9 Drone Moves for Stunning Cinematic Video

Do you feel that the short movies made with your drone are a bit too repetitive and not particularly engaging, even when you are in some spectacular location?

In this article, I show how to perform 9 moves used by video professionals to make the most of the enormous capabilities offered by drones for aerial videography. In most cases, I use some intelligent modes offered by the current DJI models, while on a few occasions, I perform them manually

It is important to set correctly the values of the gimbal tilt and the yaw and panning of the sticks for smooth results. I explain the way I set these values in my Beginner guide to the Mini 3, the settings are very similar in the other models

If You Prefer To Watch This As a Video

9 – Push In and Pull Out Moves with a Drone

Push in move

In many cases, a movie starts with a push-in view into a scene, in order to establish the location, to let the viewer feel the place. It can be a simple move forward or can be combined with a change of elevation, or a more complex move panning while advancing and raising in elevation

We can also start with the camera pointing down and then gradually tilting up while advancing, thus revealing new elements in the scene, in this case, be aware of the increase in luminosity when the sky will be included in the scene

Pull out move is ideal for the end of movie

At the end of a movie, we often see a pull-out move to reveal the surroundings and give a sense of departing

These moves are simple to execute manually, but for the pull out we can use the Quickshot Dronie, as the aircraft will fly backward and upward at a desired distance keeping the target in the middle of the frame. More details about Quickshots in my specific article

8 – Sliding Moves with a Drone

Sliding and panning

In other cases, we want to reveal the width of a natural scene by sliding horizontally. A simple panning move is extremely boring, something to avoid at all costs

More sliding moves

We can make things much more interesting by combining several moves. To reveal the width of this red fjord in Iceland I am pulling back with the drone while panning and the result is much more engaging. Here I am advancing while raising in altitude and very slowly turning to the right to follow the river

In the next one sliding while descending. Whenever possible it is very interesting to use an element in the foreground to reveal a main subject in the background, adding some parallax, which is always engaging, as we will see later on. It is also very effective to use geometrical lines to lead the eyes of the viewer

In this article, I describe the most common mistakes to avoid with a drone

7 – Reveal Ascending Moves with a Drone

Ascending moves

Another way to establish a location is to slowly reveal a scene by ascending. This move is especially engaging when revealing an unexpected scene that was hidden by elements in the foreground

This way we surprise the viewer, which is always an excellent way to maintain interest. If the element in the foreground contains strong geometric shapes, the effect is even more engaging

6 – Pull Back Reveal Move with a Drone

Pull back reveal move

In this case, we are showing a scene while moving backward and then suddenly and unexpectedly the main subject enters the scene. The eyes of the viewer are drawn from the previous scene to the new surprising element

Any time we can create some surprise the attention will be increased, it works even better when flying quite close to the unexpected subject, but obviously, avoiding too many risks

5 – Crane Move with a Drone

Crane and reverse crne moves

This move mimics the shots obtained in cinema or TV by having the camera mounted on a crane. But with a drone, we can make similar moves on a much bigger scale. The idea is to maintain the camera locked on a subject while advancing and raising in altitude. It is possible to perform a reverse crane, moving backward and descending, in this case, we can often reveal an interesting background

It is not an easy move to perform manually, so it is better to use the intelligent flight mode Spotlight to keep the camera locked on the subject

4 – Daisy cutter, Low Flying Move with a Drone

Flying low

With drones most users at first start by flying as high as possible, but there are plenty of interesting and unexpected angles when flying close to the ground. We can replicate moves that in the old days were achieved with the use of very expensive dollies and sliders, but with drones, we can move in all directions, at any speed, over all sorts of terrain, even over water.

It would be fantastic to be able to use drones this way in urban environments, but unfortunately, it is not always possible, so we have to resort to using hand-held gimbals 

3 – Orbiting Move with a Drone

Circling move

Some of the most pleasing movements are the ones involving parallax. The idea is to find scenes with several different elements on different planes, at different distances. By orbiting around the closest element, we will slowly reveal the ones in the background which will move at a faster speed compared to the ones closer to the camera

Rotating around a target manually is not easy. Luckily all DJI prosumer drones have the excellent Point of Interest intelligent Flight Mode, click on the link for m dedicated article

The aircraft rotates around the chosen target and we are free to use the two sticks of the controller to get closer or further away and to modify the elevation.

We can even zoom in or out smoothly using the right wheel of the controller. In this scene, I am applying all these moves while using POI to show these villages on the East coast of Sicily in a very dynamic way

2 – Using Spotlight Mode with a Drone

Spotlight mode

My favorite intelligent flight mode is Spotlight. It allows keeping a target in the same position in the frame while flying in any direction. Practically it disconnects the camera from the direction of the flight

A typical way to use Spotlight is by flying in parallel or in a diagonal line to the target with the camera locked on it, thus revealing the background with an interesting parallax effect

The two sticks of the controller can be used for all sorts of variations, it is also possible to apply a progressive zoom with the right wheel

Tracking with Spotlight

Spotlight is also an excellent tool for tracking a moving target in a very dynamic way. More details about Spotlight Mode are in my dedicated article   

1 – Top-Down Footage, the Bird’s Eye View with a Drone

Top-down views

Most bird’s eye views can only be shot with drones and often offer a completely different point of view of familiar scenes. This is a famous tiny island just off the East coast of Sicily, everybody knows it around here, but when I showed this top-down shot, none of my friends guessed what it was

The clip of a volcanic fumarole in Iceland looks like an abstract painting by Klimt. The vineyard could be mistaken for a cashmere blanket. In many cases, top-down shots are quite spectacular

It is also possible to add interest to top-down shots by rotating the camera using the left stick of the controller for the famous Hollywood corkscrew move. We can add a twist to the plot (excuse the pun), by rotating while ascending or descending

Corkscrew and crane

In this one, I combine a top-down shot with the corkscrew and the crane effect

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I am Vittorio Caramazza, aka Vicvideopic, the founder of this website and author of all the posts. I am a videographer and photographer contributing to several stock agencies. I am an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Lightroom. I have 10 years of experience with dron videography and photography. I was struck by drone syndrome in 2013. I have owned and tested in depth the following drones: Phantom 3, Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic Mini, Mini 2, Air 2, Air 2s, Autel Evo Nano Plus, Mavic 3, Mini 3 Pro, Mini 3. My home has turned into a breeding ground for drones. I am the owner of two YouTube channels specializing in Videography and Photography, with a focus on drones My main channel is VicVideopic (in English): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgaBlrFDONJ4BSEUHa2cLKg My other channel is Drone Mitico, the Italian version.: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkeoY8rPPj-fypUKHckTtwQ I am currently based in Sicily (Southern Italy), but I tend to move quite often. After all, this is one of the main benefits of being a digital nomad…

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