shoot a time-lapse promo for the Osmo,” says Rufus. “It was a really experimental piece, where I figured out the techniques as I was shooting. Previously the only way to produce a hyper-lapse – amoving time-lapse –was to work with a DSLR on a tripod, moving it on a tiny bit for each shot. It was a really slow and laborious process. And the technique didn’t recreate the kind of beautiful motion blur that youmight expect in a shot like that. “Using the Osmo, however, opened up a whole new stack of possibilities. I ended up doing things like attaching it to a bike and wheeling it along to get tracking shots, or sticking it on the end of a selfie stick to get it above the heads of the crowds. It was really great fun, nothing like what I’m doing nowwith drones, but it still took hyper-lapse on to the next level. “The footage got a lot of attention and DJI loved what I’d done, so they came back tome and said: ‘let’s get you in the air.’ Shooting time-lapse with the Inspire 2 is all about automation and using pre-planned flight paths. Based on GoogleMaps you can programa really beautiful smooth flight path, while controlling the point of interest for the camera. The DJI drones these days are very easy to fly. It’s not really the pilot flying the drone, you’re simply giving it instructions tomove forwards, move left etc. Using DJI’s Ground Station Pro software I can pre-plan a beautiful cameramove, with the Inspire following a curved flight arc, smoothly changing altitude to get exactly the shot that I want. The drone flies itself via GPS to the position that’s been set, compensating for such things as crosswind and thermals automatically. It will even avoid, or stop, before hitting obstacles. “The GPS is so accurate that I can even repeat the samemove at a different time of
“GPS is so accurate that I can repeat the same move at a different time of day, to achieve the elements for a day-to-night transition”
frames you don’t need. The advantage of this technique is that you canmake the decisions on timings afterwards. Then you can blendmultiple frames to get a natural lookingmotion blur in the final sequence.” One of the big benefits of working with the Inspire 2 as opposed to its predecessor is that battery life has been improved. Keeping a drone in the air is the bane of many aerial filmmaker’s lives, particularly given themiserly output some of the early batteries delivered, but things are improving and the expectation is that this is one area that will improve further still in the years ahead. “I use up some juice just getting to the first position,” says Rufus, “and I’ll also need to leave enough charge to get me home safely. With the Inspire 2 I have up to double the battery life that the earlier models delivered so, in practical terms and taking into account that I don’t have to land and take off again so regularly, that triples my shooting time. Another issue I face, which comes with living in South East Asia, is that I’moften having to shoot in the blazing sunlight, so I appreciate the chance to work with DJI’s high visibility Crystal Sky monitor, which just means I can viewwhat I’m shooting even in themidday sun.” Given his VFX background, Rufus acknowledges that heading back to the studio to tweak his footage in post is his favourite part of the whole process. “The first thing I do is speed the footage up 50x to viewmy rushes,” he says, “and then I make selects, addingmore complicated
day, enablingme to achieve the elements I need for a beautiful day-to-night transition. The flights don’t usually overlay perfectly, but with a bit of stabilisation andmatch moving you can get a great looking image. It’s like having a 3km long track and dolly in the sky that you can lay down inminutes.” Time-lapse fromabove Aerial time-lapses sound like the stuff of science fiction, but the latest drone technology and, in particular, the development of the stabilising gimbal, have opened all kinds of fascinating new doors. “You can shoot beautiful 4K video and create the time-lapse in post,” explains Rufus. “Think of it as shooting a traditional time-lapse, but instead of shooting a frame every four seconds you’re shooting 25 frames per second, and discarding the
IMAGES Getting airborne with the DJI Inspire 2 and Osmo has added another element to Rufus Blackwell’s innovative use of hyper-lapse, as moving time-lapse is known.
PRO MOVIEMAKER SUMMER 2018
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