Getting Started with UAV

By Douglas Spotted Eagle on March 29, 2018

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Why consider UAV

UAS (Drone) flight is becoming more and more popular and common in broadcast and production, whether it is news-gathering, event observation, or just an “eye in the sky.”

No different than photographers on the ground, UAS pilots/operators are beginning to do more than just vertical hovers, inserting smooth and creative moves to the aircraft. Learning these techniques is not only beneficial to the overall video quality and interest level, but also a means of more effectively conveying a story to the viewing audience.

For those  just getting started, the challenge lies with learning the techniques and nomenclature. There are several great training providers out there, it is just a matter of understanding their special niche and how that aligns with your goals and interest. 

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What it takes to learn 

Take night flying for instance. Most pilots recognize the value of flying at night, for numerous reasons, but it is also more challenging and it requires a lot more equipment.  At Sundance Media Group, we rely on support from manufacturers such as lighting provider, FoxFury, which routinely participate in our training events. That is to say, it is not easy to train for night flying and there are a lot of things to consider from both a safety stand point and quality of the material captured. Plus, a safe operation means the aircraft is able to be in the air longer.

Most importantly, flying at night requires a specific waiver from the FAA, and the waiver application process requires some form of night flight training.

We collaborate and benefit from the support of  industry icons such as B&H, Brother-USA, HoodmanUSA, Nomad, SilverState Cases, Venom Power, Westwind Unmanned, and Yuneec Aviation, and , over time, have created several training events across the country, providing pilots with training in cinema-focused techniques, night flight safety, and flight preparations for FAA-waived night flight (also known as “107.29” waived flight). 

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Creative benefits

While safety is a primery consideration, training will significantly improve pilots' skills, enabling them to implement creative flight techniques that convey a stronger story, deeper focus on a subject, or evoking emotional responses from a viewer. These flight techniques may be as simple as understanding an aerial trucking or dolly shot, or as complex as a five-axis camera and jib movement.

On a recent shoot for the Discovery Channel, we had the pleasure of training their camera crew in various sorts of reveals and trucking shots with gimbal movement. They were amazed at how much more powerful the content became, just through a few simple, but focused and timed moves.

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What we plan next 

We are now getting ready for a new series of training sessions and field workshops that we are organizing in partnership with Future Media Concepts for Post|Production World at NAB Show in Las Vegas, NV. 

This year, the NAB Show program features two intro to intermediate workshops for sUAS/drone pilots:

  • A practical Cinematography Field Workshop where attendees will actually fly UAS/drones that will provided for the purpose of the workshop.
  • A practical Night Flight Workshop  where attendees will fly at night, drones provided to students for the purpose of the workshop.

These workshops will not only expose newer pilots to new techniques, they’ll also experience direct access to UAS-focused equipment: B&H, Brother-USA, HoodmanUSA, Nomad, SilverState Cases, Venom Power, Westwind Unmanned, and Yuneec Aviation.

Learn more about the upcoming workshops. 


Author: Douglas Spotted Eagle

Douglas is a Founder and Primary Instructor at Sundance Media Group. He is a giant in the video and audio industries, having received Grammy, Emmy, DuPont, Peabody, and many other awards. Douglas is a primary instructor and industry consultant for Sundance Media Group and VASST, authoring several books and DVDs and serving as an advisor and guide for videographers, software manufacturers and broadcasters. He is a frequent (and dynamic!) speaker and consults on UAV cinematography, public safety implementation of UAS, commercial and infrastructural UAV applications, UAV risk management, night UAS flight, aerial security systems, and 107 training to ensure pilots clearly understand the FAA laws.
FMC provides quality, consistent and accessible training for content creators and IT professionals.

Our courses are designed to help individuals and institutions meet their goals by enabling them to be on the cutting edge of technology.


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