TOP drone cinematic techniques
Learn the 8 most used drone cinematic shots that will have you flying like a professional camera operator from day 1. You can do this with any drone and with a few weeks of dedicated practice you will really start noticing the difference!
Before I get into the shots you need to realise or understand that to be a good drone videographer you need to start thinking like a camera operator/ cinematographer rather than a drone pilot. No one wants to know about how many batteries you have or that you used to be a pilot. What your clients will be after would be things like smoothness of your shots, composition, settings, colour profiles, unique angles and so on. Hopefully this video will help!
8 drone shots explained:
Look up shot/ tilt reveal (establishing)
Tracking/ dolly/ Punch in
Pull back/ Dronie (drone selfie)
Overhead/ birds eye/ Top down
Jib or crane shot
Orbits and helix
Tripod shots (pan/ tilt)
1- Look up shot/ Tilt reveal (Establishing, Unveiling)
In film this is usually associated with the Establishing or unveiling shot. As the title says you are tilting to revealing the subject or the setting or whatever you want the viewers to see in the first few minutes of your sequence. Whether you realize it or not, you ALL have seen this shot done in feature films where it was probably filmed on a helicopter flying into San Francisco or Manhattan.
This is a powerful opener to any scene introducing the audience to new location, subject or place whilst creating a small amount of suspense.
It is very important shot in filmmaking it keeps the viewer engaged as it directs your eyes using the camera movement. You need to have two subjects or a fore & background.
Variations can be made of this shot ie. Sideways & backwards tilt up shots which you can get creative with.
2- Tracking/ dolly/ Punch in
This imitates a movement from a camera dolly. This is any shot where the camera moves alongside the object(s) it is recording. In cinematography, the term refers to a shot in which the camera is mounted on a dolly that is then placed on wheels or rails. The camera is then pushed along the track giving you a super smooth forward, backward, horizontal sequence.
With a drone we can imitate the exact same movements plus more!
This shot is particularly great for following cars, people, long properties, resorts on the edge of a cliff and much much more.
This is a variation of the tracking or punch-in shot but it requires clever flying close to or through objects. You will need to basically fly through a small gap, opening, trees & so on.
As you can see in these shots, there are palm trees which im flying through. It looks closer than it appears due to the field of view of the lens.
It gives the viewer brief intense moment in the story. Just make sure you are standing behind the drone in visual line of sight so you don’t get too close!
4- Pull back shot/ Dronie (Drone selfie)
This is such a popular shot and most people do this when they get their first drone because the effect looks epic! Its a different type of reveal focusing tight on a subject or person first then pulling back revealing the jaw dropping surroundings. Deepening on what you are filming you can reverse this in post and it will give you a totally different effect.
Simply face the camera towards you and fly the drone backwards. This is an extremely powerful shot.. it creates excitement, as the background scenery is not in the first frame rather, it comes into view as the camera pulls back revealing more and more of the amazing scenery around you.
CAUTION: There is a high risk of crashing when you’re doing this. Do not rely solely on your display. Always keep an eye on the aircraft.
5- Overhead / Birds eye
This is a nice creative shot that you can use in most videos and is extremely easy to do. It is literally just pointing the camera straight down. It is useful for your story telling or getting creative with camera angles, patterns & lines.
You can also add variations to you shot like ‘Yawing’ or spiraling at a smooth consistent rate.
6 – Jib or Crane shot
This is Imitates the movement of a camera on a crane or jib. What is a jib? In cinematography it’s a boom or pole device with a camera on the end. It operates similar to a see-saw with the operator on the the other end allowing the camera to move up & down in a smooth action. Today we can do the same but with a cooler rig… a drone!
Remember: Just because you can fly high and fast doesn’t mean you should!
You can also add variations with tilting the camera up down or moving the drone back or forward.
7 – Orbit/ Helix
This Is a great cinematic option to show the whole property and its surroundings. One of my favorite shots to do with the drone. Takes a bit of practice and coordination to master manually but once you get it you will use it all the time.
If you fly DJI products, you can use the POI function on one of the ‘intelligent flight modes’ and it will do it autonomously so you can focus on framing and camera tilts and so on.
A really cool variation to an orbit is a Helix or spiral. This is basically adding a lift to the orbit once again revealing something. If you have good hand/ eye coordination you can add in a tilt in the shot
8 -Tripod shots
Always underrated but very important. This movement is basically Imitating tripod shot on the ground but with the drone. Hover the drone at an optimal spot then move the ‘camera’ in motions like its on a tripod. Panning. Left to right, or right to left
Tilt- Up to down, or down & up or a diagonal.
It’s a nice touch to your video, something different than standard drone flying movements.
So there you have it professional camera movements broken down for you with examples. I hope this helps take your videography drone skills to new heights.
Remember you can’t be an expert overnight. Get out there practice at your local park, backyard, on holiday, wherever you are.. Also start taking notice of these shots when you are neflix & chilling or at the movies.