5 Tips to Get Cinematic Drone Footage
Flying a drone is one thing, but knowing how to get that silky smooth, cinematic footage with your drone is a whole different challenge. When all is said and done, it takes practice, but here are five things you need to do to take your drone videography to the next level:
Set Your Shutter Speed to Twice the Frame Rate
To get the smoothest looking footage you need to learn this rule: The shutter speed should always be set to as close to twice the frame rate as possible. For example, I shoot everything at 60 frames per second, so I always set the shutter speed to 1/120. If you like to shoot at 24 frames per second, then set the shutter speed to 1/50.
Why: To capture video, a camera is constantly opening and closing its shutter so setting the shutter speed to twice the frame rate allows the camera to capture the set amount of frames while maintaining smooth footage. The difference is subtle, but a trained eye can quickly tell if these settings are off.
Assuming you’ve set your shutter speed to twice the frame rate, your footage is most likely way to bright. That’s because both the shutter speeds I mentioned are quite slow, thus leaving the shutter open for longer periods and taking in more light. To correct this, you can increase your aperture (f-stop), but leaving your aperture low allows for more depth in your footage so you ideally don’t want to adjust it too much.
I recommend buying a neutral density (ND) filter from PolarPro. It’s essentially a piece of glass that is tinted so less light passes through and allows you maintain your ideal camera settings in any lighting situation. PolarPro offers several types of ND filters, such as ones with polarizers to reduce glares and gradient filters to help film in different lighting situations like at sunset and sunrise.
What makes a piece of drone footage more cinematic than another? It’s typically the amount of dynamic movement in the clip. Staying still or moving in one direction is both easy, and boring to watch. There should “almost” always be at least two types of movement in your clip, and if you can get three or four, that’s even better!
There are four basic ways to move a DJI drone: vertically, horizontally, rotation (yaw), and adjusting the camera up or down.Try combining these directions to get the most dynamic shot possible. It will help transport your audience into the scene and give them a sense of surreality.
But didn’t I just say more movement? Yes, but nothing is more frustrating being entranced in a video clip where you’re flying over the ocean and a gorgeous island is slowly being revealed only for the camera to quickly jerk another direction. A basic rule of cinematography is to help the audience forget that they’re even watching something through a screen. When filming with your drone, keep the same trajectory for as long as possible in order to transport your viewers to the destination you’ve captured! This rule can be combined with adding more dynamic movements for the best effect.