The Dramatic Impact of Drones on the VR Filmmaking Industry

Editor’s note: You’ve heard about how drones are being used for epic car chases, unique overhead shots, and gorgeous establishing scenes. You’ve even heard about drones replacing dollies, cranes, and helicopters on set. But little has been said about how drones are working with other emergent film technologies to create an immersive experience.  

The following article is a guest post written by Aliza Chelsea.



Drones have already become a valuable tool for creating video content. One of the new avenues still being explored by filmmakers is how to use drones to shoot Virtual Reality (VR) content. Since the main selling point of VR is the immersive experience it can provide, drone videography can capture a wholly different angle, particularly aerial, and increase production value considerably. 

Drones Keep Equipment Out of Frame

One of the main challenges that continue to plague traditional VR filmmakers is keeping the crew and equipment out of the shot. Having videographers and boom microphones visible in the content can take the reality out of VR. To deal with this, professional drone crews you can rig the VR drones with first person view cameras so that the pilots will be invisible. Additionally, keeping the gear out of the way isn’t that troublesome since drone videography doesn’t require as much equipment as traditional filmmaking. 

Drones Make New Heights More Accessible

Shooting with drones can also save time and money. Before the advent of remote-controlled aircraft, filmmakers would rent helicopters, planes, or boats to get the footage they needed– but at a hefty pricetag.

Aviation companies can charge a production $10K-$25K a day for a chopper and crew while drones with a 4K camera can be purchased for $5,000. Shooting from a helicopter is also more time-consuming. Since there is more to risk with passengers on board, you have to wait for good weather while drones can be piloted safely from below even with smaller windows of opportunity. Aerial and wide landscape footage is easier with drones, which can bring the filmmakers to impossible heights and angles.

Drones Capture Close-up Action

An industry where VR is taking advantage of the above benefits is sports entertainment. Coral notes that VR enhances the way audiences watch games and anyone can feel the energy of the stadium even when inside their own home. For example, VR was used to live stream Major League Baseball games where users could see the action up close and in real time. However, the problem with early VR technology is its weak resolution. Some of the more popular and affordable VR technology can only produce 1080p, creating pixelated views. 

Imagine watching the last few seconds of an important match and not being able to see the action because of poor quality or worse, having laggy reception. More recently, however, VR cameras, especially ones mounted on drones, have vastly improved their hardware. Road to VR’s review of the Flying Eye highlights its capabilities to shoot in 6k/30FPS. Its cutting-edge technology is professional grade with a $75k price tag, but it may well be worth every penny for VR filmmakers. 

Drones Move Cameras and Props

While in the US using drones to shoot VR is still mostly uncharted territory, some Australian companies have advanced to making it an integral part of creating television programs. Screen Queensland chief executive Tracey Vieira commented: “Every big international production we’ve had here in recent years has been using drones for both shooting and lighting.” The second season of Untold Australia was the first TV show made with VR technology and it’s only expected to grow from there. Aside from using the aircraft to film the content, it’s also used in lighting sets. 

[The Dying Of The Light from Pre-Future LLC]

Although not exactly VR content, take a look at this short film by Ian Montgomery which displays how drones can be fitted with lighting technology. The difference with 360° cameras and VR is that while VR enables a 360° view of the surroundings, it also creates a sense of depth that can transport the user to any environment available. Imagine how much more impressive the views of the desert, or any other landscape for that matter, can be with VR technology. It’s an exciting time for us to see how much more impressive the merging of drones and VR filmmaking can get.

The Age of Drones

Drones are becoming indispensable equipment for filmmakers. VR is becoming more compelling now with the help of unmanned aircrafts. Drones are more economical to use in terms of scheduling and budget and they also cut down on time stitching together frames because of the invisibility factor.

Drone videography allows for more creativity and breaks down the limitations of traditional filmmaking. With expert piloting, videographers can immortalize unbelievable landscapes and action on film. 

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