Read some fun facts on 7 Hollywood movies filmed with drones, the aerial companies who shot the drone footage and how drones were used in those scenes.
We put together some of the ways drones have been used in Hollywood movies from 2012 up to 2016, whether it is acting the part of a character, thrilling us with a great car chase scene or flying just above the main character as they attempt some death-defying feat.
Sam Mendes’ Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, and Naomie Harris, was the first of the James Bond movies to use drones for filming aerial footage.
Skyfall had indeed a spectacular opening sequence, shot by Flying-Cam, where James Bond uses a motorbike to chase a terrorist across the rooftop of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.
The high-speed aerial footage captured by the drone in that scene made a buzz in Hollywood, contributing to the movement that saw, a couple of years later, 6 aerial filming companies get the first 333 FAA Exemptions for closed-set filming.
Flying-Cam, who shot this scene, won a Scientific & Engineering Award (Oscar) in 2014 for their Flying-Cam 3.0 SARAH Unmanned Aircraft System.
They have used remote-controlled miniature helicopter systems since 2000 and have used these on many movies from The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), to several of the Harry Potter movies, The Kite Runner (2007) and all the way up to Skyfall.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Martin Scorsese’s film The Wolf of Wall Street used the US-based drone cinematography company Freefly Cinema to capture the aerial shots of the pool party.
The bird’s-eye shot begins off-shore and moves in to capture an aerial view of the pool party using a Canon C500 with a Convergent Design Gemini for 4K recording attached to a Freefly drone.
Freefly Cinema has also shot footage for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand and the coming of age comedy 21 and Over (2013).
The Expendables 3 (2014)
The Expendables 3, another pre-exemptions movie shot in Bulgaria, is all about explosive action and fast creative scenes.
ZM Interactive were the company to work on the aerial parts of this movie.
Altogether 30 scenes of this movie were shot by drone.
The opening scene was shot using drones. With a moving train, a low-flying helicopter dropping and collecting people from the train, bullets flying, explosions and soldier action, it was not an easy scene to capture on camera.
As Ziv Marom, ZM Interactive’s pilot and owner said in an interview with The Hollywood Report on drones in movies shoots: “We flew right next to a train and helicopter. We shot everything from chasing tanks to explosions to flying over buildings and motorcycle jumps. We can also do shots that a real helicopter can’t do. We can do lower altitudes.”
Using drones allowed for movement with the train/helicopter and truly gives an impression of watching the whole sequence unfold before you.
ZM Interactive filmed drone footage for several movie productions such as Homefront (2013) and Sparks (2013).
In Chappie, the latest movie by South African director Neill Blomkamp after the critically acclaimed District 9, drones have been used intensively.
The camera on the drone was used as the POV (Point of View) of one of the robot characters.
John Gore of Drone Crew, South Africa, was the main drone operator on Chappie. In an interview with The Credits, John Gore talked about a specific scene shot with his drone: one of the robot characters, chasing a human character, goes flying through a glass window at full speed.
That scene was filmed using his drone, and while this shot – impossible to take with a helicopter – would have been traditionally done on a cable camera, the quadcopter gave the shot a greater sense of speed and organic movement.
Chappie also used small drones for the human characters to look at as proxies.
The drones, without a camera, were basically used as a reference point to look at for the actors while interacting with characters that would be added in post-production CGI.
Sam Mendes’s Spectre, James Bond‘s latest movie, makes ample use of drone shots.
Helicopter Film Services (HFS), a UK-based helicopter and drone aerial filming company founded by Jeremy Braben, was the company chosen to provide drone aerial footage.
James Bond’s escape from a fire was one of the key action scenes in Spectre and it was mainly shot with drones, on a rooftop near Trafalgar Square, in London.
Jurassic World (2015)
Team 5 Aerial System Rentals are another experienced California-based aerial company who have embraced drones as a way to get unique aerial shots from a lower perspective than a helicopter.
One of Team5’s Aerial Directors of Photography, David B. Nowell, reported in a press release on Fujifilm:
“We decided to shoot Jurassic World primarily with a RED Dragon camera and needed a lens that would cover 6K and be sharp enough throughout the entire frame. We chose to equip our SHOTOVER K1 system with FUJINON’s 19-90mm Cabrio lens, and the lens’ range worked perfectly for our production. We filmed for a few months, primarily in Hawaii and also in New Orleans and shot all of the aerial scenes with the 19-90 Cabrio“.
Team5 has been involved in countless high-profile feature films, including The Purge (2013), Taken 3 (2014), San Andreas (2015) and Straight Outta Compton (2015).
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Due for release in 2016, Captain America: Civil War features drone footage from Pictorvision and aerial filming from Helicopter Film Services (HFS).
Pictorvision also did drone work on the movie Comancheria, due for release in 2016.
As it was illegal to film using a drone in the USA up to 2014, most movies still don’t list the use of drones on IMDB. In the future, it will become clearer which movies have used drones to film certain scenes instead of cranes or helicopters.
What does this mean for avid movie goers?
Incredible aerial shots using widely experienced Aerial Directors of Photography who can storyboard scenes guided by true aerial coordinators. And all of this at a fraction of the price of using helicopters and cranes. Plus using a drone, in spite of mishaps, can be much safer than using a helicopter.
Win-Win for drone lovers!
The result is drone cinematography that blends the best of innovative technology with a foundation of tried and tested set practices and safety procedures.
We are just waiting for aerial cinematography to become an Oscar category!