Thanks to the advent of consumer drone technology, I’ve been able to really push my skills as an aerial filmmaker. And because of that, I was inspired to create an online master class for working with drones. However, even if you’re just a novice, there are some quick tips that can get you on the right track. Here are four things that instantly helped me become a better drone filmmaker.
1. Frame Rate
I’m a huge fan of the “movie style” feel with my footage. Most Hollywood films are shot in 24fps (23.976), so when I create my own films, my editing timeline is always set to 24fps. I really don’t like the way 30fps looks, in general — however, when I’m flying, I shoot everything in 30fps. There are two reasons for that.
First, it gives me the opportunity to slow everything down 20% to match my 24fps timeline. When you shoot your drone footage in 24fps, it’s in real time and can feel a little choppy. Sometimes the gimbal isn’t doing as well as you hoped because of wind, which can make your video look unstable. When you slow down any footage with the proper settings, though, it can instantly look smoother. Using this technique gives a lot of my shots a real “flowy” feel, making them almost whimsical being in super slow motion. Done right, it doesn’t even feel like slow motion at all.
Second, I shoot at a higher frame rate so I can more easily license my footage. Footage shot in 24fps is hard to license, because it leaves less flexibility for it for whoever purchases it. Most ads you see are 30fps, so if you submit something with a lower frame rate, it’s pretty much unusable for those purposes. Alternately, if someone wants to slow the footage down, they can’t really do that with a fixed low frame rate.
2. Know What You’re Droning For
Just like with any piece of gear, it’s easy to overdo it. When I first got a slider, 50% of my shots were slider shots. When I first got a stabilizer, 50% of my shots were all walking stabilized shots. It’s the same thing with a drone. When I first got a drone, my non-drone films were FULL of aerial shots. I definitely overdid it in the beginning. Then I realized that the drone is just another tool in my tool chest — it’s something that needs to be used intentionally in non-drone films, not overdone and predictable. When it’s used too often, it can just become distracting. (However, if you’re making a fully aerial film, of course that’s the point, so go nuts!)
3. Take Photos Too
We always want things to point to our films. In a world where attention spans seem shorter and shorter, people may breeze by your film with a swipe. That’s why I started taking photos every place I was getting footage. Sure, you can do a screen grab from 4K footage, but why not take a killer photo too and throw it into Lightroom or Photoshop? People are easily mesmerized by aerial photos, and they’re easier than footage to share and repost. Taking photos while droning is a simple thing that can later help point your audience straight to your film.
Another plus side to taking photos is that it helps with your overall content strategy, such as when you’re creating a video thumbnail or blog post — even for your website, in general. Photos are a huge asset in bringing your image and brand to life.
4. Stay Safe
I do a lot of nature and landscape filmmaking, and there are plenty of times where I am out by myself with little to no cell service. At some of the most epic spots I’ve filmed in, I had ZERO cell service. Being that I am married with four kids, needless to say, my wife worries when I’m in those areas. What happens if I get hurt or my car breaks down? Whether we like it or not, accidents happen.
I always let someone know where I am and what time frame i’ll be there, so that if I’m gone longer than anticipated and no one hears from me, they at least know where I am and can send someone. Another option is getting some sort of GPS satellite device that lets you send a preset text to let someone know you’re safe or to contact emergency services if you are hurt or need help. There are a few out there you can use; I use one called SPOT.
So go out, have fun, get some epic footage, be safe, and drone like nobody’s business.
About Drone Master Class
I launched dronemasterclass.com to bring together drone pilots and filmmakers to learn from leaders in the drone world. It’s a place to challenge your creativity and push the boundaries of aerial cinematography, with new classes coming out every quarter.
Whether you’re a commercial filmmaker, professional videographer or photographer, or just a hobbyist, this online course will challenge, educate, and inspire you. Pond5 members and blog readers can receive a discount on the course using promo code: POND5.
Have questions about this post, getting started with drones, or joining Drone Master Class? Tell us in the comments below.