Drones and UAVs in Cinematography & Film Production
Unmanned aerial vehicles surely made a lot of our daily tasks easier. Nowadays, we have Amazon Prime Air, a drone-empowered air delivery service and CyberHawk, a drone-operated live inspection service. Both of these are a testament of how developed drones have become. Although drones and UAVs have been used in several industries, their contribution is yet to reach its optimum potential. However, perhaps this is not the case in cinematography and film production, an industry at which drones and UAVs became an immovable production pillar in the last years.
In the era of billion-dollar blockbusters and computer-generated imagery, getting exquisite shots during filmmaking is indispensable. Drones and UAVs help movie directors do exactly that. It’s fair to say that they have changed the way directors shoot movies. With the help of drones, directors nowadays can shoot impossible shots. The modern drones are easy to operate. They are simple enough for cinematographers who are familiar with remote controls and joysticks to capture excellent shots. Drones made techniques like aerial and crane shots easily doable if you’re a good drone pilot. Especially that the cameras strapped to drones are equipped with three axes stability, which almost guarantees a perfect shot, even if you’re not that good of a pilot.
The cinematic possibilities are large and the sky’s the limit. Recently in a segment in Good Morning America, a company called DJI that manufactures drones for filmmaking, showed footage filmed by a drone of an erupting volcano in Iceland. Before the introduction of drones, such footage was almost impossible to take. It was too risky for humans and too far away for satellites, which neither had the lens or the angle to capture such unique footage. The footage looked like a piece from a natural science documentary. It was equal quality as ground footage shot by camera men.
DJI, owned by Chinese drone overlord Frank Wang, announced on the 17th of April the release of the most powerful drone ever to be used in filmmaking, the Matrice 600. A short video was released online demonstrating how powerful this new drone is. The video featured a cinematography director filming a martial arts scene using the drone in Beijing. The new Matrice 600 is compatible with a wide range of attachable cameras. It allows professional cameramen to use small DSLR cameras like Canon, Panasonic, Black Magic, Sony, Nikon, and large RED cameras as if they’re being handheld. The footage shown was spectacular, to say the least.
The Matrice 600 is only the beginning of a new line of powerful camera-carrying drones that is changing the very nature of filmmaking as we know it. Previously, large movie franchises like James Bond’s Skyfall and the Harry Potter series have used drones to film some famous scenes. With the success of these filming techniques, one can only expect that at some point flying drones and unmanned aerial vehicles will take over film cinematography entirely, rendering the regular cameraman obsolete and reducing his role to a remote control holder. Luckily for the film industry, directors are tinkerers by nature and learning new tricks always falls in the audience’s favor.