South Africa has some pretty extreme legislation regarding the use of drones, resulting in a large amount of illegally filmed stuff being out there. So when I was asked to source a commercially licenced supplier for a big corporate video project recently it took some research before I managed to find my drone guys. Currently only eleven companies are commercially licenced in South Africa, and of those only a handful focus on filming for the television and film market. It has become a very specialized field indeed with the majority of RPAS operators opting to focus on industrial work and surveying. 

As I discovered during this crazy month, filming aerials for a major corporate video project is no small undertaking. Our biggest challenge was finding gaps in the weather that coincided with the flight plans filed with Civil Aviation. At two locations we were allowed Flexible Use of Air Space (unlimited time in the air). At the last location, located next to a national airport, we were allowed only three hours in the air. Add to that a month of extremely volatile weather courtesy of cyclone Dineo, and you pretty much get the picture!

While the camera drone and its dual remote control units may look like toys, operating this system is definitely not a game. 

My suppliers fortunately brought their first team and a DJI Inspire system and I'm thrilled with the results. We shot our footage in 4K and the clarity is just fantastic. I was especially impressed with the stability of the camera system, even in high winds.

On the post production side I now have plenty of options thanks to Media Composer's FrameFlex feature. Basically I can reframe any of the 4K footage inside my 1080p project without losing any quality. In fact, the clarity is such that I might have issues with fine textures like brick walls and corrugated iron roofs. But that is a small inconvenience when compared to the production value I've gained by having professionally shot footage.

So while this was undoubtedly an expensive venture, I'm fully convinced that the correct route to go is through a professional RPAS operator. These guys are skilled, willing to take direction but also experienced enough to be able to advise on visual options when the clock is ticking away your valuable flight time. And that makes a world of difference on a big project. The laws are draconian (operators are audited down to the amount of cells used in drone batteries!), but perhaps it also had an unintended positive effect in the sense that it injected a certain professionalism into the market.