Buy a drone or not?

scorsesefan

Well-known member
I'm considering buying a drone for the first time, but I'm not sure how much use I'm going to get out of it. I live in NYC and there are only a handful of parks that allow you to fly a drone within the 5 boroughs. On the other hand I do a good deal of shooting on Long Island (a suburb of NYC) where there are less restrictions. I don't do much corporate or real estate work, etc. Just documentaries at this point...

Thinking back on my last few docs I could have used a drone a few times (mostly to establish the documentary's location). I was thinking of the Mavic Air 2:https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/prod...r8L5FskK80X6b3jqIykCQET5v_DpxaWBoCoYYQAvD_BwE

Are the filmmakers out there that own drones gathering dust or are they using them often? Thoughts?

Thanks
 
Sometimes 2-3 drone shots in a nice project is worth the entire investment for something as cheap as above because of how impressed clients become. If executed well, you could leave a good impression on them which is obviously good for business.

If nothing else, you could probably get some cool stock footage at RM or Jones Beach.
 
I bought a mavic mini recently and been getting up to speed on that. It's not as feature rich as the Mavic pro 2 but I'm impressed with the footage so far for real estate use. latest firmware allows setting white balance and I think it can lock exposure setting. The Mavic pro 2 has an obstacle avoidance feature that the mini doesn't have. That could come in very handy around buildings.
 
They're not that expensive (depending on the model) and are a good bit of kit to have.

On the other hand, most decent models are made in China, and due to political developments it may soon become very difficult to get dependable support (not that it's very easy to begin with... my Mavic Air developed sudden violent left turns, and I cannot get them to respond to my submitted ticket for the life of me).
 
I'm considering buying a drone for the first time, but I'm not sure how much use I'm going to get out of it. I live in NYC and there are only a handful of parks that allow you to fly a drone within the 5 boroughs. On the other hand I do a good deal of shooting on Long Island (a suburb of NYC) where there are less restrictions. I don't do much corporate or real estate work, etc. Just documentaries at this point...

Thinking back on my last few docs I could have used a drone a few times (mostly to establish the documentary's location). I was thinking of the Mavic Air 2:https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/prod...r8L5FskK80X6b3jqIykCQET5v_DpxaWBoCoYYQAvD_BwE

Are the filmmakers out there that own drones gathering dust or are they using them often? Thoughts?

Thanks

Could you have legally flown a drone for your last few documentaries?

At the prosumer level, it sounds like owning a drone in NYC sucks. Dedicated drone specialists with clearance to fly, NYC is one of the best places on earth (I love those shots with a long lens looking straight down as it passes over the apex of a building, as seen in many trailers).

I'm finding it a tough sell to buy given your location, infrequent use (this may change) and rental prices, which are surely next to nothing?

Don't think for a second it will be a fun hobby. If you're under 95 years old you'll be bored before the end of your first flight. It's a tool just like a zoom lens. I'm sure some people find it relaxing, good for coordination, reasons to be outside etc. but that doesn't sound like a concern for you.

I held off on drones for a long time but had a project where I planned to bring someone in with a phantom 4. The client had a phantom 3 and was wondering why we couldn't use their drone. I killed two birds with one stone - not needing to pay someone for a fairly cheap product and owning a better drone than the client paying me to make the video.

If you do enough out of state filming where you'll be allowed to fly then it's a no brainer. Also, maybe opportunities will arise that otherwise wouldn't exist. As well as corporates, I've used a phantom 4 for long form news and collected footage for an artist that was shown in an exhibition, played on huge screens - cool experiences that happened because of the drone.
 
@norbro have you shot at RM or Jones beach? I live right next to Forest Park and as far as I know drones are legal there... @Sneakle I was looking at the Mavic Mini but no 24p was a deal killer to me... Mcbob, Mavic doesn't have a US support center?
 
They're not that expensive (depending on the model) and are a good bit of kit to have.

On the other hand, most decent models are made in China, and due to political developments it may soon become very difficult to get dependable support (not that it's very easy to begin with... my Mavic Air developed sudden violent left turns, and I cannot get them to respond to my submitted ticket for the life of me).

Our inspire 2 repair request was really fast but I can only imagine how poor the support would be for the mavic line. As well as valid requests, there would be countless beginners clogging up the system with completely avoidable questions. I'll probably get a mavic at some point but won't be surprised if there are issues. Sudden violent left turns doesn't sound good though!
 
@norbro have you shot at RM or Jones beach?

Hundreds of times over the last 10 years (including Montauk, Hamptons, Gilgo, Long Beach, etc), but never with a drone and rarely ever in the summer because it's too crowded. Usually fall/winter/spring when it's pretty much empty for random camera tests.

Depending on the beach, besides a fee you'll also need to live locally to enter.

JB and RM are open for everyone and $10/day unless you have a summer pass.
 
Yeah, I've shot at RM and Jones. Not a drone though. I was born in Manhattan but move to Suffolk county when I was young and then moved back to Queens...
 
When I first used a drone quite a few years back, think first phantom. Drones needed to be "flown". You really needed to get the flying skill part down first. I havent used drones for awhile simply because it's been easier to use a licensed pro for shooting commercial work. I flew a friends mavic 2 pro for a few minutes recently, and that thing is amazing. Let's you focus on the shots you want and the style rather than the pure flying part. Loved it.
 
Could you have legally flown a drone for your last few documentaries?

At the prosumer level, it sounds like owning a drone in NYC sucks. Dedicated drone specialists with clearance to fly, NYC is one of the best places on earth (I love those shots with a long lens looking straight down as it passes over the apex of a building, as seen in many trailers).

I'm finding it a tough sell to buy given your location, infrequent use (this may change) and rental prices, which are surely next to nothing?

Don't think for a second it will be a fun hobby. If you're under 95 years old you'll be bored before the end of your first flight. It's a tool just like a zoom lens. I'm sure some people find it relaxing, good for coordination, reasons to be outside etc. but that doesn't sound like a concern for you.

I held off on drones for a long time but had a project where I planned to bring someone in with a phantom 4. The client had a phantom 3 and was wondering why we couldn't use their drone. I killed two birds with one stone - not needing to pay someone for a fairly cheap product and owning a better drone than the client paying me to make the video.

If you do enough out of state filming where you'll be allowed to fly then it's a no brainer. Also, maybe opportunities will arise that otherwise wouldn't exist. As well as corporates, I've used a phantom 4 for long form news and collected footage for an artist that was shown in an exhibition, played on huge screens - cool experiences that happened because of the drone.

LOL I'm under 95, Rob ;)... Yes, the few projects that I could have used a drone I could have done so legally. They were not out of state but in different regions of the state where drone use is allowed... It would be nice if the Mavic Mini shot 24fps. A $400 drone gathering dust is less painful than an $800 one...
 
It would be nice if the Mavic Mini shot 24fps.

FWIW: Many productions/projects/individuals include 30p and 60p on a 24p timeline (in real-time).

Totally understand if it's the technical logistics aspect you're concerned about (such as the requirements of handing off your drone footage to the people whom are paying you for a certain specification), but visually...seriously, not many would notice a difference (especially with 30p) in the few shots that made the cut.

And ESPECIALLY slowed down.

IMO, 30p at 80% has a real-time feel but looks pretty dreamy.
 
I'm really looking forward to a Mavic Pro or similar getting ProRes or some legit high quality recording codec. Perhaps that's when I would enter the drone market and get one. The Inspire 2 is too much money and size for a regular DP to get if they're not planning to spend a lot of time learning and doing dedicated drone work, and the Mavic Pro's image is looking pretty good, but perhaps not quite there yet.
 
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LOL I'm under 95, Rob ;)... Yes, the few projects that I could have used a drone I could have done so legally. They were not out of state but in different regions of the state where drone use is allowed... It would be nice if the Mavic Mini shot 24fps. A $400 drone gathering dust is less painful than an $800 one...

Hah yeah I just meant if you were partly buying to have fun on the side you might be let down. I know non-film people who get sparks etc. thinking they'll use them regularly but never do.

IDK who pays for you to shoot documentaries but you could pitch a drone heavy shoot e.g. location as a character or someone running a remote marathon, unique use of aerials etc, whch can pay for your mavic air 2.
 
I actually do own a drone if you're under 95 and are just looking for cheap ($20) fun. Can be flown around the house and is actually rather fun to play with, though like many toys loses its flavor after awhile.


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https://www.walmart.com/ip/Vigilanti-Heli/306060372
 
I'm really looking forward to a Mavic Pro or similar getting ProRes or some legit high quality recording codec. Perhaps that's when I would enter the drone market and get one. The Inspire 2 is too much money and size for a regular DP to get if they're not planning to spend a lot of time learning and doing dedicated drone work, and the Mavic Pro's image is looking pretty good, but perhaps not quite there yet.

You're not wrong.

I waited quite long to get a drone and then entered with the first Mavic Air and now fly the Mavic 2 Pro. I've got the DJI Smart Controller now, which to me—apart from being pricey—also is.... wait for it... sort of a game changer. Mostly because of the bright screen.

Anything larger than a Mavic 2 Pro is auto eliminated for me due to size, more than prize. I enjoy flying my drone privately just as much (actually more) than I do shooting for some paid project. I also think that if you have a drone, you should fly at least semi often to stay fit and safe with it. I fly my drone just for the fun of flying it too, without capturing any footage.

As I mentioned in another thread: even the video footage from a Mavic 2 Pro doesn't really hold up 'as is' out of the camera. But if treated with some TLC and run through Resolve, it comes out more than usable. I wouldn't wait for a beefy codec. There is something to be said to shoot to those small, cheap cards. Photos need less work and can be stunning.

I'm sort of waiting to see what DJI brings to follow up on the Mavic 2 Pro, but I'd recommend buying a Mavic Air 2—if you're allowed to fly. If I could only fly every 6-12 months when away abroad or on vacation, I'm not so sure.

The experience of getting out, the joy of flying and the unique vantage point is worth the small cost.
 
I use my drone all the time. In fact with lockdown I've been using it more than my C500 MKII.

And I agree with Andree, treat the footage with care and you can get great results from the Mavic 2.

DJI_0342-Pano-2.jpg


Unfortunately, uploading pictures on here turns everything to mush so you'll just have to take my word for it LOL.
 
The mavic air 2 is looking really good to me. This is the one I am saving up for. Will be using it for fun projects in areas too difficult to hike into .
 
I have a Phantom 4 Pro V2 which paid for itself rather quickly.
Aside from extra batteries and the like, the first thing I added was the CrystalSky 7.85" Ultra Brightness monitor.
It's much easier on my old eyes in broad daylight.
 
I’ve debated getting the smart controller for my Mavic 2 Pro, because using most cell phones for screens is an exercise in futility, or at the least, frustration, during the day outside. I’ve also thought about the VR goggles... But it’s all basically for fun. I don’t fly it on paying jobs. My drone is registered with the FAA, but I’m not part 107 certified or insured to fly commercially.
 
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