Drone Video Camera Movements: Understanding the Basic Techniques to Elevate Your Aerial Storytelling

Frank J. Segarra
July 13, 2023

Telling a compelling aerial story requires more than just modern drone equipment. It requires careful planning and execution to ensure that each camera movement intentionally captures footage that ultimately creates a memorable experience for the viewer.

However, before taking off into the world of drone video cinematography, it’s essential to understand classic camera movements. Mastering these will provide the foundational knowledge and techniques to capture breathtaking aerial footage.

Panning and 360 Degree Rotation

A basic camera movement for drone cinematography, panning and 360-degree rotation involves moving the camera horizontally, either left-to-right or right-to-left while focusing on the subject of interest. A panning shot is excellent for establishing a sense of location and is often used in landscape videography. A 360-degree rotation accomplishes a similar goal but completes a full rotation around the primary subject or location. The latter commonly shows off the view from a particular vantage point, while the former showcases any subject in view.


Tilting is a cinematographic technique in which the camera stays fixed but rotates up and down on a vertical plane. This move typically involves using a tripod where the camera is stationary and can best be compared to the motion of someone raising or lowering their head. These shots are popular when introducing a character, especially one of grandeur, in a movie or storyline. Tilting also provides a classic way to reveal a subject by tilting directly up from the ground, slowly revealing the subject in a way that builds interest and intrigue.


Like a physical crane, this shot moves straight up or down while focusing on the subject in the middle. The camera does not move for a typical crane shot. In the tilt crane shot, however, the camera tilts to keep the subject in the center of the shot while the drone moves vertically in one direction.

Dolly Shot

A dolly shot is when you move the entire camera forwards and backward, typically on a track or motorized vehicle. A dolly approach shot shows the camera approaching the subject head-on, while a dolly retreat shot mirrors the same action but in reverse, pulling back from the subject while maintaining focus.

After the initial approach in a dolly shot, the shot can continue as a flyover of the point of interest, depending on the creative direction of the operator. This type of movement can create beautiful flowing effects when done correctly, but before attempting a dolly shot, make sure your track is stable and will allow for fluid movement.

Aerial Orbit

An orbit is a simple shot moving around an object. With the option for 360 degrees and 180 degrees, the camera operator sets a point of interest and secures the view. Once the point of interest is assigned, the drone performs an automated circle around the point of interest with the camera focused on the center. The aerial orbit creates a perfect shot when showcasing a building or large object from all angles.

Trucking Shot

In a trucking shot, the camera operator frames the subject before moving the drone right or left. This allows for capturing one side of the subject entirely while providing mystery for the viewer regarding what will show up next. Trucking captures shots in a way similar to dollying, except for moving the camera from left-to-right instead of in-and-out. For the smoothest video capture, it’s best to use a fluid motion track to eliminate any jerking or friction.

Pedestal shot

A pedestal, also known as “boom up” and “boom down,” involves moving the camera upwards or downwards in relation to the subject. It differs from tilting in that the entire camera ascends or descends rather than just the camera’s angle. A pedestal shot can be used to frame a tall or high subject, such as a building, while keeping the framing at an eye-level view for the viewer. Another way to utilize a pedestal shot is by moving the camera vertically up or down while it is fixed on one location.


Zooming is the most commonly used camera movement but should be used sparingly, as overuse can lead to a lack of interest in the footage. However, creative zooming can add energy to fast-paced productions, such as zooming in-or-out from an unexpected object or person.

Retreat, Rise, & Fade Away

Also known as up-and-away, the retreat, rise, and fade technique leaves the point of interest in the center while retreating to give the viewer a complete view of the surrounding area, providing an exceptional ending shot for a compilation video.

To achieve this look, hover your drone in front of the subject and then gradually push up on the left stick and pull back on the right stick. The drone will move back and up, producing a simple movement with captivating results. Practicing slower control stick movements will produce smoother, more cinematic footage, however, you can also go full-throttle in both directions for faster, more exhilarating footage.

Flyovers and Obliques

Flyovers place a subject in a geographical perspective in order to show its scale. This technique involves focusing on one object or specific landscape and capturing the camera’s movement around the subject until it passes from above. Oblique shots are taken at an angle, providing a unique perspective of the subject that can provide additional variety and interest.


Drone cinematography allows both the creator and the audience to experience many different ways of viewing the world. From panning and tilting to dolly and flyover shots, each movement has a unique purpose that can be leveraged to create a compelling story and enhance the viewer’s experience. Understanding and mastering these basic camera movements provides the creative footage needed to take visual storytelling to the next level.
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