Although the more you fly the more you’ll discover your own ability to create stunning swooping aerial movies, when you’re getting started there are a number of classic shots you’ll want to practise.
Although a dolly track can be any shape, the classic one is a straight line following along a moving object. With a multicopter, though, recreating this kind of shot is easy (so long as you’re in a mode that holds altitude for you). Simply rotate to face the subject and use roll rather than pitch to glide left or right. Experienced pilots might find that altitude hold, rather than GPS hold, will provide the smoother dolly, though be warned—the ‘copter won’t stop when you release the stick.
By orbiting a fixed spot and keeping it in the centre of the frame it will apparently move very little in the frame while the surroundings move quickly. The narrower the field of view and the further away the background, the faster it will appear to movement in the frame. This kind of effect is used to great effect in Michael Bay’s The Island, among many more. To achieve it, rotate the copter (and camera) to face the subject, then circle with roll rather than pitch, keeping the subject in place with the yaw.
A great staple of the TV studio production (in fact it’s impossible to picture a live broadcast of a stage event without cranes over the crowd and the performers), the crane helps producers achieve swooping but level camera. Add a multicopter and suddenly the crane is infinite; you can pan across a seafront while rising over the buildings and providing a constantly altering perspective in three axes at once; a very engaging shot, whatever your subject, but you’ll need to use roll, yaw & throttle and perhaps camera pitch all at once, which requires practice!
OK, you nearly got away without it being mentioned, but it’s become a classic shot since Patrick Stewart’s “dronie”, taken at Cannes 2014, in which the ‘copter starts close to the subject so at first sight might just be a normal steadicam, then suddenly lurches up and back to reveal the surroundings as quickly as possible. The inevitable @Dronie account on Twitter now has thousands of followers despite somewhat sporadic maintenance.
A word of caution; make sure you fly the correct direction—backward when the camera is front-facing as it is on most copters—as well as up, and keep the camera facing down at about 45°.
The Complete Guide to Drones is Adam Juniper’s comprehensive introduction if you’re thinking of dipping your toe into the world of drones. This book will show you everything you could need to know. What types you can buy (or build), how they work, how to fly them, all the relevant rules and how to keep ahead of the weather.