If you’ve only come for the videos, scroll down! :)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a talk by Dave Black at August’s Southend Raspberry Jam. Though I had seen many of Dave Black’s aerial videos of Southend and Essex that have been enthusiastically passed around on Facebook and Twitter over the months, receiving huge local virality on the internet, I never really fully appreciated the amount of work that goes into filming and producing a single 5 minute video. The level of thought that goes into each one is astounding.

Dave Black Quadcopter Talk

What is aerial videography and who is Dave Black?

Aerial videography is exactly what it sounds like. It’s capturing videos from the air or above ground, offering a “birds eye view” of the scene below. Equipped with an awesome (if not somewhat intimidating!) range of technology, Dave Black is able to take some breathtaking photos and videos of Southend from the sky.

How does Dave do it?

A lot of planning goes into creating a single video. Dave Black has to be the pilot, the cameraman, the director, the safety officer and more! So the amount of detail, planning and organisation that goes into each one is really something incredible.

Dave Black can even control the quadcopter’s flight path via Google Earth and fly the quadcopter through various predetermined longitude/latitude/elevation geographical coordinates, so that he can focus on controlling the camera angles to capture that perfect shot. He uses a Gimbal to stabilise the camera so that the camera doesn’t shake or tilt during rough turbulence; a noticeable occurrence in some of Dave’s earlier videos before he acquired the Gimbal, he pointed out.

Dave can also export his flight paths to Google Earth in 3D for proof of his movements so that, should he need to prove to the CAA where he flew and at what time, he is able to demonstrate his flight movements accurately. Dave Black has to perform a risk assessment each time that he wants to fly his quadcopter to shoot a video. He also logs all of his flights, often communicating with Southend Aiport when he has to.

To comply with the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), he has to maintain certain heights and distances from people and buildings at all times. You can actually bump into quite a few legal troubles if you’re unaware of the legalities regarding the CAA’s strict rules and regulations on where and when you can fly. Dave Black is fully qualified and has CAA approval to fly and perform commercial aerial work under his professional services “Blackwing Aerial Services“.

The CAA also requires spacial awareness at all times, so if Dave Black wants to use video-receiving equipment, such as a screen or video-receiving goggles (allows for total immersion, kind of like the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset!), then he will need a separate pilot in control.

The CAA states that the unmanned aircraft has to be within 400ft above and 500ft radius of the pilot at all times. The quadcopter also has to be visible, which means no flying in the dark! Due to the numerous risks of operating a quadcopter or drone for aerial videography, drone insurance is becoming increasingly popular.

Of course all of the precautions, before and whilst in flight, is only the first step of producing a beautiful aerial video of Southend. Once he has captured all of the footage he needs for his video, he then has to edit the footage too! It certainly takes not only a mechanical and analytical mind to produce these videos, but a creative one too!

What does Dave Black fly?

Phantom Quadcopter and Go Pro

Dave Black flies a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter with Zenmuse H3-3D Gimbal and GoPro Hero3 Black Edition camera.

The DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter allows for up to 15 minutes flying at a time before the battery runs out, so ensuring that the quadcopter has a full battery life before each operation is crucial. Otherwise the quadcopter could drop like a brick from the sky, and could potentially be life-threatening from the great heights that Dave Black flies his quadcopter. Battery life is just one of the many things that Dave Black has to check and monitor before each flight. He can’t afford to take any chances.

The limitations of how long his quadcopter can spend up in the air at a time means that each shot has to be well thought out and planned ahead of time to make sure that he doesn’t waste any time in the air! That’s where being a good director comes in.

“Southend Half Marathon 2014” aerial video:

Video of the Southend Half Marathon for Havens Hospices on 8th June 2014.

“Gunners Park on a Sunny Spring Day” aerial video:

A beautiful tour of Gunners Park on a sunny Spring day with the quadcopter on autopilot.

“Southend Pier – The longest pleasure pier in the world” aerial video:

Dave Black’s quadcopter pays a visit to Southend Pier.

“Shoebury Common Beach at Sunset” aerial video:

A beautiful view of Shoebury Common Beach during sunset – February 2014.

“‘Attack pilot’s eye view’ of Gunners Park, Shoeburyness” aerial video:

A hilarious fly around Gunners Park, Shoebury, with “attack pilot” editing. Certainly not something you see everyday!

For more videos by Dave Black, you can visit Dave’s website!

If you’re interested in Dave’s professional aerial services, you contact him via Blackwing Aerial Services!