Architectural cinematography has lots of great qualities. It doesn’t mess up it’s lines, show up late, and it’s not prone to change. However, capturing architecture in a dynamic way can present challenges due to the size, form and volume of most buildings. Portions of buildings can be challenging to access, establishing viewpoints can be difficult to capture, and parallel surfaces can become substantially distorted. Thankfully, there are, literally, ways around this; drones that can fly around and capture a 360 degree view of a building. Check out this compilation of some aerial videography, covering some architecture along the High Line, shot by Arbuckle Industries.
Recently, aerial videographers have turned to the use of video drones to aid in the effort of capturing large-scale projects and birdseye views. Aerial videography isn’t a new idea in the world of filmmaking, and drones have been around for a while. One of the early uses of drones came on the scene in the early 1900’s when unmanned vehicles were used as target practice. Since then, drones have gotten significantly smaller and a lot cheaper. Up until recently, hiring aerial videographers was incredibly costly, but the recent trend in consumer drones has made aerial videography via drone much more affordable. You get what you pay for, so affordable can sometimes mean less professional, so do your homework and make sure you’re not hiring a kid with a GoPro strapped to an RC helicopter. The rate (“costs”) of drone operators should reflect their skill level as well as the capability of their equipment, and just because someone owns an expensive drone, it may not reflect in the quality of their work or their ability to fly it; be sure to reference their reel and work samples. The last thing you want is to have the drone flying into someone relaxing on their balcony and your company's name splattered all over the headlines.
Video drones can be as cheap to purchase as they can be to hire, but don’t be duped by the price tag, cheap drones can be difficult to operate, limited in their flight capabilities and most importantly the quality of the footage captured. Also, many mainstream consumer drones have permanently mounted cameras that produce compressed images which can limit your options for post-production. When trying to decide between purchasing and hiring, consider what you need from the aerial footage. Let’s say you only plan to use the footage for construction progress, internal to your company. For that, something like the DJI Phantom might be a good option. It’s affordable, requires minimal assembly, and is user friendly. If you are trying to capture footage for a more commercial use, having an Octocopter with a full frame camera may be a better match for your needs.
You’ll usually need to compensate in post-production for the inability to adjust the camera once it’s already in flight. Some adjustments include image stabilization, sun spots reparation, slowing down high frame rated footage, image rotation and overall color correction. If you are just paying for the raw footage, don’t be alarmed when you pull it up on your computer and it doesn’t look perfect. If all you want are a few sexy clips from production be sure to specify before hiring an aerial videographer, if they don’t do post-production, you might have to go to another source. But if you can swing it, aerial videography can be a great asset for architectural videos.