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5 tips for story telling with drones

When creating content, drone footage can be a great facilitator to enhance the overall

message or visuals of your story. Since the first aerial photograph was taken in 1857 by

Felix Tournachon in a tethered balloon over Paris, aerial photography and now drone videography has revolutionised the industry of film and what we watch. Images and shots that were previously unattainable unless you were in possession of a small aircraft or helicopter, now dominate our YouTube videos, adverts and television shows.

So how exactly can you make sure you are making the most of your aerial drone shots? In this guide we will give you the 5 tips for telling visual stories with drones. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t have to be a knock off version of the opening sequence of Mission Impossible 2. Unless, of course, you are trying to cultivate an early 2000s rock-climbing Tom Cruise vibe, then by all means, go ahead!


1. Don’t Pack Your Film with Drone Clips

The age old timely advice of ‘less is more’ isn’t just for the world of beauty or fashion. It can also be comfortably applied to drone footage and clips. If you are new to the rodeo of editing together a sequence with the addition of drone footage, you might feel the urge to bolster your film with panoramic shots every five seconds.

However, please resist the temptation to turn your video into a remixed Planet Earth. Drone footage works best with telling visual stories when it is seamlessly blended with other shots and camera angles. Drone videography shouldn’t ever feel as if it’s a novelty. The best use of drone footage is when it’s supporting the intentions of the story you are trying to tell.


2. Work with an Experienced Video Editor

If you are a little unsure how exactly to blend your drone clips in with your other footage, why not ask an expert? It’s not necessarily true of all drone photographers but many of them tend to offer additional services such as video editing or consultation.

Have a look at the various packages they can provide and decide what would be the

best option for you and your project. It may well be the case that you can outline the intentions of your project and designate the filming and the editing process to them.

Drone photographers will be able to use their repertoire of experience to advise what shots would best amplify and adhere to your project’s intentions. Their wealth of knowledge can be really help how your story is broadcast; use that support and benefit from it!


3. Research Your Locations

Setting and the backdrop of a film can be an important way to convey the overall tone of a piece. For example, you wouldn’t set a remake of Wuthering Heights on a beach in Marbella. Heathcliff digging up Cathy’s bones next to a sun lounger and a jug of Pina Colada is going to have the same effect as long tracking shots of the wild and desolate Yorkshire Moors.

This is why it’s essential to do your research on suitable locations for your footage and make sure that it fits with the mood of your project and what you want to achieve. The real magic of having drone footage in your film is the visual expanse that a drone can capture from a height and distance.


4. Does Your Location Comply with Filming Regulations?

You may think you have found the perfect spot for your drone filming, however it’s important that this location isn’t breaking any regulations in regards to flying in certain airspaces. By law in England all drone photographers and videographers need to be CCA registered, and they will also be able to advise you in terms of no go flying areas.

Every local authority and community will have different regulations concerning drone flying and the capturing of certain types of footage. Make sure that you are well versed in terms of where you can or can’t fly with the drone so you aren’t accidentally in violation of any laws or accidentally endangering flight paths of other aircraft.

Flying after dark is also strictly prohibited even if a drone has lighting equipment. Dark is classed as 30 minutes before the official sunrise time or 30 minute after the official sunset time and must be adhered to.



5. Storyboard Your Project and Your Camera Angles

Before you steamroll ahead with any project, be it a film, advert or a short, sit down and work out roughly how you want it to look from the start to the end. This is when you can also highlight and identify where exactly you want the drone footage to segment into your project.

It can help you to understand the purpose and scope the drone footage can bring to the overall design and what type of shots that will entail. So do you want an overheard tracking shot comparable to The Copacabana Club scene in Goodfellas? Or what about an aerial pan shot that pays homage to a bird’s eye view in Alfred Hitchcock’s feathery monstrosity The Bird’s?

Find your drone footage reference points that tie in with and help to elevate your project to its full potential. Work out how your visual story can be translated through certain camera angles and decide on these beforehand. Don’t just expect footage and ideas to fall into place on the day of shooting. Preparation and clear concepts are needed in order for your finished product to come together smoothly.


5 Tips for Telling Visual Stories with Drones: Where Can I Find Out More?

We hope this article on the 5 tips for telling visual stories with drones has given you a crash course in how to broadcast your message clearly, even from the sky!

Although if this all sounds a little complicated, why not enquire with us at CopterCam and see if we can help you make your project a reality? Or perhaps check out some of the amazing projects we’ve been involved with on our 1 day film shoot page


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