The deliverable to your clients will be a package of aerial video and photos from the flight. This bundle will represent your company, your skill level, and your value, so deliver a quality product to every customer every time.
Standardizing your deliverable will be important so you can be consistent, and efficient in assembling it after you return from the flight site. My scenic package for real estate clients consists of a single HD video in .mp4 format running three to four minutes long with 15–20 ten-second scenes. Each scene transitions smoothly with a “blur” effect going directly into the slight movement of the bird. Hardly ever are the UAV and camera stationary with a static scene with nothing going on within the frame. Your movie cannot be boring even if what you are shooting is.
Aerial Video Storytelling
Just after the deal is made for you to shoot a location, look it up on Google Earth to begin visualizing how you are going to tell a story about what this place is like with the video you are going to make. Look at the entries and exits to and from the road. See what a first-time visitor would experience and highlight those views from the air. Note both the positives and the negatives of the site. When shooting a real estate project, plan to highlight entities such as ponds and lakes, ridges and hills, and all types of wildlife both domestic and free-roaming.
Shy away from large power line towers, petroleum pipelines, burn piles, trash heaps, and discarded, large items such as junk cars and dilapidated barns. The realtor has to disclose the existence of those eyesores, but you do not need to showcase them.
The larger and more infrastructure-rich the site is, the more you need to compile a structured flow to your video. Have an opening scene entering the property from the road at a higher altitude, going forward but lowering as you proceed through the gate. Work your way around the residence, showing the property boundaries by flying sideways just outside the external fence line with the camera pointed inside the target area.
Show those positive aspects in order of importance, saving the main residence for the final scenes. Each scene should use a different maneuver such as a sweep, then scan, then rise, then rotate, then forward, etc. Try to get some sort of a 45degree view from east, west, north, and south. Then mix in some overheads with the camera pitch at a 90-degree, straight down angle. Finish up with the main house or the primary object as the parting shot in reverse back away and up scene from 20 feet, rising up and fading out at 200-feet elevation, with 1,000 feet of distance away from your starting position.
Blend Music and Video
Your music can be an important component of your video. Know the client, so you do not have a hard rock song playing in the background for a long-time country music fan’s aerial of his family’s ranch. One option is to ask the customer what flavor of background melody he or she would prefer. Another option is to purchase some moderate, mellow songs from Pond5.com that feel laid back and relaxing. Whatever song you choose, make sure it is long enough to span the complete video. What you do not want is to have to repeat the same tune or have two different melodies. I try only to purchase songs that are four to six minutes long since I can always end them by fading out the soundtrack at the end of the video.
Video Titles and End Credits
Use the “Insert Text” function within the PowerDirector application to add a title to your video with at least the year, if not the full date and time. Something like “The Smith Estate — Fall 2015” will work. Make sure you fade the title in and out smoothly with no sudden appearance and removal. Avoid too many text inserts in the middle of your video, since that can be distracting with too many things to read.
That said, some clients may want pop-up captions explaining features of the property such as acreage, building specifications, and other aspects of what is being displayed. As the last scene fades away, insert your credits showing your FAA 333 Exemption number or your UAV license along with your website and phone number. This way, you get free advertising to the viewers who just saw the aerial video and are blown away.
Still Aerial Photographs
During the flight, you should have taken high-resolution shots between the video scenes. If necessary, Defish those large images and place them in a folder called “High-Resolution Aerial Photos.” My goal is to have at least 20 of these separately taken images from around each property. Alternatively, use the free VLC player program and take dozens of snapshots while playing the video you created. Look under the Tools/Preferences/ Video/Video Snapshots and create a folder called “Photos from Video.” Then play the complete aerial video while taking snapshots by clicking the small camera icon on the lower left every five seconds or so. Though these images are lower resolution than the photos shot directly from the Phantom, they are still clear enough for screensavers, social media, and digital picture frames. You will be surprised how many photos you may create while watching the aerial video, although your rate of photo creation will usually depend on the richness and action in the scene. Watch out for photos taken during the blurry transition of the scenes since that will look odd.
Make sure you have already purchased a bundle of low-cost 32GB USB drives so you can place your deliverables on them for clients. My client USBs contain the production HD aerial mp4 video and two photo folders of “High-Resolution Photos” and “Photos from Video.” I then place the USB drive into an envelope with the hardcopy invoice so I can get paid as soon as they see the video and are smiling from ear to ear.
Another method to distribute your aerial deliverables is to upload them to Dropbox.com and email the client a link. This is handy if the client is in a big rush or meeting in person is logistically difficult. I prefer a face-to-face meeting to show the final product. I also host the aerial videos on YouTube.com and Vimeo.com for two reasons: First, I can email video links to clients so they can, in turn, distribute their newly acquired video to their friends and family, which is great advertising for me. Second, I use those same videos in my marketing efforts unless the client explicitly requests it stay off the Internet. In those cases I explain that Google Earth already has images of their land on the web, so why not at least make it look good? They usually agree to let me share it after I explain it like that.
The Aerial Presentation
One of the reasons I strongly recommend presenting the final aerial product to your client’s face to face is that it must work right the first time. If you hand a client a USB drive and say, “Have at it,” something may go wrong with the playing of the video. The client could plug that drive into an old Windows XP computer that runs like junk due to malware and bad graphics. I do not want my high-quality aerial video to freeze, jump, and look bad due to a client’s outdated hardware and polluted software.
As a 35-year IT veteran, I see computer problems all the time, so I want to make sure the client does not think my video is bad when it is really his or her deficient computer. This can be a touchy situation, so what I do is take either my laptop or, sometimes, a full 40-inch flat screen LED TV with me for the presentation. With my own hardware, I know that the first time the client sees my aerial work, it will be flawless, visually and audibly.
The first impression is everything, and I want no technical difficulty to ruin that for my client. Only after he or she has seen how awesome the aerial video and photos are, will I plug the USB drive into his or her computer and replay it to see how it works. I have had to put in some extra time on my own dime working on clients’ PCs, Macs, and Smart TVs to get the video to play properly. Sometimes I’ll have clients only play it on the new 60-inch Samsung LED TV hanging on the wall rather than a PC, after I explain to them that the larger the screen the better the aerial looks.
Your Deliverable : Your Responsibility
Once you land the drone, the job does not end. As a commercial drone pilot selling photos and video, you are also an editor, composer, and a product presenter. Put in the effort to package and consistently deliver a high-quality product of production level HD videos and a stunning array of aerial photos to your client. Also, be ready to deliver them in a first impression mode, so the client is blown away by your unique talent and ability.
Large Print, High-Resolution Aerial Photos
HD videos and high-resolution photos in digital format are the two primary deliverables you will be offering as a commercial drone pilot. A third option for generating income is to provide large format high-resolution aerial photographs printed on 36 x 24-inch or larger photo paper from a local print shop, Walmart, or even your own plotter.
Framed Aerial Photo Having the ability to print a huge color aerial photo and then mount and frame it can be both profitable and a way to distribute more advertising of your service and product. Handing your client a USB drive with 100 photos is great and he or she will like it, but also delivering a framed three-by-two-foot aerial rendition of his or her ranch to hang on the wall at home that night will really knock his or her socks off.
Picking the right image for a suggestive sell You could choose the best high-resolution photo of the aerial project with the clearest picture, optimum lighting, and just the right angle. From there you will be taking the risk of the client not liking your rogue choice, but it is worth the chance. Alternatively, you can have it printed on a large format photo printer then have it mounted and framed very inexpensively.
Then you can simply surprise him or her with the finished product and request a decent price for it. I choose the best image of the aerial project and put it on a USB drive. I then take it to Walmart with a photography department that has a large format printer and put it into the self-serve photo machine.
A few hours later, I grab the $25 36 x 24-inch hardcopy photograph rolled up in a bag, then take it to my office to mount it on a same-sized self-adhesive foam board. After that sets for a day, I place the mounted photo in a cheap, flat, black plastic frame I also purchased from Walmart for $20.
The key technique here is to mount the photo onto the self-adhesive foam board rather than press it against a cardboard backing or utilize spray adhesive. The reason for this is to prevent an air bubbling problem weeks or even months down the line.
Dry mounting would be preferred, but it jacks up the cost a bit. I suggest removing any clear plastic or cheap glass in the frame and leave the matte photo exposed to avoid glare. My total investment when I do this is less than $50, and it takes maybe half an hour of effort. I then offer the ready-to-go photo for at least $100.
At least 80 percent of the time clients will purchase the additional framed hardcopy photograph, and all is good. For a step up, you can take it to your local Hobby Lobby or equivalent store, and have it dry mount the photo; there, you can pick out a nicer frame for the client. Just make sure you increase the price to cover your costs.