How to Fake a Drone Shot in a ‘No Drone Zone’

There are many places where drones are banned and many laws restricting how, when, and where you can fly, but what if you absolutely must capture some drone shots in one of these off-limits locations? Well, you can just fake it!

San Francisco-based viral video wiz Karen X. Cheng has put together some fun ideas on how you can shoot “drone” shots without actually using a camera drone at all. Here’s a quick look at all the different ideas in different “no drone zones”:

“I live in San Francisco, which has gorgeous scenery just waiting to be captured by a drone. The only problem? Drones are banned along most of the nearby coastline. So I found some workarounds!” Cheng writes. “I dunno why, but I just find these fake drone shots hilariously fun to do.”

Here are the different ideas seen in the video:

Put Your Camera on a Stick

“Attaching a camera to a long stick is the most versatile technique,” Cheng says. “It gives you a decent amount of control over the movement and works in many environments.”

Ultra-long poles you can use include the $69 Insta360 Extended Edition Selfie Stick and the $60 DocaPole, which extends to a whopping 24 feet and is the stick Cheng used to fake a drone shot overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

Put Your Camera on a Kite

If you have a kite that’s strong enough and/or a camera that’s light enough, you can consider combining the two for a cheap aerial photography solution on a gusty day. Just make sure your camera is durable enough to withstand the jolt of a crash (do this at your own risk!).

Put Your Camera on a Fishing Rod

If you need to get “fly” under something, like a bridge, you can try hanging your camera from fishing line and lowering it with a fishing rod. Cheng was able to get some neat shots from under the Golden Gate Bridge using this technique.

“This shot was quite a thrill to get, and a fishing rod is a hilarious camera accessory, but it’s not exactly practical,” Cheng says. “It’s one of the most challenging shots I’ve ever tried and it’s very easy to accidentally scratch your camera lens when you attempt this shot. I learned this the hard way. You’ve been warned!”

Put Your Camera on a Makeshift Zipline

For her final idea, Cheng made her “drone” soar across a beach by creating a zipline with some fishing line and then connecting her camera to the line with a metal ring.

“This is a super fun shot, but be careful if you want your camera to survive unharmed,” Cheng says.

Editing May Be Necessary

Depending on the technique and footage captured, you may or may not need to do some digital editing in post to clean things up and complete the fakery.

Things that can help your footage look more like an actual drone shot include digital stabilization, object (e.g. string) removal, and color grading (for a nicely finished look).

If you nail both the shoots and the edits, though, you could walk away with some very convincing “drone” shots in a no drone zone.

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