Setting Up your Drone Camera for the Best Footage ***UPDATED***

June 21, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Most consumer level drones ($2000'ish or less) come with a bog-standard camera which is fine for 99% of the people who buy them. Right out of the box, the user can get it assembled and in the air recording videos and images with some basic flight training. For those of you who fit into this category...stop reading and go fly (safely). If all you need to do is record some decent stuff to show friends and family of your recreational activity, the standard settings of you drone's camera will work just fine.

If you are a content creator who needs to get the best footage your camera can record, read on.

I'm currently using the DJI Inspire 1 product but the setup is portable to other brands in the same space. The general idea is to set the camera up in such a way that it gives you the absolute flattest image possible. When doing professional level video work you may have to match footage from various sources such as DSLR and Mirrorless cameras all the way up to the newest RED behemoths. A flat profile from your drone gives you more latitude in editing to get things looking seamless. Similarly to a regular camera, I want to capture the widest dynamic range in my exposure when I'm planning on heavy post-process editing. That means no blocked up shadows and definitely little to no clipping of the highlights. I want minimal contrast and muted colors that I can grade to my liking.

On the DJI models try this:

Start up the DJI GO application on your Smartphone or Tablet then go into the camera settings. Select 'Video". make sure that the aircraft is turned on and connected.

  1. I set my resolution to 4K at either 24 or 30 frames per second. This gives me lot;s of material to play with and allows deep cropping
  2. Set the White Balance to 5000K. You can always set it lower or higher to suit specific situations
  3. In the "Style" menu i set a Custom Setting of -3 Sharpening, -3 Contrast and -3 Color Saturation
  4. Finally select the "Color" menu and select D-LOG for your picture profile

So why do this?

Well, with all due respect to drone manufacturers (in general) their cameras tend to suck for all but recreational applications. There is a tendency to over saturation and sharpening which leads to unpleasant artifacts, detail and color smearing. Like a cake, once all the ingredients are mixed in, it's really hard to change the flavour after the fact. Ditto for video footage. Shooting in a flat profile makes it much easier to push it harder to achieve the look you want without degrading it too much.

As you go up in price you tend to get much better notch aircraft in the $10K range will come WITHOUT a camera to allow you to provide your own. With the DJI Inspire 1 model you can upgrade it's camera with the new X5 which sports a larger sensor for better dynamic range and exposure control. Still, setting up whatever you use properly will always yield more professional results.

Just a tiny disclaimer...

Always check with your local authorities about where/when/how to operate your drone.


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