In this lesson you will learn the technical and conceptual characteristics that make up a great shot.
In this video, I would like to talk to you about the technical and conceptual characteristics that make up a great aerial shot. I work as a full-time video producer and I’m working with all types of tools to create all kinds of shots to help create all types of videos that tell compelling stories. When it comes to aerial shots, I’m looking for two main things. I want the shot to be executed technically correctly, and I want the shot to also help further the story conceptually.
Let’s first talk about the technical aspects that make up a great aerial shot. I’ve mentioned it before but the biggest thing that makes a shot usable is if it’s smooth and slow. Drones have the wonderful ability to capture these amazingly smooth, gliding panorama shots, but they’re not always the easiest thing to pull off.
In the past, I’ve worked with a drone pilot that was very good at piloting the drone, but he lacked the understanding of what makes a great camera shot. He was always asking me to help him edit his footage to make it better, but the problem wasn’t his editing, it was the source material.
A technically sound shot needs to be properly exposed and be of adequate duration to be useful to the editor. It also needs to be of free of jerks or fast movements in the footage that happen when the operator makes an abrupt movement with the controls. A good operator will have an eye for composition and camera movement.
It’s actually better to let the subject leave the frame than always trying to keep it centered by constantly moving the drone around. It’s not enough to just point the camera at the object you are filming. A great shot is intentional. Again, the key words here are slow and smooth. Jerky movements bring attention to the shot, not the subject.
Now let’s talk about the conceptual characteristics that make a great shot. A good shot will help tell the story through how the camera sees the subject. The viewer should almost forget that the drone is even there. A shot isn’t interesting just because it’s a drone shot.
You’ve probably seen videos on the internet that they are nothing more than a compilation of aerial shots and these quickly get boring to watch because there’s just no story. Sometimes you’ll see a shot that was captured with a drone that really didn’t even need to be. So conceptually, drones are great for showing something that couldn’t have been shot any other way.
Here’s an example of recently that I shot in Moab, Utah. This short film was telling a story of a rock climber climbing a tower called Ancient Art for the very first time. I used a variety of shots and a variety of cameras to help tell the story and lead up to the climax of the video.
The footage from the GoPro that was strapped to her head during the climb is compelling and it gives a personal, intimate view of the climb and the rocks, and it works well when cut with the aerial footage that shows the grand scope of the landscape and where the climber is in relation to the summit and the ground.
If I had shot the entire climbing sequence with just a drone, the video would not have been nearly as intense or exciting. The drone footage complements the story. It adds a unique view and it builds excitement during the climax of the piece.
So just remember, for great drone shots, you need to execute the shot technically, but you also have to have a conceptual purpose behind the shot.