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Hunter34545
New Member

3 Posts

Posted - 22 Jan 2010 :  22:41:22  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi everyone,

I'm thinking of starting an aerial film/photography business but I'm not sure what kind of market there is for that. I realize that the big budget films can afford the high helicopter fees required for typical aerial shots and that smaller budget films have to work around that issue with the use of cranes/creative thinking etc. Thus, I am curious to know how many of you who are on a small budget would use aerial footage in your films if it were not so expensive. Any insight is much appreciated.

bjdzyak
Senior Member

USA
592 Posts

Posted - 23 Jan 2010 :  00:34:19  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hunter34545

Hi everyone,

I'm thinking of starting an aerial film/photography business but I'm not sure what kind of market there is for that. I realize that the big budget films can afford the high helicopter fees required for typical aerial shots and that smaller budget films have to work around that issue with the use of cranes/creative thinking etc. Thus, I am curious to know how many of you who are on a small budget would use aerial footage in your films if it were not so expensive. Any insight is much appreciated.



Well, I'm sure that any Director would love to have quality aerial footage for their film if the script called for it no matter the cost.

But, as you've alluded to, the cost can be prohibitive. It's not just the helicopter or airplane, but the fuel, permits, airport fees, pilot fees, camera operator fee, stabilizer (like WESCAM) equipment, the camera itself, technician fee, "media" (film, tape, digital media).

Point being, there are certain hard-costs associated with any production and aerial isn't any different. There is a "Right Way" to do it and anything "less" means that compromises will likely be made to make the cost "affordable."

So I guess my question would be what corners would your business cut in order to make the service more affordable for low-budget projects and how will that ultimately affect the images that are being paid for?

Brian Dzyak
Cameraman/Author
IATSE Local 600, SOC
http://www.whatireallywanttodo.com
http://www.realfilmcareer.com
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Aspiring mogul
Average Member

483 Posts

Posted - 23 Jan 2010 :  01:14:58  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Well, if you have never done this kind of work before, perhaps you should get your feet wet. I mean, flying and filming requires two very highly specialized skills, and there must be licensing issues as well. If you don't know how the business works, perhaps you should work under someone first.
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Hunter34545
New Member

3 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2010 :  14:34:52  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the replies so far. I am a qualified and experienced pilot so I know all the costs involved with the flying end of things. As far as filming goes, I would be needing to hire a qualified camera operator for that part of the deal. Working under someone first is, there is no denying it, always a good place to start. And I may try that if I feel that there is not enough demand for what I am going to be offering.

bjdzyak: To answer you question. Simply put, I don't plan on using a helicopter or a fixed wing aircraft. I'm planning on using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of sorts. Now, this is obviously not a military grade, typical UAV that you might be thinking of, but it is quite specialized for this kind of work and is quite a stable platform for filming/picture taking. However, due to weight restrictions the filming would need to be done in digital HD, which may turn some directors off....I'm not sure. Bottom line is, this machine is: a.) far cheaper to buy than a helicopter and cheaper than renting one, b.) has far less operating costs, c.) requires a crew of one or two people max. , d.) the quality of the footage produced could be more than adequate, with a bit of practice. I say with a bit of practice because I have seen some of the HD footage taken by amateurs with this contraption and it looks pretty damn good already.
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bjdzyak
Senior Member

USA
592 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2010 :  15:36:53  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hunter34545

Thanks for the replies so far. I am a qualified and experienced pilot so I know all the costs involved with the flying end of things. As far as filming goes, I would be needing to hire a qualified camera operator for that part of the deal. Working under someone first is, there is no denying it, always a good place to start. And I may try that if I feel that there is not enough demand for what I am going to be offering.

bjdzyak: To answer you question. Simply put, I don't plan on using a helicopter or a fixed wing aircraft. I'm planning on using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of sorts. Now, this is obviously not a military grade, typical UAV that you might be thinking of, but it is quite specialized for this kind of work and is quite a stable platform for filming/picture taking. However, due to weight restrictions the filming would need to be done in digital HD, which may turn some directors off....I'm not sure. Bottom line is, this machine is: a.) far cheaper to buy than a helicopter and cheaper than renting one, b.) has far less operating costs, c.) requires a crew of one or two people max. , d.) the quality of the footage produced could be more than adequate, with a bit of practice. I say with a bit of practice because I have seen some of the HD footage taken by amateurs with this contraption and it looks pretty damn good already.



I understand a bit better now. Well, I'd suggest doing some recon on what the going rates are for this type of thing. Go to something like www.la411.com and search for aerial photography. Talk to them (as if you were a potential filmmaker) and get their rates for various types of photography.

It's not often that a very large budget project will use an unmanned craft to capture their images unless the location demanded it. So, your primary clientele would likely be lower-budgeted projects that can't afford a helicopter, the proper equipment, and the crew to go with it. If it was me, I'd be a bit more concerned about how MUCH work I could get per year from a business standpoint. The question becomes, is the scarcity of work in that specialty worth your investment? It might be... I don't know. But the answer to that question begins with your research into the competition which likely already has reputations in the arena. Plus, they and you are subject to the whims of budgets and scripts which may or may not call for or allow for aerial shots like that with unmanned vehicles.

For my money, IF I was a certified pilot with an interest in this, I'd be more apt to invest in an aerial mount for my manned aircraft AND ALSO offer the unmanned "version." The idea being that your company somehow offers "any aerial shot you can imagine!" Something like that.

Of course, there are established pilots and Cameramen and technicians who are freelancers who you would NEED TO employ because THEY have the connections to Producers you'd need to make your business viable.

It's a tough business right now, but if you can offer the right services and can show that you can get quality images (with established DPs and Camera Operators who are known) then it could be successful.

Brian Dzyak
Cameraman/Author
IATSE Local 600, SOC
http://www.whatireallywanttodo.com
http://www.realfilmcareer.com
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Hunter34545
New Member

3 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2010 :  17:21:58  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by bjdzyak

quote:
Originally posted by Hunter34545

Thanks for the replies so far. I am a qualified and experienced pilot so I know all the costs involved with the flying end of things. As far as filming goes, I would be needing to hire a qualified camera operator for that part of the deal. Working under someone first is, there is no denying it, always a good place to start. And I may try that if I feel that there is not enough demand for what I am going to be offering.

bjdzyak: To answer you question. Simply put, I don't plan on using a helicopter or a fixed wing aircraft. I'm planning on using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of sorts. Now, this is obviously not a military grade, typical UAV that you might be thinking of, but it is quite specialized for this kind of work and is quite a stable platform for filming/picture taking. However, due to weight restrictions the filming would need to be done in digital HD, which may turn some directors off....I'm not sure. Bottom line is, this machine is: a.) far cheaper to buy than a helicopter and cheaper than renting one, b.) has far less operating costs, c.) requires a crew of one or two people max. , d.) the quality of the footage produced could be more than adequate, with a bit of practice. I say with a bit of practice because I have seen some of the HD footage taken by amateurs with this contraption and it looks pretty damn good already.



I understand a bit better now. Well, I'd suggest doing some recon on what the going rates are for this type of thing. Go to something like www.la411.com and search for aerial photography. Talk to them (as if you were a potential filmmaker) and get their rates for various types of photography.

It's not often that a very large budget project will use an unmanned craft to capture their images unless the location demanded it. So, your primary clientele would likely be lower-budgeted projects that can't afford a helicopter, the proper equipment, and the crew to go with it. If it was me, I'd be a bit more concerned about how MUCH work I could get per year from a business standpoint. The question becomes, is the scarcity of work in that specialty worth your investment? It might be... I don't know. But the answer to that question begins with your research into the competition which likely already has reputations in the arena. Plus, they and you are subject to the whims of budgets and scripts which may or may not call for or allow for aerial shots like that with unmanned vehicles.

For my money, IF I was a certified pilot with an interest in this, I'd be more apt to invest in an aerial mount for my manned aircraft AND ALSO offer the unmanned "version." The idea being that your company somehow offers "any aerial shot you can imagine!" Something like that.

Of course, there are established pilots and Cameramen and technicians who are freelancers who you would NEED TO employ because THEY have the connections to Producers you'd need to make your business viable.

It's a tough business right now, but if you can offer the right services and can show that you can get quality images (with established DPs and Camera Operators who are known) then it could be successful.

Brian Dzyak
Cameraman/Author
IATSE Local 600, SOC
http://www.whatireallywanttodo.com
http://www.realfilmcareer.com




Thanks for that link Brian, I will check it out. So far I have done some very preliminary research into the going rates for this business and it has given me some big insight into the prices.

I understand that the big budget films would be more than happy to pay for the real deal...If they have the money, they're going to do it. My plan was to contact smaller, local production companies who do things like corporate videos, TV commercials (although those can have larger budgets...depending), small TV shows, and other such things.

Currently where I am located there are a few helicopter companies that are able to do aerial filmography, but as we know...they are expensive. Then there are also some guys with UAV's who do aerial photography only...no filming. As my rig could do both filming and photography, I believe (but am not certain, more research is required) that offering general photographic services could make up for any lack of actual filming jobs at any given time. That is what I plan to look into as well anyways.

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bjdzyak
Senior Member

USA
592 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2010 :  23:05:40  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
It sounds like you've got a decent start. As soon as you can, start getting some random stock shots and cut an exciting reel together. You might have to give a few cut-rate deals to low-budget projects (short films, indie films, corporate gigs) to get going and get some "real" stuff to show off.

Then it's about getting your name and reel out there. As you'll see, resources like www.la411.com and the book are great places to advertise a service.



Brian Dzyak
Cameraman/Author
IATSE Local 600, SOC
http://www.whatireallywanttodo.com
http://www.realfilmcareer.com
Go to Top of Page

Aspiring mogul
Average Member

483 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2010 :  23:33:44  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Look into the licensing issues - you may need a special license for aerial photography.
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