Best of Drone Cinematography 2017

Ken Kaplan Executive Editor, iQ by Intel

In its third year, drone film festival spotlights the rise in quality aerial filmmaking techniques around the world.

Inside the dark, historic Roxy Theater in San Francisco, the distinct buzz of a drone drew all eyes upward. A dozen audience members instinctually threw their arms up to form a circle, instantly creating a racing obstacle course for the tiny LED-lit drone zooming around inside the crowded movie house.

It was an unplanned, attention grabbing warm up act well suited to kick off the third annual Flying Robot International Film Festival (FRiFF), which brought together a diverse, fun loving audience to experience the best in drone cinematography from around the world.

FRiFF ticket
FRiFF 2017 brought the best in drone films to the Roxie Theater.

Twenty-five films from a dozen countries were screened on Nov. 16. The night’s big winner was 2D Run – Mixed Motion Project, which received Best of Show, Audience Choice and Best of WTF LOL category awards.

More than any other mini film screened that night, 2D Run had people swaying, ducking and jumping out of their seat to follow the protagonist: a daredevil, stop-at-nothing parkour runner. A cross between Super Mario Bros and Jungle Run but in real life, the hero jumped from roof to roof through cities, towns and decaying buildings. The runner hustled through lush landscapes into the sea and back at an unrelenting pace.

“Filmmaking techniques and pilot skills have really matured,” said FRiFF founder Eddie Codel. “The perspective of that piece is top down. I think it comes off so well because of the unique perspective, and how the filmmakers use that to their advantage during unexpected moments when the actor is seen running up and down the side of a building.”

[Read: Drone Nerd’s International Film Festival Takes Flight]

Each year, Codel brings together film festival fans, drone enthusiasts, filmmakers, tech industry workers and students fascinated by drones and visual storytelling. This year, a festival goer brought a Tiny Whoop, one of the smallest FPV drones, and entertained the waiting crowd with a few impromptu aerial performances.

FRiFF 2017
Enthralled by drone cinematography at FRiFF 2017 inside San Francisco’s historic Roxie Theater.

“I don’t know who was piloting it, but there were several FPV pilots in attendance so it’s no surprise that someone saw fit to fly one,” said Codel.

This year, Codel saw a significant rise in drone filmmaking talent from Bulgaria and Greece.

[Read about past FRiFF contestant Inva + Sla from Greece]

He also saw more spontaneous and daring – at least one judge called it controversial – approaches for drone filmmaking in Flight of the Year by Paul Nurkkala, which took Best FPV Racing and Freestyle.

“That film is one single take conducted by an extremely talented FPV pilot navigating an obstacle course in and around a moving train,” said Codel. “There are at least a dozen moments in that film where the pilot could have lost control of his racing drone and his film would never have been made. It’s a testament to his skill as a pilot.”

Next stop for FRiFF is the Emergence Creative Festival in Western Australia in March 2018.

“We have some other domestic and international dates in the works, which we hope to announce soon,” said Codel.

Best in Show + Audience Choice + WTF LOL

2D RUN – Mixed Motion Project by Ilko Iliev of Bulgaria

Epic Landscape

Ottsjö by Air and Timelapse by Marcus Möller of Sweden

Cinematic Narrative

Last Chance by Bapu Madhu of the U.S.

Drones for Good

The Zanzibar Mapping Initiative by Chris Morgan of Tanzania

FPV Racing and Freestyle

Flight of the Year by Paul Nurkkala of the U.S.

Student Film

Mendocino Abalone Trip by Kyle Stangrover of the U.S.


Our Story by Kostas Petsas and Aris Nikolaidis of Arte Cinematica of Greece

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