Taking a thrilling cinematic masterpiece shot takes a lot more than the right gadgets, you need to have a lot of creativity, skills, and maneuvers.
As the prices of drones and associated equipment are more affordable as compared to a decade ago, more and more people are indulging in drone filming. It is an overwhelming experience to be able to see and shoot breathtaking aerial views just like the top professionals did in the past.
Drone Filming Tips
Are you looking to level up your drone filming game?
Although it takes a lot of practice and a creative eye to take the buttery smooth shots, having the basic knowledge and some incredible tips under your belt can make all the difference.
Here are the top 13 useful tips to simplify your drone flight and get the best shots.
1- Know The Rules Of Aerial Filming In the USA
This isn’t something you can miss. If you are starting new with drone filming, you must check if your drone needs to be registered. Also known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems or UAS, drones are registered by the Federal Aviation Administration. Here is what to do.
- Visit the official website of the FAA and use their User Identification Tool to get started.
- You need to add some basic credentials, pay the registration fees and get the certificate.
- Check the drone filming laws in the USA and jot down the names of the places where it’s safe and legal to fly your drone.
Phew! Isn’t it a lot of work to start with? It is, but totally worth your peace of mind.
2- Understand The Challenges Of Drone Filming
Even the most experienced drone photographers have to face the challenges. You need to understand the factors working against you. Maintaining the image quality, weather and piloting happen to be the top three challenges for anyone using a drone camera. You have to find a fine balance between image quality and mobility because some sacrifices have to be made. Picking the best gears is the key step to it but more on that a little later.
You are at the mercy of mother nature when it comes to weather but use these tips to maintain the quality of your shots.
- Avoid rainy and foggy days.
- Don’t film on very cold days as condensation can cause freezing and cracking of the gadget.
- If you want to avoid the dreaded Jello effect from your shots, fly your drone only when the winds are less than 20 mph. Gusts of winds can also ruin the quality. Some of the distortions can be fixed with the warp stabilization effects but it’s rare to completely restore the footage.
3- Pick The Right Gadgets And Prepare Well
How to shoot good drone footage? Start with the right gadgets and it’s easier to get your desired results. As the saying goes, you have to pay to play. Go to reputable brands such as GoPro and DJI to get the best gear. But don’t get too caught up in specs and quality, especially if you have a limited budget.
Know that there is a drone for almost every budget. Understanding the features of your drone, preparing well, and honing your pilot skills are far more important investments.
Consider investing in the following accessories to make the best use of your drone.
- Spare batteries
- Memory cards
- Carrying cases
- Propellers and propeller guards
- Landing gear
4- Work On Your Perspective
Planning your shots like a pro is the most important step for filming. You should perform weather and site safety checks, inspect the system, and power up before taking off for the flight. But it’s not just about the technicalities of your drone flight, work on your perspective.
Take a look at the works done by top-notch professionals. Think about the angles and axes that can bring out the best and set your flight paths. Start the video recording before your intended shot and keep shooting long after it is done. There is no hard and fast rule out there. Get your creative juices flowing and don’t be afraid to experiment.
5- Keep The Movements Slow
Go slow. Smooth and steady movements can make even simple footage worth watching. It gives an impression that you are shooting from a larger platform and instills a more professional look in your work. Even if you want to speed up the frames later, go slow when filming with the drone. A controlled and crafted shot increases the production value.
Scouting your filming location long before and planning each shot allows you to take better shots and avoid the jerky movements caused by the obstructions and swift motion of your camera. Achieving slow and constant velocities is a challenge in the beginning but one of the best maneuvers you can master in drone filming.
6- Master The Manual Flight Proficiency
You must have manual flight proficiency. A strong command of the movements and excessive training are two important aspects of attaining the master’s level. Here are a few tips to begin with.
Hover at eye level for a while and listen for any abnormalities. Take a look at the screen to see the signal strength, flight mode, and battery level. You have to build your muscle memory for four movements: yaw, thrust, pitch, and roll.
Practicing yawing like a clock, in circular and square motions. Practice out-and-back shots and try flying at the maximum altitude. It is amazing to have a view from a high altitude. Bring the drone straight up and yaw around to discover the surroundings. Keep looking at the screen but don’t forget to check the drone from time to time.
Learn more about orbiting and speed controls. Take the revealing shots and stay close to the point of reference.
7- Move Your Drone At Two Axes Simultaneously
One simple way to make your footage more interesting and engaging is to move your drone to two, or three exes. Go easy on drone controls to imitate the big-budget shots. For instance, move your drone backward and upwards to get a cinematic feel. Experiment with different angles to get unique perspectives. You may discover an ethereal view you never knew existed!
8- Include Strafing Shots
Strafing shots are now a part of mainstream photography but as it requires a great deal of skill and control, adding it levels up your game. For those who don’t know, strafing is the sideways movement of the camera generally used to capture unique perspectives, especially in landscapes.
9- Set A Return To Home Point
One of the most annoying situations is to see your drone camera moving away from your site and not being able to control it anymore. You can avoid this situation by setting a return-to-home point. Most modern drones have these safety features. But you need to practice using the feature because it has caused a lot of drone crashes as well. Read the manual thoroughly to know how it is triggered and controlled for your camera.
Pro-Tip: Don’t land your drone in RTH mode. Instead, bring the drone 20-30 feet above the landing zone and return to manual control for a safe landing. It minimizes the risk of a crash.
10- Color Grade Your Shots
Post filming expertise is equally important. One of the best and most effective techniques is to color grade your shots. Think like a filmmaker and the color grades that work well with projects similar to yours. Use the best software in the market to tweak the hues and saturation of colors. This can help your footage stand out from the standard!
11- Keep Your Backups
You don’t want to lose all the hard work you did, right? Keep the backups. Invest your money in maintaining the backups in online storage. Another benefit of online storage is that you can always go back and compare the shots you took at different times. It helps you to learn from your mistakes and avoid them in the future.
12- Film More
This cannot be overstressed. Film more. The more hours you fly, the more footage you take, the more you learn. Get to the thrill of discovering new perspectives and keep the shots saved. Compare all the possible shots you can think of from the same location. Jot down the best and worst aspects of each shot and then film more. You need to be patient with the learning process.
13- Embrace The Beauty Of Simplicity
Keep it simple and subtle. The real beauty of cinematic shots comes from techniques like adding layers between object and camera. Orient the camera with the sun position or opposite to it and keep the suspense of not revealing the object. You don’t always need the most expensive gadgets but you always need to think like a professional filmmaker.
And by the time you have mastered all of the above, try some harder and more interesting techniques such as a vertigo effect. There is always room for improvement if you are truly aiming for excellence!