Join Jim Heid for an in-depth discussion in this video Flight modes: Active Track and Follow Me, part of DJI Mavic Pro: Tips, Tricks, & Techniques.
- Now we've arrived at some of my favorite intelligent flight modes, Active Track and Follow Me. With Active Track, the drone tracks and follows a subject. This makes getting those kinds of video shots far easier than manual flying. The drone can actually recognize a few different types of subjects, a person, a car, a bicycle, for example. You can have the drone follow a subject or track the subject in profile. You can even have it fly backwards as it tracks a subject, though this doesn't always work as well as you might like.
Let's start out with some examples of Active Track in action and talk about some of its limitations, then we'll try it out. You use Active Track by first getting into position, with the camera pointed at your subject and the drone at least six feet above the ground. You can descend after you begin tracking if you want to, but to first activate Active Track, you need to be at least six feet up. After you make your way into the intelligent flight modes and choose Active Track, you tap on the subject that you want to track. If the drone recognized the subject, it displays a corresponding icon, a little person or car or bike, for example.
Then you tap go, and the drone follows your subject. You can move closer or further away using the pitch stick, the right hand stick, and depending on the tracking mode you're in, you can also orbit around the subject with the drone keeping the camera pointed at the subject. The drone can do an amazing job of tracking a subject, even tilting the camera and yawing as necessary to keep the subject in the frame. Active Track works best when there's good contrast between the subject and its background. That helps the drone to be able to keep its electronic eyes on the right thing.
Here's an example. In this clip, we're tracking a gray car against gray pavement. Not a great contrast combination, and notice what happens when the car goes into the shade of these trees. Bam, subject lost. The car is continuing on its way, and we're still looking at the shade. Now compare that to this clip, shot in the same spot, just a few minutes after the last one. Here, we're tracking a light colored car, and watch what happens when the car goes into the shade. Not a problem. In fact, the contrast is so good that the drone can track the car into the distance, even yawing and moving forward a bit to keep it centered in the shot.
Another thing that can cause Active Track to lose its subject is an obstacle, something that blocks the drone's view of the subject. Here's an example. Watch what happens when this car goes behind a tree. No more tracking. If you're closer to your subject than I was here, the drone might not lose visual contact with the subject. It all depends on distance, light, and sometimes it seems, the mood of the drone. There are three different Active Track modes, trace, profile, and spotlight.
In trace mode, the drone follows along with the subject as it moves, doing its best to stay a consistent distance from the subject. In profile mode, the drone flies alongside the subject, at a right angle to the subject, trying to keep the subject in profile. In spotlight mode, the drone stays put and keeps the subject in the frame, as if it was a spotlight shining down on the subject on a stage. The drone doesn't move along with the subject, but simply yaws, turns left and right, and also tilts the camera as necessary.
So, that's some background on Active Track, now let's go out and put it into action. Okay, we're out in the field, the drone's already up in the air, and we have our producer Brittany standing out there. We're going to track her as she walks across this field. I'll start by switching into Active Track mode. We get this message saying camera settings adjusted for Active Track, and now I can either tap her or draw a little selection rectangle around her. Let's try the selection rectangle. You can see that the drone has recognized that that's a person, so yes, Brittany you're a person, and it's giving us that little person icon next to her.
We can tap go, and now, as she walks, the drone begins to track her. As it's doing that, I can adjust its speed, and I can also have it do an orbit around her, even as it continues to keep her in the frame. I can orbit clockwise, or I can orbit counterclockwise. And now I'll cancel out of Active Track as Brittany greets the dog, and it's really that easy to use.
So, that's Active Track in action. Now, as I mentioned earlier, another way to use Active Track is to have the drone fly backwards as it tracks. To do this, you first have to enable it. Tap the vision system status, or just tap the general settings and make your way down, and then turn on the option called enable backwards flying. Here are a couple of examples of backwards tracking in action, and as you can see, it only kind of works. The drone often slips off to the side and continues tracking that way, which can look great, but it isn't backwards tracking.
One reason this happens is because the drone's tracking software isn't able to predict where your subject is going. If the drone and your subject's path are very straight, you can often get a few seconds of good backwards tracking, but eventually it'll break down and the drone will drift off to one side. As for profile tracking, it has its own limitations. Here's a clip that shows what I mean. We're on a curved road here, and the shot starts out with the car in profile, but as the car negotiates the curve, the drone isn't able to keep it in profile.
Again, the result is a pretty nice shot, but it isn't a profile. Keep in mind when you're flying the Mavic Pro backwards or sideways, you don't have the benefits of collision avoidance. So, use these features with care, and remember, if you see the drone heading for trouble, you can always interrupt any intelligent flight mode by holding down the pause button on the remote controller. Finally, let's talk about the Follow Me intelligent flight mode. In this mode, the drone simply follows whoever is holding the remote controller. Unlike Active Track though, the drone doesn't point at the subject.
It just follows along, regardless of where it's pointing, which can be useful. It enables you to yaw the drone and tilt the camera to get different angles, even as the drone continues to follow you. The Active Track modes don't allow this, since they're specifically designed to keep the camera pointed at whatever you're tracking. This mode requires that you use a mobile device with GPS. I use this feature with my iPhone seven, but not with my iPad Mini four. It's the Wi-Fi only model, and it doesn't have GPS. Honestly, I don't use the Follow Me intelligent flight mode very often.
I like to keep an eye on the drone, rather than where I'm walking, but I use Active Track all the time. It gives you the kinds of shots that can be really hard to get by manual flying.
- Safety checks
- App settings
- Startup, takeoff, and landing
- In-flight data displays
- DJI GO tips
- Flight modes
- Streaming live
- Adjusting focus
- Exposure and white balance
- Still photography and panoramas
- Shutter speed
- Aerial video
- Using the gimbal
- Using the remote controller