7 Cinematic Shots That Will Instantly Upgrade Your Drone Footage

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How do they do it? Have you ever watched a cinematic drone video and been absolutely blown away? The setting is breathtaking, edits flow together seamlessly, and the cinematic shots used keep you on the edge of your seat. In this article we will focus on one of the above components for producing cinematic, viral footage which is the cinematic shot types used. In our opinion this is the most important leg of the 3, and separates professional pilots from amateurs. 

The setting you choose is certainly important, but not as much as we might think… World-renowned photographer Peter Mckinnon issued a challenge called the B-Roll challenge in which there were 2 rules. First, shoot in the simplest environment you can (i.e. your bedroom, kitchen, etc). Second, you can’t shoot with fancy gear or additional help. The results? The films created in this challenge were more cinematic and appealing than a large majority of viral videos filmed in stunning environments. This proved that you can work with the setting and locations at your disposal (even if you don’t live in the tropics) and still create incredibly cinematic videos!

We will cover the Top 7 Cinematic Shots that if added will instantly upgrade your drone footage. After the 7 shots, we’ll take a look at a video that pieces all of the components together. So without further ado let’s dive right in!

7 Cinematic drone shots to improve your drone video footage

Cinematic Shot #1: The Tracking Shot

This shot is incredibly versatile! A tracking shot will follow or move alongside the subject, whether it be a person or an object, as they move through the scene. This technique has many wonderful uses, but the use we will focus on here is establishing the scene. There are 2 ways tracking shots do this:

1) Capturing the audience’s attention- Attention spans have decreased significantly from a few years ago, and in order to watch a scene longer than the first few seconds, an audience’s attention must be captured. Tracking shots place a moving object on which we can focus that will catch and keep our attention as the scene progresses.

2) Guiding The Audience- If there is a lot occuring in the background, using a tracking shot can guide viewers, and show them where to focus so they don’t get distracted or lost early on. After capturing an audience’s attention, this is the next most important step.

Cinematic Shot #2: The Riser

Cinematic Shot #2 is The Riser. This shot is used to accentuate features found at ground level that you can only get the full perspective of from above. We’ve found this shot works great in a wide variety of settings and use cases, and can really add a professional feel to your videos if executed properly.

To perform this shot, all you have to do is start low and slowly rise, it’s as simple as that!  This shot gives the viewer an entirely new perspective on something they may see often. We recommend you introduce a slow rotation to the rise for a little bit of added dynamic motion. 

Cinematic Shot #3: The Tilt Up Reveal

Cinematic Shot #3 is the tilt up reveal. This shot is also great for establishing a new scene! We’ve found the tilt up reveal is great for a wide variety of uses, for example B Roll or as standalone footage in an Instagram Reel. The latter is a use we really recommend looking into, as these shorter clips have been found to really drive engagement, and they don’t take a ton of skill or editing time on your part. 

This shot is performed by starting with the camera pointed toward the ground, and slowly tilting up while sliding either left or right. This shot will take a little bit of practice to execute properly. We have found that most DJI controllers are very sensitive to your movement. One trick you can try to make this shot, as well as a few others, much easier is to adjust your controller’s sensitivity settings.

Cinematic Shot #4: The Parallax Shot

Cinematic Shot #4 is The parallax shot. This shot punches in to show a contrast in the movement speed between the subject and the background. If executed properly it can really set your videos apart. 

All you have to do to perform this shot is focus the camera on your subject, and slide either to the right or left to reveal a moving background. The more distance between your subject and the background, the more of a contrast in movement there will be. In the example above we started out wide, came in closer, and really punched in to show this difference.

Cinematic Shot #5: The Pan and Tilt/Rise Tilt

Cinematic Shot #5 is the Pan and Tilt/Rise and Tilt. We decided to combine these two shots, as they are very similar. This shot is great for adding dynamic motion, especially to a static subject, such as real estate. Motion guides the viewer’s focus and attention, and if used properly can really upgrade the professionalism of your footage! 

To perform this shot either rise with your drone while tilting down toward your subject, or slide in either direction while tilting down toward your subject. Also, keep in mind when performing both to keep your subject in the center of the screen and allow the setting and scenery to change around it as you move. This type of shot will take a little bit of practice to fine tune, but once again it will separate you from other filmmakers. 

Cinematic Shot #6: The Rise Reveal

Cinematic Shot #6 is the rise reveal. This is personally one of our favorites to use as a final shot or to show how small the subject is in comparison to its surroundings. The way we perform this shot involves a little bit of post production, but we find it more than worth it to do so!

To perform this shot, start with your subject close up in the frame, and keep the camera at this level when you rise. Instead of following the subject, we want to show how the environment around it changes. This shot can be great even if you don’t perform a speed ramp on parts of the footage afterward, but again, we have found that audiences can lose focus in a matter of seconds if you stay on the same shot too long. As a finishing touch, we recommend panning to either side slowly at the end of your rise for a little more dynamic motion before moving to your next clip. 

Cinematic Shot #7: The Long Pull

Lastly, we have cinematic shot #7: The Long Pull. Lots of motion can certainly be cinematic, but every great cinematic sequence or film has a good balance of quick movements with long slow steady shots. The Long Pull is one of our go to’s when accomplishing looking to accomplish the latter. 

To perform this shot, begin with your drone facing toward a subject, and slowly pull back to reveal more of the environment as you do. This shot can be done straight on, with a little bit of rise and fall, or even some slight panning as you see in the example clip. The main characteristic that remains the same is the camera’s focus on one point with steady backward motion. Once again, this shot is great to use for slow steady movements in between some of your more dynamic movements like the parallax or tilt up reveal above. 

Tying It All Together

So we’ve certainly covered a lot haven’t we! You now have 7 more cinematic shots to add to your toolkit. In addition, you have learned a few key notes about the importance of dynamic motion, and how to incorporate it into some of the cinematic shots you may be already using today. Although it’s great to see what these cinematic shots look like individually, we believe it will help some to see each of these shots put together in a sequence. With that being said take a look at the example sequence that includes thecinematic shots we have covered today, while giving you an example of how to balance both dynamic and slow steady motion.

About the author – UAV Mentor

Drone Photography Bible would like to thank UAV Mentor for submitting this guest article. UAV Mentor is a drone education company providing online training courses to pilots globally. Their training spans from Part 107 to industry specifics such as real estate and building a drone business. They are a family owned company consisting of 4 certified drone pilots. Find out more about their company and training at www.uavmentor.com

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