white drone flying outdoors

Drone Cinematography

Drones are becoming more popular not just for military use or to transport items, but also by filmmakers capturing impressive shots to visually tell a story. Cinematographers regularly use drones in the movie-making business because they can capture shots from angles that the average camera is unable to reach. Learn more about the use of drones in cinematography and common drone tips to help you grab the best shots.  

What Is Drone Cinematography?

In drone cinematography, the cameraperson will use a drone with a camera inside of it to film an object or person from a unique angle. The cinematographer usually controls the drone using a joystick and views shots the camera picks up from their smartphone's screen. 

Many filmmakers use drone cinematography in their films, not just because they capture scenes from hard-to-reach angles, but also because drones are typically cheap and simple to operate. With drones, you don't have to pay for extra equipment like jibs, cranes, or tracks that normally support basic cameras. 

How to Get the Best Shots with Your Drone

Getting impressive shots with your drone requires more effort than simply pointing it at an image and recording, though. You should know your equipment well enough to shoot your scenes in areas that are the most captivating to best tell your film's story. Here are the most effective ways to get great shots with your drone:

Allow Plenty of Time to Set Up and Practice Using the Drone

Before officially filming with the drone, take a day or two to set it up and take some practice shots. This gives you time to get used to controlling the device and finding the best spots to shoot from. Getting test shots the day before helps you better prepare for the actual filming and allows you to come into your first day of filming with a plan or idea of where you want to position the drone for certain scenes. 

Stay Up to Date On Rules and Regulations

As the use of drones gets increasingly popular, laws for where and when you can operate drones are constantly changing. It's important to regularly research common drone regulations, so you know it's legal to shoot in a certain area. Some places require you to have a pilot's license to shoot with a drone for commercial video use, while others allow you to take a qualifying test to let you operate the drone legally. 

Check Weather Conditions Before Filming

Make sure there isn't any rain or dangerous storms predicted on the day of shooting. If rain or storms are forecasted, reschedule for a new day, so you don't damage your drone. Try not to fly it on windy days, since the wind can cause your shots to look shaky and unstable. 

Shoot in the Best Lighting

To add more feeling and emotion to your storytelling, use natural lighting to your advantage by filming right before sunset or immediately after sunrise. Keep this in mind when you're testing out the drone a day or two before filming and see how captivating the light looks and how well it can enhance your shot. 

Keep the Drone Out of the Frame

Sometimes when the drone is flying and filming at once, you might tilt it too much to the side, causing its blades to enter the picture. One option to avoid this is to crop the blades out in post-editing. Another is to closely monitor the drone on your smartphone and tilt it the opposite way the minute you see blades in your shot. It may take a few tries to get the shot you want while keeping the blades out. 

Move Your Drone Slowly

Seeing how fast your drone can fly seems fun, but a fast-flying drone can make your shot lose focus and look less steady. Starting from one area and slowly approaching your subject makes the shot appear more cinematic and captivating. If you want your drone to increase speed, gradually accelerate the drone. This helps you avoid any unsteady or shaky shots in your scene.

Common Cinematography Shots and Techniques 

Since many filmmakers are using drones to get unique footage, you should use new and exciting techniques and shots to help your scenes stand out from others. Here are some of the best drone shots and techniques you can use when filming:

  • Pedestal shot: Cinematographers may use this shot to display large monuments or statues. This shot involves the drone flying in different directions without the gimbal or camera moving. You can simply adjust your altitude control then easily move the camera up or down throughout the shot. 
  • Reveal shot: This shot is normally used in the intro or outro of a scene to reveal where the upcoming scene will take place. It's also used to creatively reveal an important subject of interest within the scene. Place your drone in an area where you can't view your subject of interest at first. This can be behind a larger object, then slowly move the drone until the subject comes into view. 
  • Aerial pan shot: This is a common shot that involves flying your drone up high so it overlooks a city or landscape and moving the camera side to side as it captures the area below it. 
  • Fly over: Another popular drone shot, this allows the camera to capture a subject or landscape below by simply flying over it. Start your drone away from the subject and move it so that it gradually appears over the subject to make the audience feel like they're actually flying over the object or scenery. 
  • Tracking shot: Usually seen in car commercials, racing scenes, or at sporting events, tracking shots involve the drone moving in sync with the subject, focusing on the object as it zooms by. This may require several rehearsals and practice shots to finally get impressive footage.  

Shooting with drones is a great way to get creative shots from unique perspectives and angles. At Salvi Media, we use drones to capture innovative shots that grab the attention of your audience and communicate the story you want to tell in a compelling and entertaining way.