In War and Peace, drones are the big thing. Leaving war aside for the rest of this discussion, let's look at the peaceful use of drones-- the drones that have decent cameras attached to them.
Aerial fly-bys have always added great majesty and context to videos, especially when artfully employed. Until about ten years ago, most flyovers were accomplished with a helicopter, a skilled pilot, and a daredevil videographer willing to be tethered to the copter so he or she didn't fall out when trying to lean out of the chopper for a great shot.
That changed with the convergence of personal drones (usually quadcopters or in same cases scale model airplanes), the high definition mini-camcorder, often a GoPro or a dozen other decent minicams, expanded flash storage, and finally savvy programming and longer range wifi.
Add to that a smartphone and you're a pilot, without leaving the ground. Kind of like in today's war. (Oh, sorry, I said I was going to leave that aside).
The power in swooping aerial shots is just not in their inherent beauty. Like a good timelapse sequence, they add both eye candy and context. And like any video power-trick, they can be overused, especially if the shots exist purely the hell of it.
I've argued on Linked-In and other places that timelapse properly used is part of a larger story. That story may be the purpose of the building, its impact on customers or employees,
or what the new installation or project will mean for the bottom line. This requires more than timelapse or aerial photography, it requires interior progress views, sometimes interviews or narration and a beginning middle and end.
A building goes up. So what? That happens everyday, everywhere. What does it mean? What impact does it have?
This came into play the first time we used drone aerials. Prior to this, aerial shots for me meant flying with Vietnam war vets over Menasha Corporation's forests in the Northwest, or over speeding Mercruiser powered Miami Vice-like speedboats in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a rush... a very expensive rush.
For Walgreens, we created a time-lapse story that chronicled the world first "0 energy" drug store. Calling this a drug store is like calling Coke a mom and pop operation. With its own power plant and self-generating solar arrays and windmill turbines, Walgreens intended to create as much energy as it used.
We used a drone for exteriors (to capture the majesty of the rooftop solar panels) and interiors (to take advantage of the high rooflines and show off the store's capacity. This was mixed with interviews and multi-camera fixed interior and exterior timelapse positions.
The drone paid off-- with no risk to life or limb. We won a number of awards, but more importantly, Walgreens had a story they could use, for publicity, education, and internal communication. That was three and half years ago, still early in the drone and even the timelapse "story" game.
I'd like to think that timelapse and drone flyovers are now just "part of the arsenal" in video storytelling. Like steadicams and motion slider dollies and depth of field tricks and original music.
But I still miss hanging out of a helicopter.