LA Drone Film Festival winners raise the bar for drone cinematography

LA Drone Film Festival winners raise the bar for drone cinematography
Screen grab from the winner of the best Dronie from this year's LA Drone Film Festival
Screen grab from the winner of the best Dronie from this year's LA Drone Film Festival
View 1 Image
Screen grab from the winner of the best Dronie from this year's LA Drone Film Festival
Screen grab from the winner of the best Dronie from this year's LA Drone Film Festival

The Los Angeles Drone Film Festival, which is celebrates the art of drone cinematography, has concluded and the winners announced. Although drones are still a relatively new addition to the world of filmmaking, the festival has attracted a pretty stunning collection of super-short films and it's awesome to see the creative ways these unmanned aircraft are being used. Let's dive in.

Winner of the Made in LA and Best in Show categories: Muscle Up, by Robert McIntosh

This is an extraordinary little video in its conception, execution and sheer flying ability. It gives a gorgeous one-take overview of Venice Beach, shot at dawn in reverse, with beautiful sound design to bring the famous location to life.


This unbelievably smooth flight, undertaken on a miniscule drone with the guts of a GoPro laid out upon it, is even more amazing to watch in unstabilized forward motion, without color correction or sound design. The smoothness of this totally unstabilized flight is absolutely jaw-dropping. Hell of an achievement.

Raw Clip Before ReelSteady Stabilization

Winner of the Freestyle FPV category: The Flight of the Year, by Paul Nurkkula

There's no editing other than the addition of a soundtrack here – it's just a truly, wildly amazing flight. The sense of three-dimensional freedom is almost overwhelming as Nurkkula zips and loops his drone around a moving freight train, bugging the train driver at his window, shooting the gaps between bridge rails and even between the carriages themselves. It doesn't end there; he flies underneath the moving train at one point, and even pokes about inside an open freight car. A breathtaking demonstration of top-grade flying skills.

Flight of the Year // Trains, Bridges, Rapids, Mountains, Sunset, Gapping, Perching, Powerlooping

Winner of the Landscape and Architecture category: Winter Wonderland, by Daniel Riley

A fascinating artistic idea, beautifully realized. Riley first puts the cameras on the ground in a night-time, snow-laden forest setting, and straps powerful floodlights to the drones, allowing him to play with moving light and shadows for some really cool effects. Then, he puts a camera in the air as well, with the same moving light source off-screen. Unforgettable black and white visuals.

WINTER WONDERLAND - 2017 Los Angeles Drone Film Festival LANDSCAPE Category Winner

Winner of the Narrative category: Cardboard Cadet, by Chris Castor and his kid Kai

If you're a father, prepare to feel like a terrible, inferior dad. The Castor family project is a super cute flight of fancy following toddler Kai, who builds himself a cardboard plane and takes it on an awesome mission through the power of imagination, green screen and dad's editing talents. The rest of us can take solace in the fact that Kai probably found all the filming to be a pain in the bum, but he'd be king of the kindergarten the day he got to bring this in for show and tell.

Cardboard Cadet - A Father and Son Film

Winner of the News and Docs category: The Big Ugly, by Máquina Voadora

Máquina Voadora is a drone production company operating out of Portugal that concentrates on filming big-wave surfing events. As such, these guys are no stranger to spectacular footage. But during this piece of filming, a life-and-death drama unfolds as a surfer gets thrown off a giant wave into an incredibly dangerous death zone, and two jet ski pilots race to rescue him as a deadly series of thundering breakers push him toward the rocks. Right place, right time, awesome camerawork and some real-life tension.

The Big Ugly - Dramatic Rescue of a Fallen Big Wave Surfer - #Drone - Nazaré, Portugal

Winner of the Extreme Sports category: United We Ride, by Amanda West

Drones and dirt bikes are a wonderfully natural pairing. Motocrossers traverse stunning terrains few other vehicles can access, at extreme speeds, and they spend almost as much time airborne as they do on the ground. West filmed a brace of dirt bike bandits around the world tearing it up with amazing skill and bravery, and presented it with gorgeous aerial camerawork.

UNITED WE RIDE - 2017 Los Angeles Drone Film Festival EXTREME SPORTS Category Winner

Winner of the Featuring Drones category: Merry Crashmas, by This is Tilt & Animasjonsdepartementet

In pursuit of what turned out to be a pretty charming Christmas ad for a Norwegian telco, these guys got a bunch of drones to decorate a Christmas tree. The ad is cool, but the preceding blooper reel of drone failure is terrific, and we love the fact that these guys aren't too cool to show and enjoy all their many mistakes.

Merry Crashmas

Winner of the Dronie category: There's No One Else, by Wellington Rodriguez

Dronies are the ultimate selfies: put yourself somewhere remarkable, turn the drone camera on yourself, and then zoom back and away to reveal the full scale of your surroundings. It's hard to conceive of a better dronie than this one. We don't know where Rodriguez shot it, but it's absolutely mind-bending just how stunning this location is, and how devastatingly crystal clear an image he gets from his Inspire 2/Zenmuse X5S combo. Wow.

There's No One Else

Winner of the X-Factor category: Drift, by Frank Dewaele

X-Factor indeed. That's the perfect term for this bizarro-world short film that plays out like a surreal music video. Freaky drone-dolly zooms, wacky perspectives, period costumes and how-did-they-do-that visual effects combine in an utterly baffling piece that would've taken forever to conceive and produce, and whose meaning or function is a total mystery to us. Bravo!


Winner of the Drone Use in Film, TV or Advertising category: The Eagle Huntress, by Otto Bell & Simon Niblett

This pair went filming Eagle hunters in Mongolia and the video below is a bit of a behind the scenes look at how they did it. To briefly blow my own trumpet here, this is highly reminiscent of the time I went and tried to film a motorcycle tour in Mongolia while I was actually riding it as well, using a Canon 5D, some GoPros and a Phantom 3, resulting in one of my favourite pieces I've ever made. The landscapes and open-space filming opportunities in Mongolia are absolutely peerless, and Bell & Niblett capture them beautifully on a tiny budget.

THE EAGLE HUNTRESS - 2017 Los Angeles Drone Film Festival Winner

Winner of the Showreel category: Aerial Frontiers, by Sam Short

Folks, if you want your showreel to stand out in this kind of company based solely on your awesome visuals, you'd better bring it. Here Short brings it big time. For one guy to have been to so many amazing locations and filmed such a variety of landscapes, action sports and events is just awesome, and he's got the ultimate eye for this kind of work. This video is worth watching even just for the penultimate shot, which is an absolute beauty. We want this guy's life, his gear, his skills and his eye.

Aerial Frontiers 4K Reel || 2016

Awesome stuff, and congratulations to the winners. We hope you've enjoyed watching these as much as we have.

Source: LA Drone Film Festival

1 comment
1 comment
Love Technology.
Love Flying.
Love taking and watching cool photos and videos...
BUT.. some of the showcased videos do encourage people to dangerous and potentially illegal things to get "that shot".
It's one thing doing illegal things in "private" quite another doing it in public and posting it for all (including law enforcement) to see..
Should we as a community be promoting dangerous and illegal activities. There should be a disclaimer informing the viewer that all these shots were taken with full compliance to regulations and restrictions for commercial "drone" (flying radio controlled remotely piloted thingies) operations....
I know that viewers here don't care, they don't have any special knowledge regarding these things, therefore are ignorant, by and large.
Cheers. Have fun, fly safe, only promote legal activities, or we will all get shut down.