You can’t deny the popularity of using drones to capture stunning photos and compelling videos. The quality, affordability, and ease of use has come a long way in a very short time and customers love it. If you’re considering adding a drone to your marketing toolbox then read on before making a purchasing decision.
When I purchased my first drone back in 2011 (a Cinestar) you had to assemble it yourself (it took 8+ hours), it didn’t have GPS tracking (more difficult to fly), and it cost over $3,000 – before you even added a camera! It was certainly only a tool available to those builders with a big enough budget (and time) to make it work. I’ve flown 3 different kinds of drones since then, and I’d like to share with you a starter option, a great semi-professional option, and what I consider to be the top of the line option available today.
“I’ve Never Flown A Drone Before”
If you’re a rookie to all this, and you don’t have a history of playing video games then I highly recommend starting with a UDI Discovery HD. The video and photo quality will probably not be anything you’ll want to use in your marketing campaign – but it is a fantastic low cost drone to get your feet wet with since it is under $100.
You’re likely to crash a few times while you learn how to control them. Not because they are necessarily difficult to control, but because you’ll be nervous and learning something new at the same time. The camera while not great will also help you practice framing the shot you want so you gain finer control.
All Around Best Value For Semi-Pros
The DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ is an all around screaming value. At just over $1,000 for the base kit you get a full HD camera that takes crisp video and still shots, the ability to watch what the camera is filming live on your iPhone or iPad, a stable GPS based flight based system, and so much more. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to almost anyone.
This truly is a workhorse drone that will give you a huge bang for your buck. Even when crashed, everything but the camera/gimble system can be easily repaired or replaced for minimal cost ($15+ for a set of 4 replacement blades). The only downside is that the controls can be a little touchy at times – especially when rotating, and shooting in higher winds can cause some wobble of the lens. However, with some practice and good weather you’ll be shooting like a pro in no time.
Here’s a quick sample shot I took from a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+:
A Flying Porche with a 4K Camera
DJI’s latest release – the Inspire 1 – is a dream machine, but it will cost you over $3,000 to get started after tax, shipping, and picking a spare battery. It’s no toy. You have to raise and lower landing gear, it can go up to 1.2 miles high, and it is significantly larger than the Phantom 2, and requires more prep time before and after flight.
Any extra prep work is quickly forgotten when you get the Inspire 1 up into the air. It flies effortlessly, is incredibly stable even in high winds, and the controls are razor precise without feeling touchy. The 4K video is also a dream when editing the video later as the extra resolution means you can make shots even smoother by zooming in a bit. You’ll lose the 4K (and “settle” for full HD), but I don’t think you’ll get a smoother shot from a drone for under $10,000. You can also grab still shots right from the video that look like they came from a digital SLR.
DJI is also working on the ability to remove the 4K camera and allow users to record silky smooth hand-held video (this could become your one tool to get both exterior and interior shots). No release date is set for this yet though.
Here’s a sample video shot from my very first flight with the Inspire 1:
Finally, let’s quickly discuss the strategy for using drone footage in your marketing efforts:
- Upcoming communities (you can even overlay the plat map on top)
- Weekly social media posts – quick 60 second shots you grab while in the field with minimal or no editing
- Streetscape shots in established communities
- Exterior elevations
- Local amenities in the community (pool, clubhouse, walking trails, etc)
- Area amenities (schools, parks, shopping centers, etc)
- “Drive through” – point the camera at the center of the road and “drive” down the street
- Use a tilt shift effect in editing software to give a feeling of “Mr. Rodgers Neighboorhood”
- Take amazing group shots of your company staff members
- Have some fun with it!
If you don’t have the ability to edit video yourself don’t be afraid to take still shots instead of video. They often have a similar impact, but will be less time intensive for you or your team to edit and post – or mix into other video footage you have.
Always remember to put safety first and follow any local regulations of where you can and cannot fly.