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Drone filming in 360 video for a Fulldome VR360 film on the Reserve Starry Sky International

Montagnes autour du Hameau d'Illion(Parc National du Mercantour), France

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A look back at one of the most beautiful missions of the year 2023, with this dense, atypical filming and in the heart of sublime and preserved nature, around Mercantour, flying over the most fabulous landscapes of the Alpes-Maritimes in southern France!

We therefore spent three busy days in August 2023 in the mountains and gorges of the Mercantour National Park to capture with our DJI M200 drone the aerial images in 360 video necessary for the director of the short film that Sébastien Gauthier (Canada) is making for the valorization of the International Dark Sky Reserve (RICE).

Aerial drone view of Point Sublime in the Gorges du Daluis, on the edge of the Mercantour National Park, France © Drone-Pictures

 

There were numerous drone filming locations, and many kilometers were covered, from dawn to sunset. Let us list the main ones: Calern Plateau – Villages of Sigale and Beuil – Gorges du Cians – Gorges du Daluis and Point Sublime.

It was an exhilarating experience and a technical challenge. But let’s start at the beginning!

 

Drones and Insta360 Camera during initial tests in Puyloubier

 

One fine day in May 2023, Drone-Pictures was contacted by the internationally recognized director in the field of 360° films: Sébastien Gauthier, lwinner of several awards, notably for his film One Sky.

M200 drone in flight with Insta360 Pro2

 

 

Honored to be chosen, Sami Sarkis was first of all happy to put his knowledge of drones and lightweight 360 cameras at the service of Sébastien.

Initially, the Canadian wanted the maximum resolution, namely 8K from our 6-Eyes Sphere, ie the Insta360 Pro2 camera embedable under our Dji M200 drone which we adapted to carry heavy loads of this type, to namely 1.5 kilo (see for example our missions at the autonomous port of Marseille).

But Sébastien Gauthier being a perfectionist, he wanted to test the formula in flight.

The requirement for fulldome is high, and the constraints of stability and stitching of images are very sensitive. As a result, there is little room for chance and an in-flight session is absolutely essential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus, at the beginning of June 2023, on the unmissable vineyards of Domaine de Saint-Ser in Puyloubier, we met Sébastien to carry out all the necessary test flights, with our two 360 cameras:

  • Insta360 Pro2 8K (onboard weight 1.4 kilos with Farsight)
  • Insta360 One RS 1-Inch Leica – 360 Edition 6K (onboard weight 250 grams)
Sébastien Gauthier in deep thought before the takeoff of the M200 drone

 

 

At the end of these sessions, Sébastien analyzed in depth the 360 raw footage from the two cameras and came to choose the small One RS 1-Inch Leica – 360 Edition camera, because it was much better stabilized, and despite the lower delivered resolution – 6K against 8K from the Pro 2 – the images had a better final rendering when projected in dome.

A choice which will also prove to be very beneficial in facilitating the implementation of the drone on mountain terrains, river beds, or cliff edges.

In addition, the lightness of the Drone packed with the two 360 cameras (one under the drone, the other above to film the sky) allowed for more comfortable flight times of around 10 minutes. Ten minutes remains a fairly short duration, because you also have to take into account the time to perfectly position the drone to respond to the director’s request, which, added to the resulting flights, is often very accurate, and requires you to think carefully each flight and especially each plan, well before takeoff.

Fortunately, the weather was our ally during these three beautiful days with bright sunshine, few clouds and almost no wind. A wind that would not have prevented the drone from flying, but which would have caused the 360 camera, attached to a mini-mast one meter below the drone, to swing wildly.

 

 

 

 

All in all, the only technical problem encountered was the capture of the 7 satellites necessary for the correct triangulation of the GPS point. Clearly, as long as the 7 satellites are not captured by the drone (which was often the case at the bottom of the canyons!), the drone is not stable when releasing the remote joysticks. It sort of drifts, carried away by its airflow or by the breeze, which can lead it to hit an obstacle (tree, rock). It was therefore necessary to be extremely vigilant during these flights where the UAV remote pilot, 100% focused, must both master the trajectory requested by the client, the fluidity of movements, and correct the drift of the drone due to the absence of a stable GPS signal.

 

DJI M200 drone in flight equipped with the small Insta360 One RS 1 Inch 360 Edition camera, Ilion, Mercantour

 

Needless to say, after each flight in these conditions, a relaxation session was mandatory!

DJI M200 drone remote pilot near the Mercantour National Park-Take-off © Photo Sébastien Gauthier

 

This is how the exceptional landscapes of the Alpes-Maritimes seen in 360 by the flying cameras of Drone-Pictures will be inserted into a magnificent film presenting the beauty and biodiversity of the Reserve territory from all angles, day and night.

 

M200 drone in flight near Mont Mounier, Ilion, Mercantour

 

Sébastien Gauthier spent weeks at Puget-Théniers filming on the ground, tirelessly! His images are certainly extraordinary, commensurate with his

talent, his immense efforts and above all his unfailing enthusiasm!

 

Point Sublime-Drone M200 Ready to take Off- Mercantour

 

Editing is underway and the screening is scheduled for 2025. You will therefore have to be very patient!

Note that this 360 short film is only intended to be projected in domes, such as that of the future Valberg planetarium, for which it is primarily intended.

However, it will be possible that other domes, in France and around the world, will show interest!

 

Calern Plateau, aerial view, (Astronomical Observatory of the Côte-d’Azur), France  © Drone-Pictures

 

Drone photo of the Plateau de Calern (Astronomical Observatory of the Côte-d’Azur), France © Drone-Pictures

 

Gorges du Cians, seen by drone, Alpes-Maritimes, France © Drone-Pictures

 

Beuil village and Mount Mounier, drone view, Alpes-Maritimes © Drone-Pictures

 

 

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