Tracking Your Subject
Yeah, one thing that you want to consider whenever you're tracking, especially if your subject is, and usually when you're tracking a live object, and so you just have to think about safety and so when we first started working with surfers on this, at first, and throughout the day I did continue to keep plenty of myself or the drone and the surfer, but you just wanna be careful, that you wanna give yourself enough padding that they're not gonna run into you and that sort of thing, especially when you have something as dynamic as surfing is when they could start out kind of slow and then they'd ramp up really fast. On this particular day, Matt, our first surfer that we were filming was saying, he's like, "Sorry, guys. "The surfing conditions aren't quite as big "as what they usually are here," so things were in the beginning kind of moving a little slower, but there was a couple times during the day where I was glad that I was in Sport Mode because I saw, it is, we'll see in the edit se...
ction, later on I got to play around with some more tracking shots, but there was one scene where the surfer was getting right close to me and I was like, "All right, let's kick it back," and so you just wanna have a good buffer. But again, you could track from any which direction. In this case, I felt like the shot that I really wanted to nail was that one where we see the front of the surfer and we see the front of the wave there. So tracking from behind, to me, felt like less, there's less dimensionality to the shot and so yeah, let's go ahead and take a look at that. When you're filming a surfer, surfer's move around a lot. So tracking is gonna be maybe one of the key moves you try and get right. For me this morning, I wish I could spend the whole morning just doing tracking because that is kind of like the quintessential surf shot. You wanna maybe frame out the surfer waiting for that perfect wave and just as he gets a wave, kind of move along with him. And as your moving along with him, some of those shots can dynamically turn into orbits. Some of them can dynamically turn into reveals, but your overall goal, at least my overall goal this morning, especially to demonstrate to you guys, was to try to get a good tracking shot. So I remember we had one shot where I was waiting for Matt, our surfer, to catch a wave. He happened to get one. I happened to get lucky and I was ready, I was in the right spot, and then I just moved forward. I was in front of him, maybe opposite, to the side a little bit, but mainly in front. And so I just backed up and then as I backed up, I orbited around to his right, so it was kind of a combination of those two moves, both a tracking and a orbit. Now with tracking, you can decide to do tracking from the front of the subject, so in my case, I was actually going backwards with the drone. I was flying this, the Phantom 4 right here and so this guy right here, since it has the landing gear always down, it always films in front. This is the copter front. And so for me to film the front of Matt surfing, I had to fly backwards and that's why learning how to fly backwards is so important is because a lot of times, that's what you'll be doing, is tracking backwards. And so what I had to do as I was in front of him, I just tracked backwards and then off to the side and that was kind of combination move. Two moves in one, a tracking and an orbit. So when you're thinking about shooting for the edit that you're gonna wanna have down the road when you wanna share your session is the more varying types of shots, the better, so if you do a little bit from the front, do a little starting from the side, do a little bit starting from behind, and then when you go to edit, you'll have sort of a more dynamic footage to cut together and have lots of different shots to choose from and it keeps you from getting into a rut of doing the same thing all day long. Okay, so now let's go ahead and take a look at what we just did with tracking. The way that I've got the exposure, I'm at 120th of a second. That's double the frame rate. We're shooting at 60P and it's a really high contrast shot, so you're either gonna clip the blacks or you're gonna clip the whites, so you're just gonna have to find a good average that you want. The highlights that all right clipping, there's really no detail on the sky there anyway, so it'll be fine. The bummer on when you put the highlights is if there's detail that's actually in the sky. It makes it really obvious, but if it just gradually gets up to a nice, like, cliff highlight where there's no detail, you can kinda, I don't know. Cinematographers hate clipped highlights (laughs). I know I do. But with such a high contrast scene, we've got super dark blacks and super bright whites. You're just gonna pull an average. So right now, I'm just getting in position, trying to not get hit by any waves (laughs). And I think we've got an opportunity right here. We're gonna take it back. That is awesome (laughs)! What happened there is I happened to be in the right spot. He happened to get a good wave. So I just tracked him back. At first, I just kinda started out in front of him and then I just came off to the left, or the right of his right, and it just worked out. It looked pretty smooth. This is a pretty wide-angle lens, so it's pretty forgiving. We're not getting super close on him, but sometimes it's better to have a safer shot than to risk losing the shot because you're too close. So right now, I just kinda wanna get some shots of him just going back out to find a wave. Trying to judge your altitude is tricky. You can trust the screen, but I'm such a old school line of sight kinda pilot that I like to see blue sky between my drone and whatever, but right now I'm looking down, so all I see is my drone and water, if that makes sense. So it's trusting your gear, it's trusting your experience, I guess. So, couple things on that. Yeah. That's the combination move I was mentioning where it turned into sort of a reveal there, Santa Cruz. And actually, that was, at the end of that shot was about 400 feet. It seems like it's higher than that, doesn't it? But with such a wide-angle lens, I think the, I can remember now with the Phantom. I think that's around a 20 mil wide lens. It's pretty wide. So 400 feet, it almost feels like you're at 1,000 feet. Another thing too that if I was to do it over again, it really was tricky where we were 'cause there was no beach to get down on the same level as the water, so that's one thing that you'll find when you're getting set up. Like, we talked a little bit before or in this section on scouting is where you position yourself, just the same as where you position yourself in terms of getting out of the shot, it's also good to position yourself in a place where you get good line of sight because if I was down on the level of the waves, I wouldn't have been second guessing my altitude so much, but I was looking down and there was no, it was just like, you see the drone and then you just see water, and so you're looking at the screen through the first person view. I was constantly tilting up and going okay. And there I was plenty, it was plenty high, but as the day progressed, I kept getting a little bit more and more brave and then I would get to the point where I was like, "Gosh, I feel like I'm getting "so close to the waves," but I'm sure if I was like, down at water's level I'd think that, I would have noticed oh gosh, I got another 10 feet. The thing about waves though is that they all vary in height and I was actually like, when I was doing some prep for the shot, I was looking at some drone footage of people shooting to the surf and there's quite a few videos on YouTube and the like of people getting hit by waves and then it showing fish. You know (laughs)? (audience laughs) In the water, so.
My question is, you're talking about height to your surfer. How close do you actual dare to get to the actually surfer from a distance from a drone? What's a safe distance?
I don't know, I'd say at minimum, you'd want to be say, 25 feet, but that's actually pretty close. I was much further than that and I think that that should only come when you're that much more coordinated. Those first shots are our first or second shots of the day. It takes me like, it probably takes me like, a good hour, especially with tracking shots, skiers, in this case, surfers, to just get the rhythm of it. You had a question there?
I was just wondering. So the surfer, the skier, are they considered participants of flying over them?
Yeah, as far as I understand with the flying commercially, the 107, yeah, they're a non-participant in terms of the crew. Like, the small, the flying crew. Now again, that's something that it will be interesting to see. Generally, you just can't fly over your subject. That's something that you can apply for a waiver if you're a commercial operator.
If there had been 10 surfers right there in the waves trying to catch it, you woulda had to change where you were flying.
Yeah, and that's another thing too, the more there are, the less aggressive you can be to get close to the shot. So as you'll see in the upcoming videos, there was like, bird's eye shots and stuff like that. I was doing my best to not ever just be hovering right on top of our subject. Again, this is something. We have aircraft fly. And my own personal thing on this is like, we have aircraft flying over our heads all day long and you're just walking down the city and you see a big jumbo jet overhead. I mean, it's a pretty rare occasion that you would actually have an issue where something like that would happen where you have a drone just fall out of the sky on somebody's head, but it is pretty well documented. It does happen. We hear about it in the news. So it is something to be very considerate of as a hobbyist, but of course, it's a role with the Commercial 107. Without a waiver, you're not to fly over people, so.