Why your drone footage sucks

By | Drone's general | 266 Comments

Have you ever come home with footage, that just looked awful? Well, me to. Let’s fix it.

So let’s go over the 3 most common mistakes:

1. Your horizon is not leveled.

horizon fix
It is so so important that the horizon is leveled, as that is the way that we are used to observing the world. You will immediately feel that something is off, even if it is just by a few degrees.

Turn on guidelines on the DJI go app. Then you can quickly spot if the horizon is tilting, and pay close attention when editing.

And speaking of editing – here is a short tutorial on how to fix a non-level horizon in FCPX.



2. There is jello in the footage (rolling shutter)

Jello appears when you don’t use an ND filter, and your shutter is set too high. I made this mistake in my early days. And couldn’t figure out why this happened. (I didn’t even know that ND filter’s existed for drones)
So always use an ND filter when flying so you can have a reasonable shutter speed. In general, you should have a shutter speed where you apply the 180-degree rule which goes like this:
Framerate x 2 = shutter speed
Example: filming @ 30 fps — shutter = 1/60
Example: filming @ 50 fps — shutter = 1/100

Now this will help to keep the jello away, but there is a bit more to it: You want to make sure that your drone is in top notch shape, and doesn’t have¬†unnecessary vibration’s.
As a added bonus, this will also make your footage look more cinematic because you will now have motion blur in the footage as well as of the result of the lower shutter speed.

The exceptions:
I don’t use an ND filter at night. And sometimes when I film sunset’s or in dark places, I take it off.
I also change the exposure with the shutter rather than the ISO. If I can keep an ISO at ISO-100 and then adjust the shutter a bit I would do that – Try staying below ISO-400. (One of the reasons I do this, is that it maximizes my flight time – I don’t need to take the drone down, and change to a different NDfilter)
Example: It’s partly clouded and uses: ND16, ISO-100, 30fps, Shutter 1/60. Now the suns breaks out… I then change the shutter to 1/120, or if dark clouds comes by I can either change the shutter to 1/30 or raise the ISO to ISO-200.
Sometimes I also shoot with a higher shutter, if I know that I need to do extra stabilizing or track som 3D or text into the shot.
The higher shutter (1/200, I don’t go over 1/400) eliminates most of the motion blur, and helps the tracking software do a much better job, as it doesn’t have to deal with motion blur. And you can always add the motion blur in the shot afterwards, with an effect like CC motion blur (After Effects).

3. Your footage is not smooth

This is where it really counts. If your footage is jerky and not smooth, it looks cheap and amateurish.
Smooth flight is the holy grail of drone flying in my opinion.
So how to fix it:
There are tons of settings you need to make on your drone… I won’t go into the details in this post (there will be an in-depth tutorial in the paid course), but there are a few things that you can do.
1. Don’t show jerky footage, edit it out, I do this all the time.
2 Use a stabilizer in post production (warp stabilizer in Premiere or Stabilization in FCPX ) this will make the footage even smoother and look a lot more professional.


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