If you’re someone who wants to dip their toes in the lake of drone video and photography, the sky’s the limit (notice the pun there?).
Drones — technically known as unmanned aerial vehicles — have been doing rounds for quite some time and have become a favorite of many video and photography aficionados and of course, professionals.
The Rising Popularity of Drones
As per the Federal Aviation Administration, hobbyist drones are predicted to grow up to 3.5 million by 2021 and commercial drones will rise to a herculean number of 420,000 by 2021.
Speaking of commercial drones, these amazing tech headliners have been an integral part of the Super Bowl Light shows, as a part of media coverage, disaster relief assistance during the catastrophic hurricanes (especially Hurricane Harvey), and much more!
Thanks to their supreme technology, it comes as no surprise that many industrial giants like the British Broadcasting Corporation use drones for aerial views to aerial images and videos for coverage while Shell Oil Refinery uses this technology to keep an eye on the refineries, conduct inspections on the worksite and machines.
With the big industrial names in line, small scale organizations can’t be far behind.
Small to Medium Businesses and Drones
Even SMBs are taking advantage of drone technology to reinforce their businesses. For instance, California based Drone Cowboys not only shoot video blogs but also use drones to make sure that the cattle are rounded up.
Similarly, Ohio based home inspector Kevin McGrath puts these drones to use to check on roof conditions and out of access portions of the multi-million dollar homes!
Additionally, thanks to those tempting click-bait videos on YouTube, we have also seen many paranormal investigations that are executed using drones to spot supernatural activities! Talk about being creative!
Now, this is where a drone pilot comes in.
Today, drone pilots have the advantage of superior technology that allows them to take shots of hundreds of feet above the ground without leaving the safety of the land. Taking aerial shots were not so easy for those who came before us.
To give you an example, there’s a shot of an aerial photograph taken in 1860 from a hot air balloon by James Wallace Black – an American innovator, overlooking the beautiful city of Boston from almost a height of 2000 feet from the ground. Mr. Black was a passionate man with an appetite for risk.
Though a good drone pilot of today does not have to undertake such measures, they do face their fair share of difficulties when it comes to taking the perfect aerial drone video.
Shooting the Best Aerial Footage with Your Drone
While novice and the unaware may believe that flying a drone is all about twiddling thumbs with a joystick, there is a surprise at the end of the tunnel. It involves the knowledge of the terrain, the camera, awareness of your surroundings, and a lot of patience which cannot be substantiated with expensive equipment.
However, once you know your way around the drone and the camera, capturing cinematic shots will be all about the small adjustments and movements that add a layer to your video and quality to your entire footage.
Here are some techniques you can use for a memorable shot.
- Coming Into Shot: This handy yet simple technique can help you add depth to your video by focusing on the main subject in the video without compromising the visibility of other elements that are essential to your story.
- Going Low: This technique, when combined with a panoramic view, can add more detail to your shots instead of going high. Of course, this depends upon the storyline.
- The Crane: The favorite of Hollywood – this descending shot tells a story on its own without the need for any words or actions.
- The Rising Shot: An incredibly easy shot mimicking sunrise makes storytelling a piece of cake.
- Vertigo: Most often seen on Instagram handles, this shot adds a beautiful and dramatic twist to your shot.
- The Slider: Unveil the essential elements of your storyline and pique your audience’s interest with this effective shot.
Before we dive into our professional tips and best practices, check out this video we filmed for the Miami International Boat Show, in which we used drone video to capture the best aspects of the event.
7 Tips for Taking a Perfect Drone Video
Some might find it difficult to control their camera, some are unable to maneuver across rough terrain. The possibilities of your video going wrong are endless. However, fate favors the prepared. Here are 7 tips on how to take a perfect drone video.
Table of Contents
- Minimizing Jerky Movements
- Flying Backwards – Mastering the Art of flight
- Using Special Effects
- Capturing in the Best Natural Environment
- Understanding Filmmaking
- Lighting is important
- Flight Speed
1. Minimizing Jerky Movements
It is not uncommon to witness operators jerk their camera from left to right or top to bottom.
Understandably, they need to change positions to capture the shot but these jerky movements can completely ruin the video experience and make editing a less than pleasant experience.
Drone shots are meant to be more natural and flowy as per the story/subject sans the stiff and robotic movements.
These jerky movements can be avoided by first finding an angle that you are comfortable with. This comfort enables you to be more free and transitional with your movements that allow your shots to glide instead of those spasmodic movements.
Tip: Align your shot with respect as per the drone instead of prioritizing the camera. It is the drone that controls the movement.
2. Flying Backwards – Mastering the Art of flight
Flying backward adds the extra dimension to your shot, where you are revisiting the elements instead of just gliding over them.
When your drone camera does a reverse gear, it unearths small yet significant objects like hills, people, a lighthouse (why not), instead of visualizing just one specific subject.
For some, flying backward can be a challenge. You can reverse the complete footage using the speed duration tool, but keep practicing those backward movements!
3. Using Special Effects
Mastering the manual movement of your drone with clean and crip shots is only the half battle won. Editing is the other side of the same spectrum where you get to add special effects and sound effects to add a burst of life to your work and engage your audience.
For example, using 3rd party plugins like Reel Smart Motion Blur, you can add the Pixel Motion Blur effect, which creates a blur (if required for your video) or you can speed up certain portions of your footage to make it more life-like.
Free tools like Windows Movie Maker 6.0, Windows Live Movie Maker, and GoPro Fusion Studio are a great choice if you are a beginner. However, paid tools like WeVideo and Cyberlink Power Director are excellent choices for business owners looking for a 360-degree solution.
For sound effects, you should be careful of the sounds you would add to your video. For instance, while flying over a busy city bridge, adding faint honks and tires rolling with a dash of the wind noise will be more realistic. Avoid the buzzing sound of the drone at all costs!
You can either record the sounds yourself with a decent microphone or use tools like Zap Splat and Audio Blocks that house thousands of accurate sounds that you can implement in your drone videos.
4. Capturing in the Best Natural Environment
Going au-natural for your drone videos (if possible) is the best way to go. Without installing extra filters and merely capturing the landscape below is what gives authenticity to your footage.
Having said that, if your video needs additional reinforcement, using these filters sparsely is the ideal way to go.
5. Understanding Filmmaking
Filmmaking makes up for the foundation of your video. A drone is simply a tool ( a handy one, of course) but unless you know how to apply filmmaking skills, you cannot do much.
The best way to go is to think like a filmmaker. Create a storyline and based on that, create a storyboard that you fill with appropriate shots that can breathe life into your story. Visualizing these shots via this storyboard will help you get that perfect cut based on which you can shoot your entire video.
You can sign up for online courses where you will be taught how to create frameworks, outline storyboards, tips & tricks to handle your drone camera movement and create a remarkable visual story.
6. Lighting is Important
It goes without saying that wrong lighting can dilute the experience of your entire footage. Many times, drones cannot adjust to ever-changing contrasts in the scenery and all you can see are images hidden under the white flash.
The simplest way to go about it is to angle your camera according to the sun. Set it at a lower angle if facing the sun to avoid direct impact. Check for the effect of the direct light on your camera before you shoot.
You can also use software and tools to adjust the lighting to your final footage.
7. Flight Speed
As mentioned above, speeding up is sometimes a desirable effect that can improve the quality of your drone video. The reason behind this is that in the case of landscapes like mountains, conventional drones might capture videos that seem a little slow when checked.
All you have to do is speed up the screen to make it more consumable by your viewers and add more movement to the scene. Experts suggest amping the speed up to 300 in the speed tool.
A Word About The Rules of Drone Flying
The flying of drones comes with its own set of rules and regulations. Adhering to these rules will keep you out of trouble.
You and your drone must be registered with the FAA. Whether you are doing it for recreational purposes or commercial requirements, you need to register via the FAADroneZone portal. If you are traveling with your drone domestically, you need to bring it along with you in carry-on luggage only and not with the check-in baggage.
If you are flying a drone recreationally and as a hobbyist.
- You cannot use your drone for commercial purposes.
- Your drone must be registered with the FAA.
- You must follow community-based safety guidelines abiding by regulations set by the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics).
- Your drone must weigh less than 55 lbs unless certified by a CMO (community-based organization).
- You cannot and will not fly your drone next to an aircraft.
- Your limit of flying space in the Class G airspace and in order to fly in Class B, C, D, or E, you need to get authorization from the airspace.
- You cannot and must not fly near emergency response regions.
If you are flying your drone for commercial purposes
- You should have a Remote Pilot Certificate authorized and certified by the FAA for commercial purposes.
- You must fly your drone during daylight or civil twilight.
- Your drone/UAC should weigh less than 55 pounds altogether.
- You must give way to manned aircraft.
- You can only fly in the G Class airspace. For other classes, you require the CMO authorization.
- You must not fly directly over people.
- Your maximum height should not go beyond 400 feet.
- You are not allowed to fly your drone from a moving vehicle unless the location has a sparse population.
- Your drone’s maximum speed limit is 400mph.
A drone video shoot is a challenging but satisfying endeavor. If you are someone who can master this skill, there is a world of opportunities in the commercial sector. You can also check out the top aerial photographers and videographers on Instagram for some inspiration.
Hope these tips and information help you in your quest to become a drone video expert!