How Drones Are Being Used In The Film Industry

How Drones Are Being Used In The Film Industry

How Drones Are Being Used in the Film Industry. By Frankie Wallace.

Drones (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) have been making headlines lately with conversation regarding their use in art and business. No industry better encapsulates the creative abilities of these machines like Hollywood. At an increasing rate, new feature films are using drones for aerial and hard-to-get shots. Films like James Bond: Skyfall, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Jurassic World helped to pioneer this trend, and it looks like it will continue.

The use of UAVs in filmmaking is just one of several technological advances revamping modern cinema. For instance, immersive virtual reality (VR), known for its use of headsets and ability to put users directly into a digital storyline, has been recently used in healthcare, therapy, real estate, and astronaut training. But as it turns out, immersive VR has also found favor with filmmakers. The potential of these new technologies being used in conjunction could make way for a new era of film. Imagine if VR movie viewers could experience the heights shot by drones!



Coming back to UAVs alone, it is certain that they will set a high bar for new perspectives in film. On top of that, they’re considerably cost-effective. As we see these machines enter and change Hollywood, it’s difficult not to marvel at how they have brought life to the big screen.

Why Do Directors Find Drones So Useful?

Drones have been contributing to society for quite some time now, being used in industries like disaster recovery and global health. They’ve also been the center of some controversy, particularly with their use by the military. Because of this controversy and concerns that they may interfere with personal aircraft, they were generally prohibited from commercial use until 2014. 

But several filmmakers saw their potential and sought out means to use them. Partially due to their efforts, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) initially approved the use of UAVs for six movie companies, and in 2016 established established a set of rules for their commercial use. This opened the technology up to other film studios and businesses.

Directors didn’t only see potential for aerial shots per se, but for drones’ overall ability to offer new perspectives. Randy Scott Slavin of the New York City Drone Film Festival has noted that UAVs “literally go to places people [can’t] get to.” This benefits film directors greatly, and is the primary reason moviegoers will continue to see UAV shots in films to come.

The Cost Effectiveness

The technological advantage drone cameras offer to anyone using them for film work is greatly magnified by their cost-effectiveness. Giant cranes, helicopters, and the like were necessary to get a similar perspective in the past. These would often cost upwards of $25,000. But drones are only a few thousand dollars to purchase and easy to fly.  

The affordable opportunities offered by UAVs was best explained by Mike Fantasia, a supervising location manager for some of the biggest movies in theaters right now (his recent credits include Spider-Man: Homecoming and the newest Top Gun movie). Fantasia told Variety that he could “see a drone hoisting a light into the night sky, replacing a crane or manlift, or holding a silk to block or temper the light on a sunny day.” He also added that the machines had potential for bringing equipment onto location, which could be especially valuable when filming at great heights or hard-to-reach locations.

With all that UAVs are capable of, the bang for your buck is pretty phenomenal. For a filmmaker on a limited budget, they offer an affordable leap toward a pristine production. This is why they are quickly transforming how movies are made, and why many think they will become commonplace in Hollywood soon enough.

Drones Now and Drones In The Future

While the potential of drones is unarguable, there’s still a lot to be figured out about how they can be used. And even as filmmakers continue to experiment with them, they remain controversial. This has been covered in film and cinema, such as the very straight forward “Drone Strike” short film and a recent episode of Black Mirror in which small UAVs are used as murder weapons.

Even so, it would seem that the film industry intends to keep using the machines. Notably, there are some legal complications surrounding UAVs. Since the FAA has only allowed their commercial use for a short amount of time, government regulation of drones is still being discussed. This serves as a reminder that at the end of the day, UAVs are powerful, and we’re not sure what they’re completely capable of yet in civilian hands.

One thing that we can know, however, is that drones are incredible assets to modern filmmaking. Their cost effectiveness combined with their ability to go where humans can’t has brought a lot of value to feature films. Only the future will tell how drones are used in Hollywood from here on out out. But despite the aforementioned controversy, it would seem that several directors have their fingers crossed for the better.


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