No Drones Allowed? No Problem. These Ideas Will Help You Fake It

There are so many places I’ve wanted to fly a drone, but it’s just not possible what with all those pesky FAA regulations, permit requirements, insurance, and all. But filmmaker Karen X proves that you don’t always need a drone to get a drone-like shot. You just need some creativity.

In a YouTube video sporting some pretty wild shots that would challenge even a skilled drone pilot, viewers discover that it’s not drones at all. The key to a lot of the footage is using a 360 camera (such as an Insta360 ONE X2) and using it, well, like a regular camera of sorts.

Admittedly, I mostly use my 360 cameras for full 360 videos to detail spaces and places, but almost every model on the market has a function where you can “extract” a standard, two-dimensional video from the original 360 files, be it through a phone app or on your computer. That looks like the case in these videos, where a 360 camera was placed in some odd situations, such as on an absurdly large pole, or hung off a bridge with a fishing rod, or launched via kite or zipline. I've used a monopod before to get above a crowd, but this is something else. She even uses a fake drone controller for effect in these videos.

Many times, the apps for 360 cameras on a computer or phone can also add some stabilization to an image, and so between some speeding up/slowing down of footage and that kind of correction, you can get pretty usable footage even if you don’t have the steadiest of hands with any of these outside-the-box approaches to filming. I’ve personally found the stabilization of Insta360 cameras and the Kandao QooCam 8K to be useful in shaky situations.

The filmmaker doesn’t only use 360 cameras. In some of her earlier “low-budget filmmaking” videos, you can also spot the tiny Insta360 GO 2. As an owner of the ridiculously small GO 2 myself, I’ve just gotten a ton of crazy ideas I never thought of using it for before. Her creative approaches are well worth a look.

All of these approaches get a lot of mileage out of modest gear. As an added bonus, these smaller “consumer” cameras can go where a Red or Arri can’t, and are a lot cheaper to replace if say, your kite camera lands in the water.

While this video focuses on fake drone shots, Karen X shares a huge amount of budget video filmmaking tips over on her Instagram that is well worth the look.

Do you have any creative filmmaking techniques of your own? Share them in the comments below.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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