Tools of the Trade: How drones are changing the movie industry


The film industry has always been one that embraces and runs with new technology, so it’s no surprise that the explosion of the drone industry is making waves in the way movies are made. Before the FAA approved the use of UAVs (drones) for filmmaking, aerial shots could only be achieved with the use of a helicopter or airplane, or a boom arm, all of which could be prohibitively expensive, dangerous or difficult to manage. In comparison, similar shots done with a drone cost about one tenth of the price, and can be done much more quickly and easily.

The advent of drones also means that shots that in the past were impossible can now be achieved very easily. Helicopters, for instance, can’t fly low through crowded streets, or in and among trees, but drones can. Drones can also start inside a building and end up looking down on that building all in one long, smooth shot. There’s no way a helicopter, or any other tool in the former arsenal of filmmaking gadgets, could do that.

So many of those breath-taking, inspirational shots that in the past were hard to get and expensive to boot, are now much easier to come by (though no less inspirational!). One thing is for sure, drone aerial photography is changing the way the game is played in the film industry.

As any artist knows, you need the right tools to get the job done. Here’s an idea of how one studio, Extreme Aerial Productions (EAP) gets some of that incredible footage we’re talking about.

One piece of equipment now commonly seen in aerial movie production is the ALTA6. This workhorse is often used to shoot movies as well as high-end commercials, since it has the brawn necessary to carry sophisticated cameras and lenses, which it turns out, are usually heavy.

Another tool essential in the new aerial film world is the MOVI CONTROLLER.  This piece of equipment allows the director to compose the perfect shot from the ground. With this controller, the director can operate the camera while several hundred feet away.

Gimbals are not new to the movie industry, but have undergone dramatic development since the introduction of drones. One example is the MOVI M15. EAP uses this gimbal to stabilize the camera and help create the perfect smooth shot while in flight. Not only is it great in flight though – it can also be taken off the drone and help “run and gun” on set with the ground crew to create smooth flowing camera shots and angles.

When it’s a low shot required, EAP turns to the FREEFLY TERO to achieve these shots at a fraction of the cost, not to mention dramatically diminishing the danger factor. Not a flying one, but hey, it’s still a robot.

Livestreaming technology is another tool that EAP is making use of to keep the customer satisfied. It’s rare to get exactly the right shot on the first go-round, and with the newly emerging ability to stream live from the camera of a drone to a remote screen, it’s now easier to see what’s what.

TV and film production is just one part of what EAP does. With the tools of the trade at the ready, they are also able to provide aerial film services in the real estate, construction, golf course, and resort industries as well.