THE DRONE: Seeing the world from a Bird’s Eye View
Look up in the sky; it’s a bird! No, it’s a plane, No, it’s a Drone!!
I have always been fascinated with the camera and television and what could be done through the
camera lenses and how technology keeps on advancing. I thought I had seen it all, then it appeared
one day in the sky; the Drone. This was it, I thought as I watched the Drone on You Tube! Inspiration
hit as I was also previewed to the finished work of aerial photography that only a Drone can provide.
I became obsessed with one mission and one mission only; I had to understand what inspired the
Drone, why it was created and why is it even called a DRONE and not birds eye or Sky Cam or weird
flying thingy that can give epic aerial images and make any audience go WOW! I think you get the
Aerial photography has become necessary in almost every industry; geologist use aerial photography
as an aid to mineral prospecting. Aerial photography became necessary for inventorying wild life and
about a decade ago aerial photography have become inextricable to films in Hollywood and film
makers all over the world.
So how did this military technology that spies on people and bomb cities to dust get into the hands
of the movie makers like you and me? Well, one smart guy is quoted to have said “As a new
technology domain emerges and organizations encounter the new technology, they reconfigure it
for themselves and a new version of economy comes into being”. 7
The drone has become economized in Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood and I love it! These
nifty technologies that vary in size and endurance, need little or no human intervention has become
the new craze for film makers everywhere.
And if you are still reading this blog post, you probably know that flying a Drone is very learnable
because like the Wright Brothers who did not go to college or Stanley Obiamalu (SOS) who
did not go to film school, the ability to use any relatively new technology can be attained with
How to pilot a Drone?
Drones vary in size, functionality and even purpose but this write up is about the Drone used for
film. So how do you pilot a drone? Is it difficult and can anyone fly a drone? The answers to these
questions are all dependent you; are you willing to take out time to practice flying a drone and are
you willing to keep practicing until you get it right?
Drone technology gets better and better and with the betterment of this tech, the ease by which
anyone can fly a drone cannot be over emphasised but nothing comes without effort and in my
opinion practice makes perfect.
There is a difference between getting in really awesome air manoeuvres to get the crisp shot for
your film or television shoot and working your drone safely without crashing it. You see, the drone is
not a cheapest gadget in fact it is quite pricey and even renting one can cost some money. (I have
drones for hire, and it is not cheap).
First step: Be Cheap
If you are still learning to fly a drone is to get an inexpensive drone that won’t hurt if you crash it and
use it for practice. A drone is an investment, it sucks when you watch your investment crash and
Second Step: Scout the Area and know the rules
If you are not shooting in open watch, scout out your film location before you shoot and know the
limitation. Even if you are practicing with something cheap, there is no sense in wasting money.
Don’t fly your drones into other objects or in clustered environments. It sucks to lose money even it
7 .Reference Five
its small money. If you are in the US flying drones in some areas require a license and some terms
and conditions apply (CLICK HERE)
Third Step: Check the weather
Fly on clear or cloudy days only, rain is not your friend and your new drone or hired drone could get
struck by lightening
Fourth Step: Wind Problems!
When it comes to wind, it is the enemy and the number one cause of the dreaded shaky effect and
in some cases even programmes like after effect may not be able to help you. Flying in the winds of
20mph and over is a big mistake.
Fifth Step: Sunrise and Sunset
Just like ground based cinematography, filming during the golden hours of the day at sunrise and
sunset will really help your footage stand out. Shadows will be visible and this helps define terrain
features that aren’t as visible in the afternoon and fewer people film at this times. This little tip can
differentiate your work from others
Sixth Step: Be flat
Camera setting will also play a role in how cinematic your shots appear so, make sure you film in the
flattest camera profile possible which should give you the most dynamic range from your aerial
Seventh Step: Go Slow
I know it’s exciting to finally assemble the propellers and finally get the drone in the air. But, slow
down. Slow is great when you want to get crisp aerial views, it is more cinematic slow movements
and it gives the audience the impression that you are shooting from a larger platform. Go easy on
the RC controls on the remote, accelerate and decelerate slowly otherwise you will shake the
camera and get a messy shoot. I also recommend you have what you take into account everything
that you need so that you have enough battery life to get the shoot that you want.
Eighth Step: Think backwards and downwards
Thinking backwards and downwards might be signs to spiral into depression in some cases but in
using the drone, this is the only way to imitate big budget Hollywood shoots. When you fly
backwards and down wards at a smooth steady rate, you get that million dollar film shot I’m talking
Nineth Step: Move from side to side
Strafing or side way movements work well in showing landscape from a different perspective and
can make your aerial shot stand out.
Tenth Step: Orbit
Have your drone strafe to the right or to the left and pull the yaw stick (The control stick on the left
side of the controller that controls the drones’ location.
Fly through but be careful Do some fly through shots are risky and I wouldn’t attempt this unless you are confident in your
Twelfth Step: Gimbal movements
This can give a pleasing sight to your audience. By flying forward and tilting the gimbal forward can
give another dimension to your shots and make for an astounding view.
Thirteenth Step: 360 Pan
I don’t suggest just yanking the controllers in an attempt to pan across your selected location so
don’t yank! I suggest practicing 360 movement slowing by moving the controllers as gently as you
can to prevent a whip pan effect if you are not careful.
Now that’s thirteen step by step instruction that should put you on track to becoming a Drone god
just don’t forget to practice. Good luck!