Grade Low-Cost Aerial Video – Mastering Drone Footage – PART 3

Drones give us stunning new perspectives for our films, but the video look they produce is often quite unsexy. So how do you grade and perfect aerial video from a low cost drone camera to make the low-bitrate footage look awesome? This was the question I asked myself when I finished my footage from the DJI Inspire 1

I spent a week filming with an entry level drone to create a stunning drone film. After many hours figuring out how to make the best of the footage I had, I created this 3-part video tutorial on mastering drone footage.

In PART I I talked about How to Shoot Aerial Video Like a Pro. In PART II I talked about Improving Aerial Video in Post.

Here is PART III, where I’ll show you how I graded and perfected the film with compositing.

Part I – Shoot Aerial Video Like a Pro

Part II – Improve Aerial Video in Post

These are the tips I would have needed when I started shooting. I wanted to get the best out of my drone footage and I didn’t find this knowledge elsewhere.

As discussed in the tutorials, the footage from low-cost drones come with a lot of drawbacks, very highly compressed codecs and low bitrates that make grading very difficult. In my tutorial I’m showing you how to make aerial video look and feel cinematic, how to raise the production value of your project with a few simple steps from shooting to final grading and compositing.

I hope you’ll enjoy these tutorials and they’ll help you get started. All 3 parts of the video series have some essential points I think anyone serious about aerial video can take something away from.

Equipment used

In part I and part II talked about why the DJI Inspire 1 for me is the best value for money low cost drone right now with the upgrade options to the new Zenmuse X5 and X5R cameras for better quality.

The video above was shot without the upgrades on the normal DJI Inspire 1.

I recommend this package:

I do not recommend the hardcase version unless you use this for rental or a large production. The shell-case is perfect, lightweight and roomy and can hold both remotes and 9 batteries! (I got this wrong in my video, there are hidden compartments).

I did not have the high capacity batteries as mentioned above. It must be awesome to have those though. How many should you get? It really depends on how much you’ll shoot in a day.

I did not have the 4-battery charging station. It must be awesome to have it. It will charge one battery at a time overnight. If charging times are the same as the single chargers then it will probably take about 6 hours to charge 4 batteries.

Remember, practice is part of the package. Fly safely, edit tirelessly and grade meticulously. Then let us know what you learned in the process.

If you are interested in my LUT you can download it here.

Helpful Links:
Understanding Lumetri Color in Premiere Pro
After Effects Motion Tracking Tutorial

Music by
Salomon Ligthelm – Bones

Leave a Comment

You are not subscribed to this post. Follow new comments

Login to comment

Jordy Vandeput Reply
Jordy Vandeput October 16, 2015

Thank you for these videos Sebastian! There’re some very interesting ideas you share. I never thought about composting a sun/moon/stars into my videos. As a viewer you look at the subject, but you sense the bigger moon which acts to the whole feeling of the shot. And that’s something I usually oversee. This was very inspiring!

 Dan Joyce Reply
Dan Joyce October 16, 2015

I could do with this LUT as I have the new phantom 3 pro

Daniel Curtean Reply
Daniel Curtean October 16, 2015

Just fantastic, as always!

 Chad Beaty Reply
Chad Beaty October 16, 2015

The final product was absolutely jaw dropping! Thank you for this series. It has been most enjoyable to watch and learn from!

Patrick Mason Reply
Patrick Mason October 17, 2015

Awesome! Loved the creative effects

Amein Taha Reply
Amein Taha October 17, 2015


 Sewon Son Reply
Sewon Son October 18, 2015

Yes I am interested in your LUT. How do I get your LUT?

 Gabriel Bosch Reply
Gabriel Bosch October 18, 2015

great videos, thank you! I would be interessted in the LUT as well.

Elliot Gould October 18, 2015

EXCELLENT series Sebastian! I’ve been hiring a local drone pilot with this exact set up and this has helped me immensely with how to approach future video shoots with it. I’m impressed with how you solved a lot of the issues you came across (I was wondering how you got the drone to be so fast and perfectly horizontal!). Your approach was practical and very effective. I’m looking forward to seeing a follow up with the new lenses!

Floripa Drone Reply
Floripa Drone October 19, 2015

Great videos and information !

 Florian Fischer Reply
Florian Fischer October 19, 2015

Yes I am interested in your LUT. How do I get your LUT?

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 20, 2015

Everyone who is interested in my LUT, you can download it here:
Hope it helps. Best

eric koraganie October 29, 2015

Great series Sebastian! Very informative and well done.

I wonder if you could inform me which computer you were using to do your post production? I am looking to upgrade and am looking for a computer that can handle the kind of processing required for good noise reduction, stabilization, composition and tracking as you have shown here without really slowing down too much.

Thanks again

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 29, 2015

Hi Eric,
I’m using a 2013 Mac Pro (lowest cost model) but it’s at its limits. I think I’d go for a 5K iMac right now.
Hope that helps somehow. 4K and intense grading and compositing is not so easy on those machines and needs a lot of power.

eric koraganie October 30, 2015

Much appreciated Sebastian!

Again, great work.

 Matthias R. Schmid Reply
Matthias R. Schmid October 30, 2015

perfect !
auch möglich mit 1 remote ?
gruss matthias , aarau

 Simon Hughes Reply
Simon Hughes March 27, 2016

Some great tips and I’m very much looking forward to making my aerial film of the Norwegian fjords.

What’s the name of the backing music track you use in your video guides?