Published: July 24, 2017
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … drone? Yes, drones are the new Superman of the skies. Used to capture breathtaking, cinematic shots, these tools are one of the best ways to film landscapes from above.
Techniques to Try
To create an engaging and cinematic feel, consider capturing footage of the drone performing many different kinds of maneuvers. Videos can be boring if there isn’t movement in them. Either the object you’re filming needs to be moving or you’ll need to move the drone to make it interesting. I like to do something I call ‘sweeping the landscape,’ that is, flying the drone over the key elements of the area using different maneuvers. For instance, I’ll fly from the ground up to sweep over a lighthouse. After that, I’ll fly towards the lighthouse horizontally. You can also move left to right. Another trick is to sweep over an object vertically, while tilting the camera at the same time. This creates an interesting roll effect. You can also program your drone to circle objects. This is particularly useful when filming tall objects in open areas.
Camera and Remote Adjustments
The drone’s camera and remote settings can to be adjusted to get a more cinematic feel. Most Hollywood films are shot at 24 frames per second and drones usually choose 24, 30 or greater. You can also ensure the exposure is adjusted correctly so your shots are evenly lit. The DJI Phantom drone has the ability to touch the screen and pick the area you would like to be properly exposed. This can continued to be adjusted while you’re flying and the scene is changing.
The remote settings should also be considered. The joysticks on the remote, similar to a sports car gas pedal, can be touchy. By default, the sensitivity of the joysticks is set pretty high, which causes jerky movement. Make sure to adjust the sensitivity settings so that it reacts slower, which will result in smoother movement.
The Editing Process
When capturing footage, consider the editing process at the same time. Each video clip requires time to transition into the next clip, so when you’re filming a landscape, leave a little extra time at the end of each maneuver and move all the way past the point of interest — the time it takes to move past the object is the section of the video that will eventually be transitioned to a new clip. Clips should be at around 15 seconds as people have short attention spans, and overall, the video should be about three minutes.
After your clips are assembled, music is a very important element to add. Many drones do not record audio as it would only be the sound of the blades buzzing so add sound to create ambiance to what would otherwise be a rather boring clip. I find that the best music doesn’t have a beat, it’s just ambient noise. This makes it easier to add clips of varying lengths as you don’t need to stick to a rigid beat or verse/chorus structure.
Besides landscape videos, drones can be used for all sorts of purposes. Leaking roof? Use a drone to see what’s going on up there. Hiking in the mountains and need to find a clear path? Use a drone for that!
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