Drones and the future of filmmaking
Date: 16/07/2019
Writer: Danie
The film industry has seen significant changes in technology in recent decades. Digital imaging advancements and computer-generated imagery (CGI) have replaced old film reels and bad graphics. One of the latest advancements of filmmaking is the drone.

A bird’s-eye-view is an important cinematic tool that sets a scene. In decades past, helicopters would be rigged up with film cameras in order to get aerial shots. Nowadays, lightweight drones can achieve the same purpose for a minute fraction of the price.

Drones are quieter, easier to maneuvre and cheaper to run than helicopters. Although, flying a drone is not as easy as it may look. The controllers on the ground need skills and practice to be able to pilot the drone smoothly and safely.

Drones are valuable for filmmakers

Drones have become an indispensable piece of equipment for filmmakers. They allow the filmmaker to kill two birds with one stone – that is playing the role of a helicopter pilot and cameraman at the same time.

What’s more, drone cameras are highly advanced. They shoot ultra high-resolution video in a variety of frame rates, such as 4K resolution at 120 frames per second. Some are even capable of carrying advanced cameras onboard for those epic scenes that need specialised equipment.

Drones vary widely

There is a huge variety of drones on the market. Some are small and cheap, others are advanced but expensive. Generally speaking, the cheaper the drone, the smaller, lighter and fragile it is. The more expensive drones are robust, heavier and have better cameras.

Depending on the nature of the film or documentary, a filmmaker can find a drone that will suit their budget and needs. Beginners are advised to purchase smaller and cheaper drones; learning to fly them properly will be easier. The more expensive drones are complicated and can cost a fortune to repair if crashed.

Things to know as a drone controller

Filmmakers need to consider airspace rules and regulations in the area. Certain airspaces are restricted to drones, such as nearby airports, certain buildings and in popular commercial flight paths. Drone controllers need to know and obey the restrictions on flight at all times to avoid possible prosecution.

Other issues to be aware of include discomfort in the presence of a drone. Some people and animals do not like drone flying around. Humans can be particularly offended by the presence of a drone if they feel that their privacy is being violated. Some animals are also scared of drones and panic when one hovers nearby. Controllers and filmmakers should always be respectful of other people and animals when operating drones.

Some drone and filmmaking facts

  • The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the United States first approved the use of drones for filmmaking in 2014.
  • The New York City Drone Festival was the first drone-orientated film festival in the world and took place in March 2015.
  • A drone and camera crew can cost around one-fifth of the price of a helicopter and pilot per day.
  • Popular films and series that use drones for filming include Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, James Bond Skyfall and Narcos.

Drones have a valuable role to play in the future of filmmaking. They have proven to be indispensable pieces of equipment that enable filmmakers to capture aerial footage without the massive expense of helicopters. They are also quieter and easier to operate. Drones have become a vital tool for filmmakers across the globe.

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