Shoot Aerial Video Like a Pro – Mastering Drone Footage – PART 1

Drones. An intriguing new technology for cinematographers! But how do you shoot aerial video with professional aesthetics on a low cost drone and how do you finish the footage? This was the question I asked myself and spent a week attempting to capture cinematic drone footage with a DJI Inspire 1.

I learned a lot in the process and decided to share some valuable tips from shoot to grade. Here are all 3 parts of my video tutorial series on mastering drone footage.

Related article: After the videos

Related article: Part II – Working with Drone Footage

Related article: Part III – Grade Low-Cost Aerial Video

Why another drone shooting tutorial?
Because 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. There are lots of technical tutorials out there, but none of them cover how to make aerial video look and feel truly cinematic. And this is exactly what raises the production value of your project and I think really the biggest plus drones offer.

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.

dji-inspire-1-aerial-video

DJI Inspire 1 Drone with Zenmuse X3 Gimbal & 4K Camera

A few words on the Inspire 1 drone

As mentioned in the video the DJI Inspire 1 is really an impressive drone, very easy to use, very affordable and very powerful in terms of its ergonomics and the intelligent flight modes. I highly recommend using this drone if you consider going into aerial videography as it is now also upgradable with the new Zenmuse X5 and X5R cameras that produce much better quality. I think this is really the best value for money right now.

As you can see in my video, just using the built-in camera opens up a lot of stunning possibilities. If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.

And now fly safely and then let us know what you learned in the process. Best wishes from Seb at cinema5D.

Helpful Links:
inspirepilots.com
flysafe.dji.com

Music by musicbed.com
Salomon Ligthelm – Bones

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 Andrea Munafo' Reply
Andrea Munafo' October 12, 2015

Really interesting series! Can’t wait for part 2! You guys rock!!

Ferdinand Wolf Reply
Ferdinand Wolf October 12, 2015

Great Job!

Mücahit Özcakir Reply
Mücahit Özcakir October 12, 2015

Wow. Thanks alot for this tutorial.

Mücahit Özcakir Reply
Mücahit Özcakir October 12, 2015

Very helpful, thanks

Myles Thompson Reply
Myles Thompson October 12, 2015

Are you sure you’re allowed to fly drones over private property and roads in Switzerland?

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 12, 2015

Yes, I’m pretty sure I was allowed to fly where I flew, but you must always avoid no-fly zones, military zones and airports.

Myles Thompson Reply
Myles Thompson October 12, 2015

Interesting. It’s far more regulated in Scandinavia where I live – many of the shots you got would be illegal.

Myles Thompson Reply
Myles Thompson October 12, 2015

Which is why I don’t have a drone…

Jan Kivisaar Reply
Jan Kivisaar October 13, 2015

Where in Scandinavia? I don’t see many shots here that would be illegal in Sweden…

Ergo Zjeci Reply
Ergo Zjeci October 12, 2015

Dont be lazy next time and move the car away from scene ;) anyways nice tutorial and perfect shoots rly nice!!!

cinema5D Reply
cinema5D October 13, 2015

I couldn’t move it because I was waiting for Volkswagen’s recall team :)

Chris Gibbs Reply
Chris Gibbs October 14, 2015

I wonder which will be banned first, the civilian Drone or TDi? :-)

Ergo Zjeci Reply
Ergo Zjeci October 12, 2015

Niceeee

David Brooks Reply
David Brooks October 12, 2015

really awesome sebastian!

John Sartin Reply
John Sartin October 12, 2015

Well done, Sebastian. Thank you!

Richard Sisk Reply
Richard Sisk October 12, 2015

Very good Sebastian! I like the great footage and your approach to the subject…

John Myrstad Reply
John Myrstad October 12, 2015

Part 1? I want to binge it :-)

Reply
Eric Bogan October 13, 2015

Interesting test footage. A few of the shots are quite spectacular. As with most of the drone footage I have seen no one seems to know that they can hover. All of the footage seems to be flying over things. Crane type shots, starting low and raising up to reveal a spectacular scene would be great. As would hovering and letting action move through the frame. Also holding longer on points of interested would be more appealing to me. Also cutting in shots from a ground perspective (tripod, hand held, crane) would break it up and be more interesting to me.

Just my two cents and what I would (or hopefully will) do with a drone.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 13, 2015

Hi Eric,
Great thoughts, I encourage you to try it all out!
As a thought, if your goal is to get the viewer hooked into your shots I also recommend to think about something that gives each of your shots depth. A hovering shot with no movement makes your shot “2 dimensional” emotionally, so if you can find a way to make the viewer “feel” something within that space, in another way than movement then I think it will broaden its strength.
I like the revealing shot approach, I haven’t really done any of those in a static way, just the flyovers, but then my project was really targeted at incorporating “speed”, the sense of flying (running into the air). So “calmer” shots wouldn’t have worked for me.
Best,
Seb

Reply
Eric Bogan October 13, 2015

Thank you for the reply. My point was to use the same shooting concepts and methods you would shooting any other video. I don’t agree with ‘A hovering shot with no movement makes your shot “2 dimensional” emotionally’. No more so than a static tripod shot. Just to hover to hover I agree is flat but just to fly over things to me does not give me any emotional impact. I do not see a drone having any different requirements for subject or framing than any other tool used to shoot video. Of course these are all subjective. My comments were not necessarily aimed at you but rather a general comment on the drone footage I see all over the place. I get what you were going for. Again just my two cent worth.

Kevin Alexander Reply
Kevin Alexander October 13, 2015

Seb, this is fantastic. I might be getting my hands on a 3DR solo in a few months. If I do, can I please borrow some of your scenery? :)

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 13, 2015

Thanks Kevin,
It wasn’t in stock when I filmed my shots and when I tried to get a “Solo” drone for comparison the 3DR marketing rep declined to help and told me they only give them out to reviewers who use it with a “crew on a set” and not to people who do “smart shots in a local park”.
Sounds like they don’t trust it actually works “solo”. I’m curious about your experience with it, but to be honest I won’t bother this company anymore. A rare experience.

Kevin Alexander Reply
Kevin Alexander October 13, 2015

Wow. That’s very unfortunate. The drone looks very interesting to me, but that marketing team seems rather short sighted.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 13, 2015

They have the excuse of being new to the market, I hope they will eventually get back to us with an explanation. The fact that DJI just built that same “solo” functionality into their DJI software with the latest update and the reports about the 3DR Solo having some unresolved bugs is not too good. I hope there will be more competition as DJI seems set to kill several competitors right now.

Reply
Bo Lorentzen October 19, 2015

Sorry to hear about your 3DR experience, though I gotta say, they have gotten a bit snooty lately.
Don’t think the solo is quite as phenomenal as its cracked up to be, which probably also affect their review experiences.

Reply
Rutikanga Abdoul October 13, 2015

Part II an III Plse

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 19, 2015

Now online!

Jason Benham Reply
Jason Benham October 14, 2015

I’m sure you will cover it in part 3 but what program do you use for color grading?

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 14, 2015

Hi Jason, yes I’m covering that in part III and I’m using Premiere Pro CC and also a special LUT I designed for the Inspire 1.

 Southeast Hoverworks Reply
Southeast Hoverworks October 14, 2015

Inspiring!

Reply
Antony Alvarez October 16, 2015

What’s your in camera sharpening set at? I’m on LOG profile with -2 sharpness, but am not fully set on it yet.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 16, 2015

Got part III up now where I discuss this briefly. I set it to -3, -3, 0
Best,
Seb

 David Huang Reply
David Huang October 16, 2015

great series, thanks a lot. I am wondering how fast can you run the rendering. Whenever I use a AE composition, the rendering in PP just took much longer to run. I found AE is using 10% of the CPU power. Is there a way to speed it up?

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 16, 2015

Hi David,
I have no idea about that, sorry.

Gerbert Floor Reply
Gerbert Floor October 16, 2015

Great film and very helpful since Im just about to start with drones. I’m still debating wether I should get the inspire 1 or the phantom 3 pro. The latter is much much cheaper, especially when you start out. Im very anxious to just crash the drone somewhere, and losing 3000 feels a lot worse then 1200 :P.

I know the upgrade option is very tempting on the inspire, but are there other advantages to that drone? (I hired some guys to fly with it and found it quite large and intimidating compared to the phantom series), I directed (and filmed a lot as well, not the drone stuff obviously) this movie with it: https://vimeo.com/130260768

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 16, 2015

Thanks Gerbert,

I have the Phantom 3 here, packed and untouched. Unfortunately I’m not allowed to fly here in Austria. And Switzerland is a 10-hour drive…
People told me the Phantom is a lot less stable in the wind and harder to fly. As such you should be able to crash the Inspire less easily. That said, of course it’s a bigger investment. I haven’t tried any other drone than the Inspire 1, so I’m probably the wrong person to reply to this comment, but I really wanted to reply to this point:
“The Inspire 1 is large and intimidating…”. Isn’t this yet another reason for it :) haha. Indeed, it is intimidating and yet easy to control. That’s what makes it so fun to fly I guess. Until the moment when you lose control and it’s not so fun anymore…

Daniel Behnke Reply
Daniel Behnke October 17, 2015

Great tutorial!

Reply
Silton Buendia October 19, 2015

I’m curious if you used an ND filter I get insane shutter speeds sometimes in daylight. I have an ND but it colors and I had quality issues with the footage

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 19, 2015

Hi Silton,
I mentioned that in the video, I didn’t use ND at all and corrected the shutter in post via After Effects as per tutorial number 2.

Reply
Boris Jansch October 21, 2015

Amazing work Seb! I was really blown away with your images and it’s one of those films that I seek out on Vimeo for inspiration/to copy in my own work. Could you share your picture settings and whether you used any third party NDs.
Thanks,
Boris

Reply
Boris Jansch October 21, 2015

sorry, saw your previous comment re the NDs

Reply
Boris Jansch October 21, 2015

also, you mentioned getting a licence, so can you recommend someone that does a suitable qualification in the UK?

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 21, 2015

I’m for hire on interesting projects, but I don’t have a license for UK and I don’t know anyone either. In the UK to get a license I think you have apply and undergo an exam and it takes several months. Looks like the laws in the UK are fairly reasonable.

Gerbert Floor Reply
Gerbert Floor October 22, 2015

I really love this series, Im about to buy a drone for myself as well. I do a lot of wedding work and starting with more and more commercial work (www.zoutwater.com). I actually planned on going for the phantom 3 pro, especially for the price and the new smart drone features (like way points). But now Im starting to doubt it a little, is the camera on the phantom really that much better (the x3, I get that the x5 is a lot better). I also like portability, isn’t the phantom a pain to travel with? Or is it ok.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 22, 2015

I haven’t compared them, but I think you’re confusing drone names now, right?

Gerbert Floor Reply
Gerbert Floor October 22, 2015

I ment: Isn’t the inspire a pain to travel with… :) and Is the camera on the inspire that much better :)

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 22, 2015

I think the camera is identical

 Abdul Hadi Reply
Abdul Hadi October 22, 2015

what was the ultra wide angle lens that was used? Great film!

 Roman Wolak Reply
Roman Wolak October 23, 2015

where to find to buy such sun and flare?

 David Cerqueiro Reply
David Cerqueiro October 28, 2015

Very nice. I once has to face the cinemetaic issue with a drone shot project. This was the result: http://www.davidcerqueiro.com/Tu-dices-que-si-Official-Music-Video

Keep up the great videos!

 David Cerqueiro Reply
David Cerqueiro October 28, 2015

Nice video! I once has to face the same issues on a drone shot project last year.
This was the result: http://goo.gl/m1Whxz

Keep up the good work!

 CM Griggs Reply
CM Griggs January 6, 2016

I wish you could have elaborated more smoothing the camera panning. I find a lot of drone footage has these sharp start and stops of both panning and tilting. I’d love to know how you go about fixing this in post. Seems every video I see could use this tip.

Great video by the way. It has really inspired me to learn more about video editing. I’m a still photographer but have long been interested in video. Great job!

 Antonio Bakalski Reply
Antonio Bakalski May 2, 2016

Thank you Sebastian, I really needed to see something like that! Your videos are great, thanks again for letting us know how you did them! I fill terrible seeing my video shots with my dji phantom vision plus, even thought i flying real well.. Now I know why I can’t expect smth better.. dmmmm