Drones can produce some amazing, jaw-dropping shots — but they don’t always happen easily. We enlisted our pals and Story & Heart filmmakers from Saint West Filmworks to share their secrets on how to produce five killer drone shots, so you don’t have to spend years investing in flight school.
1. The fly-by
The fly-by is a “Swiss Army knife”-type shot that works well for quick cuts or sprinkling in some fun to a B-roll sequence. The trick with the fly-by is to set your framing before your subject appears in the shot, and coordinating the movement of the gimbal in relation to the movement of the aircraft. And be sure to set your camera operator’s pan and tilt speeds in relation to the type of shot you are pulling off.
2. The reveal
The reveal is aptly named — it’s really just a good ol’ fashioned reveal, only this time, it’s from the sky. If your gimbal allows for it, be sure to adjust your ramping speeds to create a smooth finish to your reveal shots. You will want to slow those down and make sure to bench test with the camera you plan to use before you fly.
3. The chase
The chase works as a great closing shot — especially when combined with a long ascension — or as an action punch, which provides ample speed ramping options in post (check this useful primer on speed ramping in Adobe Premiere). The timing on these shots is the most difficult aspect to contend with, but a great place to start is setting up your shot about 20 feet or so away from your first target (where you want the shot to begin), which will give you plenty of time to get your direction and speed squared away.
4) The high-pan
The high-pan shot is primarily used to showcase landscapes and the proximity of a subject to its surroundings. Once you lock in your favorite portion of the view, be sure to run your shot left to right and right to left multiple times, so you can afford yourself a plethora of options in post.
5) The explorer
The explorer is all about making the most of what you see when your bird is in the sky and you’ve suddenly got vision for miles. Always be aware of just how much power your batteries have left so that you have enough juice to get your drone home.
Now that you’ve soared through some drone shots, you may want to venture further into the world of drone filmmaking: head to the Academy of Storytellers and equip yourself with this extra handy infographic, the “8-step checklist before you take your drone to the sky,” so you can push your videos to infinity and beyond.
And just as Matty Brown answered your questions on transitions, the Saint West crew will be responding to your community-submitted questions in a follow-up post in two weeks, so be sure to add any and all drone-related questions you have to the comments section below.