Drones –  Adding Fourth Dimension to the World of Film Making

If you hadn’t already noticed, drones are invading film making and as the viewer, we can only benefit. If you weren’t sure just how important an element the use of drone photography was becoming in the film making industry, then consider these two facts. Firstly, the FAA approved the commercial use of drones for six film-making companies back in September 2014. By the beginning of 2015 that number was twenty, and at the end of 2015 it had risen to over 500!

Yes, we have all seen aerial shots in films, but these have been relatively static – cranes may give you the angle, but no movement, while remote helicopters can work at a distance, but they do not have the responsiveness of drones, so aerial imagery has been sadly one-dimensional. Today that is all changing, as you can see from the video we have included for the making of a Game of Thrones commercial. Clearly the advancements in digital video photography have provided the gateway for drones to reach their true potential and this is most definitely one of those occasions where one plus one equals three. The quality of the imagery coming from drone shots is remarkable, while the smooth and seamless multi-directional movement can produce breathtaking results that truly add an extra dimension to films.

Whereas before, in films such as the unforgettable train sequence in Mission Impossible, the camera was static, so imagine the difference had they used a drone. Move on a few years to Skyfall, the James Bond movie, and surely you remember the motor cycle chase across the rooftops don’t you? Drones were used for many shots in that sequence and it was impossible not to feel you were ‘right there’ watching for yourself. While this is all good for us, it is even better for film makers. No longer will they have to build mini railroads for camera ‘trucks’ to film action sequences, sequences that are notoriously plagued by too many cuts to different angles. Instead they can create smooth and flowing action that will allow us, the viewer, to concentrate more closely on the action without disturbance.

However, it is not just the movie industry that is benefitting, as you will see from our second video, courtesy of Robert McIntosh. From sport to advertising, drones are getting in on the action, even with sports that demand silence at crucial moments like golf. Unlike previous remotely operated helicopters, drones are virtually silent, so we can now watch the likes of Phil Mickelson playing golf from a totally new angle, and it’s impressive. Is for car commercials, well we have all seen aerial shots of cars in action before, but even in the short clips included in this video, the difference is remarkable. It is as though we have leapt forward twenty years almost overnight.

As for where drones will further influence filming, and well natural history has to be a logical field where the ability to follow animals at close range and not filmed just from the back of a Land Rover or Landcruiser. For us, the viewer, it will be like being reintroduced to the natural world all over again. The likelihood is that we will now get to watch so many sports during the Summer Olympics from angles we have never witnessed before, and with the Winter Olympics the door is wide open to some truly spectacular aerial shots.

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Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

Of course there are also those who like to think outside of the box, and Ars Electronica Futurelab in Linz, Austria have already taken the artistic capabilities of drones to a stunning level already with their pre-programmed multi-drone night time displays, that are a joy to behold. Somehow you just can’t help but feel that right now, we are just scratching the surface of the drone’s capability where film making is concerned.

  1. Reply Avatar for quadcopters Becky Lynn May 20, 2016 at 11:53 pm

    I would love to see more bloggers on Youtube using drones. I feel like this is a great way to go about your life blogging and not having to worry about selfie sticks or dropping your camera. This is also great for people on the go all the time. I am all for people using them in new and creative ways! Life is art! Lets get painting!!

  2. Reply Avatar for quadcopters Jesse May 21, 2016 at 12:31 am

    I had no idea that drones were being used so much in the movie and TV industry. I guess they have been for years now! I love the kind of footage these bots can pick up that for us would be hard or impossible. Such an informative post, thank you!

  3. […] us with images of life and the world as we have not really witnessed them before. Our article on drones and the film industry along with the piece on incredible aerial views of the world that we haven’t seen before clearly […]

  4. […] April we ran an article on how drones are adding a fourth dimension to the world of cinematography and this is yet another example of just how much more scope there is for cameramen involved in film […]

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