Ilse van der Spoel – As Above, So Below: Drone Cinematography, Aerial Vision and the Vertical Perspective

Recent years saw a ‘seeping in’ of drone cinematography in film, becoming a ubiquitous technology in contemporary cinema, but also in other moving image practices: news reports, advertising and YouTube ‘vloggers’ use drone technologies. This video essay focuses on these vertical perspectives and aerial imagery. When ‘bird’s-eye views’ are extracted from films and edited together, a disorienting and disembodied gaze is obtained, approximating what Hito Steyerl has called an ‘imaginary floating observer’. Simultaneously, the project points to the ‘normalisation’—or cliché, even—of these kinds of shots: drone cinematography is generally exclusively used for creating aerial establishing shots, showing landscapes, roads, cityscapes and invoking themes of surveillance. Can we then think about past or present ways in which drone cinematography can also be used counterintuitively or ‘against the grain’?

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