Hey guys as Johnson here today. I want to share 10 of my tips with you for getting cinematic aerial footage. So as we all know quadcopters drones or whatever you want to call them are becoming much more popular & much more affordable. A lot of people are getting their hands on them. I want to share with you how to get the best cinematic footage from these devices so that you can use them in your filmmaking process and become a filmmaking artist, rather than just something to fly around for fun.
So my very first tip based on the fact that drones are becoming more popular, everybody sort of has them, they've been much becoming more affordable in the past few years. Now when they first came out and were affordable to get your hands on, it was enough to just fly super high and get that shot that no one had ever seen before. You could just fly way up high and everyone would say "wow", but nowadays that doesn't work anymore. You need to get a little bit more creative with your shots.
My first tip is that often flying low is actually better than flying high. You don't just want to go as high as you can and see as far as you can. You sometimes want to move closer to the ground because that's where your action is that's where your subject matter is and it's going to give you a lot better footage and you can still use it in ways that no other cameras before could be used.
My next tip is something that a lot of you know. New operators may forget but something that a lot of longtime cinematographers pick up right away and that's that you are still composing a shot, you still have to compose your elements and you still have to obey the rule of thirds.
So that's my next tip is when you're flying around don't just follow stuff in the center of the frame don't just do whatever looks good and think that's gonna be great because it's from the air. Really try and compose your shot using the rule of thirds and you're going to get images that are much more pleasing to the eye and look much more cinematic.
My next tip is to utilize foreground elements, whenever possible. Photographers and cinematographers are very familiar with the concept of the foreground, middle-ground & background. You want to have layers and depth to your shot. Well, it's no different with an aerial shot. Get some foreground elements in there because they're going to help you convey motion, they're going to help you convey scale. Get some people in the shot. If you're shooting something large, it's really going to add to the depth of that shot and it's really going to add that little wow factor.
My next tip to keep in mind is, to try and move the camera in as many different directions simultaneously as possible. Think of like a slider, put a camera on a slider and just slide, side to side and that's a cool looking shot. What happens when you put that camera on the slider and while you slide you also pan with a subject. You get an amazing looking shot. So try and do that same thing with your aerials.
Don't just fly at something, try flying around something, try orbiting, try tilting, try adding whatever movement or motion you can into that shot. It'll make it a lot more dynamic shot.
Now there are some challenges to moving an aerial platform through the air as opposed to just moving a camera on the ground. One of those is that sometimes you can get props in your shot. So my next tip is to either fly slowly and precisely or try and stick to flying backward whenever possible. If you move backward, your blades are going to be tipping towards the back. Away from the lens of the camera. You can get your shots while making sure that everything is clean.
Also if you move and fly slowly and precisely, you're going to ensure that your shots don't dip or your props don't dip into your shot. You're not going to have to worry about masking those out or zooming in on your footage.
Now one thing to consider very carefully when you're up there, flying where is your light.
What is lighting your subject? and where is your light source? - The Sun, located in orientation to your camera. Now, these cameras have a hard time whether it's a GoPro or something on a DJI phantom or something else, a lot of them have a hard time going directly into sunlight. May be your subject is there and that may be the direction you want to go but always try to find another angle.
I always find that it's best to keep your lighting either directly behind you, for a nice well-lit flat kind of shot. If you want a little bit more contrast, try and orient so that the Sun is off to your side, either to the left or right. Be mindful of where the Sun is and where your light is. Again in regards to light these smaller cameras you know they have a difficult time handling a lot of light, especially direct sunlight. The way that some of these cameras deal with that, specifically the GoPros and the DJ eyes is a lot of times they will boost the shutter speed because they are fixed aperture cameras and they can't do anything else. They can't shutter down to cut down on that light, so they'll boost your shutter speed way-way up, in order to compensate for the light. Now, this will cause a few different problems. The problems are you may get a little bit of Jell-O cam effect because as the shutter speeds faster and faster, it's capturing all those micro vibrations. Or you might get the oh so familiar propeller shadow across your lens and that's happening again because the shutter speed is fast enough it's picking up those micro shadows as they go across your lens.
Now how do you deal with this? I recommend instead of jacking up your shutter speed or letting the camera do it itself, buy some ND filters. You can put them onto your camera. What this will allow you to do is, to take out few stops of that light so the camera is not going to have a high shutter speed and you can get a much more natural-looking shot. You won't have to worry about any of that jello cam or the prop shadows.
Now like I just said some of these cameras that we're putting on these things specifically GoPros, they have a list of full auto modes and my next tip is to whatever camera you're using "try and shoot as manual as possible". This means to limit your GoPros/DJI ISO settings. Don't let it do auto "White balance" because it'll shift in the middle of a shot. Make sure you specifically select your settings for the shot and the environment. Don't use anything auto if possible. Especially white balance because as you turn in and out of the Sun or different angles, your white balance is going to shift in the middle of a shot and there's no way to color correct that out going.
Again with that theme of taking as much control away from the camera as possible, I would recommend that you shoot in whatever flat profile your camera has. If it's a GoPro shoot in pro tune, if it's a DJI phantom with their onboard cameras, use their D-log format. What is this going to do? it's going to widen your dynamic range. It's going to flatten out your image and what it's going to allow you to do is really get the best-looking image.
Don't let that camera make decisions that you are locked into. So whenever possible I would recommend shooting in those flat profiles.
- My final tip is something to help you smooth out your footage. If you're still having difficulty or if your gimbal is not doing the best job or you've got a lot of wind buffeting, try to shoot in 60fps or other higher frame rates and then convert the shot into slow-motion. Now obviously this won't work for all sorts of shots.
Well guys there you go. Those are my tips for getting better and more cinematic aerial footage out of your drones. I know that a lot of people are getting a hold of them and they really are a fantastic moviemaking and cinematic tool.So hopefully, this will help you guys to get away from just that flying high.
Shot something that will really impress your viewers. Hope you find it helpful. Share your opinions, suggestion, and tips & finally Thanks for reading.