6 Tips on Indoor Drone Filming
Working without GPS is just one of the few challenges we face when filming indoors.
Recently, we did an interior aerial shoot for the brand new Changi Airport Terminal 4. We have done a number of indoor drone shoots previously, so we are pretty comfortable to take on this significant project. Here are some lessons we learned.
Indoor drone filming is a daunting task mainly because there is no GPS guidance for the drone. Without GPS, the drone will be constantly drifting, so precise drone movement is a challenge for the drone operator. Flying manually is difficult in tight space, so we plan our routes well and work closely as a team, along with the Director of Photography and spotter to ensure safe flight paths can be established.
Anti-collision – the good & the bad
Nowadays, a lot of drones are equipped with anti-collision sensors. The drone will halt automatically when it is close to an obstacle. It is a fantastic feature that we use often. However, like all technology, it has its limitations. The sensors are dependent on many conditions listed below. So don’t trust it completely. Moreover, there are several shots where we require the drone to fly near or thru an obstacle, to create a more dynamic shot. This will require the anti-collision function to be turned off, so fly with extreme caution.
Air-con blowers are unseen killers
All large indoor spaces will have powerful air-con blowers to control the room temperature. Most of these blowers are hidden behind louvers and false ceilings to make them more aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, these blowers can also be drone killers if your drone is caught in their path. To overcome this issue, we work closely with the facility manager to make sure that our flight paths are away from those nasty blowers.
Watch the downwash
We are careful to make sure that the drone has sufficient space when we take off and land indoors. Operational safety is one consideration. But the bigger unknown is the powerful downwash that the drone propellers create. In a confined space, the downwash bounces off the surroundings and creates unpredictable wind that can throw the drone off course. This same logic applies when you fly a drone thru a tunnel or close to ground level.
Use a Posmo
For the Changi Terminal 4 project, we use the Posmo (Osmo + Pole) for shots that are either too dangerous or complex for a drone to achieve. One of the advantages of using the Posmo is the ability to get really close to a subject. We use this technique to create seamless video transitions and more dynamic shots.
Safety comes first
For this project, we have to clear the general public and terminal staff from the drone flight path. Thus, traffic control is crucial for public safety. Public liability insurance is also a must. Other safety measures include having a first aid kit on set and propeller guards for the drone.
Finally, teamwork and planning are important to ensure that the drone shoot is successful. For me, the collaborative process is what makes filmmaking beautiful.