Cranes Vs. Drones: How Am I Going To Film That?

October 09, 2014

So you’ve figured out your next great filmmaking endeavor. You’ve got the script all written up--complete with a never-saw-it-coming plot twist--you’ve got your camera ready, your actors on contract, and your locations all scouted out. “Hooray for Hollywood” is playing on loop as you imagine yourself donning some round spectacles, growing out your salt and pepper beard, and smiling for the camera like this:

But wait. You forgot one thing. In your dazed moment of screenwriting inspiration you decided to write two simple lines into your masterpiece:

As Bill walks into the sunset, we pull out to reveal the
desolate town he leaves behind.


And now you have to film that. Seems simple enough for a camera crane, right? Wrong. “But I’ve got a buddy that works at a place that sometimes rents one from another place--” Stop right there.

The moment you decide a camera crane is a good idea comes shortly before the time you realize it was not a good idea and that you’re in way over your head. I mean, look at this thing:

I get a hernia just from looking at it. Always remember that these things don’t just show up on set like this. They don’t get parachuted from the sky in a giant wooden box. And much like money, they don’t grow on trees.

Now don’t get me wrong--cranes have been used in films for decades to great effect, giving us some of the most memorable scenes in film history. Take for example, the iconic long crane shot from Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958). Outstanding. You may not find a better usage of that giant behemoth pictured above. But before you go talk to that guy you know who works at that place, consider the following:

Can a camera crane do this?

Koh Yao Noi from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.


Probably not. But you can. With one of these:

This DJI Phantom Quadcopter (and other quadcopter drones like it) will get you anywhere you need your lens to be, without the hernias. Unlike the camera crane, it is not--to be politically correct--vertically challenged. It is the Spider-Man of camera operational devices.

So remember that “walking into the sunset, leaving a desolate town” shot? With a drone quadcopter in tow, you could make that into a “walking into a sunset leaving a small, desolate town, isolated in the middle of a vast desert vista.”

With a drone? You have that kind of freedom. Steve would be proud.


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