How Drones Have Begun Playing A Larger Part in Film And Television Production


Even though only about ten percent of all feature films made today have drones making several of the shots, the use of drones has become an option that many film makers are beginning to embrace. Drones have begun to make their presence felt over the past couple of years but have yet to reach the point where they are playing a major role in the various industries and productions.

There have been a tiny handful of indie films that have been produced by drones and the last two James Bond feature films featured liberal use of drones especially in the opening scenes of Skyfall. While New York City hosts an annual Drone Film Festival, it is quite clear to pretty much everyone in the film making industry that drone film making, and the use of drones in filming, are in the infant stages of development.


Drones are big business and are primarily used for intelligence gathering, spying and war. Film festival producers and those that attend don’t seem all that concerned with that and rarely even mention it. They are all more concerned with what’s new and how to integrate it into the film making industry. In just one short year after the FAA gave its permission for drones to be used in film making, many have seized that opportunity.

The allure of the drones are, of course, the cost as well as the ability to get a shot where a helicopter will not be able to go. The average drone use can be just $5,000 a day on a movie set with helicopters running in the neighborhood of $25,000 a day. In addition, as mentioned, the drones can get into places that a chopper can’t like the inside of a cave or building or following a character or action through a city alley.

While the drone shots can be a tempting technique, it can also leave audiences dizzy. It becomes similar to, perhaps, seeing the world from the point of view of the mad flitting hummingbird. As far as Hollywood goes, the city of Los Angeles has issued around 60 or so permits for drone film shooting in the last year and a half or so but the demand looks to be growing.


Who has really begun to embrace the technology has been the advertising and marketing industry. Many commercial directors have heartily adopted the technology to film commercials for such companies as Tesla, Nike and Chrysler. Television production, too, has begun to integrate the drone and it has been used extensively in the filming of such shows as The CW’s Supergirl.

The challenge with drones will be the continuing use of them to the point where the action begins to imitate certain directorial techniques that have truly become nauseating. One trend is to be so close to what is happening that the audience really can’t tell what is even happening. Also, the two second clip attached to a gazillion two second clips during an action scene has become quite disturbing. Many fans and critics believe that such films that use that technique, like the last Jason Bourne film, The Bourne Ultimatum, which was shot in such a manner, have become truly unwatchable. But, is anyone really all that concerned with watchability as long as someone plunks down their $9 to get into the theater?

The drones have their down sides as well such as being too slow for some action sequences but the future is most assuredly here for drones being used on production sets of all kinds. Bob Harvey, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Panavision has commented that, “Everybody is trying to develop a shot for them. They are certainly going to give more flexibility to artists.”

Mr. Sawyer is a freelance writer, editor and journalist from Tampa. He has written thousands of articles for hundreds of magazines and news sites on countless topics including science, the media and technology. He is also the author of many white papers, special reports and ebooks covering a wide range of subjects.
Kevin Sawyer
Broadcast Beat - Production Industry Resource