Drones Help Tell New Stories From Above
Drones Help Tell New Stories From Above

Today's filmmakers are using cutting-edge technology to get the most memorable shots. One of the newest gadgets being used is the aerial drone. Remote controlled drones are everywhere, ranging from small toy drones to massive devices that can carry heavy equipment. With super high-definition cameras attached, they give a perspective that could only previously be achieved by using a costly helicopter.  

See Egypt’s Great Pyramid from a new angle

It was the tallest building on Earth for over 3,000 years and was built using over 2 million stone blocks. For Lost Secrets of the Pyramid, the filmmakers wanted to tell the story of Egypt’s Great Pyramid in a brand new way.

To get a never-seen-before perspective of the pyramid, the team worked with a local Egyptian aerial filming crew to capture images of the Great Pyramid from above. With the use of the remote control drone, they could film the giant pyramid from all angles, in fantastic detail — footage that could be obtained in no other way. Director Gwyn Williams is a big fan of the technology in filmmaking; “The drone footage comes close to capturing the true scale of the Great Pyramid and some of its beauty, too.”

Never-seen-before beluga behaviour from above

When it comes to filming wildlife, long lenses are the standard way that filmmakers get a close-up view of animals. But now they're using drones to bring never-seen-before behaviours to audiences.

During the filming of Call of The Baby Beluga, long-time beluga researcher, Robert Michaud, was astonished by what the drone was able to witness from above. “I’ve seen for the first time a mother nursing her calf.” It was something that he had never witnessed in over 30 years of studying belugas.  “Wow. Just wow.”

Drones can be used by researchers to study their subjects in a way that minimizes disturbance. “Now these drones have developed to conduct eight-hour long aerial surveys in remote areas of the Arctic. It’s a great use because those are surveys usually done by humans in aircrafts in remote areas,” says Michaud. 

Filmmakers do need to take precautions in filming animals from above.  Some animals can become stressed by the presence of a drone, mainly those vulnerable to aerial predators, and drone operators work under strict guidelines to prevent any undue distress. 

Documenting large-scale disaster from the air

How do you convey scale to show the real impact of drought over a large area? Take to the skies.

In Running on Empty, filmmakers document the crippling effects of a multi-year drought that has gripped California. To tell the story, they wanted to give viewers a sense of the drought’s scope. So, they sent their aerial drone high above California's valleys and farmland, and along the state’s trickling waterways to show the devastation. Geologist  Nick Eyles gets to the heart of the issue; “this drought is different; it’s every bit as dry as those of the past but temperatures are up too, and California is literally ‘running on empty.’” 

Providing an immersive experience

In The Great Human Odyssey, director Niobe Thompson used drones to film a continuous shot providing “seamless connections between the big, soaring aerials over mountains ranges and the intimate close-ups with the characters.”

The series was shot in some of the most difficult and remote locations on the planet and wasn't possible to transport heavy equipment there. One of the many places Thompson went to was a remote part of the  Philippines that was home to the Badjao people, sea nomads famous for their free-diving abilities. The crew travelled there in small boats which meant that it was impossible to bring lots of bulky camera gear. 

Thompson enlisted the help of a crack team of drone pilots. With their ‘eye in the sky’, they were able to film many dynamic angles, from high above the sea, to just above the surface in the middle of the village. The technology allowed them to gather some of the series’ most incredible shots from the far corners of the Earth.