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A Drone
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As church film teams begin to incorporate drone videography into their projects there are a handful of important shots that will help them create more effective ministry story, promo and setting up the gap in capturing outdoor church crusades and programs.Let’s look at some of these essential shots and explore why they’re so effective.

In the past aerial cinematography was only available to productions with budgets large enough to accommodate a helicopter rental and the pilot to go with it. But today, advances in drone and gimbal technologies are allowing independent filmmakers to utilize these kinds of shots in their projects for the first time. Better still, many of these drone-mounted cameras are increasingly capable of producing high-quality, cinematic footage, further increasing a cinematographer’s ability to elevate a project’s visual impact and quality.

Essential Shot #1: City Skyline Push In

One of the most powerful aspects of local church ministry is the way it focuses its efforts within a specific city or town. A drone shot that pushes in on a church’s city skyline is a powerful visualization on that unique scope, and works great for projects like initiative promos or vision videos. In order to nail this kind of shot it’s important that the camera frames the cityscape while also moving forward through space for a sense of motion. A parallax effect will be created by trees and houses flying through the bottom of the frame, so effective pilots will want to be sure not to fly the drone so high that they lose those elements.

Essential Shot #2: Weekend Worship Building Tracking Shot

Church buildings can be a powerful testament to the strength of the Gospel in the lives of the people who sacrificed to make those buildings possible. Conversely, churches meeting in repurposed spaces should be continually engaged in helping visitors make the connection between those spaces and the ministry’s mission of healing and hope.

… churches meeting in repurposed spaces should be continually engaged in helping visitors make the connection between those spaces and the ministry’s mission of healing and hope.

Drone shots that provide an elevated rotation around a single axis of the building where weekend worship takes place help to emotionally elevate the space–and portray it as something more sacred and engaging. These shots can also serve to build an immediate connection with a viewer sitting within that space.

Essential Shot #3: Weekend Visitor Flyover

One of the most intimidating aspects of visiting a church for the first time is how unfamiliar the whole experience can feel. With a single well-designed drone flyover shot, visitors can get an idea of what those first few minutes of getting from the street to the parking lot to the front doors of a church will be like. These kinds of shots are crucial for social media promos and can go a long way towards setting expectations for first-time visitors. A flyover shot can also serve as an effective visual representation of the point in a story where someone is taking a step towards God in his or her spiritual journey.

With a drone flyover shot, visitors get a taste of what it’s like to drive in, walk through your parking lot, and go in the front doors of your church.

Essential Shot #4: Neighborhood Flyover

Another flyover shot that harnesses the power of local ministry is a flyover of the specific neighborhood a story or recap is set in. No two neighborhoods are exactly the same, and a good flyover will do a lot of heavy lifting in setting the scene for a story. These shots also help viewers see stories of everyday people from a deliberately new perspective. With both the neighborhood and weekend visitor flyover shots, be sure to keep the drone low enough to maintain that human connection. Flyovers can lose a lot of their power when people begin to look like specimens in an ant farm.

Flyovers can lose a lot of their power when people begin to look like specimens in an ant farm.

Essential Shot #5: God’s-Eye View Tracking Shot of a Story Subject

Life-change stories are one of the most effective types of projects church film teams can make, and an elevated tracking shot of the story’s main character can help reinforce the perspective that God is watching over each of us. When creating a tracking shot make sure to keep the drone equidistant from the subject as they walk, run, bike or otherwise move through space. A great twist on this shot is tracking a character as they drive a car or ride in an ambulance, assuming these shots fit within the narrative.

When creating a tracking shot make sure to keep the drone equidistant from the subject as they walk, run, bike or otherwise move through space.

Tying it all together

As even the most casual hobbyist will attest, drone cinematography can be a lot of fun when just starting out. Once that initial rush wears off though, serious filmmakers will discover whole worlds of cinematic possibilities if they stay engaged in the process of growing and learning.

In order to achieve those new levels of artistry, drone filmmakers will want to proactively stay creative. For example, check out this summer’s “Mission Impossible: Fallout” for some incredibly dynamic uses of drone cinematography. Get together with some fellow producers, give it a watch, and take some notes on shots to crib for your next project.

Next, stay narrative with your drone work by waiting until after you’ve locked your story edit to decide which kinds of aerials will best support the story. Keep your shots beautiful by filming your drone footage during “magic hour,” usually the last 60-70 minutes of daylight.

Keep your shots beautiful by filming your drone footage during “magic hour,” usually the last 60-70 minutes of daylight.

Stay legal by registering your drone with the FAA and getting your pilot’s license, which is required for flying commercial (which applies anytime you’re getting paid for your footage). Most of all, stay safe with your drone work by following best safety practices and making sure your drone has solid connections to GPS satellites before taking off.

Finally, remember that two or three well-designed and placed drone shots are far more effective in telling great stories than a dozen shots that don’t have any narrative connection to the project. When it comes to drone cinematography, less is usually more.

5 Tips For Using Drones in Ministry and Church Presentation Software

Fast forward about 30 years and recreational drones began to surface.  Over the years, I have crashed my fair share of drones. I’ve also flown drones into some pretty incredible places to receive some beautiful imagery. Additionally, as a church, we was always finding unique ways to bridge ministry with technology.  Whether you’re a drone enthusiast or you’ve never flown a drone in your life, we want to share some things we learned that can help you get started using this incredible technology for the church.

1)  Drone Marketing for Your Ministry

Church marketing is defined “as a tool that helps get interested visitors in the door.”  So how can you use drones as a tool to get interested visitors in the door?  Here is a list (of only a few) ways drones could play into your church marketing:

1. Bulletins –  Does your church hand out bulletins each week?  Capture a drone shot of the sun peaking over your roof in the morning or an amazing sunset in the evening.  Add your logo to the image and place some contact info in one of the corners and make it the front photo of your bulletin.

2. Website – The sky’s the limit here (pun intended).  Have you ever visited a website that had a video header that looped?  These videos include short clips edited together to form a montage of people greeting visitors on Sunday morning, baptisms, and the pastor preaching.  But, often you may see a drone shot included as well. It is incredible imagery to see a parking lot full of cars and excited visitors walking in the doors Sunday morning.

3. Event Videos – Almost every church will have at least one or two events a year.  Whether it is an outdoor baptism event, church camp, VBS, grill out, men’s or women’s events, or lock-ins, take your video to the next level with some amazing drone footage.

4. Testimony Videos – Does your church film and edit personal testimony videos about how Christ has worked in and through your church members’ lives?  As you are filming B-roll footage, (alternative footage within your main shot) take the opportunity to add in some powerful drone elements.  If you are filming someone that escaped drug addiction early in their lives, take a few shots representing the city this person grew up in. What about a person who starts a homeless ministry?  Show their story and daily routine through the lens of a drone. You’ll be amazed at the new perspective this can add to a story.

5. Social Media – Does your church have a social media account?  Capture drone photographs and post them to social media with your church times or capture footage and create a welcome video.  This is a great way for first-time visitors to understand who you are!

2)  Use Your Drone in Worship… What’s The Idea?

“Ok.  So I get how I can use drone footage for certain aspects of church marketing.  Now you’re saying we can use drone footage on Sunday morning during worship?” Absolutely!  Take a look at a few Scriptures with me:

Job 12:7-10 New International Version (NIV)

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,

    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;

or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,

    or let the fish in the sea inform you.

Which of all these does not know

    that the hand of the Lord has done this?

In his hand is the life of every creature

    and the breath of all mankind.

Psalm 96:11-12 New International Version (NIV)

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;

    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;

    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

Psalm 113:3 New International Version (NIV)

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,

    the name of the Lord is to be praised.

These Scriptures simply scratch the surface as to how God shows His love for us by displaying it through nature.  No matter where you live, God is showing Himself all around you. Capture the essence of the Scriptures through drone footage.  Go out and capture a sunrise or sunset. Fly over some trees, a field of corn for a “harvest” scene, or go to your local park and film a waterfall or lake.  Here are some ways you can use these drone photos and footage in Church Presentation Software:

1. Still or Motion Backgrounds – It is very common to see churches use still images or motion backgrounds behind their lyrics, Scripture, or sermons in worship presentation software.  Instead of buying stock images or motion backgrounds, save the church money and go and create your own! Find and capture the surroundings and nature that are around you.  For motion backgrounds, SLOW and STEADY win the race. Keep your shots very, very simple. I recommend flying slowly and not turning the drone. Remember, your shots are not the highlight of Sunday morning.  Jesus is. You are simply enhancing the worship experience to bring the words to life. Sudden movements or crazy loopty-loops will send your congregants running to the nearest trash can! There’s nothing REMOTELY funny about that (another pun intended)

2.  Countdowns – It is also common to walk into church on Sunday morning and see a 3- or 5-minute countdown.  Stock countdowns are great, but what if you gave your countdowns a local touch? Film popular parts of your city that people know and recognize.  Film parts of your church from different angles. Fly a big circle slowly all the way around your church and film that. Or, take all of the footage you have created from events, testimonials, and outdoor baptisms and create an awesome overview video.  Then, once you have your video, use your favorite Church Presentation Software like MediaShout to easily add a countdown timer on top of it.  With just a few clicks, you have a countdown ready to go.  Specifically in MediaShout, you can also set a “Script Control” to play the announcement video automatically at a very specific time!  How cool is that?

3)  Which Drone Will I Choose?

If you are just beginning, finding the right drone can be tedious and discouraging.  “What if I make the wrong choice and waste my money?”  “What if I don’t have the $1,000 to spend on a drone?” “What are the differences in all of these drones?”  These are all very good questions and they parallel questions we ask when looking at audio and video gear for our churches.


Around 2013, when drones in the consumer market were becoming popular, I received a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 for Christmas.  It cost around $200 and I was on top of the world! You could fly it inside or outside, and it had an amazing camera that connected wirelessly to my smartphone.  It did lack GPS and certainly was not wind-resistant. But, as I became more confident flying it, it launched me into bigger and better drones. I would use this starter drone to capture images, videos, and more for my church.  Later, I moved up to the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ and then to the Mavic 2 Pro. With every drone I purchased and grew into, I found myself using it for more and more ministry-related activities. If doing something similar excites you, and you want to begin the search for a drone that will fit your skills and budget, below are my top recommendations.

Beginner:  Altair Aerial AA300 GPS Beginner Drone 

The Altair Aerial AA300 GPS Beginner Drone comes with a 1080p camera.  It has a “Return Home” function for those times you have lost sight of your drone and just need the little guy to come back!  It also has a “Follow Me” mode allowing you to walk or run and have your every move followed. It will stream video from about 100 meters away and has a max distance of 150 meters.  This drone would be an excellent beginner drone especially if you want to get your youth group’s feet wet with flying drones. 

Mid-Level:  DJI Spark 

spark drone

Let me say, I am a DJI fan!  I love this company’s constant innovation and creativity and they are the leaders in the drone industry.  While the DJI Spark isn’t a professional-grade drone, it fits in the palm of your hand, has some incredible features that are sure to enhance your ministry projects. The drone will fly up to 30mph. It has a one-mile HD video transmission, and 16-minute flight time.  To avoid crashes It senses obstacles, and it packs a ton of additional flight mode features like “Active Track” and “Gestures”.

High End:  DJI Mavic 2 Pro 

mavic 2 pro drone
DJI Mavic 2 Pro

The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is my favorite drone in the world (as of this writing).  Want to film something for your ministry? You name it, this one will do it. It boasts some amazing features like: Over 40mph flight speed, 5-mile video transmission, 5-mile flight distance, and 31-minute flight time.  One of my favorite features is Tripod Mode which allows you to slow…the…drone…down. When switched on, even if you crank the throttle to full blast, it barely moves. This is perfect for steady or tricky shots while decreasing the chance of doing something dumb.  The camera is incredible, filming at 4k resolution, as well as a plethora of flight modes than can capture cinema-quality video and photographs.Still the king of premium drones. Weight: 907g | Controller: Yes | Camera resolution: 20MP | Flight time: 3,950 mAh | Range: 8km. Excellent foldable design Advanced yet easy to flyOne-inch 20MP sensorNoise is a problem above ISO 100No portrait shooting option

The DJI Mavic 2 Pro remains the best premium drone you can buy for a few reasons – it has a large sensor, it’s a joy to fly, and the foldable design makes it portable and travel-friendly. If you need zoom or serious portability, then the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic Mini are worth investigating. But otherwise, this is fine all-rounder for those who need a bit more quality than the Mavic Air 2. Its 20MP one-inch sensor is capable of shooting Raw stills and 4K video at 30fps, while the aperture is adjustable between f/2.8 and f/11, which means less need for ND filters. What’s more, despite its impressive skill set, the Mavic 2 Pro is easy to fly and intuitive to control using its partner app, while a range of intelligent shooting and flight modes make capturing cinematic shots a cinch. It also offers some of the most advanced flight and camera tech currently available, making it capable of delivering pro-grade images, yet still accessible even for beginners. Provided you don’t need optical zoom, this is pretty much the perfect drone for most people, if you can afford it.

DJI Mavic Air 2

The best drone for most people

Weight: 570g | Controller: Yes | Camera resolution: 12MP | Battery size: 3,950 mAh | Range: 10km. Very easy to flyShoots great 4K/60p video-Strong 34-minute battery life-camera feed sometimes stutters No screen on the controller

A dramatic improvement on the original Mavic Air, the Mavic Air 2 is the best all-rounder drone for beginners and hobbyists. Like a mini version of the Mavic 2 Pro, it combines the ability to shoot excellent 4K/60p video, a huge range of shooting features, and an impressive 34-minute flight time. A new 1/2-inch sensor ensures better ISO performance than its predecessor and supports slo-mo 1080p video up to 240fps. The Mavic Air 2’s new controller, meanwhile, brings Ocusync 2.0 connectivity, which boosts its range up to 10km and improves the stability of its signal to the DJI Fly app. With subject-tracking and all of the familiar Quickshot automated modes, it’s the perfect sweet spot between the more basic DJI Mavic Mini and pricier Mavic 2 series.

Read the full review: DJI Mavic Air 2

DJI Mavic Air 2

 DJI Mavic Mini

DJI’s smallest, lightest, and cheapest drone is a triumph.Weight: 249g | Controller: Yes | Camera resolution: 12MP | Battery size: 2,600 mAh | Range: 5.8 GHz: 4000 m (FCC); 2500 m (SRRC).Smart, collapsible design Incredibly stable video capture No 4K or 60fps 2.7K videoNo object tracking.

The DJI Mavic Mini is a perfectly timed masterstroke on DJI’s part. It tackles drone law changes across the US and UK head-on, while also delivering great video quality in a premium, compact body. 

Laws now state that drones weighing over 250g need to be registered with aviation authorities – the FAA in the US and Civil Aviation Authority in the UK – and before the Mavic Mini launched, there weren’t any well-reviewed options in this featherweight category. Which means that, right now, DJI has secured itself a monopoly in the sub-250g premium drone market because, unlike one of its main rivals, the Parrot Anafi, that weighs around 300g, the Mavic Mini doesn’t need to be registered.Advertisement

It isn’t quite our dream drone as the absence of 4K, or 2.6K 60fps video recording is felt, but the DJI Mavic Mini is still in a league of its own, pairing a compact, light body with a robust flying experience and decent-quality video capture.

DJI Mavic Mini

 DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

A lightweight flyer with truly useful optical zoom

Weight: 905g | Controller: Yes | Camera resolution: 12MP | Battery size: 3,950 mAh | Range: 8km Easy to fly and intuitive to control24-48mm optical zoom lens Small 12MP sensorNoise is a problem above ISO 100

The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is largely identical to the Mavic 2 Pro, apart from one crucial difference – its camera system. While both drones are incredibly portable, sharing the same lightweight foldable design, and offer a range of high-spec features, the Zoom pairs a smaller 12MP sensor with an 24-48mm optical zoom lens. That means you can capture close-up shots of subjects like people, while still maintaining the safe and legal distance of 50m. Because of the smaller sensor, image quality doesn’t quite match the Mavic 2 Pro and the f/2.8 aperture is fixed, but photos and videos are still more than good enough for professional use. The real boon is that zoom lens, which unlocks a world of creative shooting potential. Range is good, distortion minimal and control is intuitive via the partner app. On top of that, you get all of the intelligent flight modes you’d expect from a DJI drone, including Active Track and Hyperlapse, as well as a decent 30-minute flight time. If you want a drone with zoom, this is the one for you.

DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

 DJI Phantom 4

Sturdy and feature-rich

Weight: 1380 g | Controller: Yes | Camera resolution: 12.4MP | Battery size: : 5,350mAh | Range: 3.1 miles.Nice and stable 4K footage Fisheye lens Excellent smartphone app Not easily upgradeable.

A refinement of the already impressive DJI Phantom 3 Professional, the Phantom 4 brings with it a more sturdy construction, updated object-avoidance technology and – like so many of DJI’s offerings – an excellent dedicated remote control which connects to an equally feature-rich smartphone app.

4K video recording is supported, and the gimbal design means you get rock-steady footage even when the drone is moving at speed and changing direction. The biggest downer – and you’ll notice this is a common complaint with many commercial drones – is battery life, which is only around 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how hard you’re pushing the drone.

While it’s not quite in the same league as its Inspire 1 sibling, the Phantom 4 offers a similar degree of performance and functionality for a lower price, making it an excellent option for budding aerial photographers rather than experienced professionals.

 DJI Phantom 4

Parrot Bebop 2

Offers a new perspective on drone flying

Weight: 500g | Controller: Optional | Camera resolution: 14MP | Battery size: 2,700mAh | Range: 300 metres. Shake-free video recording Excellent controller and headset Certain functions cost extra to unlock.

The Bebop 2 is a mid-range offering which won’t break the bank yet offers a surprising amount of features for the price. The camera utilises a fisheye lens, and stabilization software removes the need for a gimbal; combined with the intelligent construction of the chassis, which uses rubber dampeners to reduce vibration in-flight, this results in video footage that’s refreshingly judder-free.

If you’re feeling especially flush you can take the Bebop 2 to the next level by purchasing the optional flight controller and FPV headset. The former connects to your smartphone and offers proper flight controls, while the latter uses your phone’s screen to present a first-person view of what the Bebop 2 is actually seeing. It’s initially quite jarring to fly the device in this fashion, but after a while you’ll wish all drones came with such an accessory.

On the downside, Parrot has locked away some of the Bebop 2’s more interesting features, such as route planning and ‘follow me’ functionality, behind a paywall, which means the cost increases further if you want to use these. Battery life is also somewhat disappointing, so it may be worth investing in a spare power cell.

DJI Inspire 2

Perhaps the finest flagship-level drone in existence today.Weight: 3440g | Controller: Yes | Camera resolution: 30MP | Battery Size: 4280mAh | Range: 7 km.Amazing build quality Good battery life Plenty of features Quite pricey.

Soundly knocking its predecessor off the top spot is the highly impressive Inspire 2. With a sleek metal composite bodywork upgrade, it’s a much more attractive piece of kit. What’s more, with more advanced object avoidance technology you don’t have to worry about that beautiful body getting scratched by you accidentally clipping a tree. Advertisement

You get more than 25 minutes of flight time out of the twin-battery arrangement, and the ability to swap camera lenses means that professional photographers and videographers have complete control over their images and 5K video.The fully-featured smartphone app and dedicated remote control make this drone incredibly easy to control, but make no mistake, this is a professional piece of kit.

DJI Inspire 2

 DJI Inspire 1

A professional drone with a professional price tag.Weight: 2935g | Controller: Yes | Camera resolution: 12.76M | Battery size: 5700mAh | Range: 2 km.Amazing build quality Easy to upgrade Pricey for the typical consumer

The DJI Inspire 1 may look like some kind of fearsome war-robot from the far future, but once you’ve gotten over its rather intimidating appearance it’s all too easy to fall in love with this agile and feature-rich device. Advertisement

It comes with its own controller, which boasts amazing range (you’ll need to supply a monitor via your smartphone or tablet’s screen, though), and the camera – which is mounted on a gimbal for aiming – is upgradeable, so you don’t need to worry about your investment becoming obsolete after a few months.

Performance in the air is nothing short of exemplary, even in quite windy conditions. The DJI Inspire 1 is also incredibly swift and – when twinned with that excellent controller – easy to maneuver. It’s only shortcomings are its cost and the fact that the bundled battery only gives you around 15 to 20 minutes of flight time before it needs recharging.

 DJI Inspire 1

 Parrot Anafi

A tiny drone with incredible camera range

Weight: 3202g | Controller: Yes | Camera resolution: 21MP | Battery size: 2700mAh, Amazon4K UHD video at 60fps180-degree vertical camera No obstacle avoidance

This lightweight, bug-like drone might be small, but its photography chops are among the most impressive around.

Its camera has 180 degrees of vertical range, which enables it to take photos directly upwards – a feat no other drone can match. It also has a 2.8x zoomable lens with no image quality reduction.

The Parrot Anafi is a particularly good choice for selfie fans. Its Follow Me mode tracks your movements, adjusting automatically for more photogenic angles, and its SmartDronies modes – Orbit, Parabola, Boomerang and Tornado – cause the drone to fly around you in various circles and arcs.

The main drawback is the Parrot Anafi’s lack of obstacle avoidance, which makes it hard to recommend to new users. It’s also a shame that a couple of flight modes are locked away as extra in-app purchases after you’ve paid for the drone.


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