How are scenes wherein the characters have a dialogue inside a helicopter as well as interact with the environment outside it, shot? Do they use drones for this, or is the dialogue shot separately on the ground and the rest of it shot midair with overhanging cameras?

For example: The one in Narcos S2E3 or the one in Narcos S1 where Gacha is shot, or any of the numerous helicopter scenes from Avatar.

  • No way it's drones....that would be incredibly, stupidly dangerous.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 18:13
  • @Paulie_D what would be dangerous about it? People use drones all the time and they come with built in cameras specifically for the purpose of filming the flight. I've seen them used many times as low budget alternatives for a helicopter shot. There are definitely other methods, but drones are one of them.
    – sanpaco
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 19:51
  • 3
    Uh, Avatar is cgi...
    – cde
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 0:12
  • 2
    Drones around helicopters is what I mean...not as substitutes.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 6:05
  • 2
    @sanpaco They're not really talking about shots from a helicopter here. They're talking about shots of a helicopter while it supposedly flies and people are in it. At least as much as I understood this question.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 11:30

1 Answer 1


I'm sure scenes like this have been shot differently in different movies, but I have noticed that mostly the shots are faked.

One option is to have the helicopter on the ground, with the engine off and the propellers stationary. The actors are inside. The camera operator moves around outside the helicopter to make it look like it's up in the air. Often, the camera is tilted upwards, shooting the actors slightly from underneath, to give a sensation of them being above the camera / viewer. The grounded helicopter may also be mounted on a moving platform to tip, raise and lower the helicopter to give the actors inside the actual sensation of movement, so their bodies shift believably.

This can be shot outdoors, with actual sky in the background, or in front of a green screen, where fake sky and terrain is put in afterwards, along with a CGI propeller and reflections on the glass windshield.

Another approach would be to shoot the helicopter actually in flight, and overdub the actors' dialog afterwards. In most cases, this would be more difficult and expensive.

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