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The 8 Best Drone Shots and How to Use Them In Your Video Production

Updated: Jan 25

Written By: Steve Chestney


Read on for the ultimate guide to drone production in Australia.

At Viewix, we are regularly approached by clients asking about the feasibility of including drone shots in their videos, and it’s easy to understand why. In the past few years, we’ve seen the cost go down and the capabilities go up. Now nearly every video production can include shots that just a few years ago would have made a Hollywood accountant's eyes water.

If you’ve ever dreamt of sending your viewers soaring over a property development or recreating the opening of The Sound of Music for your company profile then this is the blog for you.


We’re going to cover everything you need to know when it comes to including drones in your video production.


The Value of Drone Shots


Some of the most iconic moments of movie history have been captured from above. From the otherworldly Ride of the Valkyries scene in Apocalypse Now to the eerie taxi ride scene in David Fincher’s Zodiac, the aerial vantage point offers an audience a perspective that is elevated from their daily experience.


Not only are aerial shots draw-dropping, but they’re also pivotal in providing establishing shots for scenes. The establishing shot gives the audience context of when and where a scene is taking place. Aerial establishing shots allow far more information to be contained in one frame than the traditional static wide shot.


The Shots


It’s important to make sure you’re getting the right sort of shot to tell your story. The drone's movement, speed, pan, and tilt all add up to your final shot, so let’s look at how you can combine these factors in different ways to maximise your video's potential.


The Pedestal Shot


A straightforward shot, the Pedestal Shot is when you raise or lower your drone in a straight line without tilting or panning the camera. This shot can be used to show height or reveal a different level. As you’re not panning or tilting the camera to focus on a subject you can also use this shot to rise out of the scene, leaving the audience on the wider world going on despite the story that’s unfolded. *Credits roll*.



The Tilt Reveal


Traditionally used as a high-energy introduction to a scene, the Tilt Reveal is accomplished by flying your drone with the camera pointing down, then slowly tilting it up to reveal the subject of the scene. You might have seen this shot in Hollywood movies during the opening titles. It builds suspense, giving the viewer a faint hint of the location before the eventual reveal.



The Tracking Tilt


The Tracking Tilt is a more subdued establishing shot than the Tilt Reveal. The Tracking Tilt is when you start on a wide horizontal shot and as you move forward you tilt the camera down, singling out the subject of the shot. This shot is more about giving the context of the subject's place in the world.




The Orbit


The Orbit is a shot that gives the viewer every angle of the subject. Simply rotate the drone around the subject keeping the camera locked on it. In the case of a large building, this can convey grandeur, or when filming a person it can guide the viewer to focus solely on the character's world and perspective.




The Fly Through Reveal


A testament to how small and agile drones have become, the Fly Through Reveal is when you seamlessly fly the drone from an interior location to an exterior (or vice versa). This should involve careful choreography and a risk assessment should be performed before attempting.



The Tracking Shot


A simple but important shot, the Tracking Shot locks onto a subject as they move through a landscape. Used in montages and as establishing shots, this shot shows a location change, gives momentum to the scene, and simply looks cool!



The Profile Tracking Shot


A variant of the Tracking Shot, the Profile Tracking Shot is used to give a clear direction to the character's movement. Follow your subject from the side, matching their pace. In cinematic language when a character moves from left to right across the frame they are leaving home, and when they cross right to left they are returning. This is probably due to western cultures reading words across a page left to right, implying a forward momentum. Think about how you can use this trick to help tell your story.



The Reverse Track


A dramatic variant of the Tracking Shot, the Reverse Track sees the subject coming toward the drone as the camera flies backward. This shot can be used to show the departure or arrival of a subject, it provides the context of where they’re coming from and can be a very visceral shot.



The Right Tool for the Job


Now that you’ve seen what can be achieved with drone filming it’s time to find the tool that suits your production best. The cost of drones is dropping every day and what were once high-end capabilities are now showing up in consumer-level drones. DJI has been spearheading the low-cost drone market so let’s explore the different options available and what each is best suited for.


The Consumer Drone


Likely to be found in every travel vlogger and weekend pilot's backpack is the ‘consumer level’ drone. These drones are lightweight, fold up and can be crashed and replaced without breaking the bank. They’re perfect for on-the-fly drone work and are fun to boot! However, when it comes to utilising these drones for professional video work they tend to fall short on a few key metrics. The small sensor size of these drones results in visible compression of the video footage, making it appear pixelated. It also means it’s hard to colour grade the footage from these drones without amplifying this pixelated effect. However, if you want to get into drones personally then these are the drones for you!


Drones in this category:

  • DJI Mavic Air

  • DJI Mini Range


The Prosumer Drone


The tools and software features of professional drones from only a few years ago have trickled down into this category, the ‘prosumer level’ drone. These mid-priced drones may be over budget for the casual flyer, but they pack a punch in terms of image quality and hardware features. They’re small and portable enough to take on every shoot yet powerful enough to know the footage is always going to be usable. These drones are the perfect level for most video productions and are what we provide in-house at Viewix.


Drones in this category:

  • DJI Mavic Air 2

  • DJI Mavic Air 2s

  • DJI Mavic 3


The Professional Drone


The key marker of drones in the 'professional drone' category is that they’re not sold with attached cameras. They’re built as lifting vehicles for you to attach your own cinema camera to. This level of drone is a no holds barred, monster of a machine. They’re used on car commercials to Hollywood films and come with an appropriate price tag. These drones ensure you get the shot ‘in one’, meaning no additional takes. This kind of efficiency is incredibly important on high-end shoots, but for the majority of video production, the upfront cost of renting these are not economical in the long run.


Drones in the category:

  • DJI Matrice Line


The FPV Drone


Burgeoning in the background of the drone world has been one of the most exciting iterations to date, the ‘FPV drone’. These tiny drones are incredibly fast, incredibly agile, and can fly where other drones cannot. They capture truly stunning, visceral footage. Traditionally, these drones have been limited by their light weight, but as cameras get smaller and the drones get more powerful they can now carry cameras that produce footage usable in professional productions. They’re an exciting new tool for video production and in the right setting can elevate your video dramatically.


Drones in this category:

  • DJI FPV



The Practicalities of Drones in Australia


There are a few rules and regulations you’re going to have to know about in order to include stunning aerial shots in your projects.


To legally fly drones for commercial purposes in Australia you need to either hold:

  • An Aviation Reference Number & an Operator Accreditation: For drones under 2kg (Prosumer level drones and below)

  • A Remote Pilot License (RePl) & an Aircraft Operator’s Certificate (ReOC): For drones over 2kg (Professional drones)

All our Viewix Video Specialists hold Operator Accreditations and ARNs so getting a drone on your next production is as simple as asking us!


To keep everyone safe CASA has provided these regulations that you must follow in order to remain within the law:


  • You can only fly one drone at a time

  • You must always be able to see your drone

  • You can fly a drone to a max height of 120m

  • You must not fly within 30 meters of people

  • You must not fly directly over people and populated areas

  • In a way that creates a hazard to people, property, or aircraft

  • Near emergency situations

  • In ‘no-fly’ zones - You can find a detailed map of Australia’s no-fly zones here.


Summary


Our hope is that by now you have a deep understanding of what drones are capable of and how to go about achieving those results. Reach out to us and we can help you get a new perspective on video production, and have a look at how we've integrated drone shots into our work before.


Author: Steve Chestney Steve Chestney is an industry specialist. With over a decade of experience across the video production industry he's worked in every department from prop design to VFX to cinematography.

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