So just about every video you see now has drone footage.

Are we over using this new device just for the sake of it?

What about Cranes, Jibs… Grips!

So what is this type of shot (high and wide) used for traditionally in film making,

Well let’s look at film basics;

Firstly you want to show your audiences where they are with an establishing shot, high and wide of the location that the scene is about take place in.

More often then not a camera would be a crane with a hothead (Hothead controls pan and tilt).

So we see a high wide shot of a small town as the crane moves down we use the hothead to pan and tilt the camera to bring us into say a loose mid shot as a car pulls in and two actors get out.

What is involved in this set up…

 A Grip and at least one assistant to assemble the crane and wheel into place as directed by the DOP.

A hothead operator and a camera assistant to rig the camera to the crane.

A video split op to rig the cables to a monitor.

And lets not for get the 1st AC who would rig a wireless (or cabled) focus assist to the set up.

We are talking about 6 crewmembers and at least 2 hours to be ready to shoot.

Lets bring in a drone.

1 x drone operator who already has a wireless video signal for monitoring so 1 x BNC cable from the drone op to the directors monitor and you’re away.

Set up time ½ hour – 1 x crewmember.

Ok you say this works, less $$ out of the budget, less crew, win, win.

But what do we loose? Depth of field – perhaps but is that an issue for this type of shot.

What do we gain? Flexibility and movement, higher wider shots, all in one shots.

So lets look at the same shot with the use of a drone;

The drone is hovering high and wide establishing a small town as we fly the drone down and in, our car pulls into shot and the two actors get out of the car, with the crane set up our shot finishes there, with the drone the possibilities are nearly endless… we can follow the actors as they leave the car and walk up the path to a house.

We can do this from behind and follow or we can fly around the front and lead them up to the house all in one shot, hang on did we just get rid of the Steady cam guy and or the Grips with the camera on a dolly!

There are endless uses for the drone, which have simplified filmmaking.

One instance that we could have used a drone is in a TVC we shot for a Victa campaign. Have a look and then we can discuss…

We shot this on a RED camera at 6k highest available at the time on a 14mm lens.

The camera was on top of a ladder pod on a dolly extender arm so we could position the camera away from the ladder and give us the feel the we were overhead looking down.

When you’re at that BBQ and we start chatting about the ridiculous cost of private school fees not to mention Mitsy’s Jazz Ballet classes it inevitably comes around to that thorny topic that gives everyone gastric reflux. How do we increase our success rate when chasing new leads that could ultimately become new business? Every industry is different, so I can only comment on the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the tendering process in the advertising industry.

The best way to attract new business is just after shooting a successful high profile campaign. This gives you an ‘in’ because it’s fresh in many people’s minds.

 But I digress, let’s go back to the BBQ. One question they all want to ask is for such a high profile brand who did we know in the organization to get such a big job in the first place?

The answer is simply we didn’t know anyone. Many big brands quite simply abrogate their responsibilities and get their advertising agency who they think is in a better position to take over the tender process for them when finding a production company to shoot their next campaign.

The agency loves telling the client that they have invited 4 of the top Production Companies to pitch on their business. Nothing like some evidence of industry. Each of the companies come in to be briefed and the times are staggered a bit like a psychiatrists office so no one knows who else is involved with the pitch.

Each company then goes away and produces a treatment that is advertising speak for creating a tender document. Notice how the word treatment has medical connotations to it. The health of your brand depends on our treatment of your brilliant idea that is the blueprint to winning a pitch. Always flatter the client for their bold choice of creative. Even though when it comes time to actually implement the campaign as was written they get cold feet and settle for that feel good campaign, you know the one with the gorgeous border collie pup takes the toilet paper in its mouth runs in slow motion while the owner sits helplessly on the toilet. Meanwhile the puppy entangles itself in that soft and luxurious toilet paper. I mean these this TVC would make me want to cry and defecate at the same time.

With 4 production companies going hammer and tongs to win a job that is almost always under budgeted it still feels like feeding time at the zoo. The post rationalization is that we’ll put a little money into the production because ultimately it will look good on the reel.

But the really annoying thing is that the agency and client have been sitting on this brief for nearly 6 months and we get 2 days to come out with a brilliant document which without any legitimate proof each director will use every superlative known to mankind to convince you that their way is the right way.

The tendering process in the advertising industry sits somewhere between hosting a murder and a game of football. Everyone knows the rules yet along the way there are some baffling decisions by the umpire.

It’s only when the executive producer assures each production company they are all playing on a level playing field that sets off a wave of panic among the protagonists who then proceeds to bombard the executive producer with inane questions about the soundtrack and the final mix. Desperate to win brownie points our producer blurts out we can save money by using this Russian street casting agent who has worked out a way to charge featured extras the same rate as ordinary extras and have as many babies on set without having to have a nurse on set.

 By the last day of pitching everyone is convinced that they’re the favorites to win the job. Everything is a sign from the way tea leaves appears to form a dollar sign at the bottom of the tea cup to some subtle hints from the agency producer about celebratory drinks at Le Cirque.

Judgement day. The phone rings. Everyone just stares at it before the production assistant answers the call and hands the phone, which is now on loudspeaker. They drop the bombshell we didn’t get the job.  We’re our now numb and listen politely as they reel off the reasons why we didn’t get the gig. The executive producer said that 3 of the 4 treatments were bang on brief, and anyone of them would have created visually stunning campaign. We then ask who got the job and to rub salt into the wounds we’d have to find out like everyone else on lead story of the many industry websites tomorrow morning.

But suffice to say the winning team’s approach was so wildly different it was barely on brief. That’s because they awarded it to an inexperienced producer/director team straight out of film school. The agency claims that they were so inappropriate it would generate so much outrage in and out of the industry that it will become a free publicity machine that will generate headlines and editorial for months to come (at no cost to the client) eventually out spending the campaigns actual media budget which could be in the millions

Can you share with us any pitches from the past where you were the front-runners yet still managed to lose the un-losable pitch?

It’s been a manic September/ October for us; constantly pitching and shooting everything from TVCs to corporate content.

The funny thing is, we all strive for the sexier bigger budget TVCs but every now and again a small corporate job with a microscopic budget comes along and reminds me why I got into film-making in the first place.

We’re talking about a 2 man crew, small lighting kit, 2 cameras, one for the action, the other for B-Roll, a gimbal, a slider and sticks. It was the very definition of guerilla film-making. Robert Rodriguez would have felt right at home.

I directed and camera assisted for Rob. Rob, lord of the multi-taskers, got into character very easily as he played Producer, DOP on two cameras, grip, gaffer and still managed to also do sound. And with no money for the obligatory drone shot we improvised by using a forklift and a cage attached to a pellet to hoist Rob in the air to capture the money shot.

We had the perverse honour of capturing the very last Victa Mower coming off the assembly line at their now obsolete, Moorebank facility. Like many good narratives there has to be a little redemption at the end. And yes in few weeks time we’ve been invited to shoot the very first Victa coming off the assembly line at their new plant in Hemps Creek. Ah, the circle of life!


And to top it off we were only informed of the shoot the day before whilst on another shoot. So, yes there was plenty of adrenaline going on as well as us being forced to wing it at the shoot without a recce. Sometimes we forget what it’s like to make decisions on the run. It becomes an exhilarating experience and can emancipate you as a filmmaker.

However with no time for playback on the day we just had to wait, like the good old analogue days to see the rushes the next day.

This week’s question of the week is:

When was the last time you got your grass cut…with a Victa mower of course?



It’s first thing in the morning and I’ve just turned on my computer with coffee in hand and the 1st email is from DJI informing me of their newest gimbal, the, Ronin S… Hmmm looks interesting let’s take a look…

As we know gimbals over the past 5 years have become a main player in the cinematography world, just about ever set you turn up will have one in play. They come in all sizes and from several companies.

DJI in my book has become one of leaders in this Technology and the Ronin S has really come in with a bang for your buck Just over $1000.00. Designed in a single-handed form factor for DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

The detachable, modular design of the Ronin-S makes it easy to fit inside a backpack on your travels and operating the Ronin-S is easy and intuitive to setup with Auto Tune directly on the gimbal for optimal torque control. Powerful, high torque motors actively stabilize your shot when mounted to moving platforms at speeds of up to 75 kph. Wow!

Focus better on your subject with the easy-to-control Focus Wheel. When a compatible camera system connects to the Ronin-S, you can pull focus via the included cable. An optional external motor can also be added, bringing broader compatibility to all lens types while enhancing precision control.

DJI Ronin S

The Ronin-S’s innovative framework elevates camera payload above the roll axis, making the camera’s built-in display obstruction free and always in your line of sight. In addition to providing an unobstructed view, the angled roll motor allows for more space to balance bulkier setups.

Well yes I went out bought one, downloaded the app and put my DSLR camera on and away I went, yep that easy… And glad I bought mine when I did there is now a worldwide shortage and the Ronin S is in high demand so check your local stores…

Check it out here,