5 Simple Drone Shots for a Cinematic Look

David Chuan-En Lin
3 min readDec 23, 2022

Drones let videographers capture scenes from new and unique perspectives. However, as a new drone pilot, one may wonder 🤔 how it is possible to recreate the stunning cinematic shots seen in feature films or nature documentaries. In this guide, I’ll be going through five classic cinematic drone shots, along with flying tips and my own examples. Ready for takeoff!

A bird’s eye view drone shot

Table of Contents

  1. Reveal Shot
  2. Bird’s Eye View
  3. Tracking Shot
  4. Fly-Through
  5. Dolly Zoom

1. Reveal Shot

The reveal shot, also known as the pull-back shot, helps establish a wider scene or a location. Start from a low altitude with the subject centered and slowly pull away at a steady speed, gradually revealing the environment around the subject. Keep the subject in the center of the frame and the camera leveled as you pull away. Be mindful of your drone’s control range if you trail far away.

2. Bird’s Eye View

The bird’s eye view, also known as the overhead shot or the rocket, is excellent for capturing geometric patterns of buildings or landscapes from a unique top-down, LEGO-like perspective. Start with the camera pointing down perpendicular to the ground and steadily fly upwards with the subject in the center of the frame. Be mindful of wind conditions as you reach high altitudes.

3. Tracking Shot

The tracking shot, also known as the Point of Interest (POI) shot, helps emphasize a static or moving subject. There are two main ways you can achieve this shot: with tracking software (e.g. DJI ActiveTrack) or manual maneuvering. Start with the drone hovering in midair and center the subject with software or manually. Then, fly the drone steadily while keeping the subject centered on camera. Experiment with different flight paths, such as flying over, tagging behind, or orbiting the subject. I filmed the first example using ActiveTrack and following a static subject, and filmed the second example manually with the RC remote controller and following a moving subject.

4. Fly-Through

The fly-through can be used to create a thrilling first-person-like experience or dramatically reveal a hidden scene. Start by planning a route between two points that flies through a gap or a hole. Fly the drone steadily across the planned route and carefully avoid any obstacles. If you are flying through tight gaps, you may need to turn off obstacle avoidance software (e.g. DJI Obstacle Avoidance) to prevent the drone from stopping automatically. This shot takes quite a decent amount of practice to master and Sam Kolder’s videos feature great examples of (risky) fly-through shots.

5. Dolly Zoom

The dolly zoom creates a surreal and psychedelic feel by manipulating perspective. The technique involves flying the drone towards or away from the subject while keeping the subject relatively the same size, either through steadily zooming in/out while flying away from/towards the subject or through keyframing the zoom levels in post-production. Keep the shot clean from any shakes or jitters. The result is that the subject remains the same size while the background appears to warp and move around it. In the first example, I flew towards the subject while zooming out. In the second example, I flew away from the subject while zooming in. I did both zooming in post-production.

And that’s a wrap! ✈️

Hopefully, you now have a handful of drone shots you can use to “elevate” your drone videography. Remember that practice makes perfect and that you can always get creative by mixing and matching different shot techniques.

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