How to Shoot Cinematic Drone Footage

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An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone can help you achieve great cinematic shots from overhead.. In this guide, we explain how to do that by exploring shot techniques, camera settings, and time of day. Let’s begin.

Shot Techniques

There are various shot techniques and maneuvers you need to know:

Go slow

If you are filming with a drone, then you need to take it slow. Generally, slow tends to be more cinematic. Slow makes your viewer believe that the shooting is done from a very large platform like a helicopter. The production value increases subconsciously and the shot will appear even more crafted and controlled.

Also, use the control sticks on your remote slowly. Gradual movements should always be used. You need to decelerate and accelerate slowly to avoid shaking the camera. Always scout the filming area to factor in the limitations of that location before shooting.

Use two axes of movement

Imitate the expensive shots that you usually see in the movies. These scenes usually have simultaneous shots of movement. For example, fly downwards and backwards simultaneously at a steady, smooth rate.

Strafe

Strafing, also known as sideways movements, work well  for showing the landscapes of the area from a diverse viewpoint. Strafing shots will most likely stand out because landscapes are mostly shown on aerial videos by moving the drone backwards and forwards.  Strafing is also a great way of revealing landscape features that stand out.

Orbit

To have success with orbiting, strafe the drone to the left or right, and the yaw stick should be pulled in an opposite direction. Be sure not to spin too quickly.

Time of Day and Weather

Typically, cloudy and clear days are the best times to fly. You should avoid heavy fog, rain or misting because condensation may develop on your drone.

Avoid wind

You should avoid shooting on windy days. Shoot your footage when the speed of the wind is more than 20 mph even if your drone is rated to effectively fly in winds of up to 35 mph.

Sunset and sunrise

At sunrise and at sunset are typically the perfect hours of the day for shooting. Filming at such times will help you achieve the best footage. The highly-visible shadows help to define the terrain features which may not be visible in the afternoon.

Camera Settings

Shutter speed setting

If possible, keep shutter speed down, especially when shooting near the ground. We highly recommend shutter speed not to be above 100th and 250th of the second. 

Use a flat camera profile

You should do your filming in the flattest possible camera profile to get the most possible dynamic range from the aerial camera. It is the best way of preventing the clouds and sky from overtaking the shot. It is also the best way to retain detail, especially in dark points.

Creating footage worthy of the movies with your drone takes time and practice.

Most aerial photographers start off with small jobs, such as capturing scenes from construction sites, real estate properties, and golf course drone photography. They perfect their craft and steadily advance in the industry.

In addition to taking the steps shared above, keep working to improve your skills as a drone pilot and photographer.