It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a drone that makes movies!

Remember this scene from “Skyfall” where James Bond is chasing a bad guy across the rooftops of Istanbul? You might not realize it — in fact, that’s part of the point — but a not-insignificant chunk of the footage shot for the movie was filmed using a drone.

(MGM and Sony Pictures)In fact, a growing share of blockbuster films involve the use of unmanned aerial footage. Beyond Skyfall, the list includes “Oblivion,” “Man of Steel,” “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” “The Hunger Games,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” and “Iron Man 3,” among others.

Drones give cinematographers a unique advantage over traditional filmmaking methods. They have more reach and range than a crane. They’re often more nimble than a helicopter. And that means directors can pull off risky, real-world acrobatic shots that would otherwise have to be created on the computer.

“Ten years ago, when you wanted an action sequence you did them at 18 frames a second, then projected them at 24 — so that you could do them slow but it looks fast,” said Emmanuel Previnaire, an academy-award winning drone cinematographer, at a Washington conference on drone technology Wednesday. “Now everything has to happen fast. It’s become a very demanding industry in terms of motion control.”

It’s also become demanding in terms of liability. With the Federal Aviation Administration still deliberating on how to allow drones to operate in U.S. airspace, film studios remain generally skittish about relying too heavily on them. Unmanned machines may be less expensive to buy and maintain than other equipment like full-sized helicopters, but a crash, even one where nobody gets hurt, would be a major blow to a studio’s credibility. Insurance is a must, and so is pilot experience.

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