How to Create the 'Vertigo Effect' with Nothing but a Drone
No dolly? No zoom lens? No problem. You can still create a dolly zoom with a drone and a little post-production magic.
The dolly zoom, also known as the "Vertigo Effect" (thanks Hitchcock), isn't the most difficult camera maneuver to perform. All you need is a little bit of practice, some smooth focusing skills, and the necessary equipment: a dolly and a zoom lens.
But you can still create this effect without any of that stuff. All you need is some drone footage (or a drone), editing software, and this tutorial from Fstoppers to show you how to pull it off. Check it out below:
Okay, first of all, I'm trying to think of a universe in which a filmmaker has a drone but does not have a dolly, slider, or zoom lens—and I'm failing. I mean, I'm sure some of you are in that situation, but I'm assuming that for the vast majority of you, a zoom lens is the first thing you bought after you bought a camera body.
But that's just kind of a nitpick. I digress.
All you need to do to pull this effect off is to perform a smooth push-in or push-out with your drone. It's ideal that you record in a higher resolution, like 4K, so you can zoom in (crop) later on in post without degrading your footage in the process. Once in post, adjust the scale to counteract your camera movement. In other words, if you shot a push-in, you'll want to scale down in post, and if you shot a push-out, you'll want to scale up. Make sure your subject remains the same size throughout the clip.
Your subject will move slightly throughout the clip due to the movement of the drone, as well as rescaling, so if you really want to sell your effect, you'll want to reposition your subject so that it remains in the same place all the time. You can do this by simply setting position keyframes.
There's one final thing I want to mention really quick before I go. Even if you don't have anything—no dolly, no slider, no zoom lens, no drone—guess what, you can still create this effect. You'll just need to grab some drone footage (or any footage that has a dolly-in or dolly-out camera move) from an online stock footage website.
So, go shoot some drone footage or go grab some off of the internet. These types of dolly zooms can really help you score some big style points with clients and audiences everywhere and they take very little time and effort to complete.