We absolutely love using video in our website designs, because it is striking, and because it can often convey messaging much more effectively than text. The advent of powerful and practical camera drones over the past few years has only expanded the usefulness and effectiveness of videography in web design. In this post, we’re going to go over the most impactful ways of utilizing video from drones specifically in web design, and share some of the best examples of each.
Why Drone Video in the First Place?
A drone is simply a way to suspend and move a camera around anywhere in three dimensions. Not only does this allow the additional creative possibilities everyone is familiar with, such as overhead video, but it can be used in place of traditional camera equipment on the ground and indoors to increase the speed of filming and decrease production costs. A camera drone can replace very expensive booms and dollies, as well as reduce the number of takes and time needed to record usable footage. Drones can bring video production for use in web design into a price range appealing to a much wider range of businesses than ever before.
How can a drone replace booms and dollies? For years, drones have used GPS and accelerometers to control their movement and positioning in any environment. While this is quite effective, it is only accurate to within a few feet. As a result, some drift was inevitable, and drones did not fare well while stationary or indoors. The latest itterations of the platforms we film on, DJI’s Mavic Pro and Phantom Pro lines, have added optical sensors below and in front of them to get a far more precise fix on their location. They track minute motions, and tend not to drift noticeably at all.
This means that the latest drones, particularly the Mavic Pro due to its compact size, are quite capable of more controlled and precise flying. Use indoors is no longer an issue. Neither are precise and very slow-moving or close-up shots in any environment. Drones are no longer limited to moving overhead shots, and can instead replace many traditional tools in filmmakers’ arsenals. What is more, the robust controls and programability of drones often makes the recording of formerly complicated shots quick and reliable.
Drone Video in Homepage Backgrounds
Far and away our favorite use is in the background video on website homepages. Over the past couple years, we have been very happy to see standard practice in web design trending away from text heavy, busier web design, and towards airy, large designs that focus on media and don’t shy away from encouraging visitors to scroll. More and more, companies are distilling their messaging into fewer short statements. Hyperbole is giving way to simplicity.
Background video dovetails with this trend beautifully, as it allows companies to show, not tell. Not only does this enable more succinct messaging and quicker comprehension by visitors, but it greatly increases visitor trust.
One of our favorite examples of this is StuccoToday.com, a website we just published a case study on. In the stereotypically untrustworthy industry of home repair contractors, Stucco Today’s website displays footage from a full remediation project, followed by drone video of the final result, as the homepage background. Not only does this make very clear what the company does, but it makes a statement about Stucco Today’s pride and confidence in their past work.
Another website we have admired for the several years it has been live, is the Powerhouse Company. This simple but beautiful design features a background video combining traditional dolly shots with drone shots of roughly the same movement speed and feel. The result is a video that shows of the firm’s expertise and experience in a variety of industries, without the need for text. It is smooth and unobtrusive, but incredibly interesting. It also fits very well with the rest of the website, which continues to use video and high quality photography as full screen design elements.
Drone Video in Identity Videos
The corporate identity video is a tired and often cliche sales tool that has been enjoying significant rehabilitation over the past five years. First, the advent of high quality video recording capabilities on DSLR cameras opened up creative possibilities and video production quality previously out of reach of small production companies. Drones now have furthered those capabilities, putting the equivalent of helicopter video and more into the hands of just about anyone.
Why has this improved the corporate identity video? Because there are more small filmmakers than ever, and those filmmakers are using these new tools to better tell stories. B-roll is used far more heavily to, once again, show instead of tell. Even the ubiquitous interview footage that forms the foundation of any identity video can now be done with more craft and impact, using short depth of field, multiple camera angles, and environmental filming.
The message strategy of the best corporate identity videos has shifted accordingly, from more elevator-pitch, sales focused messages, to a more storytelling and education based style. Modern videos pull viewers through them, keeping them interested by providing entertainment and value; a necessity in an age where hitting the back button on the browser has become reflexive for most internet users the moment they begin to feel bored or unsatisfied.
One of our favorite examples of identity video that heavily uses drone footage is Strava’s YouTube channel. They routinely publish short videos romanticizing their mission and market, and they use drones to achieve production quality that would previously have been unachievable without seven figure budgets. Take a look at one of their first videos:
Recently we have been blurring the line between identity and background video on some of our websites, filming silent culture reels for about pages. Our own about page is a great pre-drone example. More recently, we used drones to portray the concrete yard and factory of a local client – Fizzano Bros Concrete Products, a regional manufacturer and distributor of concrete blocks, stone products, and pavers:
This sort of video is not meant to convey marketing messaging. What it does, though, is give visitors a wonderfully intimate look behind the scenes of a company. Within just 45 seconds or so, visitors are given an understanding of and connection to a business that would be impossible with any amount of carefully crafted text.
Drone Video Testimonials
One of the best uses for drones is to record overview video footage to create project summary and testimonial videos. Never before has it been so easy to record the progress and process of a project. Recording this sort of footage several times throughout the course of a project and then pairing it with highlights from a quick video interview with the client after project completion is a simple recipe for an extremely effective sales tool.
Beyond being a brilliant piece of sales collateral, though, testimonial video is also one of the most powerful search engine optimization tools in our arsenal. They can be quick to produce, and embedded on a project page, paired with related image and text content. This project page can have some serious ranking power, especially if targeting a locality.
The project pages we created for Stucco Today were a great illustration of this. For example, our Pipersville testimonial video & associated project page had captured the top three organic search ranks for Stucco Remediation about a month after publication. That’s right, all three. The Houzz project page was #1, the YouTube video was #2, and the project page on stuccotoday.com where the video from #2 and images from #1 were embedded was ranked #3.
Putting It All Together
For us, the challenge is in educating potential customers. Nobody comes to us with video web design already in mind, unless they have seen one of our previously launched websites. Most clients are interested once we show them the possibilities and results, though. We haven’t yet found the client who wants to really go all out and see how far the envelope can be pushed, but we are looking forward to that opportunity. In the meantime, we watching to see what others come up with around the web — both of these trends are young, and the sophistication of what designers and videographers create together is bound to increase!