American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 70

Top: Two Phantom 4 drones are readied for deployment. Above: Simon Ager (left) and Garrison
prepare to launch a Phantom 4.

CasePro Phantom 4 carry-on hard cases
with custom foam, which allowed us to
store the drones with the props installed and
most of the accessories nestled alongside.
Those accessories included PolarPro ND/PL
filters, which I consider an absolute necessity; a long-range antenna-modification kit
that helps ensure signal robustness when
multiple drones are in the air at once; a
desiccant pack; a lanyard for the transmitter;
extra batteries; touchscreen gloves; an iPad;
and Light & Motion's Seca 2200D, a small
LED light that can be rigged on the top of
the drone via a GoPro mount and is excellent for peering into caves and other dark
areas. With this arrangement, an operator
70

August 2017

could grab a single case and be ready to fly.
On occasion, we also employed the Shogun
as a director's monitor, plugging in via the
Phantom transmitter's HDMI-out. Because
we often fly the drones from rigid inflatable
boats (RIBs), which are very wet and offer
little room to maneuver while on board,
having a well-packed kit is particularly critical
to each flight's success.
To provide some additional security
while flying, we also carried a pontoon
assembly from DroneRafts called a WaterStrider, which allows you to land on the
water in an emergency. Many pilots who fly
over water suggest attaching a hydrostatic
float (originally designed for fishing poles),
American Cinematographer

but we have avoided these due to their low
success rate.
Once the drone is in the air, the trick
is to capture shots that are a pleasure to
watch, aid our narrative, and conform to the
stipulations of our UAV permit, which is
granted by the Australian Antarctic Division.
It was quickly apparent that surprising the
viewer wasn't going to be difficult; with its
icebergs, penguins, whales, seals and more,
Antarctica abounds with fascinating frames.
What we needed to do, we decided, was to
go beyond the subjects alone and move our
aerial cameras in ways that would help tell
our story. Once we had a few flights under
our belt, we began to grasp exactly how we
could use aerial camera moves to aid our
narrative.
For one thing, drones allowed us to
get much closer to wildlife than we would
otherwise have been able to, resulting in
footage that many non-production crew
remarked they "could see being on TV."
Drones also allowed us to provide context
by situating the ships within the larger environment; you don't quite grasp the scale
until you see a ship dwarfed by the towering
icebergs that dot the landscape. Even if we
placed crew on an iceberg and sailed by a
few times, we wouldn't be able to achieve
the sheer sense of scale we get from the air.
In this case, the relatively wide angle of the
Phantom 4's lens plays to our advantage -
the perceived distance between objects is
slightly exaggerated, which underscores the
expansiveness of the environment.
As with our "conventional" shipboard cinematography, we relied heavily on
natural light to help improve the images we
were capturing with the drones. We would
position the Phantom 4 to place the sun
behind icebergs and ships to create silhouettes, take advantage of twilight's long
shadows to create texture, and use the
twilight hours' lower ambient exposure to
aid the small sensor's compressed dynamic
range.
We also employed classic camera
moves to strategically reveal objects or place
focus on an area. For example, we might
skim the drone low over the water with the
camera pointing 70 or 80 degrees down,
then gain altitude and tilt up as the aircraft
traveled up and over an iceberg, revealing a
sunset or a ship in the distance; or we might



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - August 2017

Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Intro
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 1
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 2
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 4
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 5
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 6
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 7
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 8
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 9
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 10
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 11
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 12
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 13
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 14
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 15
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 16
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 17
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 18
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 19
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 20
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 21
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 22
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 23
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 24
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 25
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 26
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 27
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 28
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 29
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 30
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 31
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32a
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32b
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32c
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32d
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 33
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 34
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 35
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 36
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 37
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 38
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 39
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 40
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 41
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 42
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 43
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 44
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 45
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 46
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 47
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 48
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 49
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 50
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 51
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 52
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 53
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 54
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 55
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 56
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 57
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 58
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 59
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 60
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 61
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 62
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 63
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 64
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 65
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 66
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 67
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 68
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 69
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 70
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 71
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 72
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 73
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 74
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 75
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 76
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 77
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 78
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 79
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 80
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover4
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