When drones came along, and became affordable, I was intrigued. It seemed like something with incredible estimating potential. So we bought a drone—the Phantom 1, for about $500, then the more sophisticated Phantom 2, for about $1,000.
It doesn’t take long to get the hang of operating a drone. It’s like the old joke: how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice! The more flight time you log, the better you get. You learn where not to fly and how to avoid wires and trees, because when those propellers stop turning, that thing comes down like a stone.
Company To Call
Using the drone, we’ve gotten some stunning still shots and video. But when it comes to generating a proposal, we soon realized an aerial shot is just one piece of it. A drone provides an excellent view of the roof surface. But you want to know what’s actually going on so you can accurately forecast job cost. A real roof inspection requires you to lift the shingles to see if there’s drip edge and ice-and-water at the eaves. Someone needs to walk the roof for soft spots, looking at flashings, check every opening and roof-to-wall connection. Someone needs to get in the attic, inspect the decking and find out what’s going on with ventilation. Then, when the roof’s finished, you still need someone up there checking to make sure it’s installed to spec.
Drones of course won’t do most of that. But what they can do is supply us with film and images that enable us to take our marketing to a new level by making and posting our own videos. Now we get shots we could never get any other way. And not just for roofing projects, but siding and window jobs as well.
Video is a step up from still photos. You’re combining stills, moving pictures, music and voice to tell the story of a project. If you do it right, that’ll get the attention of not just your client but anybody thinking about a similar project. Sure, you can hire an agency to make videos for you, but you’d be laying out way more than you could afford. The better way is to make them yourself.
And it’s easy. The drone wobbles and dips as it hovers, but that camera holds steady and films in high resolution. You can take swooping shots of the roof, the sides of the house, close ups of details or the house from the perspective of distance.
What We Learned
Making a short film isn’t complicated.
First off, shoot your video in the right conditions. Think light and think photography. When you’re staring through a viewfinder, ask yourself what this will look like and how you can use it.
As time progressed we got better at it. We learned early on that the shots you get in the middle of the day are terrible. Shadows everywhere. Here’s one we did before we learned that lesson.
Sun up or sun down is the time to shoot, as you can see here.
We also learned that winter shots are usually awful because everything’s dead. You’re better off in spring, summer and early-to-mid fall, with leaves on the trees.
Shoot before, during and after the project, as you can see we did here on this six figure combo job. When you have all the film you need, it takes about an hour to edit it into a 90-second video you can email to clients and post on your website. Software for editing, splicing, dubbing, etc. has never been easier to use. I use Magisto which includes copyrighted music as a service that you pay for and have access to. You’ll need music as background to sustain interest. We don’t often use voice-over because we found that images in correct sequence, with music’s steadying rhythm, explain themselves.
Make It Move
A few other tips. Think beginning/middle/end and keep it short. Ours are never more than 90 seconds. Anything longer than two minutes is boring.
And keep it moving. Change the camera angle every few seconds. Say you film a guy lifting shingles? Anyone watching will get the idea in a few seconds. Tear off? Two or three quick images tell the tale. You want people to watch your video from beginning to end. That’s victory. So don’t give them any reason to stop. Oh, and did I mention SEO? Ours keeps getting better and better as video drives our search rankings.
Now, imagine you’re on a sales appointment, and you can flip open your iPad or laptop or even just slip your smart phone out of your pocket and show people videos of your past projects. Anybody else in the area doing that? And when we go on the call, we always ask: is it okay if we fly our drone over your house to get some pictures? No one says no.