Watch how this clever vlogger shoots drone footage without a drone

YouTuber Chung Dha has offered vloggers and filmmakers some useful tips on how to record snazzy aerial shots if you can’t get your hands on a drone or if they’re banned at the location where you’re planning to shoot.

The simple setup involves a 5-meter boom pole with a gimbal and smartphone or action camera attached to the end. Specifically, Dha uses a Samsung Galaxy S8 handset, a Zhiyun Smooth III phone gimbal, and a Miliboo boom pole, which when lifted can give you shots even higher than 5 meters. OK, that’s hardly going to result in the kind of aerial footage you’re used to seeing from camera-equipped quadcopters that fly high in the sky, but the system could still prove useful for filmmakers looking to get above the crowds.

Dha shows off some samples shots (above) taken at a recent music festival in the Netherlands, and the results are certainly impressive. If you didn’t know it, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a DJI Phantom or Mavic flying machine capturing the silky smooth footage, with the vlogger’s steady handiwork showing the potential of his pretty basic kit.

Scoring decent footage is likely to require some practice sessions before you shoot for real. Dha offers some tips on how to nail different kinds of shots, similar to what you might get with a drone. For example, an aerial tracking shot requires you to stand in one spot and hold the pole at a 45-degree angle with the gimbal locked so the phone’s camera doesn’t pan around as you gently move the pole.

More of a challenge is a pedestal-up shot, where the camera rises steadily from the ground. “There’s a trick to it,” Dha says. “You need to walk forward while tilting the whole setup. The reason for this is that if you only tilt it up, [the camera] will also move backwards, but if you walk forward while tilting it up it’ll stay closer to the [original] spot where you tilted it from,” resulting in a more satisfying shot.

A dolly shot, on the other hand, requires you to “work on your ninja walk” to avoid distracting up-and-down movements in the footage as you move around.

Although you may be tempted to fix a DSLR or mirrorless camera on the end of the boom pole, Dha warns that such devices could be too heavy to handle comfortably, and you’d have to be cool about having some very pricey photographic equipment dangling on the end of a rather long stick. Best to stick with a decent smartphone or action cam.

With drones prohibited from events where large numbers of people are gathered, Dha’s setup could be useful for filmmakers keen to capture some useful shots from up high without getting into trouble. Although you might have to check the regulations on selfie sticks before you go.