Aerial video is an exhilarating opportunity. With video cameras mounted on drones, many of us can now capture footage from angles that would previously have required a helicopter or a dolly-mounted jib, and perhaps a film crew. How come then that most drone videos are so boring?
Sure, we all started out newbies. If you fly a drone with a video camera on it, you have probably shared something like this of which there are ubiquitous examples on YouTube: Start with a view of the grass surrounding the take-off site, then the take-off, then multiple angles of something tall in the area, whether it is interesting to look at or not. This is first generation drone video. This style of minimal edited drone video is fine for trouble shooting technical issues but a complete miss as artistic expression.
Second generation drone videos show evidence of planning, careful maneuvering and creative post-production editing. Proper handiwork. The scenes are breathtaking. But they keep on coming: fly-bys, rotation around a landmark, backwards reveals. As interesting as power of our new 3D perspective is, after a while the video shouts out “Look, we have a drone” – the modern equivalent of the fairy tale “Mommy, I can fly!”
This is the stage we are at now. We are so infatuated with the new technology that we are overusing it.
I predict, and hope, that third generation drone videos will not be drone videos at all. While the aerial perspective is new, interesting and fascinating at the same time, it can be used to even greater effect by showing less of it. When you start mixing stunning aerial shots into your video, and that video already uses great – and appropriate – combinations of other points of view then we are in for some real thrills.
An example from another domain is the opening credits sequence for Orange is the New Black. It shows a large number of still portraits, and then suddenly at 1m01s the face blinks. It is unexpected. It is powerful.
In my own progression in the art of moviemaking, I am completly guilty of being somewhere between first and second generation as described above. Going forward though, I will be looking for opportunities. Opportunities to combine aerial perspectives with GoPro footage that gets extremely close to the action. Mixing bird perspective of historic monuments with frog perspective. Showing the inside of buildings as well as lending a sense of the landscape they are in by showing the view from above. Add macro shots of wildlife or wildflowers when I have aerial footage of areas of outstanding natural beauty.
As a drone pilot I find it fascinating watching most kinds of drone videos but if we aim for videos to feature just, say, 7% of aerial footage I think we’ll conserve the wow factor, avoid the yawn factor and justify hopes of attracting a wider audience.