How Are Drones Being Used in the Film Industry?

By Frankie Wallace

The use of drones is nothing new. In fact, different versions of drones with the ability to take aerial footage has been around since the early 1900s. But, they have seen a surge in popularity in recent years thanks to technological advances and the ability to easily use cameras with drones. The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that the sales of recreational drones will reach 7 million by the year 2020.

People have gained an interest in using drones for filming and taking pictures because they allow even “amateur flyers” to film amazing scenery from angles and locations that simply weren’t possible before and that other types of cameras simply can’t capture.

But how has the film industry jumped on board with the use of drones? You may not realize it, but drones are actually being used to make some of your favorite movies look even better.

Why Are Drones So Popular With Filmmakers?

There are many reasons why drones are becoming the go-to piece of equipment for both big-budget and indie filmmakers. First of all, they’re much cheaper than the alternative: renting a helicopter to get aerial shots. Professional filmmakers usually have a larger budget to work with, but the comparison between the two makes it an easy decision. You can purchase a great quality drone or rent one for a few thousand dollars, or rent a helicopter for about $25,000 a day. In the end, the drone will likely get you better shots and you’ll have more control when it comes to where you’re flying and what you’re capturing.

Drones are controlled by a remote, and they use unique channels to avoid things like signals getting crossed. That means you can run multiple drones in one location to get a variety of different shots. That’s necessary in the film industry when you’re trying to get more than one aerial shot at once. It takes a specific piloting license to fly a drone commercially, and in the movie business, two people are required to man them — one to control the flight of the drone, and the other to focus on the camera attached to it for filming. It can also be a good idea to have a third person on the crew to make sure everyone is staying safe when operating the drone.

Filmmakers also tend to like drones because they’re lightweight and easy to use, and many of them come with a variety of features that help to create more dynamic shots, such as computer-assisted “smart shots.” There may even come a day when entire movies are filmed on drones. The technology is already available for up to 50 drones to be synced at once. As advancements are made, that number is likely to increase, so it’ll be easier than ever to get more drone footage from multiple cameras at the same time.

Which Movies Have Featured Drones?

Many of Hollywood’s biggest films in recent years have used drones to capture some of their most dynamic and intense scenes. Drones have become especially popular in superhero/comic book movies, like Deadpool 2, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War. In Infinity War, new techniques using drones were used by the Russo brothers, who directed the movie. They allowed for some of the notable aerial shots in the movie to really come to life.

But drones aren’t only featured in action-packed movies. In 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street, Director Martin Scorsese used a drone to capture a huge party scene from above. In 2015’s Jurassic World, drones were used to mimic the swooping motion of a flying dinosaur coming down over a crowd of people.

Because drones are so popular, films are doing more than just using them — they’re talking about them, too. By the year 2020, over 50 major Hollywood films will have used drones as a major plot point or subject. It’s likely we’ll continue to see movies that feature drones as they continue to become more normalized for everyday use.

Drones Take Movies to New Heights

It’s easy to feel inspired or in awe of the beautiful locations some movies use as their setting. Now more than ever, directors are using drones to capture beautiful aerial shots all over the world, often in areas that wouldn’t have been easily accessible before. They can film over islands, over open water, over mountain tops, or through the rich canopy of a rainforest to get the perfect shot for their film. As drones become more popular within the film industry, be sure to pay attention to some of the aerial shots being used.

People are so captivated by the beautiful footage that can be captured by drones, companies are even starting to use them in promotional materials to get attention. Disney World recently used drone footage to promote their new Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars attraction, releasing a video online with footage hovering over the park so viewers could see everything from above.
Drones are nothing new, but their purpose has certainly changed. The tech continues to improve dramatically, and one day we’ll be seeing insect drones roaming Mars. Here on Earth, though, they continue to become more widely-used in the movie industry, and we can expect to see some of the most beautiful shots in film that weren’t easily captured before. Drones have already allowed directors and filmmakers to take risks and utilize amazing locations. As moviegoers, being along for the ride to see how technology will continue to improve drones could eventually make watching a movie feel like a totally different experience.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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