The introduction of drones to the global market opened up a new world of possibilities for videographers and photographers alike. Whereas before, the only way one could capture beautiful cinematic shots from above was by shooting from a helicopter or a plane, today one only needs a drone to be able to show the world from an avian perspective.
If you’ve gotten a drone from Poundit.com recently, chances are, you would have already tried your hands on shooting a few videos yourself. However, if you’re new to this hobby and you would like to be able to capture killer drone shots, you’re probably going to have to turn the dial up to eleven. Below are a few filming techniques that you might want to try out the next time you have a flying session with Birdy McBirdface.
Perform a Flyover along a Single Axis of Motion
Although some people might tell you to add more pizazz to your video by combining different drone camera movements in one footage, sudden changes in motion can actually make your video look amateurish. Imagine yourself doing a forward-moving flyover shot, but then you make a sudden jerking pan to the left, or a downward tilt to show more of the view below. It’s really quite jarring for the viewers.
For most of the shots you’re ever going to take, you want fluid movements along a single axis of motion that don’t break the continuity of the footage, unless of course the change in movement is so sublime that it actually creates the effect of enhancing the depth of your footage instead.
Orbit around a Point of Interest
One of the most beautiful cinematic techniques that you can try out with your drone is the one in which you orbit the camera around the subject of your video. Think of the last moments in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), when Rey finally met Luke Skywalker in that alien island, or the early seconds of the closing credits of Space Sheriff Shaider (1984), when the airborne camera—circling around the butte—focused on everyone’s favorite pulis pangkalawakan.
You, too, can try the orbit technique by steering your flying drone in a circle while focusing the camera on your subject—be it a person, a structure, a geological feature, or something else entirely. One caveat, though, is that this can be a challenging technique to master. However, if you have the awesome DJI Mavic Pro drone, you can actually use its point-of-interest intelligent flight mode, which should allow you to carry out the orbit technique automatically with relative ease.
Fly Away from a Point of Origin
Perhaps, the most iconic type of drone shot that has emerged in the age of travel bloggers and digital nomads is the point-of-origin shot, where the drone hovers close to the subject or the drone’s pilot before slowly flying up and away from them.
One video that perfectly exemplifies this technique is this YouTube montage created by a Japanese couple, who took their drone on a 400-day honeymoon journey around the world—from Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni and Cappadocia in Turkey to the deserts of Ethiopia and under the glittering lights of Hong Kong.
Pedestal the Drone from the Bottom Up + Reveal the Bigger Picture
One filming technique that is usually carried out with a jib boom device is the pedestal, in which the camera is moved vertically, usually from the bottom up. Using a drone, however, allows you to perform pedestal shots on a whole new level, since a flying device gives you way more freedom in terms of how much you can move your camera up and down.
This technique works great for filming trees, tall buildings, and monuments, and it also pairs well with the reveal shot. Think of a footage in which you slowly reveal the awesome landscape beyond the canopy of trees or the top of a tall building—plus points if you can shoot at a time when the sun is just beginning to rise from or sink into the horizon.
Track a Moving Subject + Overtake the Subject
Another classic filming technique is focusing the camera on the subject as they move. The subject can be tracked from behind, from above, or even from the side, which means it is important to move the drone in perfect synchrony with the subject, whether it is a person, an animal, a vehicle, or something else.
Cinematic shots of this sort are often used in travel videos, sports features, nature documentaries, and even advertisements featuring cars. Subject tracking is also quite easy to accomplish since many cameras and drones these days have this feature built in into their functionalities. Even the affordable DJI Spark drone possesses this capability.
If you would like to add a little more variety to your footage, consider tracking your subject from different angles and then stitching the shots together during post-production. If you’re filming the subject from behind, also consider doing the overtake technique where you first follow the subject from behind before finally overtaking them to reveal the landscape or the horizon beyond.
Use Slow Motion + Fast Motion
Setting your footage in slow motion or fast motion is another filming technique that allows you to add a cinematic edge to your videos. For slow motion, in particular, not only can it afford your footage a dramatic flair, it can also mask unwanted features of the video, like camera shakes caused by wind disturbances.
Aside from actually shooting with your drone in slow motion or fast motion, you can also edit your footage during post-production to interpret it for slow motion or fast motion. Consider editing the footage in such a way that the speed is not the same throughout. For instance, if you have a footage of the African savannah and you want to highlight the motion of wildebeests running below, you can divide the footage in 5 sections, and set the speed settings differently for each. You can set the 1st and 5th sections in normal motion, make the 2nd and the 4th sections a bit slower, and set the 3rd section in the middle as the slowest. This way, you get a nice “wave” effect that beautifully captures the movement of the animals without the video being too jarring for the viewers.
A drone is a fantastic addition to your videography arsenal as it allows you to capture cinematic shots on a whole new level—literally and figuratively. If you haven’t had the chance to get your own drone yet, take a look at Poundit.com’s collection of DJI drones today.
DJI is the biggest civilian and commercial drone manufacturer in the world, commanding 75% of global market share in 2017. It’s known for its awesome line of products, including the DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Combo and the DJI Spark Fly More Combo in Sky Blue, Meadow Green, and Sunrise Yellow.