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The proliferation of drones in society is evident everywhere we look. Whether on a movie set, construction site or in search and rescue situations, just to mention a few, drones are being used to the fullest.
If you are reading this article, then you are probably aware of how drones are a benefit recreationally.
We’ll be looking closer at how drones benefit 2 very large areas of our lives: Entertainment and Recreation.
Drones in Entertainment #
When it comes to drones in the entertainment industry, they have proven to be groundbreaking in quite a few areas.
We will touch on various areas where using drones in the entertainment industry, particularly in film and television, has proven to be beneficial.
The first area drones have proven to be beneficial, ground-breaking even, is Perspective. Drones give a birds-eye view of the action as we may never have envisioned it, with an even closer view than a helicopter.
When drones were finally legalized for use in Hollywood back in 2014, the skies were the limit, pun intended.
It is almost hard to imagine a time when drones were not used in movies to give us that much sought-after perspective directors strive for.
One such example would have to be in the 2015 movie Jurrasic World when these super low-flying reptile-dinosaur things were diving and actively trying to pick off people running for their dear lives.
The shots were taken with drones, to give us an idea of how the scene looked to those predator dinosaur bird things.
Because of seeing the scene from the perspective of the drone, the action was brought to life in a unique way for the audience.
Aside from just high-angle bird’s eye view perspectives, with the advent of FPV and Cinewhoop-style drones, we can see things from seemingly impossible angles.
The movie Ambulance, released in April 2022, just one month prior to the release of the Mini 3 Pro, is the post-Covid era big-screen feature film that thoroughly employed the FPV-Cinema technique.
For the movie Ambulance, this technique used a RED Komodo Cinema Camera paired with a custom FPV drone for some of the most intense and insane cinematic sequences seen in movies thus far.
As a side note, the 2019 DRL World Champion drone pilot, Alex Vanover, manned the sticks and provided the shots for Director Michael Bay.
Moving out of the world of movies for a moment, we’ll take a look at nature documentaries.
The popular television show Planet Earth, way back in 2006, implemented quite a few firsts when getting footage from different perspectives.
One such way was using a series of lines and cables attached at various ends of the environment of interest and then running remotely controlled cameras back and forth through the environment.
They could have definitely benefited from using drones!
More recently, for the Netflix show Our Planet, even more technologically advanced methods were used, such as helicopters with gyro-stabilized cameras with powerful zoom lenses and 4-wheel drive vehicles outfitted with similar equipment.
Interestingly, one of the directors of the show said that it was the addition of drones that really opened up their filming capabilities.
Many times the drones could be rapidly deployed and get in and out of the filming area, while the action with the animals was happening live.
Whereas trying to deploy helicopters, 4-wheelers, or snow vehicles in time to the same locations for the action would not be possible, before the action was over.
Cost Savings #
This is an area that many, if not most, people tend to overlook. The usage of drones has been revolutionary in the filming industry because of how much money is saved when using them.
Typically, before drones were used so liberally, movie houses were spending a lot more money on traditional equipment than they are now with drone setups.
Below are some figures that show how truly expensive equipment comparable to drones really is.
CAR MOUNTED RIGS
These are of course the chase cars we see used in almost every Hollywood chase scene. They have cranes and jib arms attached to camera equipment.
To rent one of these vehicles, the price starts at an average of $5,000-$10,000 per day.
If more than one vehicle is used, depending on the company renting the equipment out, the price can drastically increase.
This, of course, does not include the price of insurance, the drivers, the crane, and the camera operators.
Helicopters have been used in the film industry, as far back as the 1940s, with the 1950s using them more frequently, thus putting helicopter usage in films firmly on the map.
For a typical shoot, a single helicopter can run between $20,000 to $40,000 per 10-hour day. Add to this $8,000-$10,000 (per helicopter) for the flight crew, equipment, cameras, camera crew, and insurance.
By comparison, the same perspective shots by a Car Crew or Helicopter Crew can be achieved by a Drone Crew and only costs around $5,000 per day for the equipment rental and crew time.
Of course, many production companies still use helicopters in conjunction with drones in their line-up, not totally forgoing the use of them.
However, there are quite a few productions (especially documentaries and nature films) that have indeed opted to only use drones for the aerials in their projects.
This is one of those areas that simply cannot be overlooked. Television and Movie sets can oftentimes be very dangerous places.
To date, in the United States, 350 individuals have been killed on set. 43 actors have lost their lives on movie and television sets since 1990.
Since 1980, approximately 33 Movie and Television crew members have been killed in helicopter accidents on set.
While these are terrible statistics, and we apologize for using them, these statistics are used to show that filming can be dangerous.
When we look at the insane action sequences in movies like Ambulance, where many of the action sequences were filmed with a single drone, while flying through pyrotechnics and within or through close quarters with crashing vehicles, it is obvious how using a drone camera in lieu of a physical cameraman can oftentimes be much much safer.
Drones in Recreation #
Moving from the entertainment industry, we see that drones are taking the world by storm on the recreational front.
Unbeknownst to many, drones actually started to become very popular back in 2015. Fast forward to 2022 and you can see a drone practically everywhere if you look and listen hard enough.
It is estimated that recreational drone use accounts for approximately 50% of the market share and is expected to rise year over year.
How have drones benefitted recreational users?
I don’t know about you, however, when I was young, I ran quite a few RC cars, buggies, etc., and loved every minute of it. When I got older I really wanted to venture into RC planes.
As it stood back then, in our area, it was very difficult to find locations to even fly RC planes safely. And it was awfully expensive. I wasn’t able to make enough money even after a few summers’ worths of jobs.
In addition to finding a safe place to fly, planes back then were difficult for many to actually fly. The hobby wasn’t really “pick up and go” friendly. The RCs were complicated and you really had to have skill.
Fast forward to now.
Drones have become so much more accessible. Much of this has to do with the number of safety features added (vision sensors), along with one very huge feature of camera drones, GPS.
Because of the usage of GPS, even inexpensive drones allow new users to get a drone up in the air and stay relatively still once having stopped.
In addition to safety features and GPS, drones are more accessible due to their pricing structure and also size.
For a few hundred dollars, almost anyone with the desire to fly (and the cash) can find a drone that fits into their budget.
When you look at DJI alone we see their models of drones span the entire price gamut, from the relatively inexpensive Mini series to the Prosumer models all the way up to Enterprise level drones.
With services like Facebook Marketplace, Private Drone Communities, B&H, eBay, etc., finding an affordable used drone is entirely possible.
We also mentioned size. When you compare an RC Plane of old, a Mini 3 Pro is so much less assuming and intimidating.
I entered the hobby learning to fly DJI Phantom 4s, which are obviously larger than DJI Mini drones, however, they were fairly easy to learn due to all of the technology and safety features, along with their size.
The day after I received my first Phantom 4, I took a day trip and flew through pine forests, ravines, and around waterways and marinas with ease.
In addition to drones now being smaller, safer, and reasonably priced, another reason they are so accessible is, in large part, due to Youtube.
Anyone can basically pick a favorite YouTuber that focuses on drones and learn to fly by watching their instructional videos or even reviews.
The Travel Crowd #
Recreational drone usage has had a positive impact on those that not only love travel but equally love to document their travels.
Before the proliferation of drones, individuals would typically go on vacation or travel abroad with their cell phones, point-and-shoot, mirrorless, or DSLR cameras.
These worked well, especially when doing time-lapses of some exotic locations’ sunsets or getting shots of pristine white sand beaches with crystal clear blue water.
The only problem was that those travel images and videos, by today’s standards, are a little, boring.
We talked extensively about how drones drastically changed moviegoers’ perspectives and the same goes with travel videos. How so?
As drones have gotten smaller and smaller in size and more capable with more professional feature sets and cameras, travel bloggers and anyone that likes to take videos and pictures, for that matter, are producing content that wows viewers.
Drones that can fit in a travel bag or photographers bag are capable of flying miles out, hundreds of feet in the air, capturing pictures and footage from the same locations that might have been mediocre or boring five years ago, but are now absolutely gorgeous once taken from a higher perspective or different angle.
Below is an example of a typical Florida Gulf Coast beach that looks a bit more interesting from 100 or 200 feet up, as opposed to eye level when walking the beach.
Because of the more professional specs drones have now, there are tons of YouTubers that are constantly putting out professional-grade travel videos that rival or even one-up certain television travel programs.
Even those that do not have Youtube Channels are putting out an array of professional pics and videos on such platforms as Facebook and Instagram.
Drones as a Photography Hobby (AND Videography) #
Another area that might be overlooked when considering how drones have benefitted those recreationally is how they help the photography illiterate (like I was) to understand, grasp and even love the art of photography.
When I got into flying drones as a hobby so many years ago, I had no interest in photography whatsoever. Up until that point I never owned a camera and I never even took photos with my cell phone. I got into the hobby because I just wanted to fly something. That’s it.
Well, that changed quite a bit. The day after first flying the Phantom 4 around and taking random pictures, I took a look at one picture I snapped of a local lake.
I took the picture in auto mode instead of manual, as I didn’t know a thing about proper exposure, framing, rule of thirds, level horizons, or anything.
Well, the picture looked awful, plain and simple. So much so, it literally took me aback.
I looked at that picture for quite some time, over the course of that week, and decided I was going to learn photography (if it killed me), just so I could take decent pictures, like the pictures I had seen on the internet time and time again.
That awful day 2 picture is below. Notice the blown-out sky, crooked horizon, and washed-out colors due to shooting DIRECTLY into the sun. Wow.
After that terrible experience, I indeed took the time to learn about photography, from the ground up. I started with the exposure triangle, clearly understanding how Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO work together to produce a properly exposed photo.
After this, I learned everything I could about the rule of thirds and proper subject framing. The learning continued for years after that day 2 photo and continues to this day.
» MORE: Drone Photography: Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started
Recently, for another article, I went back to that same location and snapped and edited a picture looking at the lake from approximately 20 feet up, completely understanding now that not all drone pictures need to be taken from the highest legal vantage point I could reach.
I also employed all of the photography knowledge I have gained up until this point.
That image is below.
Hand in hand, it would seem, with photography would be videography. There seems to be a natural progression from just taking photos as a drone operator to including 4k video.
Because videography employs all of the techniques used in photography it just seems to make sense to include that artistic aspect when engaging in the hobby of flying drones.
Many have further progressed from photography to photo editing with professional tools such as Photoshop and Lightroom.
Even further, many have progressed from simply taking decent-looking videos to learning video editing software like DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Premier, and Apple’s own Final Cut Pro, even venturing into professional color grading and sound design!
In all honesty, if I never took up the hobby of flying drones, I might never have ventured into learning about the fascinating world of photography and videography.
Because of my own interest in drones as a hobby, and subsequently photography and videography, I bought quite a few Sony Alpha cameras and gimbals (along with a slew of drones over the years) and started a production company that firstly focuses on photography, followed by all things video.
Final Thoughts #
The benefits of drones in Entertainment and Recreation are abundantly apparent. When it comes to Entertainment (Television and Movies), drones offer alternative perspectives we might not have envisioned prior.
Cost and savings benefits that amount to tens, if not, hundreds of thousands of dollars for production crews.
Most importantly, drones in the Movie Industry allow directors to get those much-needed action shots more safely than was possible in the past.
Conversely, when speaking of Recreation, drones have enabled everyday people to easily take up the hobby, learn a thing or two about Photography and Videography, and produce Television quality content that gets shared around the world.