God's Eye View Drone Favored in Films
Directly down shot overused
There’s a Hollywood filmmaking camera angle that now seems to be de rigueur in car-on-desolate-country-road scenes. And in car-on-a-city street shots. And in car chase scenes. And even in the classic car-driving-across-a-bridge scene.
This omnipresent aerial camera angle is the “god’s-eye view,” once exclusively achieved using a crane, helicopter, or airplane, but lately often accomplished by a drone-mounted camera. The drone flies very high, perpendicular to a moving car, smoothly moving along with the car.
The cost of using a drone-mounted-movie-camera is cheaper than using a manned aircraft for filming. Which may be one reason the god’s eye view is seen so often in movies now.
And when I see this drone-made god’s eye aerial scene, the story flow is interrupted for me and I marvel at the moviemaking and lose that “suspension of disbelief” — forgetting that it’s a movie and being immersed in the story. This drone distraction has the effect of “breaking the fourth wall”, that imaginary divider which separates the acting from the viewer.
Here are 5 drone-cam-over-moving-vehicle scenes in shows I watched recently.
In order of appearance:
Grace S01E01 Dead Simple (ITV, Oct. 2014)
George Gently S08E02 - Gently and the New Age (BBC 1, May 2017)
Spenser Confidential (Netflix, 2020)
Below Zero (Netflix, 2021)
The Decline (Netflix, 2020)
Looking Down on Overhead Drone Shot in Movies
In a 2019 New York Times story “The Dronepocalypse Is Here — in Documentary Footage, at Least” documentary maker Jeremy Workman says drone shots from high above are ubiquitous now, at least in documentaries. “So audiences can now spot them,” he said. “That takes them out of the movie, which has the opposite effect of what the shot’s intention was.”
Writing in Film Comment magazine (July-August- 2018) Eric Hynes says the top-down drone shot has become cliché. “Drone shots are easily recognizable not because drone cameras have a single, easily definable use, but because nearly everyone’s using them the same way: god’s-eye view of a landscape, smooth gliding (heaven forbid there’s a jerk or rattle), low-grade wow factor, cut. Whatever meaning or information these drone shots are meant to convey, they mostly just convey that they’re drone shots.”
David MacQuarrie of drone news and reviews website DroneDJ, also thinks the perpendicular drone shot over a vehicle is overused. In his story Hollywood: Spare us from the unmotivated drone shot he writes: “Looking down on the protagonist’s vehicle has long been the lazy director’s way to signal a transition between locations. (She throws her luggage in her convertible in Toronto, and now she’s driving over the Brooklyn Bridge! As a cliche, it’s perilously close to riding into the sunset. And it’s usually accompanied by (lord help us) droning music.”
Ten God’s Eye View Car Scenes in Movies
I made this video of god’s eye view scenes in movies. In order of appearance in the video:
Wonder Woman 1984 (released December 2020)
Sicario: Day of the Soldado (June 2018)
Tenet (September 2020)
Free Guy (August 2021)
Mission Impossible: Fallout (July 2018)
The Misfits (June 2021)
Terminator Genisys (July 2015)
Baby Driver (March 2017)
The Fate of the Furious (April 2017)
The Little Things (January 2021)
The drone overhead shot perpendicular to a moving vehicle is so noticeable to me probably because drones are often in the news.
And now drone-spotting that overhead car scene has become my movie-watching game, distracting me further as I try to guess when the shot of a car’s roof will make it’s appearance.
When unmanned aerial vehicles start delivering pizza to me I’ll probably have become accustomed to the drone-camera view from above a vehicle scene in nonfiction movies and TV programs.
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