So You Bought a New Drone? But Does Your Work Show any Promise?

So You Own a Drone… But do you have what it takes to be an aerial cinematographer?

Let me give you a little background. I built my first drone 5 years
ago, 800 size helicopter, carrying a Canon 7d, got me business almost
immediately. I was already a small video production company, but now I
was going to incorporate aerials. 3 years later I was getting calls
from the big dogs regularly. I shot for Fox Sport EPIC commercial
“Happy Days are Here Again”. Partnered with Mi6Films in Hollywood as an
east coast representative for Drone Aerial Cinematography.

HSI Productions called for commercial shoots. I also turned down some
projects I thought would hurt my reputation, such as shooting aerials
for a “Puff Daddy, King Louie” music video, or “Elephant Graveyard”
another zombie flick.

Now that my background is covered lets talk about drones. Everybody has one now, and everybody

wants to be an aerial videographer/cinematographer. But does everybody
have what it takes to create compelling works just because they have a
tool. I’ll let you decide, but I will tell you what I know.

Capturing compelling images with a drone still requires the same
elements as shooting anything on the ground with a camera. These
elements are as follows.

1. A subject: hmmm. You mean my aerial cinematography has to have a subject? Well if you point

a camera at nothing, and it’s up in the air, does it become more interesting? It’s still nothing.

So if you’re flying a drone to create a video make sure you have a subject.

2. Proper lighting: I’ve seen a lot of aerial video shot in the heat
of the day with harsh looking lighting. And even if you have
improper lighting a little post production and color grading might help a
bit, but that’s an art learned over years of experience.

I was really happy when we shot for the Fox Sports Ad “Happy Days are
Here Again” that we were the first on set at 6am and had the privilege
to shoot at around 7am with a nice warm light.

Here is a screen shot from that shoot.

And here’s the video.

3. Proper framing. I know in photographs we talk about the rule of
thirds, and it’s not a staunch rule I follow, but when I look at the
most compelling aerial shots I’ve done, somehow there’s always that rule
of thirds that seems to creep into the most pleasing aerial videos.
Below is an example: Painter in lower left, sun in upper right third,
horizon not quite a third but close. You can watch the video here.

4. Proper camera movement: So much drone video floating around is
herky jerky, no semblance of an actually thought through shot. Too much
panning, too many shifts in motion. Think clearly through what you are
shooting and what it is you’re trying to accomplish. In this video,
the last shot

was well planned. Coming out from the porch of the house, switch to
drone shot, camera is reversed going away from couple, through the
trees, then suddenly rises to 200 feet revealing the landscape of their


Other things to consider: Is the shot rising or falling? Pacing something? Straight down rotation?

Good Aerial shots are mainly comprised of ONE good camera movement, not
many movements. See something in your mind then try to re-create that.
But that does mean you have to be a good drone pilot. Even though
these new drones with GPS, stabilization and return to home features are
easy to fly you need to make sure you can make the drone go exactly
where you want it to.

One final thing to consider is responsibility.

Recently we saw a drone pilot fly through fireworks on the 4th of July and the video went viral all over the internet.

My question is. Did he have permission? Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t

But one week later, I flew my drone through fireworks at a City Festival in Beaufort SC, but I

had permission from every authority I could think of. City, Chamber of
Commerce, Festival coordinators. Acting responsibly is one thing most
new drone pilots lack. The use of drones is becoming soured by
irresponsible people doing dangerous things, flying into aircraft flight

Have fun using your drones, and keep up with WollwerthFilms so you can
learn how to create powerful video productions that don’t crash and

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