17 July 2017

DJI Inspire 2 – A Guide for Productions

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Over the past few months we’ve had more and more clients asking for the Inspire 2 or I2 but what does it offer you over the established I1?  What can and can’t it do and how much should you be paying?!

Like most things with drones I am afraid there is a lot of smoke and mirrors going on.

The inspire 2 is made by the Chinese company DJI who are the market leader in small RPAS (drone) systems worldwide.  The Inspire 2 replaces the Inspire 1 and introduces a number of airframe and camera  changes:


Less important to you as the client, but nice for the drone operator! Unlike the I1 the I2 has dual batteries which improves redundancy, and flight times have increased slightly.

The I2 has a slightly larger footprint than the I1 with upgraded motors so is more stable in the wind. It also gets up to speed quicker and has a higher top speed so this may be important to you if your shoot involves car or boat chases.

It has self-heating technology so no more waiting for operators to warm batteries in armpits, cool boxes or battery warmers!

The aircraft has a built in FPV camera so complicated moves become slightly easier, & the avoidance technology has also been upgraded with additional flight modes helping you achieve more dolly-like slow speed shots which previously relied solely on the pilot’s steady hands and a lack of wind!


There are two camera options, the X4S and the X5S.  The X4S is only really suitable for lower end online content production and does not have interchangeable lenses.

The X5S is a MFT camera system and can use a range of lenses from 7.5mm to 45mm (15mm to 90mm as 35mm equivalent).  Shooting up to 4k in H.264 and H.265 codecs there is very little if no difference between the X5S on the I2 and the X5 on the I1.

So if your production requires up to 4k in H.264 .mov files then frankly there is no major advantage to using an operator with an I2 over an I1.  Fee points should also be the same as there is no tangible advantage to you as the client.

The big change!

The X5S can shoot in RAW in CinemaDNG or Apple ProRes.  This is the game changer if your production needs an aerial camera in congested areas with a camera to match Arri or Red as closely as possible without flying top-end glass.

Now the outgoing X5R on the I1 could do this but those that have used it know just what a pain the workflow is!  The I2 is much simpler but there are some gotchas!

You need to be aware that the Inspire 2 uses its own SSD inserted into the aircraft and records in CinemaDNG 5.2k DLOG at approx. 2GB per second.  These SSDs are expensive and an operator needs at least two to be efficient on a shoot.

Additionally the operator licences for ProRes and CinemaDNG are a secondary purchase. An operator telling you they fly an I2 does not guarantee they have the ability to record in these formats, so please check! Purchasing the licences specifically for YOUR shoot will mean they will have little experience of the I2 workflow and working in RAW with this platform.

Whilst recording in Cinema DNG or ProRes, proxy files are recorded to a micro-SD card on the aircraft for easy viewing in the field.

We’ve used the I2 on a number of productions this summer shooting both Apple ProRes and CinemaDNG. We have extensive experience with the workflow and have discovered a number of little gotchas that we’ve developed workflow for. We have seen the DLOG footage matched nicely using an Arri LUT.

It’s a great package but if your production doesn’t require RAW files then the I2 offers little over the I1 so do not get sucked into the hype!


So, an I2 can be purchased for less than £4k meaning many operators have the airframe now.  Be aware though this price-point only gives you access to the X4S camera and a single controller option.  Everything else is additional. Thanks DJI!

We have discovered that the base setup for an I2 consists of the Inspire 2, dual controllers, stable Crystal Sky monitors, at least 12 sets of batteries for a day’s shooting, two SSDs, the CINE SSD station to pull the files for the DIT, a charging station in a dedicated vehicle, the ProRes and CinemaDNG activation keys and a means of holding data for clients before wrangling. Phew!

This setup is costing drone operators around £18-20k to achieve.  It is therefore comparable with a traditional heavy lift system in terms of price-point and is only really suited to high end deliverables.

Expect to pay heavy lift rates for a professional two man drone crew shooting in RAW.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have on this ground breaking system. Get in touch!

Alongside ROAVR | UAS we are currently using the I2 on a feature film and have deployed for VFX plates and high end commercials.

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24 October 2017

Superb short film from DJI demonstrating the new Zenmuse X7 camera + 4 new lenses, which were announced for the Inspire 2 drone earlier this month.

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