Drone footage with an ARRI Alexa Mini / RED camera
What are the options and things to note
Flying an ARRI Alexa Mini or RED camera underneath a drone is still the holy grail of Aerial Cinematography. Especially when this is combined with Anamorphic or other Cine lenses. To make this happen there are multiple drone options that can handle payloads up to 10 kilograms. This weight is the total sum of the gimbal, the camera, the lens, the batteries and the drone itself. Flying such a weight and valuable equipment requires a professional specialist with lots of technical knowledge. Together with a professional camera operator, they can guarantee safety and best drone shot possible.
On this page, you can read more about the High-end drone setup possibilities that we offer with Kiwi Aerial Shots. This refers to the gimbal, the camera, the lenses, the airtime and maximum speed of the drone and we will go over the options we offer the DOP. More specific information about our drones and related portfolio you can find on our ARRI Alexa page.
What setups are possible?
There are multiple options available regarding the gimbal and camera. At Kiwi Aerial Shots we mainly use the Gremsy H16 gimbal in combination with the bigger RED and Alexa setups. This gimbal is lightweight (2.2 kg) and is modified with d-tap connections for all additional gear needed to control the lens and camera. Having a lightweight follow focus like the Teradek RT-motion is recommended. In general, we recommend lenses that weight less than 3kg and not using a matte box as it has too much drag. For smaller setups, the Movi pro and Ronin MX are also options.
The best setup for the shoot
Choosing the best setup for a shoot is not as easy as one might think. Of course the DOP wants to fly the same setup as he or she is using on the ground but unfortunately this is not always possible. This often has to do with the size of the setup that is used on the ground. The bigger the setup, the more resistance it generates underneath a drone which at a certain level will result in vibrations that we don’t want. The speed of the drone and the shot is one of the main things that has to be taken into account when choosing the right setup. When getting up to speeds of 70kmph / 45mph the setup can’t be that big. Of course, there is always the option to go for a bigger drone that can lift weights up to 50kg. This can go up to the biggest drone out there, a helicopter. More information about our Cineflex and Shotover system options you can read on our Kiwi helicopter page.
Airtime and weight
The Airtime we mention is the airtime the drone has with one battery set. The length is highly dependable of the total weight of the drone and so of the setup that is chosen. For the setup that we use the average airtime varies between 7 to 15 minutes. Of course, we always bring multiple battery sets and charge the empty ones during the day so we can fly all day long.
Two commenly used setups and corresponding airtime:
- Gremsy H16 + Alexa mini + 2kg lens = 7KG total = 9 min. of airtime
- Ronin MX + RED Scarlet-W + 1 kg lens = 5,2KG total = 14 min. of airtime.
These calculations are measured on sea level in temperatures above 15 degrees Celsius. Flying in the mountains for example thus requires calculation of the maximum payload and flight time.
The video downlink of the drone is of great importance for controlling the camera and having a playback on the monitors. We have 2 different systems that we use depending on the gimbal and setup used. We use the Lightbridge 2 system that can be monitored at tablets or via an HDMI output on an external screen. This system provides a 2km+ range in most situations. The other system is the Animon Connex that provides a high quality full-hd downlink. Downside is the range (500-1000m) and the extra weight added to the system.
Controling the camera
Setting up the right camera settings in general, is something we do while we are on the ground. Changing settings while in flight takes time and flight time is limited. Depending on the camera we can control the shutter for start-stop.
Where can these drones be used?
Flying our bigger drones requires some permissions and certificates for the drone, pilot and operator. We are fully certified in Holland and can fly in most European country’s. It’s also possible to operate overseas and ask for permissions at the local authorities. Many counties will allow us to fly as the Netherlands is one of the most regulated countries regarding drones.
Having bigger drones on set requires a team that is not only technical but also has a lot of expertise within the film business. We have worked within many productions for over the last 8 years and have participated in many great and weird projects. Next to that we always try to push the boundaries and develop all sorts of things in-house to help our clients achieving their shots.