Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video 254 Merging frames for the best possible UAV photo, part of Deke's Techniques.
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Hey gang, this is Deke McCullen. Welcome to Deke's Techniques. This week I am so excited to introduce you to the world of aerial photography. Now, as opposed to actually showing you how it works inside the booth, which of course would result in my death, which might be hilarious. But still I'm going to show you some of the hardware you need, because it comes to about a thousand bucks in all. And a little bit of how to assemble it and work with it. And then I'll show you how to merge frames together to create great effects inside Photoshop. So for starters, my solution, anyway, include a GoPro Hero 3, which is a great, lightweight sports camera, really gives you good results.
And, can live through just about anything. But it's little confusing to work with at first. For starters, it has no view finder. But it does have a rechargeable battery that burns through like crazy. It lasts like 15 minutes that's about all. Which is why you want to go ahead and get yourself an additional battery pack as well. And I'm telling you this because the documentation doesn't. And that just kind of hinges one here like that, and then snaps into place. You also need it for the camera to fit inside the harness that comes along with the UAV, which stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
Also known as drones, by the way, not because they're mindless. But because the original drone, interestingly, back in the 1940s was named a Queen bee and once that followed were its minions. So, we have got this harness right there. This fits into it like so. So you can see it needs the battery pack to fit. And then this closes around it and then you go ahead and screw this into place. Into what, you might wonder. Well, in my case I used a quad copter, this guy right here. A DJI what's it called, Phantom quad copter.
And you can see why it's called a quad copter, it has four blades. And it is amazing, it is so maneuverable. It's got a gyroscope and a compass and you can just keep it in place. If you've ever worked with like a kids, you know, little plane or something like that, that lasts for about 15 minutes until you break it. This is nothing of the kind. This will just sit there and hover in space, kind of like this, it will make a lot of noise too. And it has a GPS so that under the best conditions if it loses the connection with the controller then it will actually fly itself home and land itself automatically.
I'm serious. So, what you typically do, it's just, it's amazing. What you typically do, is, because you're working blind, you start recording a movie. And, this thing can record 4,000 pixels wide using ProTune, at about 2,000 pixels tall. So 8 megapixel frames at 12 frames per second. Now that's no good for videography Because that you know, looks hitchy. However, it's great for still photography. Because that means you can take a bunch of frames. And you can pack them into a smart object. And you can color correct them. And then you can merge the frames together.
So initially your frames may not look all that great. This is about 200 feet above the Flatirons here in Boulder, Colorado. But. With the help of Photoshop CC, you need Photoshop CC for this because we're going to be taking advantage of the Camera Raw filter. And we need the Median stack mode in order to merge a bunch of frames, ten frames in all into this amazing Aerial panorama. Now, it's not going to have the stitch down the middle of it, because that's from the printing process. But it is going to look great. Here.
Let me show you exactly how it works. Alright here's the final version of the panorama, just so that you can see it on screen. We're going to start things off by opening a movie into frames. And you do that by going up to the File menu, choosing Import and then you choose Video Frames to Layers. And you'll find this movie that I've created in advance for you, called A few frames.mov. Go ahead and click the Open button in order to display this dialog box. And if you like, you can go ahead and play this little movie.
That's all there is to it. So it really is just a few frames, 23 in all. Go ahead and select the top options here from beginning to end. Leave these check boxes off and click OK, In order to import every single one of the frames as a layer. So I'll go ahead and bring up my Layers panel over here on the right hand side of the screen. Now we don't need 23 layers to pull off this effect. So just go ahead and click on layer 11. To select it and then scroll to the top and Shift click on layer 23.
And then press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to get rid of all of those other frames so we just are left with layers 1 through 10. Now, go ahead and Alt or Option+click in the eye in from of layer 1. And click on it as well in order to make it active. And now if you press Alt+right-bracket, that's Option+Right-bracket on the Mac. You can cycle through each one of these layers like so. So, you're selecting a different layer and making it visible. And what this is showing us is that there is a little bit of movement between our frames.
We need to lock them all down so that they're aligned. So go ahead and Alt+click or Option+click on the one remaining eyeball to make all the layers once again visible. And then you can go up to the Select menu and choose All layers and here's the most painful step here because it just takes a while. You have to go up to the Edit menu and choose Auto Align Layers. And then, just leave Projection set to Auto. These two check boxes aren't going to do you any good because, at least in this particular version of Photoshop, it can't read the GoPro metadata. That apparently will be solved in the future but for now, go ahead and click OK.
And then you're just going to have to wait it out as Photoshop aligns every single one of the layers based on its content. And once it finishes, I want you to once again click on layer 1 to make it active, and then Alt+click or Option+click its eye, so that it's the only layer visible. And now if you press Alt+Right bracket, or Option+Right bracket on the mac, to cycle up the stack of layers. You'll see that while they aren't exactly in the same positions, there is a little bit of movement going on. The frames are ultimately in alignment with each other.
So, Alt+click on eye ball, Option+click on a Mac in order to bring everybody back again. And then press Ctrl+Alt+A or Cmd+Option+A on a Mac to select all the layers. And we're going to put all the layers inside of a smart object. So with your Rectangular Marquee tool, right click inside the image window and choose Convert to Smart Object. And now, I'll go ahead and place all these guys inside of a single container. Now, you can rename that container. And I'm going to call it 10 Layers. Just so that. Remember I've got 10 layers in all inside of there. Now we're going to apply some modifications inside the Camera Raw filter.
This filter exist only in Photoshop CC just so you know. So go up to the Filter menu if you got it and choose Camera Raw filter in order to bring up the big Camera Raw dialog box. Now, I'm going to make a few quick adjustments here. Obviously, we've got blown highlights all over the place and that's a function of me not using the proper settings on the GoPro. I have to admit, the better thing to do if you're going to be doing this kind of stuff yourself. You want to make sure that before you start the movie, You want to go ahead and set it to its highest resolution which means that you can capture about, I believe it's 12 or 14 frames per second.
And then you want to turn on proTune. It's very, very important. What's that going to give you is pretty much the raw data from the camera. So it's not auto correcting the luminance as it has in my case which meant I ended up blowing out the sky. But that said we can get some of the sky back by reducing the highlights value and I am going to set it to negative 40. And then I am going to take my shadows value up to positive 40. And I am also going to take my white stands to negative 50. And I'll take my blacks down to negative 60.
And that's going to make a huge difference in terms of the shadow detail inside this image. Now tab down to clarity and raise it to 30. And then I took the vibrance value up to 33. All right I'd like that grass to look a little greener, so I'm going to switch over to this panel right there, HSL gray scale And you want to first start with the hues. Go ahead and change the yellows value to plus 20. And what that's going to do is rotate those yellows so they appear more green.
And then I'll switch over to Saturation and I'll take the yellow's value up to 15 to increase the saturation of those colors that we just made greener. Now you want to switch over to the Lens Corrections panel. Inside the Color panel here turn on Remove Chromatic Aberration just to get rid of as many aberrations as Camera Raw can. And then you want to switch over to the Manual tab. And you want to take the distortion value up to 50 like so to apply some pin cushioning. Because there's all kinds of barrel distortion associated with the very wide angle lens included with the GoPro Hero 3.
Alright, now we're going to do a little bit of brush work here. So, switch over to the Adjustment brush up here in the toolbar. And we're going to start with the mountains, I think, so scroll down the list and turn on the Auto Mask check box. And I'm also going to turn on the Show Mask check box, which is set to red by the way as you can see here. So, I can better see what I'm doing. And now I'll go ahead and brush along the mountains and it should automatically mask inside the mountain details so that it doesn't leap up into the sky.
We'll handle the sky independently in just a moment. So just go ahead and paint in something resembling this for starters. And then, I'm going to turn off Auto Mask, so that I can work free form now. And you want to paint a little more carefully this time, because now Camera Raw isn't helping you out. And you just want to go ahead and paint in all this stuff, like so. And then, I want to erase some of that away. So, go up here to this little flyout menu and make sure Separate Eraser Size is turned off.
You don't want a check mark there. And then, you can press the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, and paint away some of this stuff. And the reason I painted it in in the first place is, I wanted to make sure that I had a soft drop-off into the landscape. We want to apply some changes, so turn off the Show Mask checkbox. And you'll see that we have entirely the wrong modifications applied here. So here's what you really want to do. Change the temperature value to plus 60 and also drop down to this little color swatch right there.
And just make sure it's got an x through it. For me it doesn't, it's showing blue. So I'll click on it and I'll just change it to white, here, which is the same as none. And then click OK and now get rid of that blueness that I was just introducing a moment ago. An exposure value of negative 0.5 is just fine. I'm going to take the contrast value, however up to 65 and I'll change the highlights value to zero and I'll tap my way down to the Clarity value. Take it up to 50 and then I'll take the saturation value down to zero.
And we'll end up with this effect right here. So just give you a sense turn off the preview checkbox, it used to look like that. turn it back on and now we get the real coloring of those mountains so they don't look purple just because they're so far away. Now let's do some new brushwork, so click on the new Radio button right there. We just want to do some hand-brushing this time, I think. And so with the Auto mask check box off, which it is. Although I would like to see the mask so I can get a sense of what I'm doing here, so I'm going to scroll down.
And turn on the show mass check box. And now I'll paint up into the sky and what you want to do is avoid painting the mountains. Just stay away from them if you can. And the tree tops as well because otherwise we're going to end up making them look bluer and weird and we don't, of course, want any of that. Then you can reduce the size of cursor a little bit like so. And now you can Alt drag along the top of the ridge there and along the top of the trees as well to erase the way some of that brush work that you just applied. I am just doing a little more over on this side.
After you do that then you want to modify the settings and right know we are seeing the settings that we just applied to the mountains that's no good. So I will the temperature value to 0 And then I'll leave the exposure value set to negative 0.5. I'm going to take the contrast value down to 0, because we have more than enough contrast. And I'll take the highlights value down to negative 20. I'll leave the clarity value set to 0. And I'll take the saturation value down to negative 50. And that may surprise you, if you turn off the show mass checkbox, it's not like things are looking all that good up there.
Which is why I added some artificial blue. So, you click in this little color swatch there, select blue in the little square, and you'll notice that the saturation value's cranked up to 100%. That's fine. Then click OK. And you'll be greeted by this more temperate sky. Go ahead and click OK in order to apply that change. Alright, now let's go ahead and crop the scene. And I'm going to do that in an unusual way, just so we get the exact same results here. I'm going to do it using the canvas size command. So go ahead and choose that command from the Image menu.
Turn off the relative checkbox if it's turned on. Make sure you're working in pixels. And then I want you to change these values to 2527 and 1095 like so. And then just go ahead and leave the anchor set to the center and click OK. You'll be warned that some clipping will occur. I wish they'd get rid of this error message because it's absolutely wrong. Go ahead and click on Proceed to move forward. Any time you're working with a layered image, canvas size does not clip anything.
And then what we want to do is press Ctrl+Shift, or Cmd+Shift on a Mac. And just nudge this guy down a bunch of times by pressing the Down arrow key. So, we want it to look pretty much like that, you shouldn't see any transparency showing up. Either on the sides or at the very top of the image, but we want as much sky as possible. Alright, I'm also going to sharpen the scene, and I'm going to do that using the Smart Sharpen filter. So, I'll go up to the Filter menu and choose Sharpen and then choose the Smart Sharpen command.
These are the settings we want, an amount value of 200%, a radius of three pixels, reduce noise set to zero And remove Set To Lens Blur, and then click OK. And we get this sharper version of the scene. But it could still use some more oomph to it, I think. It also has a lot of noise, and a lot of weird edges, you know. Too much sharpening going on. There's a fair amount of noise up here in the sky. There's some weird edge details up in the sky too. I gather because of the JPEG compression. And we can get rid of that by merging these 10 layers together.
So, with that 10 layer stack selected. You go up to the Layer menu, choose Smart Objects. Choose Stack Mode. And then you choose the Median command. And that is going to average all 10 of the images together. And just keep an eye on the screen, so you can see the difference. Because it takes a few moments. For it to do its thing, there's a progress bar, look at that, doesn't it look so much better. We've got much darker details, we have way less noise up there in the sky, although we do still have a few weird edges.
And we have much more smoothness going on inside the trees. So just to give you a sense of the before and the after here I'll back up here inside the History panel which is the way you have to do it. So I'll click on the word Smart Sharpen, that's the before version. We've got noise all over. We've got like these purple things up here in the mountains. And then as soon as you click on the final state you can see that all that garbage disappears. Once again that's a function of combining ten shots of the same scene into a single Smart object.
And then setting the stack mode to Medium. If I go ahead and press the F key a couple of times. And also press Ctrl+0 or Cmd+0 on a Mac in order to center the zoom. And that, friends, is how you combine a bunch of different frames from a movie that you capture on land or up in the air, here inside Photoshop. If you're a member of the lynda.com online training library. Then I have a follow-up movie, in which I show you how to retouch away details inside your aerial panorama.
If you're waiting for next week's free movie, I'll show you how to assemble video clips to create an aerial movie inside Photoshop. Deeks Techniques, each and every week. Keep watching.