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Tips for Making a Good Drone Film

Well, everyone seems to be owning drones these days. And we all seem to be doing the same thing with them. Isn’t it? There is even a Drone Film Festival in New York City so when I say that there are tons of drone videos out there, I really mean it.

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How do you make a good drone film? How can you make one that stands out from the crowd? One that is watched by thousands and shared around on the webosphere.

Here are a few tips and suggestions that I employ myself while capturing videos and the different things that I try to find in other drone videos.

1 – Capture it the right way

This is simple common logic. Similar to cooking or construction, if you use poor quality material, you will end up producing poor results. Here is how you can capture aerial videos the right way:

  • Fly steady: Carry out long sweeping moves. Be subtle about the panning shots and just go through them in a lazy manner. This is where you flying skills will be tested.
  • Know your target: Flying into the sun seems to be cool but it does not do a lot of good to your video. Do not let the propeller shadow hit your lens which normally happens when you fly at an angle of 45 degrees to the sun.
  • Use ND Lens filters: You can slow your shutter speed down by using ND lens filters. This will render your video footage a more dynamic semblance. If you do not own a ND lens filter, tape a piece of exposed 35mm film over the front of your lens.
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  • Be innovative: You can go as high as you want but an ideal drone video footage is dynamic. If you have guts, you can surely fly through some objects or possible people (that will be too risky though) but you can set up a sideways shot as you fly across it such as a beach or a bunch of trees.
  • Set your camera in an upright position: Do not get intimidated when trying to do new things. I prefer higher resolution as opposed to a higher frame rate. This tends to grant your more leverage in the post production phase.
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2 – Adorn your video footage

You can definitely upload your captured drone video footage in its entirety to lie their along with millions of others till the end of times. But you can also adorn it a bit as well. Do not hesitate to carry out some post production stuff. It can sometimes be more entertaining than the flying thing. It is the actual difference between a well-crafted exceptional piece of video footage and a low quality one captured by a rookie.

  • Get it trimmed: Trim it till you get the right video length. Drone videos should not be more than a couple of minutes in length. A video of 30 seconds duration is quite all right as a matter of fact. Keep it short and crisp. Only show your most exciting moments and finish it right there.
  • Think of a storyline: I can understand that you are merely capturing a coastline, or a skyscraper or a mountainside. But try and develop a storyline. It could be anything starting from a low flight till you attain higher elevation. You can complement closer shots with wider ones. The story has to lead your audience through a sequence of events. I always arrange my video clips in order to portray a semblance of storyline to my audience.
  • Video reversal: Do not get scared of thinking backwards. More often than not, I have my video footage playback in the reverse. When it comes to drones and especially DJI Phantoms, it is easier to fly backwards at a faster pace and without the propellers getting in the way of the shot. Reverse this and you get a cool shot. Ensure that there are no people or waves in the shot or else it will look quite eccentric to be honest.
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  • Get weird: When I say do not get eccentric, at the same time, I also want you to be a bit lunatic! Majority of the drone videos are nothing but lovely video footage captured from the sky. That’s quite exhilarating. Sometimes, from the audience’s perspective, it can be really nice to have a video that is different and kind of weird. Mix the barrel rolls with the handheld shots from the ground. Flip the image to make the heads of your audience roll as well.
  • Color and optical correction: When your video footage comes out of the camera, it is half baked. If you can, capture the footage in flat more or protune to get some leverage in terms of color correction in the post production stage. Adjust the contrast, grade your video and embellish it. It will get incredibly better. I promise you! You should also optically correct the video. Most of the video will contain the dreaded fish-eye effect. It will appear as if it was captured through a hotel door. You can apply the Optical Correct plugin that is found in most of the video editing software. You can view this tutorial for some insight. Here is a tip for the professionals: click the Optimal Pixel checkbox. It will bow the top and bottom of your video footage. Then modify the frame and canvas size of your footage to get the optimum resolution.

3 – Background score

This point cannot be emphasized more. You can beautify your video footage with good background score. When it comes to drone footage, sound is an essential. A hair-raising orchestral symphony will simply add that much needed flamboyance to your video clip. If you add an electronic and pop tune to it, you will grant it a more modern day look. sound tends to support your video footage. You may add a popular song in the background but some websites might not let you add one owing to copyrights infringement. You can visit Pond5 to get some low cost background audios to use in your videos.

Here is an ungraded and graded footage for you along with the final one with music in the background.

Before

After

That is it folks! You just have to follow these three formidable rules. This is a relatively novel genre of cinematography so there is plenty of room for innovation and lateral thinking. I hope that this tutorial will help you get the most of your video clips.

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