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When Should You Use a Drone in Your Video?

A high-tech drone capturing the open fields on a gorgeous farm

Advancements in and the increasing availability of drone technology have made it possible to create videos from a previously off-limits perspective. Where as before a birds-eye-view was restricted to those who were willing to fork out insane amounts of money to hire a helicopter, hiring a licensed drone operator to capture footage for you has now become an affordable option. The media production world, and the businesses who wish to utilise its creative power, have taken notice. Look at any media production company's portfolio or services page and you'll see that clients of all stripes, from national sports teams to software developers, are using drone's to present their message, service, or product in a stylish and impactful way. It's the new craze; clients want drone footage, and production companies like us are finding ever more creative ways to meet this demand.

There is, however, a major drawback. Drone's are a great way to showcase what your organisation does; but overusing them, or using them for the sake of it, can often do more harm than good to the message you're trying to spread. To put it simply: there are right moments to use a drone, and there a wrong ones. They're not a one-size-fits-all way to film, and falling to appreciate their particular advantages and disadvantages can quickly land you in a spot of trouble. If you're a business looking to commission a film using drone footage, or a production company offering it as one of your services, here are some things to consider when you're considering the drone.

First off, it's always important to remember that, when collaborating on a video, both the production company and the client should begin asking two questions: who is this video for and what message are we trying to communicate to them? These may appear, on the face of it, as obvious questions; but you'd be surprised how quickly everyone involved can get caught up in their own ideas on what the film should be. And, when we stray from fulfilling the film's purpose for being made in the first place, the likelihood that we will also begin to employ unnecessary and counterproductive filming techniques begins to grow, too.

This is all a bit wordy, so let me break it down with an example: imagine that you own a nationally renowned tea company. You were the titan of the industry for decades, but one of your competitors is rapidly eating into your share of the market thanks to a fresh and heart-warming advertising strategy. Customers are converting in droves, and your traditional approach is quickly becoming obsolete. You see a car advert on TV that uses drone footage, and it hits you with the idea that a high quality film featuring drone shots showing off your brand might bring you back in the fight. You get your marketing team to find a video production company with drone filming experience, and commission a tea-focused drone film to be made as soon as possible.

A tight, focused shot of the eye of a drone camera

This thought process isn't at all uncommon, but it displays the worst kind of approach; and any production company that's willing to take on a gig like this without question should rethink their strategy. Remember: any choice of what kind of film to make, and what sort of techniques and equipment to use, should always start from considering the target audience. If your competitor is winning your customers over with films that make them feel good, and then associate good feelings with that particular brand, deciding to use a drone because its a technically impressive device that looked cool in another advert will only dig you deeper into the hole you're already in. If you want to start digging yourself out, you have to start putting your customers at the centre of strategy and use whatever will work best to reach them; and that often means sacrificing technical spectacle to ensure that the film engages viewers on a more meaningful level.

This is not to say that drone's are never a good idea, but they are a bad idea a lot more often that clients usually suppose. Drone's are, for example, fantastic if you want to bring a powerful dose of perspective. Carefully and cautiously injected into an otherwise straightforward film, they can bring scope and a sense of epic to whatever is being discussed. Just make sure, however, that the drone is used to emphasise a sense of epic that is already there instead of trying to manufacture some where none exists. If you or your client are a car company with a giant, state of the art factory; then drone footage is perfect to briefly showcase the scale of your manufacturing power and ambition. But if you're software development business with a modest setup, there's little chance drone footage will do anything to enhance your message. If anything, it'll probably muddle it.

Using a drone without good reason, and without care for the audience you're trying to affect, can cost you more than just losing their attention, too. Even though they are becoming more affordable, drone's remain one of the most expensive means of filming anything for your business (unless you're thinking of using an IMAX camera). They require a licensed operator to be present at all times, and the best of the bunch are often the least charitable when it comes to pricing. You may think that avoiding the licensed professionals might save you some money, but to do so would be highly irresponsible. Filming without a license is both illegal and threatens public safety and privacy. All reliable video production companies, like ourselves, will always use licensed operators. Any company who doesn't cannot be trusted.

Using a drone, then, can quickly explode any initial budget. If you're not careful, they can turn a simple, powerful, and cost-effective promotional video or case study into a film stacked with incredibly impressive but entirely unnecessary footage that does little to reach your audience. But, when done carefully, they can open up the scope of film and affect your audiences in ways you have yet to imagine. The key is the 'why' behind your use of the drone; a question that should always have a good answer to.

A screenshot of the powerful drone footage we used for Calton Primary School

Calton Primary School

The picture above is from our Calton Primary School Promotional Video. Take a look at the full film to see quality drone work in action:

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