It’s interesting seeing the evolution of cinematography in real time, with the relatively recent capability of cheap drone shots.
I first recalled them playing a significant part in a show for HBO’s True Detective series, season 2. They were used extensively for interstitial scenes that showed a moody and frightening view of southern California at night; massed red lights of traffic at night flowing like rivers of lava in a hellscape. Which perfectly suited the moods and fates of that season’s trapped characters.
Now drone shots are blossoming everywhere, providing similar power of setting and atmosphere. Slow steady pans from a close distance and with an articulated smoothness that wouldn’t be possible with a helicopter.
It all feels like a similar opening of the cinematic palette that can influence movie storytelling itself, as the production of the relatively portable and quiet Arriflex 16mm film/audio camera. Put on the market in the mid-60s, with continual improvements after, it pushed cinematography forward in the late 60s and early 70s. It led directly to the gritty documentary style that’s so delicious in thrillers of that time, from exploitation and pulp noir to legitimate masterpieces like “The French Connection”. You no longer needed sets, you could shoot in a dilapidated apartment stairwell that had a ragged grimy beauty and a *rightness* no effects team could recreate. You could bolt the camera to the side of a car and roar it down the street.
All that to say, innovation is beautiful and it’s ongoing. The more tools we have to create beauty, the wider the the range of that beauty and those resulting emotional experiences can become.