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Can You Shoot Interior Real Estate Interior Video with a Drone?

Published: 07/09/2017

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Russell in Oregon asks:

I've been looking at the new DJI Spark drone for shooting interior videos. These drones are almost "micro size" with the 2-axis gimbal and because you are shooting inside, I don't believe there is any certification required from the FAA. I'm wondering if anybody else is considering this or currently shooting video inside with a drone?

I've thought about this too. I've noticed that some people shooting drone video like moving through the front door and moving around over furniture. Here is an example from about 3 years ago so it's not done with a DJI Spark.

Sure, you don't have to register with FAA to operate a drone inside a home but it would be hard to explain to clients why you are not setup to shoot the usual drone views from outside. Certainly, if you are flying around in someone's home you are going to want to have drone insurance.

The example above illustrates some things to consider when trying to shoot a walkthrough video with a drone:

  1. Some drone cameras have noticeable barrel distortion.
  2. When using a drone, it may be hard to move slow enough.
  3. I think it would be very difficult to create a nice smooth walk-through.

For all these reasons, if you are going to shoot interior video, I think you are much better off shooting with a quality video DSLR or mirrorless camera and gimbal.

Have any readers out there tried shooting interiors with a drone?

Larry Lohrman

10 comments on “Can You Shoot Interior Real Estate Interior Video with a Drone?”

  1. My first drone, 2 years ago, a Yuneec Typhoon Q 5000 4k came with a detachable camera and gimbal, attaches to a hand held device, very ingenious, similar to the DJI Osmos. I tried using that gimbal device on a slider for smooth interior video. Turns out the low light performance wasn't up to par. It works ok for exterior walk around or drive around, but not indoors. I ended up using a Sony A7SII for interior video with a series of sliders, crane, dolly, etc. The dynamic range is incredible.

  2. I'd be very nervous using a drone indoors. There is just too much stuff to bang into and damage if you aren't an exceptionally good pilot with a very well behaved aircraft. The family portrait may not be the work of a master painter, but damaging it and having to cover the cost of getting a new one from the photographer that made it could be a chuck of change depending on their markup.

    I find drone footage characteristically rather jerky. There is a big trade off between precise and quick control and nice smooth flying. All of the footage I have seen from DJI craft tends towards quick stops and starts. It might be much simpler to use a Steadicam-like device or other stabilized camera platform and walk though using feet. If you are doing jobs with higher than average production requirements, you are likely going to be using jibs, cranes, sliders and dollies like Wade mentions. The big question is whether the drone is going to net you faster, more efficient workflow so you are earning more per hour or reducing the time you need on site. A unique approach to a style that sets you apart from your competition is good, but it's more important that you can compete on time required on site and cost to the client in many markets.

    I'm a biased still photographer, but I do work in the TV and movie industry too so I'm not a stranger to moving pictures. My bias has me placing more value on still photos for RE marketing with less emphasis on video as an important tool, at least for my local market. I know that is some areas, agent's have to have it all to get listings.

  3. I once read a story about a guy who took the drone into an expensive house and hit a 28,000 pitchure on the wall and cut it up bad then the drone crashed to the floor cutting the wood railing on the stairs. A very expensive shoot. I purchased a tripod dolly for about 50 bucks. It's not like a 5000 rig but it gets the job done.

  4. I've done this plenty of times. No you do not fly the drone inside the house, but you just carry it around while filming video. Is it possible, absolutely it is! But like Wade said the low light performance is pretty abysmal. If the place is lit up it works pretty well. You can get vertical pans, slides, horizontal pans quite easily. After the pricing on the gimbals came down significantly though I just opted for one of those. I think they're in the $500-600 range now.

  5. I believe the camera on Phantom 4 & 4 Pro may be the same as used on some the DJI Osmo family. I have seen some very acceptable video of interiors and exteriors with one of the Osmos. GoPro's Karma drone (whatever you think of them) has a detachable gimbal that sticks out of the front of the drone and can be inserted into the Karma Grip that supply power and some camera controls. So it would provide a seamless visual look and feel. Both can be put on a pole or your mono-pod for getting the camera higher or doing an effective up or down pan. I am using my GoPro5 Black for what I call "Economy" video that is receiving a good reception since I can shoot it fast and offer a more modest pricing but I don't use the Karma drone. No bells and whistles of higher end video but affordable to those who don't want to pay the higher cost for the bells and whistles.

    But to be more specific to the question. No need to fly the drone through the house although I have seen some very impressive interior flying. Just carry it. I have also seen hand grips for sale on line that make holding the drone to make easier to do. The question of video quality from these smaller cameras and their low light quality is something else. But if the higher noise issue becomes an issue, you can always use the Noise Reducer Plug In from Neat. Certainly improves the salt and pepper grain effect and seems to keep most of the detail. If you need to sharpen up the detail you can always us the Sharpen Effects plug in from My FCP Effects.

  6. I've produced video with the Phantom 3 Pro by carrying it through the house. Video is Meh. I replaced it with an Osmo and video still Meh but good enough for my price point. I build racing drones of all sizes and I couldn't imagine flying through someone's house to produce video. If you aren't going to get the Part 107, then don't waste your money on a drone for home video. Get a gimbal for your phone or something similar to the Osmo.

  7. Personally I'd never fly a drone inside someones expensive house but have hand-carried my drone around the exterior to get a few handheld gimbal style of shots such as approaching the front door. Handheld gimbals such as the Karma and Osmo are pretty affordable options now.

  8. The FAA UAS rules state that you cannot fly indoors. You could apply for a waiver, but you would have to define how you will fly the drone safely in a particular environment. It might be easy to get a waiver to fly in open environments such as a warehouse or arena, but will probably be difficult for flying in homes.

  9. I'm new to RE Photography, but getting into it full on, including Drone-based photography and videography. There are a lot of challenges, including a requirement to have an FAA Part 107 Certificate to do it legally (for commercial purposes). I'm pretty good flying it and taking images and videos, and the camera on the one I fly (DJI Phantom 4 Pro) is an extremely good one (20mp, 1" Sony sensor) and not cheap (>$1500 with appropriate accessories like extra batteries, ND lens filters, etc.). As such, I wanted to get some use if possible as a handheld 3-axis gimballed camera. I actually made a handheld jig out of PVC that hooks into the legs of the drone, holds the controller and iPad screen and lets me do smooth walkthroughs with ease, similar to many of the handheld camera gimbals on the market. The DJI Mavic has an off-the-shelf heldheld bracket called the Katana, but it's camera isn't as good, especially in low-light (12mp and 1/2" sensor). As a relative newby to RE photography/videography, my learning curve is still steep, considering things like learning lighting, DSLR techniques and video editing, but a degree in graphic design has been quite useful.

  10. We fly a DJI Spark nearly every day for real estate photography. We love it and it has produced great images for our clients. However, we would never consider flying it inside of a client's home. From time-to-time, it seems to get a mind of it's own. When this happens, there's a feeling a panic and the ending is not always a happy one. If this would happen inside a home, the damage could be devastating. That being said, we did recently fly it inside a large "wedding venue" facility to capture video and photos to promote the venue. It came off without a hitch. However, there was much less at risk inside this facility. And, I must say we were relieved when it was over!

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