The Natural History Film Unit (NHFU), based in Botswana, chose the Aerigon UAV to capture aerial images of predators and prey for BBC Natural World’s The Return of the Giant Killers – Africa’s Lion Kings. Aerigon claims to be the industry’s first airborne camera platform, allowing filmmakers to capture overhead with precision, and with minimal environmental impact.
“The Aerigon is unique in that it’s the most stable system out there,” said Brad Bestelink, director and producer at NHFU. “We chose it because it was the first to reliably fly a 4K camera, which is our main acquisition format.”
The NHFU used RED Dragon cameras on the project and Aerigon is the only serially manufactured UAV built for full-sized cinema cameras and lenses. With a total payload capacity of 35lbs Aerigon can carry over 20lbs of camera equipment, along with its gimbal. The A gimbal offers stabilisation for cameras and professional zoom lenses and complete FIZ (Focus, Iris, Zoom) controls.
Reliability and efficiency are crucial for Bestelink, especially for shooting in a natural environment where the crew needs to be ready at any moment to respond and move with the animals. “The lions aren’t waiting for us to assemble our equipment before they attack,” Bestelink explained. “The action happens only once and there’s no time to sit and fiddle. The Aerigon works for us because it’s plug and play.”
Bestelink and his crew could move through the bush with the individual Aerigon gimbal and helicopter components already assembled. This allowed the team to get their cameras into the air and ready to shoot in short order.
Along with the BBC, the NHFU also produces shows for National Geographic Wild and Animal Planet USA. By shooting in 4K, 5K, and even 6K, the team is able to capture behaviour that has never been filmed before, including high-speed footage of large predators at 2K and 225fps.
“We use the Aerigon to film where animals are interacting,” Bestelink said. “I don’t like to use aerials for the sake of aerials. They have to serve a purpose and function in the telling of a story. Most of the time, our aerials are matched and complement what we’re shooting simultaneously from ground positions providing a richer audience experience and a much better understanding of animal behaviour.”