As promised, let us get started with the Carnity Leaders DRONE CHALLENGE.
First of all, I would suggest we establish the foundations for the challenge, i.e. we define a basic understanding of what we should be aiming for. In order to shoot some great drone videos, there is obviously a bit of homework to do..
In the following I tried to put toghether some basic infos as a starting point of reference for whoever will be curious.
Obviously these are just humble suggestions, as the game here is to do this as a collective community effort, with everyone's contribution to improve the original idea.
If we were in professional context, we could say we have defined the broad SUBJECT, which is essentially the overarching idea of the challenge itself (ie producing a showreel of highly cinematic off-roading videos shot by drones during real Carnity drives, taken each time during a different ride at a different location as conceived by the drive leader) and we now have to work on the video treatment and screenplay / storyboard.
For each shooting session during a drive, the TREATMENT is a brief description or, better, a short story of what whould happen in the video to be shot during the ride. It is usually written in the present tense and describes events as they happen.
"In an early morning drive, the quiet yellow dawn with the skyline of Fossil Rock on the horizon is awaken by a Carnity off-roading convoy heading toward the sunrise. The cars swiftly ride east, along the ridge of a long dune. After some some prolonged ridge riding, the Leader criss-crosses and suddenly dives nose-down on the slip-side to the right, with the rear left wheel floating in the air for a second and sand flying all around. As the rest of the convoy gets past the ridge, the convoy continues its quest for the next dune to climb."
The treatment should be the Leader's call, as it requires the choice of the location, of the timing and of the story to be told.
Don't set boundaries to your ideas for treatment, as there are tons of off-road stories to tell... Don't just think about riding cars: think about wheel tracks, landscape and sceneries, viewpoints, driving paths, off-road maneuvers, refusals, stucks and recoveries, play areas, animals, trees, bushes, wrecks, sunsets, sunrises, inflation, deflation, flags.. You've been there, you name it!
3. SCREENPLAY / STORYBOARD
Next comes the SCREENPLAY, which is a detailed written description of the single scenes to be shot and of the desired camera movements, which may be complemented by a STORYBOARD, ie sketches of the key frames of each shot to help fixating the ideas.
Example (forgive my awful sketching 😂😂😂😞)
Exterior - Dune Ridge pointing East, on the west side of Fossil Rock.
Not more than 30' mins after sunrise
The dawn against the skyline of Fossil Rock fills the screen, with crests of nearer dunes lit by almost tangent sun beams. The drone camera slightly tilts down while reducing the altitude then starts moving forward, showing the ridge of a long dune in full display, aligned east. The 1st car in the convoy enters the screen from the bottom overtaking the camera, while the camera keeps on rolling forward at slow speed approx 5m above the ridge, allowing for the following cars in the convoy to enter the scene and eventually leave the camera behind.
Same setting / time as Scene 1
Same or similar dune as above. The drone camera slowly rolls left moving parallel to the ridge line, at an altitude slightly lower than the ridge top. The convoy enters from the right side of the screen: as the 2nd car enters, the camera builds up speed and tracks the vehicle from the side for 5 seconds then, while rolling left, slowly gains elevation and gently tilts down, revealing the scenery on the other side of the ridge.
Same setting / time as Scene 1
Same or similar dune as above. The drone camera is positioned 30m above ground, tilted 90 degrees down (bird's eye view). The dune ridge is captured parallel to the horizontal screen side, while the camera slowly rolls right. The convoy enters the screen from the left, seen from above. As the convoy moves in the camera increases altitude to approx 80m. The shot ends when the convoy exits the right side of the screen.
Same setting / time as Scene 1
Same or similar dune as above. The camera stands next to the criss-crossing point, pointing east and down with a 45 degrees tilt. As the leading car enters the screen from below, the camera starts a fast clock-wise orbit at constant altitude with a slight parallax, capturing the criss-crossing at approx 180 degrees and the slip-side dive while reaching 270 degrees in the orbit.
As you can appreciate, conceiving a sceeenplay requires some more technical understanding of how drone shots could be made: the preparation of a mini-screenplay like the one above (which took me 10 mins, so no big deal timewise) will be done in cooperation with the drone pilot, ie myself. It again requires a lot of input from the Leader, who should have a clear idea of the spatial context where the shooting will happen, but may as well benefit from the ideas of all convoy members. We won't have much time to debate on-site, so this exercise should be mostly prepared beforehand if we want to keep the time slot for the drone challenge within the 15' plus prepping.
4. EXAMPLES OF CINEMATIC DRONE SHOTS
For the purpose of enabling the best ideas for screenplays, I suggest everyone interested should have a look at the youtube video below, which exemplifies 20 of the most commont cinematic drone shots (ie shots where the camera motion is urilized to obtain a cinematic effect): https://youtu.be/BdtHWr_nDeU. Having seen these 20 simple examples, I believe you will all have enough to fancy your screenplay.
In addition, bear in mind we cluld do time-lapses (ie accelerated shots, ie 15' accelerated in 30" for example) or slow-motions (ie decelerated shots, where we can reduce the speed down from 100% to 25% without any image quality loss).
Also, bear in mind that the drones we will be using do not have optical zoom lenses, i.e. They are equipped with fixed focal lenght lenses. Zooming effects can be achieved either by physically zooming in or out by moving the drone forward or backward or (less advisable and with some limitations) in post processing, i.e. during video editing.
As all of you who like photography know, the best images are always shot in those magic 15 mins after sunrise and before sunset, when colors and natural contrasts between highlights and shadows are enhanced by a less overwhelming light coming from much more interesting angles.
Luckily, our drives are always planned to include such moments, thus there will be plenty of opportunities, nevertheless we can take beautiful videos in full daylight (we will use ND filters if there is too much light), so don't feel forced to frame the shooting session in those key minutes all the times.
6. LOGISTICS AND DRIVE PLANNING / EXECUTION
The example above would require the convoy to ride along a dune ridge, criss-cross, dive down on the slip side and return back at the beginnig of the ridge for at least 4 times, which can be easily done in not more than 10 mins. Every round should be started by radio comms with the drone pilot, to ensure he is ready for the relevant shot. The whole convoy should be specifically briefed.
(Needless to say we don't necessarily have to shoot multiple scenes at the same location, however edited/cut video looks much better if you can tell the story using multiple videos from different angles and movements)
Setting up the drone and briefing the convoy will take approx 5 mins, and another 5 mins will be needed to store it back safely. Flying time can last up to 25 mins with a battery (and I typically have a set of 3) but I would expect to keep the drone in the air not more than 15 mins. It may however happen that a shot needs to be repeated, as not always things go right the 1st time, especially when there are synchronized movements, thus I'd factor in another 5 mins of contingency, for a total stop of 30 mins, during which, however, the convoy (except me and a volunteer acting as my crew/spotter and anyone curious to stand by and watch from a drone safe and Covid-19 social distance rather than driving) will be mostly driving back and forth.
In the above example, we would probably take approx a 15' continous video shooting, but all 4 scenes above would then be cut and edited into a videoclip which should last indicatively not more than 120" max, otherwise it gets boring and repetitive.
As expected from professional drone pilots, the safety of all convoy members and bystanders, the pilot/crew own safety and the integrity of the cars, any property and, of course, of the drone itself will never be compromised.
This means we won't do any crazy high speed maneuvers, we will never fly close to people, we will respect no-fly and geo-fenced zones (if any), altitude (120m) and range limits (500m) for hobbyist flights, will always fly with VLOS (visual line of sight, i.e. never on a purely instrumental flight) and won't fly at night.
I hope the above helps. I can't wait to spin my propellers! 😂😂