The egalitarianism of modern creative tools is astounding. To make a well-produced film 20 years ago directors needed a few million dollars and a camera the size of a large dog. Luckily for us in the game of producing media on (slightly) smaller budgets, things have changed a lot. One major wave of advancement in the sea of change was the GoPro camera, released in its first relevant form in 2007 with a 3MP camera shooting 512×384 video. While that resolution was far from lending video a “high production value” look, in the six years after its release, the GoPro has evolved into an incredible, 4k-shooting, go-anywhere, do-anything action camera that can produce stunning results (if you need proof, just look at any high-test action-sports video from the past three years).
Once the portable, powerful camera had reached the masses, companies started to look for a way to leverage the GoPro’s small size and light weight — and the natural direction was up. Aerial shots, once unheard of for low-budget filmmakers without access to a couple-million-dollar helicopter, have become a reality with the smart pairing of the GoPro camera and aerial drones, which are, effectively, remote-controlled helicopters. Unsurprisingly, drones have exploded in popularity over the past two or three years and are finally beginning to arrive at price points that might make a budget-minded filmmaker’s ears perk up. With that in mind, we sought to find the best drones for aerial filmmaking; after some worthwhile learning experiences (don’t try and learn to fly one in a New York City office), we’ve arrived at our three favorites.