Quick Guide to Shooting Videos
By now, you’ve pretty much got the hang of flying your drone.
You’re ready to move up to the next level and start recording your flights.
Piloting your own drone and capturing that once-in-a-lifetime shot can be exhilarating.
We’ve put together some quick tips to help you get a handle on what you need to know when shooting aerial videos and perfecting your skills.
Learning to Fly
Hopefully by now, you know how to fly. And not just simply power up and take off. Recording video while flying requires some multitasking. Now is not a good time to start learning how to maneuver your drone or what buttons to push on the remote transmitter. You should be quite a proficient pilot before tackling how to record.
Before going any further, use this quick checklist to make sure you’re completely prepped:
- 1. Get a drone (View our picks of the best drones)
- 2. Learn how to fly it
- 3. Get a camera (if yours didn’t come with one)
- 4. Learn how to use the camera
- 5. Learn how to fly while using the camera at the same time
Sounds easy, but it’s not. It takes practice and skill to fly and record simultaneously.
So try not to jump ahead of yourself. Keep your feet on the ground so that your drone can be safe in the air.
First Person View (FPV) System – Get One
FPVs let you see what the quadcopter is seeing in real time.
It’s possible to record while flying without an FPV, but it can quickly morph into guess work.
As the drone gets higher and further away from you, it will become more difficult to guess at what is being recorded. An FPV will show you exactly what you’re filming as you fly over it.
Viewing your video in real-time lets you adjust and compensate your settings as you fly. If the props are in the corner of the camera, move the camera lens. You can tell if the lighting is bad as you fly, so put the sun behind you. If it’s too shaky, adjust the flight mode.
FPVs are not necessary for video recording. But they make it much easier by giving you that view at the moment the camera sees it. You can make instant adjustments to the camera, the flight path, and the drone’s stability immediately.
Drones Need Cameras
Not all drones come equipped with preinstalled cameras. If yours doesn’t come with one and you want a complete upgrade, do a little research on which models have the specific camera capabilities you want.
For example, if you want a drone with a detachable camera, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus was made with a connector cable for a GoPro camera. As you progress, you can just change out the camera and upgrade whenever you want.
If you want some extremely high altitude footage, try the XProHeli model. If outdoor video is not your thing, maybe the Parrot AR is a better choice since it shoots great quality indoor video.
Whatever the case, a good quality camera is necessary in order to get good video. You will need a drone that comes with a camera, or it is camera compatible so you can install one yourself.
Related: View our top pick Camera Drones
If your drone does not have a camera, or if you want to switch it out for a new one, remember that it adds more weight to the drone. This makes for less functionality of the drone. The motors will have to work harder to carry the extra weight of the camera. This drains the battery faster and shortens the flight time.
The most common camera for drones is the GoPro. It’s high definition. It’s compatible with almost everything. It’s user friendly. It has built-in Wi-Fi so you can download the footage at any time. Quicker downloads mean you can upload it to your favorite social media site even faster.
For videography, the camera should have certain settings:
- High resolution (1080p or higher, 720 is fine if you’re capturing slow motion)
- Medium zoom capability (if no gimbal is used, get a wide zoom)
- 120 frames per second (FPS) recording ability
Avoid Bad Footage
Every drone will have some sort of instability during flight.
Add it to your budget to get a gimbal for the camera.
This is probably the most important accessory you’ll ever purchase. It’s provides support for the camera via one or several axes that compensates for the movement that occurs during flight.
Not all propellers are created equal. Just because they came in the same package doesn’t mean they weigh the same. This inequality of weight can cause an imbalance to the quadcopter. This produces the dreaded “jello effect”. Distortion of the video occurs due to the drones vibrations.
Prevent the jello effect by getting a prop balancer. It will tell if your props are out of balance so you can correct it. Sometimes a shift in weight can be corrected by just adding a piece of scotch tape to the end of a prop. But you won’t know which prop is out of whack without getting a balancer.
Shooting in the Right Flight Mode
A good pilot knows his drone in and out.
Be familiar with the flying modes (beginner, intermediate, and expert).
Start recording in beginner mode then move up. Once you master each level, you’ll be amazed at the difference in the type of footage you can get.
Flying in different modes affects the stabilization of the drone which then affects the video quality. Flying in GPS mode is different than flying manually. Sometimes flying in GPS mode causes more shakiness and less fluidity of movement. The footage will seem bumpy and all over the place as the drone consistently tries to autocorrect its balance.
Shooting in manual mode (or regular mode) works very well. It’s simple, gives you all the control, and provides quite decent footage. If you’re up for more of a challenge, try flying in expert mode while performing a flip or a barrel roll. It can let you grab some really awesome footage. The Hubsan X4 has had some great feedback from its pilots who executed these moves.
Lights, camera, action!
Many pilots have said they got their best shots just before sunset. The sun is low in the sky and provides perfect lighting. Nature’s colors become more vivid and contrast deeply with shadows cast by the setting sun. This means less color correcting on your part.
Another great time to shoot is right after a tumultuous visit of rain or snow. After a rainstorm, when the raindrops are glistening and dripping from trees provides some serene shots you couldn’t get otherwise.
Remember to fly slowly and in one direction and make only small adjustments. Slow and fluid movements allow the camera to focus continually with minimal stress for high quality results.
Consult the Weatherman
Flying outdoors puts you at the mercy of the weatherman. Windy conditions push the drone all over the sky. It’s way too easy to lose control right after takeoff when a rogue wind snatches your quad and tosses it into a treetop a mile away.
Lightning and rain are other factors. Unless you’re specifically trying to record raindrops and perhaps get struck by lightning, these are times when flying is not highly recommended.
High noon may not be especially desirable either. Too much sunlight can confuse the camera and cause a lack of color in the video.
Keep an Eye on Your Aircraft
Maintain a direct line of sight (DLOS) with your drone at all times. Even if your set up comes complete with an LCD monitor, keeping your eyes on your quadcopter is extremely important. You only see what the camera sees. There are still blind spots. Watch out for other aircraft, trees, or other obstacles that could suddenly appear.
Know the Rules
No flying is allowed in any national parks, near crowds, near military installations, and especially near airports. The signal you use to pilot your aircraft could interfere with a regular plane and cause a catastrophe. There are even regulations that prohibit drone flying around certain famous landmarks unless you have written permission.
Review the local aviation laws of your area, or the area in which you plan to fly, and protect yourself and your drone. Flying in a prohibited airspace can result in heavy fines and other penalties.
To Wrap It Up
Flying a drone is a ton of fun. Capturing video while doing it is even more fun. There are some risks involved and safety facets to obey, but they dim in comparison to the pleasure derived from flying, recording, and wowing your friends with your piloting skills and astonishing videos.